Friday, December 18, 2009

Sermon on Isaiah 9:1-7, for Wednesday Advent 2, "The Lord will Install His King Forever"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Last week we looked at the prophecy from Isaiah 7, given to unfaithful King Ahaz who was shaking with fear of his enemies. The prophecy told that God hadn’t abandoned His people, but would defeat their enemies and provide a miraculous sign of His presence among us—the birth of a child from a virgin. This child’s name was to be Immanuel, God with us. Today, we read in Isaiah 9:1-7 of the description of Immanuel’s birth and His eternal reign. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Where King Ahaz was an unfaithful king who disregarded the Lord and ignored His Word and promises, Isaiah 9 speaks of a coming king who will not only be a faithful and good king, but will in fact be perfect. Yet it speaks of this king as a child! A child who would bear the government on His shoulders. And it’s prophesied that He’ll do remarkable things. This coming king would show none of the weaknesses and frailties of the former kings of Israel, and His reign and His rule would be marked by peace. The majestic poetry of Isaiah describes the scene of this child’s arrival. He comes to a “people who walked in darkness [and] have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.”

Truly we were caught in the darkness of sin and error’s ways when the Christ child came. Man without God is clouded in an impenetrable darkness. We don’t see our own way. Our steps are blind and our paths are crooked. There’s much stumbling and falling and injury when we walk in darkness. But death casts the deepest shadow over us, as the misery of lost love ones can burden the gladdest of hearts. Death’s bitterness can turn all our vision black like the night. The decaying effects of sin and death are visible in our bodies, but not so easily recognized on our souls, as we dwell in spiritual darkness. But suddenly into our darkness gleams a piercing radiance, the clear beams of someone penetrating and dissipating the darkness. Light washes over us in a cleansing stream of goodness, life, and vigor. It was the Light of Christ that illumined the world and scattered the darkness. Into the black night of sin, Light entered—by no effort of our own, nothing we produced—and with Christ’s entrance, the day had dawned and the Morning Star risen in our hearts (2 Pet. 1:19).

The arrival of this Light is cause for rejoicing, the kind of rejoicing at the end of a season of hard labor, when the harvest is ready for gathering, and the fruit of your labor is ready for reaping. The kind of rejoicing when all the spoils of warfare are gathered and distributed among those who fought hard in the battle. For believers who’ve worked hard in the harvest, who’ve fought long in the spiritual battle against the powers of darkness, this will be a welcome cause for rejoicing. But the rejoicing over the spoils of warfare will be unlike any of the greedy celebration that happens in earthly warfare. Because with the Advent of Our King, the Christ-child, a new reign of peace comes. Usually a king’s reign involved some use of military force, either to defend or expand the kingdom. But so far from using military force, under His righteous rule, every battle garment stained in blood and the boots of marching soldiers will be burned as fuel for the fire. Earthly warfare has no place in His heavenly kingdom and rule.

His kingdom is a kingdom apart from nations and political rulers. It’s a kingdom that has no borders, and the only citizenship is based on faith in God and Jesus Christ His Son. His kingdom needs only spiritual warriors. Warriors who battle on bended knee before the enemy—in prayer. Warriors who fight with the Word of God as their sword and faith as their shield. Warriors who don’t fight to kill, but to redeem the enslaved soldiers of the enemy the devil. Isaiah says this coming King will break the rod of our oppressor, as in the day of Midian. This refers to the Old Testament battle in the book of Judges, where Gideon led an army of 300 men to defeat a multitude of Midianite soldiers that vastly outnumbered them. Christ is our new and greater Gideon, who leads us to God’s victory—not by our own might or human strength. Rather, all things will be accomplished by the “zeal of the Lord of Hosts.” His zeal, His passionate enthusiasm and vigor for His people will accomplish it. Lord of Hosts literally in Hebrew is “YHWH Sabaoth”—the Lord of the heavenly hosts or armies. He commands an angelic host that fights on our behalf.

So to us this miracle child is born. A child who bears the government on His shoulders, and is given a list of titles that reveal how exceptional His rule will be. His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor—a King unsurpassed in wisdom. Greater in wisdom than King Solomon, wise in bringing about justice for all. Mighty God—because He commands all power and authority in heaven and on earth, and to Him every knee shall one day bow. The winds and the seas, the stars and bodies in the heavens all obey His command. Everlasting Father—because eternity belongs to Him, and He is the spiritual head of all His descendants by faith. Just as we were born from the head of our human race, the first Adam, so by baptism we’re reborn after the head of the new creation—the second Adam who is Jesus Christ. Finally His climactic title is Prince of Peace—the One whose government and whose peace would expand without end, and who needs no earthly warfare or oppression to bring it about.

It’s this last title, Prince of Peace and the description of His forever-reign on David’s throne that catches the most attention. We all long for the ending of war, violence, and bloodshed. And as long as sinners, both Christian and non-Christian sinners, still live in this world, we have no promise that human wars will end. People will still be greedy and have a lust for power and more land, more possessions, and the more we push and pull on each other for that, the more that violence and bloodshed will increase. In fact Jesus even said that wars and rumors of wars will precede His coming kingdom, and will continue as a sign through the end of times. But Jesus’ kingdom comes with an increase both in government and of peace. Now the “increase of his government” has nothing to do with more bureaucracy. Rather, the expansion of Christ’s rule and His kingdom won’t end. His government will extend over more and more people. And Peace will have no end in the kingdom of the Prince of Peace. The Bible says that Jesus Himself is our peace (Eph. 2:14).

Through His death on the cross He made peace between us and God. He destroyed all the hostility that lay between us because of sin, and made peace for us with God. It’s through His death on the cross that He was able to secure the peace and to secure the eternal throne that made it possible for Him to rule on David’s throne forever. By making an eternal peace between God and man, and by transforming the earthly kingdom that David ruled into a heavenly kingdom without end, He would no longer need the tramping boots of soldiers or their battle uniforms. Instead His peace would reign from heaven above, and wouldn’t come to an end. His kingdom will be sustained by the justice and righteousness of God’s forgiving our sins. He maintains peace by forgiving and reconciling sinners and turning their hearts from sin to righteousness by the working of His Holy Spirit. His kingdom works from encouraging obedience through the inward motivation of His love, rather than the external coercion of the law. We can truly bow our heads and our knees in grateful adoration to this child born to us—the true Son of David who heralds peace for us. Our Prince of Peace who has an eternal rule without fear, without bloodshed, and without the darkness of sin that kept our eyes from seeing the light of His glory. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

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