Unto Us a Child is BornDecember 25, 2015
Bob Lepine offers some Christmas cheer from the prophecies about Jesus found in Isaiah, Chapter 9.
Bob Lepine offers some Christmas cheer from the prophecies about Jesus found in Isaiah, Chapter 9.
Unto Us a Child is Born
Bob: The message of Christmas is not simply that God sent a baby in human flesh or that God became a man. The message is really the message of the gospel—that people who walk in darkness can see the light. That’s the prophecy that Isaiah is making here—that God is going to shed His light—the light of salvation / the light of the gospel—on the Gentile nation.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition—merry Christmas.
Dennis: Merry Christmas to you.
Bob: We’re going to spend some time talking about four of the ornaments on your Christmas tree today.
Dennis: We are. It comes out of Isaiah, Chapter 9, written some 700 years before the time of Christ. And I’ll tell you—this is a rich chapter. If you haven’t read Isaiah 9, here on Christmas Day, you ought to read it. Read it aloud to your family, and take a look at some of the names of Christ that are mentioned here—just a reminder of who He is and what He came to do.
Bob: Well, why don’t you read? Back up to the beginning because isn’t it 9—
Chapter 9, verse 1 or 2, that talks about the people walking in darkness?
Dennis: Well, it’s actually verse 2, Bob—it says:
The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light.
Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
On them has light shined.
And it’s interesting—over 200 times in Scripture the concept of darkness is there, but the light shined / God manifested Himself.
And it goes onto say:
You have multiplied the nation,
You have increased its joy;
They rejoice over You
As with joy at the harvest,
As they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden and the staff for his shoulder,
The rod of his oppressor You have broken, as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult,
And every garment rolled in blood, will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
And the government shall be upon His shoulder;
And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end….
Bob: I had the opportunity to, with our team here awhile back, to open up that passage and spend some time reflecting on what it is that Isaiah was pointing us to when he talked about the coming Messiah being the One who we would call the “Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
I mentioned this being on your Christmas tree because you have Christmas tree ornaments with these titles for Jesus—His Christmas names—that have been designed and created by your wife Barbara. That hangs on your tree this year and every year; right?
Dennis: It does. In fact, we don’t have room for a lot of the Santa Clauses, the candy canes, the reindeer, and all the things that used to be on our tree. We have pretty much turned our tree into a Jesus tree that proclaims the names of Christ—just a great reminder, Bob, of who Christmas is all about.
Bob: Well, here on Christmas Day, let’s talk about who it is that Christmas is all about as we reflect on this passage from Isaiah, Chapter 9.
Bob: I want to spend some time talking this morning about titles. In any business, employees are given titles. In addition to their job responsibilities, we have titles. Those titles are a shorthand way of telling each other, both inside and outside the organization, what it is we do.
Well, we’re going to consider, today, some titles that were given by Isaiah for the coming Messiah—descriptive titles that would help us recognize Messiah when He came—but I need to set a context for you, if I can. Isaiah’s prophecies were delivered during a time in Israel’s history—it was the time of the divided kingdom—north and south had been divided. Isaiah prophesied in the southern kingdom in Judah—
—he lived in Jerusalem.
A prophet in those days was kind of like a cross between a pastor and a person who writes an op-ed column in the newspaper. He was a mouthpiece for God. He spoke for God to the people and reminded them of what the will of the Lord was—sometimes through direct revelation, where God had given him insight and revelation / sometimes just by pointing them back to what their Scriptures said about how they ought to behave.
At this point in Isaiah’s prophecies, as you look at Chapter 9 of Isaiah, it’s at a time in the history of Israel where the dominant world power in the Middle East is the Assyrian army. The Assyrians are on a path of conquest throughout the region. They want to control and dominate all of the countries in the region.
Now, he steps in to tell the people of Judah that God is going to send a King who will deliver them.
Look at verse 2 of Isaiah, Chapter 9: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” Now, who are the people who walk in darkness? Well, as we see here, and as we see later in the Scriptures, this is a reference to those who live outside of Israel / outside of Judah—those who don’t have Yahweh as their God. They are the people who walk in darkness/ they live in a darkened condition.
Isaiah is saying that what God is going to do is, not just going to be for Judah, but it’s going to spill over to all people. Matthew saw this as fulfilled in Jesus in Matthew, Chapter 4 [verses 14-16], when Jesus is beginning His ministry— Matthew says, “This is done so that the prophecy could be fulfilled…” that “’…the people who walk in darkness will see a great light.’”
Jesus, Himself, referred to Himself as the Light of the world.
When He was brought up, on the eighth day, at the Temple, you remember that there was the old man, Simeon; and he said: “Lord, I can now depart in peace. My eyes have now seen Thy salvation. He will be”—Simeon says—“a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.”
The message of Christmas is not simply that God sent a baby in human flesh or that God became a man. The message is really the message of the gospel—that people who walk in darkness can see the light. That’s the prophecy that Isaiah is making here—that God is going to shed His light—the light of salvation / the light of the Gospel—on the Gentile nation.
We read in Ephesians, Chapter 4 [verse 17 and 18]—and you don’t need to turn there—but Paul, in Ephesians, says:
“This I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart…” Their minds are darkened. John, Chapter 3 [verse 19]—John says, “This is the judgment, light came into the world; men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil.” This contrast between darkness and light reflects both on the moral character of man / it also reflects on the understanding of man about the things of God.
But Isaiah, in Chapter 9, sees ahead and sees a time when God will bring light to the darkened people of the earth through Messiah. The passage goes on—in Isaiah, Chapter 9, verse 3, “You shall multiple the nation”—this is Isaiah speaking of what God is going to do:
You shall multiple the nation,
You shall increase their gladness;
They will be glad in Your presence
As with the gladness of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff of their
The rod of their oppressor, as in the battle of Midian.
For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult,
And every cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning fuel for the fire.
That’s a very poetic way of saying that the gladness of men will increase when this King comes—that He will bring joy to the world: “The Lord is come.”
And the reason for that joy is because the burden/the oppression will be broken—that is the burden of sin—that’s going to be broken. It’s the burden of the Law that weighs heavily on a man’s shoulders. The One, who comes as Messiah, will break that burden. The booted warrior / the cloak rolled in blood—He’s going to bring an end to warfare and to striving.
Isaiah has already said that in one of his earlier prophecies, when he said: “We’ll lay down our weapons.
“The lion and the lamb will lay down together, and we will study war no more.”
How will this liberation take place? Verse 6:
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest upon His shoulders;
And His name will be called (and here come the four titles that Isaiah gives Him) Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Now, we know this from Handel’s Messiah; right? We can’t escape this verse because Handel put it to music and reminded us of this prophecy. You see, at the very beginning when it says, “A child will be born, a son will be given,”—that parallelism shows both the humanity and the divinity of Jesus. The child will be born / humanity; but a son is given/ deity. We see, in that very statement, that this would be the God-man.
“The government will rest upon His shoulders”—that means He’s going to be in charge. He’s going to be the King. The shoulders are where royal insignia were worn, but it’s also the resting place for burden. So, the burden of government will be on His shoulders as will the royal insignia.
These four titles—this is what I want us to focus in on as we go through this passage. The first one is Wonderful Counselor. Now, all kings have counselors. I was recently in Washington, D.C., and had a tour of the West Wing of the White House. While we were in the West Wing, we saw the Cabinet room. Well, the Cabinet room is where the President goes to hear from his counselors; right?—he gets their input / he gets their counsel in making decisions.
This coming King will be His own counselor—He will not need the counsel of others.
Every king would turn to his advisors to say, “What do you think I should do?” This King will be His own counselor, and His counsel will be wonderful. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be [just] good counsel—we think wonderful means something that’s exceptional. Well, this is exceptional; but the root word here means it’s going to be something you marvel at—it’s going to be a wonder. His counsel will cause you to step back and go, “Whoa!” You will marvel at the miraculous nature of His counsel—it will be supernatural counsel.
Now, let me ask you: “When it comes to the counsel of the Word of God for us today, do you marvel at it? Do you read it and go: ‘This is extraordinary! This is marvelous! This is Wonderful Counselor’; or do you do what I sometimes do, which is go, ‘I want to kind of weigh this out with my own human wisdom / my own reasoning.
“’Does this make sense to me? Maybe, this was meant for some long time ago,’?” Do we tend to exalt our own wisdom over the counsel of the Word of God? I know I can fall into that trap. Part of the message of Messiah / the message of Christmas is that we should put our confidence in the wonderful counsel that comes from the Wonderful Counselor. He is the only One worth listening to.
Well, in addition to being the Wonderful Counselor, it says he is El Gibbor—El Gibbor. Now, that’s the Hebrew phrase for the Mighty God. There can be no question about who the prophet had in view here. He could not have been looking at some human king—he could not have been saying, “God is going to raise up for us a king who will be the Mighty God.” This is a title for Yahweh Himself. He is saying that God is going to send a Counselor/a King, who will be God in human flesh:
“Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” This boy will be God in human flesh.
Some have tried to interpret this phrase to mean he will be mighty and god-like. The problem with that is—later in the book, when talking about God, Isaiah uses El Gibbor—and he’s not saying, “God is god-like”; he’s saying: “God is God. He is the Mighty God.”
The focus of the previous title was that this person would give wise counsel, but the focus of this title is that He will have divine might—the Mighty God—He is a warrior. He is the Captain of the hosts. He is not only all-wise with His counsel, but he is all powerful with His might. The King God is going to raise up will be omniscient and omnipotent—
—all-wise and all-powerful.
And once again, we have to ask ourselves: “Do we rest in the strength of the Mighty God, who has redeemed us; or do we rely on our own strength to try to accomplish what concerns us today?
King Ahaz, in the time of Isaiah, saw the advancing armies. He said: “I’ve got to do something. I’ve got to make an alliance. I’ve got to get some help here. I’ve got to form some treaties. I’ve got to protect our nation.” Isaiah came and said: “Go to God. God will take care of you in this situation.” He [King Ahaz] said, “Well, sure I need to do that, too; but I’ve got to rely on the arm of the flesh.”
Moses, in his song, said: “Some trust in chariots. Some trust in horses. We trust in the Name of the Lord our God.” Do we trust in God’s sufficiency?
When we see ourselves surrounded, do we turn to the Lord and say, “Lord, only You can deliver me from what is before me,”?
The third title is the title of Everlasting Father or Eternal Father. Literally, it means He is the Father of eternity. “Father,” among the Jews, means originator or source—He is the source of eternity. Now, there can be no human king who is the father of eternity. This is obviously, again, a messianic promise.
But there is a paradox; isn’t there? How can a baby be born who, Himself, will be the Father of time? The very fact that you are born indicates you begin to exist; but this baby, who is born, is sent by the Father. He has always existed—co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit—He comes in human flesh.
And I thought, as I read it, of Michael Card saying:
“And so the light became alive and manna became man. Eternity stepped into time so we might understand.” That’s what’s happening with this Everlasting Father. He is all-wise as a Wonderful Counselor, He is all-powerful as the Mighty God, and now, we see He is eternal. He is from everlasting to everlasting—Alpha and Omega—the Everlasting Father.
Now, father is an unusual term for God in the Old Testament. We see it throughout the New Testament, but very rarely did the children of Israel refer to God as Father. It was not a part of their understanding. They saw God as mighty, powerful, distant, and detached—you must fear Him—and all of that is true. But this is an insight into the fact that this same God is a God of kindness and compassion—He has father-like characteristics. He is to be revered as the Mighty God; but you can also draw close to Him because He is your Father—He is your Daddy / He is Abba.
Jesus, in teaching us to pray, said, “You can pray, ‘Our Father…’” All of the Jews standing around said, “We can’t call Him that!” And Jesus said: “Yes, you can. He is your Father.” He is the Father of eternity. As such, He is the only One who can bestow eternity to others—He gives eternal life. The implication for us is that Messiah would, not only be the Mighty God, but He would be One who brings mercy and compassion. Psalm 103:13 says, “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him,”—He knows our frame / He is mindful that we are dust.
Well, the fourth title—the last one—is Prince of Peace. He is the Sar Shalom—the Sar Shalom—the Governor or the Ruler of Peace.
Albert Barnes, in his notes, says: “This is a Hebrew mode of expression denoting that this would be a peaceful prince. This expression is used to distinguish Him from the mass of kings and princes who have delighted in conquest and blood. In contradistinction to all of these, Messiah will seek to promote universal concord, and the tendency of His reign will be to put an end to wars to restore harmony and order to the nations.”
You know, in Ephesians 2 [verse14]—in talking about Jesus, it says: “He is our peace…He has broken down the dividing wall.” In Romans 5 [verse 1], it says the gospel brings us peace with God. The Prince of Peace restores our relationship with God, which was broken at the Fall—brings peace between man and God—and He brings peace on earth in our relationships with one another.
The Prince of Peace calls us into a peaceable kingdom, where our relationships are restored and the broken hearts are healed.
Now, look back: This child—who is going to be born, the son who is going to be given—will be the all-wise One, He will be the all-powerful One, He will be the compassionate Father of Eternity, and He will be the One who brings peace in our conflict. These four titles for Messiah, not only identify Him as God in flesh, but they also proclaim the message of the gospel. They proclaim why He is coming—to restore peace on earth.
When we sing about that at Christmastime, our minds may immediately go to the Middle East and the war that’s going on in Iraq—the conflicts that have been a part of the history of man—but let’s remember that peace on earth really begins when our hearts are at peace with God.
In fact, there will be no peace until men are surrendered before a Holy God and that relationship has been restored.
Isaiah ends this part of the prophecy by saying: “There will be no end to the increase of His government or His peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteous from then on and forevermore.” How long will His kingdom last?—“forevermore,” and there will be no end to its increase—“The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.” Not only is He eternal, but His reign is eternal. His reign will be a reign of righteousness and justice—both now, as He reigns in us, and in the future when He vanquishes iniquity.
The last line here—“The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this,”—means God is passionate about this. He’s going to make it happen, and we ought to be passionate about it as well.
“He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and the wonders of His love…[Joy to the World].” “O, holy Child of Bethlehem descend to us, we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in. Be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels. The great glad tidings tell. O come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel [O Little Town of Bethlehem].”
Dennis: Well, we’ve been listening to Bob Lepine share from Isaiah, Chapter 9. Bob, you did a good job with that.
I was just reminded here, reading the passage—Isaiah 9 talks about Him being Wonderful Counselor, which speaks of direction in life; Mighty God, which talks about His strength and power; Everlasting Father—security; and Prince of Peace, which is ultimately our contentment and our satisfaction. That we can go through life—and if we encounter Christ—who He is will take up residence in our lives, and He will change our lives.
We just want to wish you and your family a very merry Christmas, and trust that these Christmas holidays will be—
—well, that they will be fixed upon the “Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.”
Bob: That’s right. And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. And we hope you can join us back on Monday. We’re going to hear a powerful story of God’s redemptive work in the life of a young man, and we’re going to hear about how his mom prayed that God would do the work that He did. So, I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. They all want to say, “Merry Christmas,” to you as well. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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