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What Child Is This? - Part 1

Tom Pennington Isaiah 9:6-7


Well, as I shared with you last week, we want to take a little break from our study of John’s first letter for this Christmas season. We want to look at Jesus Christ, the focus of this season. You know, it’s interesting, Jesus has always been unpopular with the world. In fact, He is attacked today as much as always. The current popular attack on Jesus Christ is to try to undermine the biblical Jesus in two ways.

The first way is by raising doubts about the New Testament gospels. During this season, you will read articles, you’ll see blogs online, you’ll hear from noted academic minds, you’ll see specials, you know, sort of reality programs on TV and commentaries, and all kinds of ways that you’ll be assaulted with unbelieving views of those who hate Jesus Christ. And they - one of the chief ways they’ll go about that is raising doubts in your mind or seeking to about the New Testament gospels. “Well, we don’t really know if John wrote his gospel and we’re not sure if we had these accounts of Jesus’ life, if they were present in the early church, and so forth.

The other way that they’ll go about this is by promoting extra-biblical sources like the Gnostic Gospels. That’s a very popular tact. Now, the reason they do this is this approach allows unbelieving skeptics to dismiss Jesus’ claims that they don’t agree with. They argue that His outrageous claims and the miracles that are in the gospels, all of those are not in fact what Jesus said, they were all fabricated later by His overzealous followers. You say, why would they do that? It’s because it lets them speak well of Jesus, at least the one that they have created, while in reality denying the biblical Jesus.

There are so many examples of this. Let me give you one. By the way, there’re examples that I could bring from most of your alma maters. But here’s one. This one is from Peter Bien, longtime professor at Dartmouth College. This is what he writes ( and this is completely ridiculous, but listen to this), “The gospel writers were creating a moral tale around a real man. They had their reasons. I realized much of what they wrote wasn’t literal history. I realized much of what we know about Jesus is novelistic, but I act as if it isn’t.” Here’s a man with academic credentials who says, “Listen. Jesus lived. He was a real person, but don’t believe what you read about Him in the gospels. They made that stuff up and they had their reasons, but I just live my life pretending as if they didn’t make it up.

So, understand that today, most academics, most skeptics... And, by the way, they are unbelieving skeptics. Some of them are apostates, that is, they grew up in Christian settings, Christian homes, and they departed from the faith that they once professed, never having been truly converted at all, and they’ve become its greatest enemies. This is who these people are. And they don’t primarily question Jesus’ historicity, the fact that He existed, but rather they have found a way to cleverly redefine His identity.

Now, at Christmas time, over the last few years, we’ve studied the historical events surrounding Jesus’ birth. We’ve looked at the gospel records, the records that are clear, that can easily be believed, that we have records of dating back to very close to the events themselves. We looked at the annunciation and birth of John the Baptist, Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth in Matthew 1, Luke’s record of Jesus’ birth, and the visit of the Magi in Matthew 2 - all of those over the last several years.

This Christmas, I want to focus, not on the gospel record of Jesus, because I want us to see, contrary to what the skeptics teach, that what the gospel records record is in fact merely a fulfillment of things that were said about Jesus long before. I want us to look at the person of Jesus Christ, His character and His work, as it is promised to us in the Old Testament. I want to examine what the Hebrew Scriptures say about His identity. Today, and at least next Sunday, specifically, I want us to study the greatest Old Testament prophecy about Jesus Christ. The prophecy is found in Isaiah 9, where I invite you to turn with me. Isaiah 9.

Now, let me give you some context for what we’re going to study together. First of all, looking larger at the book of Isaiah itself, Isaiah’s name means, “Yahweh is salvation”. Yahweh is simply the personal name for God. In our English Bibles, most translations in the Old Testament will take that name “Yahweh” and they will substitute for it the word “LORD” in all capitals. Whenever you see the word LORD in all capitals in your Old Testament, in your Bible, that is Yahweh. That is God’s personal name.

Now, when God says it as in Exodus 3, when He reveals Himself to Moses, He says, “I AM”. When we say it, we say, “He is”. That’s what Yahweh means. He’s the One who simply is, who depends on nothing and no one for His existence. Instead, everything depends on its existence on Him. So, Isaiah’s name means “Yahweh (God’s personal name) is salvation”. And that is the message of his book - God is a Savior, a rescuer, and He’s the only Savior, the only rescuer.

That theme unfolds in a couple of ways. First of all, Isaiah makes the point again and again that He alone can save Israel physically from her enemies. And much of the book of Isaiah is a call to God’s people Israel to say, “Trust God to deliver you from your physical enemies”. But there’s another theme, or another way that theme is developed throughout the book of Isaiah, and that is, that God alone can save His people spiritually from their sins. Since Isaiah tells the story of how God will rescue a remnant who deserve His wrath, this book has been called the Old Testament Gospel.

So, how will God accomplish this salvation? Well, the salvation that Isaiah promises, he tells us will come through a mysterious person who is called Immanuel, the servant of Yahweh and the Anointed One or the Messiah. This mysterious person will come from Judah, from one of the tribes of Israel, and He will accomplish both redemption and restoration.

Here’s how we could summarize Isaiah: through the Messiah, Jews and Gentiles will be spiritually saved. Universal blessing will finally come on this entire planet and Israel will enjoy restoration.

Now, we’re going to look at Isaiah 9, and Isaiah 9 is in a section of Isaiah’s prophecy that runs from chapters 7 through 12. The theme of this section is that Judah’s only hope... Judah is where Isaiah prophesied. When the kingdoms split after the mess that Solomon’s son made and the kingdom of Israel split into two, the 10 tribes in the north were called Israel; the two tribes in the south were called Judah because one of those tribes and the largest one was Judah. And that’s where Isaiah prophesied. And so, in these chapters, we learn that Judah’s only hope is found in a coming king, the Messiah. In fact, this section is called the Book of Immanuel because this is where the name Immanuel occurs. It’s a call to trust Yahweh.

And the reason for that is because in chapter 7, we meet a wicked king, a man named Ahaz, who had godly parents and grandparents, but who rejected the Lord. And when he was called to do so, he refuses to trust Yahweh and, as a result of that, he receives the prophecy of the virgin birth in chapter 7. And then in chapters 8 through 12, Isaiah reminds us that Yahweh deserves the trust of His people, because He will be a savior to them. He will be a rescuer of His people. So, 700 years before Christ, that’s when Isaiah prophesied. 700 years before Christ came, Isaiah wrote to explain that God is by nature a savior, a rescuer, and He will rescue all who put their trust in Him. And that spiritual rescue will come through a person.

We first meet this person in Isaiah’s prophecy. Keep your finger in Isaiah 9 and go back to chapter 7. Chapter 7:14, Isaiah says to Ahaz, wicked King Ahaz, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” This is an amazing prophecy. A number of years ago now, more than a decade, I preached on these verses, and if you are curious, you can go back and listen to it. I don’t have time to develop it here. But just to say that this prophecy of the Messiah was a confrontation of Ahaz, to say God is a savior, and He will save His people even though you refuse to trust in Him.

Within two years of that prophecy in chapter 7, Isaiah made a second prophecy about this child who would be born of a virgin. And that’s what we’re going to find in Isaiah 9. Now, before we actually get to chapter 9, let’s go back and get a running start in chapter 8. In chapter 8, Isaiah tells the people of Israel that the northern tribes, the 10 northern tribes, are going to be attacked by and defeated by the nation of Assyria. And he says that’s going to happen because of their sin, because of their wickedness. And he warns his own people, “Judah, listen, we deserve the same thing and that’s coming if we don’t repent.” And notice how he describes the circumstances in verse 19. Spiritually, he said, they’re consulting mediums and spiritists.” He says, “Really? Why would you do that and not consult your God?” “Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?” How ridiculous is that? And then verse 20: “To the law and to the testimony!” “Go to God! Listen to God’s Word that He’s given. “If they [those who are telling you everything’s going to be okay] do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn [they have no light, they have nothing to share with you that’s going to help you see your way forward].”

And then in verses 21 and 22, He describes the spiritual condition of all of Israel in his day. Notice how he describes it. “They will pass through the land hard-pressed and famished, and it will turn out that when they are hungry, they will be enraged and curse their king and their God as they face upward. Then they will look to the earth [in other words, they’ll depend not on God, but they’ll look around for something else to depend on], and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be driven away into darkness.” Isaiah is describing the spiritual state of Israel during his time. But really, he’s saying something more than that. He’s saying, like Israel in Isaiah’s time, the entire world then and now lies in darkness - in the darkness of idolatry, in the darkness of sin, in the darkness of rebellion against their Creator, and in the darkness of divine judgment both now and forever.

E.J. Young, one of the best commentators on Isaiah, puts it this way, “Sinners think that they are in the light.” Isn’t that true? They think they’re enlightened. They look at the choices they make, at the way they view the ethics of our times, and they say, “We’re the ones who are enlightened and all of you who are clinging to what the Scriptures teach, you’re in the darkness. E.J. Young says, “Sinners think they’re in the light and that they possess freedom, independence, truth, and unprejudiced mind. Actually, they walk in darkness and are slaves of gloom, subject to falsehood and prejudice in favor of evil.”

You see, sin and its consequences, both then and now, are like never ending darkness. And our only hope, as human beings, is for God to bring light into the world. That’s the reason for Christmas. You ever wondered why, when we celebrate Christmas both in our homes and out in our neighborhoods, we surround ourselves with light? It’s a picture of what’s described in this very passage. Because into the darkness of sin, God promised to bring light.

And that brings us to verse 1 of chapter 9: “But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He [that is, God] treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.” Isaiah is saying God is going to cause light. He’s going to bring brilliant light where there’s been only darkness. How’s He going to do that? A great king is going to be born who will destroy the darkness. God is promising that into the darkness of human sin, He will cause the light to shine. But His light, this light He’s going to bring into a dark world, is going to break out. It’s going to break forth in a most unexpected place.

Isaiah identifies the place in verse 1 in several ways. Notice what he says. First of all, it will be in the portion of land that the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, two of the twelve tribes of Israel, received as their inheritance all the way back when Joshua divided the land after the Exodus. He also describes that land by the way of the sea. And that refers actually to a road, a road that ran on the Mediterranean side of the Sea of Galilee. You can see on the map that I’ve put up behind me, I’ve circled where those two tribes were allotted. And just to the side, to the Mediterranean side of the Sea of Galilee, there was an international trade road that passed right through the town of Capernaum on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee. That’s what he means by the way of the sea. It’s a road that ran on the Mediterranean side of the Sea of Galilee. He adds that it’s on the other side of the Jordan, that is, the east side of the Jordan. You see, he’s talking about the region that even in Isaiah’s time was called Galilee.

Now, the land of Zebulun was lower Galilee. That included Nazareth where our Lord was born. The land of Naphtali was upper Galilee. That included Capernaum where Jesus established His headquarters. So, Isaiah is saying in Galilee, a most unexpected place, God will cause the light of His truth to break forth. Look at verse 2, “The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.”

You ever wondered why God chose to plant Abraham and His people and eventually Jesus in that tiny land of Israel? If you’ve ever visited there, I mean, it’s not much to write home about, honestly. It’s... Why? The reason is because of its centrality in the ancient world. If you look at a larger map of that part of the world, you will see that that tiny little land of Israel is a little strip of land that’s like an ancient land bridge between the three great continents of the Mediterranean world. You have the Mediterranean on one side and, in those days, travel in the Mediterranean was treacherous. Even Paul had several shipwrecks there. On the other side is a massive desert. And so, if you wanted to move between the three great continents of the ancient Mediterranean world (Europe, Asia, and Africa), you traveled through that tiny little strip of land we call Israel. It was strategic. That’s why God chose it.

But why did He choose for His Son to land in Galilee? Notice in verse 1, it’s called “Galilee of the Gentiles.” That’s because it was, from the very earliest days, infiltrated by a lot of Gentiles because it was on a major trade route. It’s how everybody outside of Israel came and went. And so, a lot of them settled in that area. Jesus started His ministry in a region filled with Gentiles and He chose a city, Capernaum, that was on a major international trade route. Why? Because Jesus intended His ministry in Israel to be a hub from which the spokes would reach across the world. The light shone in Galilee and from Galilee to sinners around the world. That was God’s plan.

That’s exactly what Matthew says. Go to Matthew 4. Matthew 4:12: “Now when Jesus heard that John [the Baptist] had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth [His hometown, you remember, after the incident in the synagogue there, where they wanted to kill Him], He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ”THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI, BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES - THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED. From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

You see, Jesus landed in Capernaum. He landed in that region because of the plan of God to reach the world with the ministry of Jesus. And Jesus was the light. He was in His person the light and His message that begins there in verse 17, the message of the gospel, “Repent and believe the gospel” - that message was the light that dawned in that dark place. So, understand, Jesus brought the light. He is the light, and He taught the light of God’s truth.

Now, when the light arrived, Isaiah says in verse 3 that He would bring great joy. Notice what he writes, “You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence...” And Isaiah gives two pictures to help us understand just how overwhelming and comprehensive their joy at the coming of Messiah would be. Notice how he describes it in verse 3, “...As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” In other words, when Messiah bursts into the darkness with His light, He would bring joy like that that farmers have when they have spent months preparing the field, sowing the seed, caring for those tender little plants, watching them grow, protecting them from all of those that would destroy the crop. And then, finally, the day comes for the harvest. And you gather the harvest and it’s beyond your wildest dreams in terms of the yield of the crop. And you gather that crop and there’s a celebration that happens. It’s joy like that. Or it’s joy like when your country has been engaged in war for many years. Your sons have been sent off to battle. Many of them you’ve heard have lost their lives in battle or been taken prisoner. Your own lives and your family’s life is threatened. Your future is threatened. And then, there’s victory. Like what happened on VE Day after World War II, when the whole world celebrated because of the victory that had been won. That’s the kind of joy that will accompany Messiah.

Now in verses 4-7, we find the reasons for this overwhelming joy. Notice verses 4, 5, and 6 all begin with the word “For”. But there are only really two reasons for this joy. The first reason is in verses 4 and 5: God will rescue a remnant from sin and its consequences.

Notice verse 4, “For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.” Isaiah is telling his people, Messiah will eventually bring all military oppression of Israel to an end, not at His first coming, but at His second. He will end all military oppression and He’ll do it just like God did with Gideon and his defeat of the Midianites. Messiah will do it alone without any help.

Verse 5, “For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.” Now, that verse doesn’t sound very heartwarming to you but think about it this way. One day, it’s saying, Jesus will usher in a permanent state of peace on this planet. The trappings of war will no longer be needed. Messiah will bring an end to all war. And in fact, war will become so obsolete that all armor and weapons are no longer needed. The boots and the war cloaks, they can be burned. Isaiah 2:4 says that the spears and the swords will become plowshares and pruning hooks.

So, verses 4 and 5 are referring to the consequences of Israel’s sin. Because of her sin, God brought the Assyrians, the Babylonians, eventually the Romans, all of whom waged war against Israel and destroyed her. But the day is coming when God will act in grace and He will deal with sin, that’s at Jesus’ first coming, and He will deal with its consequences, that’s at Jesus’ second coming.

There’s a second reason for joy in our text, and that is, that God will accomplish that rescue through a unique child. God will accomplish that rescue through a unique child in verses 6 and 7. And this brings us to our text. All of that was just a long introduction. But not just for this week, for the next several weeks, alright?

Now, let’s read it together. Here’s the heart of the prophecy, Isaiah 9:6-7: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”

This is, without question, the most familiar of all the Christmas prophecies. Its words appear in many of our Christmas songs and carols. In fact, if you’ve already attended the concert or will tonight, you’ll hear these words show up again and again in the music of Christmas. But it’s important to acknowledge that the events predicted in these two verses aren’t just about Jesus’ birth. In fact, these two verses span thousands of years of human history. And that’s not uncommon with Old Testament prophecy.

You have to think about prophecy something like the mountains. You know, I love mountains and I love them in every context. But when you see mountains at a distance, all you see is a series of peaks. You don’t see the valleys and the large distances between those peaks. Often, Old Testament prophets like Isaiah, they looked out by God’s grace across the future, and they saw all of those mountain peak events. But often they didn’t see all of the events between them. In the same way, the events here in verses 6 and 7 span thousands of years.

Isaiah, notice in verse 6, begins with the birth of Christ: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us...” But then by the end of verse 6, Isaiah has catapulted to the very end of human history and the establishment of Jesus’ earthly millennial kingdom. Verse 7 stretches into eternity future and Jesus’ eternal reign in a new heavens and a new earth. In these two verses, Isaiah tells us so much about the unique person through whom God would bring salvation. The major point of verses 6 and 7 is that God will rescue those who believe in Him from their sin and from all its consequences eventually through a great king who would come.

At Christmas, that’s what we celebrate. We sing about it. We celebrate the birth of a king. That’s exactly what Isaiah is prophesying. Of course, the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, is that king. In fact, we read it this morning in Luke 1 when Gabriel announces Jesus to Mary, he alludes to this very prophecy that He will reign on the throne of His father, David, forever. It’s Jesus who rescued, who saves His people from their sins by His life and His death in the place of sinners. Now, He rules over His people in a spiritual kingdom, but one day He will return and establish a literal millennial kingdom on this renewed and renovated earth. And then after a thousand years of that reign, He will destroy the present universe and He’ll create and reign over a new heaven and a new earth forever, an earth that’s more beautiful, if you can imagine, than the one we have and in which righteousness is at home.

Verses 6 and 7 tell us what our King and His reign are like. In these verses, Isaiah presents to us four defining qualities of Jesus Christ our Lord. Four defining qualities. They were true of Him when He was born, they were true of Him during His life here on earth, and they are still true of Him today. That’s why I love this passage, because in these two verses, we don’t just learn about the events of Christmas. We do, but we also learn so much more. We learn who our Lord is and how He relates to us as His people yesterday, today, and forever. So, let’s look at it together.

The first defining quality that we discover in these two verses is His unique nature. His unique nature. Isaiah tells us that the Messiah, who would be the light, who would bring salvation, would be, first of all, a human person, a human person. Notice how verse 6 begins. “For a child will be born to us...” The Hebrew word for child literally means a male child. This male child, notice, “will be born to us”. That is, He’ll have a normal human birth.

You know, we talk a lot about the miracle of the virgin birth. It was really the miracle of the virgin conception because Jesus’ birth was a normal birth just like yours. Jesus went through a normal human birth that was like my birth and like your birth with the exception that His mom was still a virgin. But He was born.

The point that’s being made in the first phrase of verse six is that the Messiah, Jesus, would be fully human. He had a human birth into a human line. You can go read His line through His adoptive father in Matthew 1. You can read His genealogy and His line through His mother Mary in Luke 3. He had a human birth into a human line. He developed as a human being. You can go back to Luke 2, and you get these little vignettes into Jesus’ growth and development. He grew up and developed like I did, like you did, like your children. In fact, I love the song that Kirsten sang in the concert yesterday. You’ll hear it again tonight. But that beautiful reality that God incarnate, stumbled learning to walk. He was really a human being. He developed just like you developed, just like your children develop. He had the essential elements of human nature. Jesus had a body just like your body. He had a soul, a human soul, and still does. He had the sinless weaknesses of human nature. He got hungry. He got thirsty. He was tired and needed to sleep. He even needed to take a nap during the day because of the busyness of the day. He is repeatedly, in the gospel record, called a man. Jesus became a man. The Son of God became a man. He was incarnated. He took on flesh, that is, He became fully human. So, the eternal Son of God became fully human.

Here’s how Paul puts it in Romans 1:3. He says, “This is the gospel I preach.” He says, “[The gospel] concerning His [God’s] Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh...” - God’s Son who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh. Paul puts it this way in Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son...” It’s not how we talk about normal births. God didn’t send forth my daughters. He didn’t send forth your children. That’s obviously talking about something entirely different. “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law...”

But Jesus had a virgin conception and a virgin birth. We read it in Isaiah 7. Look at Matthew’s gospel, Matthew 1:21. The angel tells Joseph that “She [Mary] will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Verse 22: “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL, which translated means, ‘GOD WITH US.’ And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, [verse 25] but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.” Jesus had a virgin conception and a virgin birth, that is, His mom was still a virgin when He was born, but He was born as a human child. That’s what the angels announced to the shepherds in Luke 2:11: “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ [Messiah] the Lord. He was fully human.

There’re so many implications to that. I bring out a couple of them in the concert. Let me mention a couple of others. Because our Lord is fully human, He qualifies to be our substitute. He had to be human. Listen to Hebrews 2:17: “Therefore, He [that is, Jesus] had to be made like His brethren [that’s us] in all things...” In other words, He had to be fully human. Why? “ that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” He couldn’t have stood in our place, satisfied the justice of God, unless He’d been one of us.

But the writer of Hebrews goes on to say that because He’s fully human, He understands us and can help us. Listen to Hebrews 2:18: “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” Listen, there’s nothing about you that Jesus Christ doesn’t understand. He’s just like us in His humanness except for sin.

But He is completely unlike us in that while Jesus is a human person, He is also, secondly, God’s eternal Son. Go back to our text in Isaiah 9 and look at the next phrase in verse 6: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us...” Not only was this boy to be born, but He’s a son that will be given to us. Now, that immediately hints that He existed before His birth, which obviously makes Him more than just human. Of course, that’s said explicitly in the New Testament. You remember John the Baptist, in John 1:15, said about Jesus, “He existed before me.” Well, that’s interesting because even in the passage we read this morning in the Annunciation to Mary, we learned that John the Baptist was born six months before Jesus was. But he says, “He existed before me.” Of course, Jesus Himself said in John 8:58, “...before Abraham was, I am.”

The verb “will be given” here in verse 6, “a son will be given” - this is what theologians call a divine passive. Of course, in one sense, it’s true that God gives all children. You know, Psalm 127 says that children are a gift from the Lord. But this means more than that. In a unique way, God is the giver of this son. And we know it’s unique because Isaiah has already told us back in chapter 7:14 that this child is Immanuel, God with us. And Isaiah pointed forward to what Gabriel would tell Mary in Luke 1. Again, we read it in our Scripture reading this morning, Luke 1:32 and 35: “[32] He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; [35] The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” I didn’t have and you didn’t have any holy children, and they weren’t the Son of God.

Paul’s theological conclusion we just saw in Galatians 4: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman...” The Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord, was God’s eternal Son, His one-of-a-kind Son. By the way, that’s what “only begotten” means. When you read that word, “only begotten”, it means His unique one-of-a-kind Son. I’m a son of God. If you’re a Christian, you’re a son or daughter of God, but Jesus is the only unique one-of-a-kind Son. He’s in His own category. And God gave Him to sinners as a gift of His grace - “a Son will be given to us”. Romans 8:32: “He [God] who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all...” 1 John 4:14: “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” So, our great King, Jesus Christ, is a human person and He is God’s eternal Son.

As we look at His unique nature, there’s a third part of that that is explained in our text, and that is, He is also the universe’s king. Notice verse six6 goes on to say, “...And the government will rest on His shoulders...” Now, when you see the word “government”, don’t misunderstand. He’s not saying, you know, government as we normally think about it. Literally, the Hebrew text could be translated this way: Dominion, or rule, will be on His shoulders, will rest on Him. In other words, Isaiah is saying the power and right to rule will rest entirely on the coming Messiah. He will exercise sovereign authority and lordship over everything and everyone.

Turn to Psalm 2. In Psalm 2, we have a prophecy of this very thing. We’re reminded that the peoples of the world are united against God and against His Anointed, His Messiah, verse 2. Verse 4, God sits in the heavens and laughs. He says in verse 6, “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” Then in verse 7 God stops speaking, the Father stops speaking, and God the Son starts speaking. So, here is Jesus responding: “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord [Yahweh]: He [Yahweh] said to Me [so the Father said to Me] ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’“ By the way, the New Testament says that happened at the resurrection when God showed that He was, in fact, His Son by raising Him from the dead. Verse 8 - again, Jesus is saying, this is what the Father said to Him, “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’“ In other words, the Messiah has the right to rule this planet. Psalm 110:1: “The Lord says to my Lord...” David is talking, and he says, “The Lord [God] said to my Lord [that is, the Messiah] ‘Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’“

Turn to Jeremiah, Jeremiah 23. And in this chapter, Jeremiah is bemoaning the horrible state of the leadership of the nation of Israel, and he says but a new day is going to come someday (verse 5): “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch...’” - a righteous shoot. Think of a tree that’s been cut down and there’s nothing. That’s what God had to do to Israel when He sent them into captivity. But out of that stump comes a little shoot. That’s Jesus. And notice he says, “...I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, The Lord [Yahweh] our righteousness.’“ This is a prophecy that will be fulfilled when Jesus returns in His second coming.

You remember after His resurrection, in Matthew 28, He said to all of His disciples in verse 18 of Matthew 28, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” 1 Corinthians 15:25, Paul says, “For He [Christ] must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” And then, of course, there’s that familiar passage in Philippians 2 when it talks about Jesus and how He humbled Himself by becoming human and humbling Himself to death, and not just any death, but death as a criminal. And then these words, Philippians 2:9, because Jesus humbled himself, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name...” What’s the name above every name? It’s not Jesus. The name above every name is the name Lord, Sovereign. “ that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ [Messiah] is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The idea in Isaiah 9 that the government rests on the Son’s shoulders means that He would grow up to be a king. It fulfills God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7 that one of his descendants would resign from his throne forever. But the Messiah will not merely be the king of the nation of Israel. Psalm 2 says that he will rule over all of the nations of this world and over the entire universe.

We’re studying the book of Revelation and you remember in Revelation 11:15, “Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.’” This prophecy is completely fulfilled at the second coming, but even now Jesus reigns as King. He reigns over an invisible kingdom, over His church, over all who believe and follow Him.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, He is your King. If you’re not a Christian, let me say this as kindly and graciously but as directly as I can. If you’re not a follower of Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ is still your King. God has given Him the right to rule everything in the universe and that includes your heart. That includes your life. If you refuse to bow your knee and submit to Jesus as Lord now, then understand this, you are in rebellion against God. That’s God’s plan. You will acknowledge Jesus as Lord now and receive His grace and His forgiveness, or you will acknowledge Him as Lord at the judgment and receive the justice your sin deserves and eternal hell. But acknowledge Him as Lord, you will, because He is.

You can follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition in Romans 10 where he says, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be [spiritually] saved...” You can be made right with God. You can be reconciled with your Creator. God will forgive your sin and adopt you as His child. That’s available to you today if you will acknowledge Jesus as Lord and King. Or you can follow the path of Philippians 2 and one day you will stand before Jesus Christ as your judge, and you will kneel, and you will confess that He is Lord and had every right to serve that role in your life. But confess Him you will. If you’re already a Christian, then you already belong to the spiritual kingdom over which Christ rules. He rules over His church. He rules over every Christian. Jesus is your King.

Let me ask you a pointed question. Do you daily submit your will to your King? That’s not a rhetorical question. I really want you to ask that in your own heart. Do you daily, if you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, do you daily submit your will to Him? As you live each day, as you face life’s constant decisions, do you ask yourself, “What does Jesus, my Lord and King, want me to do?” You see, as your King, He has the right to tell you what to do about everything. He has the right to tell you how to think about all the issues of our times. He has the right to tell you how to speak, how to act, how to treat others, how to treat your spouse, how to treat your kids, how you do your job, how you do your homework, how you use your time, what you post and read online, the entertainment you choose, what you read, what you laugh at, the friends you choose, where you live, your occupation, whether you marry, who you marry, everything. Jesus has the right to rule your life. Do you think like that? Do you live like that? Do you evaluate everything in your life against what Jesus wants? You see, His kingdom is not a democracy. You don’t get a vote. He is the King, our Sovereign King.

Isaiah says, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us...” And the right to rule, everything and everyone will rest on His shoulders. There is Jesus’ unique nature. He’s a human person, He’s God’s eternal Son, and He’s the universe’s King.

The second quality is His unique character and, Lord willing, we’ll look at that next time.

Let’s pray together.

Our Father, we’re so grateful for this amazing prophecy, made 700 years before our Lord, that tells us so much about Him, about who He is, and about how He relates to us as His people. Father, we thank You for the gift of all gifts. And Lord, those of us who know You because we’ve come to believe in Your Son, we’ve repented and put our faith in Him, Lord, help us to live like Jesus is our King. Forgive us for trying to live autonomous lives, making all the calls about what we will do, how we will live. Father, help us each day to wake up with a mindset that we are the subject of the universe’s King and He has the right to tell us what to do about everything. Father, for those who are here this morning who don’t know Your Son, help them to see, oh God, help it to grip their hearts that acknowledge it or not, Jesus is their rightful King. And one day they will acknowledge it. But Father, I pray that they wouldn’t wait until You take them in death or till Christ returns, even possibly today, and then be forced to recognize His Lordship as they receive the justice that they deserve and eternal punishment. Father, may they instead acknowledge Him as Lord today and receive His grace and forgiveness. We pray it in Jesus’ name, Amen!


The Promise of Christmas - Part 2

Tom Pennington Luke 1:26-38

What Child Is This? - Part 1

Tom Pennington Isaiah 9:6-7

God With Us

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures

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