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Sermon Message


"Our King"

Isaiah 9:6-7
Theme: The prophet Isaiah describes the qualities of the King whose birth we celebrate this Christmas Day.

(Delivered Christmas Sunday, December 25, 2005 at Bethany Bible Church. All Scripture quotes, unless otherwise indicated, are from the New King James Version.)

Ordinarily, Christmas is a time for looking backward. For many people, this means looking backward to happy memories of the past - of childhood, of family and friends long ago, of holiday traditions. I hope that the holidays will involve such things for you. I believe we should look back on them and enjoy such Christmas memories.

But much more, it also means looking backward to what was done for us on Christmas. It involves looking backward to the great event that the angels announced to the shepherds - that "there is born for you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). It involves remembering the wonder of the condescending love of God in human flesh - the Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. It involves remembering how heaven itself announced the event as "good tidings of great joy which will be for all people" (v. 10).

And much more still, it means looking backward to the sacrifice that Child was born into the human family to make for us on His cross. It means looking back to the fact that angels told the shepherds that He was born as "a Savior". It means remembering that our salvation required that this same Child - God in human flesh - take our sins upon Himself and pay the death penalty on our behalf. Our salvation depends on this "backward look"; and on our faith in the sacrifice He was born long ago to make for us.

Those things that have happened in the past are what give us the true meaning of Christmas. But they aren't the only things that give Christmas its true meaning. There are aspects of the Christmas story that have not yet been completed. Christmas still awaits a future fulfillment.

And so, this morning, I ask that we turn momentarily from the "backward look" of Christmas, and look "forward" instead.

* * * * * * * * * *

Turn with me in the Scriptures to a "forward look" Christmas passage - one that tells us a part of why Christ was born, and of how that birth gives us great hope for the future.

This passage is found in Isaiah 9:6-7; and it reads as follows:

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government shall be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice,
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this (Isaiah 9:6-7).

* * * * * * * * * *

This is a prophetic message of good news. It was given over seven centuries before Jesus was born - and during a time of great fear and distress for those who first heard it.

It was spoken to the man who was, at that time, the king of Judah. His name was Ahaz; and he was faced with a great threat to his people. Two enemy kings - one the king of the northern kingdom of Israel, and the other the king of Syria - had joined forces to make war against Jerusalem. They purposed to "trouble" Jerusalem, make a "gap" in its wall for themselves, and then to set over it a king of their choosing (Isaiah 7:6). The Bible tells us that Ahaz's heart, and the hearts of his people, were "moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind" (v. 2) because of this threat.

But it was at this time that God sent the prophet Isaiah with a word to the king of Judah. God promised Ahaz that He remained devoted to Judah; and that this plan of the kings of Israel and Syria would not succeed. Isaiah tells Ahaz - under the inspiration of God - that within a certain amount of time, both of these enemy kingdoms would be broken.

When I think of the context of this morning's passage, I think too of our own time. We live in uncertain and frightening times as well. We live in a time when our own nation is at war. And in spite of the best efforts of our wisest leaders and advisors, we have not yet been able to bring about peace. I think of how every time we hear the Christmas song "I'll Be Home for Christmas" - a song written during a time of world war - it's a reminder that we have not yet learned how to bring about the peace we long for.

Look over the past six thousand years of recorded history. It's the story of kingdoms rising and falling; of nations waring against nations; of borders being crossed, and of lands being conquered over and over. And all of it serves as empiric evidence that we do not yet know how to rule ourselves.

But the fact is that we were never meant to. In fact, even we - who live in the most politically free land in the world - are unable to rule ourselves. Even we have need of a King. We human beings were made to be ruled over by someone greater than ourselves.

And this morning's passage tells us that, on Christmas morning, we celebrate the birth of that King into this world.

* * * * * * * * * *

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus is the King this world so desperately needs. We celebrate today not only the fact that He was born, but also the promise that He will reign.

Let's take the "forward look" of Christmas this morning, and see what the Bible tells us about this King promised long ago - King Jesus. Let's look at what kind of a King He will be. First, we see . . .

1. WHO HE IS (v. 6a).

Isaiah says, "For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government shall be upon His shoulder . . ."

The first thing we see is that this King is a man - born into the human family. He is a "Child" who is "born" unto us. He was fully man - with a human body, and a human soul. He possessed all the qualities and characteristics of humanity - having been conceived in the womb of Mary, and made from her own body.

This is absolutely essential; because God has determined that He who rules over humanity as humanity's Savior must Himself be human. As Hebrews 2:17 says, "Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted."

But He is not only a "Child" who is born unto us; but He is also "Son" who is given unto us. And so, the second thing we see is that this King is not only fully human, but He is also fully divine - the second Person of the triune Godhead - God the Son. He was fully God from eternity; but became fully human in a point of time without ever ceasing to be God.

He is the King that God spoke of in Psalm 2; where it says,

"I will declare the decree: the LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, today I have begotten you. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel.'"

He is the King that Paul spoke of in his letter to the Philippians; where he writes of Jesus, that He,

". . . being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:6-11).

It is upon the shoulder of this promised Child that God will place "the government". And do you notice that it will not be "governments" that are placed upon Him? It will not be as if this King will simply be the King of many different governments. Rather it will be but one government - "THE government will be upon His shoulder".

At last, the government of this world will be one! At last, we will have the King we need.

This involves a forward look. The prophet says that "unto us a Child is born", and that "unto us a Son is given". That part of the promise has already been fulfilled; and it happened two thousand years ago in Bethlehem. But the forward look is that "the government shall be upon His shoulder". This part of the promise awaits fulfillment at the time when Jesus, our risen Savior, returns to this earth.

And so, please understand that this is what we celebrate on Christmas! We look not only backward, but ahead! We celebrate our King born on Christmas day - a man who is fully divine, and upon whom the government will one day rest.

* * * * * * * * * *

In these words, the prophet tells us who this King is. And it's because of who He is that the prophet can then tell us . . .

2. WHAT HE IS LIKE (v. 6b).

We are told "And His name will be called . . ."; and when it speaks here of His "name", it isn't speaking of the literal name that Jesus will be called. Rather, it speaks of the essence of His character and nature. Here, we don't see four individual names, but rather the four-fold name of one mighty King.

The first thing that we see is that He is called "Wonderful, Counselor". In the original language, this is best seen not as two names, but as one affirmation. Literally, He is called "Wonder Counselor". He is being described as a Counselor or Advisor who is a "marvel" and a "wonder" through and through.

Think of the ways that Jesus demonstrated this about Himself during His time on earth. Those who opposed Him sought to stump Him or to make Him look foolish by asking Him difficult questions; and yet He answered in such a way that the people marveled at Him. As He taught, people would ask, "Where did this Man get this wisdom . . .?" (Matthew 13:54). They "marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth" (Luke 4:22).

He was, in the days of His first coming, a "wonder" of a Counselor. And that's what kind of a King He will be over this world. He won't need a "cabinet". He won't need a staff of advisors and counselors. He will rule this world with perfect wisdom. He will be a "Wonder Counselor". There will be no other like Him. He will answer all the questions, and solve all the problems. He will show humanity, at last, how to live!

* * * * * * * * * *

His name as "Wonder Counselor" has hints of "deity" to it. And this is also shown to us clearly in His next descriptive name. He is called "Mighty God".

There are some who have sought to tone this down; but there's no other way to understand this than as an affirmation that this great King is God. In the Person of Jesus Christ, God will rule this earth in human flesh! Paul told us that Jesus is "over all, the eternally blessed God" (Romans 9:5). The apostle John said that He is "the true God and eternal life" (1 John 5:20).

And not only is He called "God"; but this great King is even called "Mighty" God. The idea is that He is strong and heroic. He will be a King who proves bold and capable; and will be able to do what needs to be done. He will face all challenges, and will come out victorious every time.

How marvelous it will be to have a King to rule this world who will be both wonderfully wise and divinely powerful!

* * * * * * * * * *

A third way He is described is as "Eternal Father". This, of course, is not speaking of God the Father - the first Person of the Trinity. Rather, the word "Father" is a name given to King Jesus that describes the role He will fulfill over humanity.

The word "Father" describes someone who is a protector, and a provider. It describes someone who is tender toward His children; and who teaches them, and leads them, and nurtures them, and gives them all that they need. The apostle Paul once used this figure as a way of describing His own ministry toward the Thessalonian believers. He told them, ". . . You know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children" (1 Thessalonians 2:11).

And this is the kind of King Jesus will be toward His people. We're told in the book of Revelation that

". . . He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Revelation 7:15-17).

What's more, He will be this forever. We will never be without the need of such loving, "fatherly" care. And in this glorious King, we will have an "Everlasting Father".

* * * * * * * * * *

Finally, we see that He will be "Prince of Peace". The word "prince" describes a ruler or a captain. And the "peace" being described here is not some kind of inner experience; but rather an outward circumstance of soundness, and completeness, and tranquility, and contentment.

This world longs for peace. Many have set themselves up as "princes" who would bring about "peace". So far, in all of its history, it has never really experienced peace. Many of the princes who promised it sought to achieve it by war; and were only replaced through war by another prince who promised peace. But with this King, there will finally be what the angels announced at His birth, ". . . On earth, peace, goodwill toward men!" Peace on earth will finally be achieved by this Ruler!

* * * * * * * * * *

So, in the name "Wonderful Counselor", we have Jesus' wisdom; in "Mighty God", we have His power; in "Everlasting Father", we have his love; and in "Prince of Peace", we have His character. What a great King! He is all of these things right now, of course; but He has not brought about the experience of these things yet upon the earth.

But on Christmas Day, we look ahead and celebrate the birth of the One who will do so!

And that leads us, next, to consider . . .

3. HOW HE WILL REIGN (v. 7a).

First, we see that He will reign prosperously. We're told, "Of the increase [or 'abundance'] of His government and peace there will be no end . . ." The world will experience unending prosperity under the rule of Jesus Christ.

I notice that this passage mentions two things that we have rarely seen together - government and peace. Governments often promise peace; but even if they bring it about, it is hardly more than a "cease-fire". And even then, the "peace" only lasts long enough for everyone to make new weapons and to reload! How much of the "prosperity" that governments seek to bring about is ruined by the lack of "peace"?

The reign of our great and glorious King will be characterized by the perfect combination of those two things - government and peace. Together, they will result in "increase"; and of that increase, there will never be an end! There will never be a need to remember the "good old days" of Jesus' rule; because those good days will never cease!

* * * * * * * * * *

I tried to think of a word to describe the second characteristic of Jesus' reign on this earth; and the one that I came up with is intentionality. We're told that Jesus' rule will not simply be a result of "the way things turned out" - as so many other human governments seem to have been. Rather, it will be the fulfillment of God's divine plan from the beginning; because we're told that He will sit "upon the throne of David and over His kingdom."

Do you remember the promise that was once made to King David? God once told him,

"When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever"'" (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

And Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise. When Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary, the angel told her,

"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:31-33).

Jesus' rule will be an act of great intentionality on the part of God. It will be the fulfillment of His plan from long ago.

* * * * * * * * * *

Thirdly, He will rule this world perfectly. We're told that He will so rule the government of this world as "to order it and establish it with judgment and justice".

First, notice that He will "order it and establish it". These two words communicate the idea of something being first set-up, and then sustained. And second, notice that this government of His will be set-up and sustained with two things that - again - we rarely see together: judgment and justice [or righteousness].

Often, the governments of this world seek to establish "judgment"; but they also fall short of real "justice" when they do so. Governments are often cruel and brutal. And then, just as often, governments seek to institute "justice" and "righteousness"; but they fall short of keeping order and wise rule in the process.

But with King Jesus, as we're told in the Scriptures,

Mercy and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
And righteousness shall look down from heaven.
Yes, the LORD will give what is good;
And our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before Him,
And shall make His footsteps our pathway (Psalm 85:10-13).

* * * * * * * * * *

Finally, this wonderful King who will rule with prosperity, intentionality and perfection, will also rule eternally. We're told that He will do so, "From that time forward, even forever"; or, as it is in the original language, "from time and eternity".

What a glorious King! What a great forward look we have! What a cause we have for celebrating; for this is our King!

* * * * * * * * * *

This leads us to a final question . . .


And we're told, "The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this."

In these closing words, I see three characteristics of how this perfect reign of Jesus will be brought about. First, we're told that it will be done with God's own "zeal". The word that is used refers to God's own characteristic of holy jealousy. He is jealous for that which He purposes in His own being to do; and tolerates nothing that seeks to oppose His plan!

A second thing we're told is that the God who does this is LORD - that is, YHWY; the name God takes to Himself as the one who keeps His covenant promises to His people. He is a God of His word; and whatever He purposes to do is something that He is jealous to see accomplished, because it has His own name upon it as the great Promise-Keeper who says, "I AM THAT I AM".

What a horrible thing it is to be on the wrong side of the zeal of a God whose very name means that He is a keeper of all His promises! And that's true because of the next thing we see. He is called "the LORD of hosts", or literally, "the YHWY of armies". He is not only zealous to do what He purposes to do; and He not only places His own name on the line in doing it; but He is also the God of the armies of heaven! Little more needs to be said than that!

* * * * * * * * * *

Let me close by reading a passage that I believe you have probably never heard read on Christmas Day. And yet, given that this day is the birthday of our King, it is an absolutely appropriate passage to be reminded of.

Revelation 19 describes the return of this great King to the earth, to begin His glorious reign.

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:11-16).

Talk about a forward look . . .! And if we don't take this forward look, then we can't possibly understand what Christmas is about!

Dear brothers and sisters, this is a description of the One whose birthday we celebrate! Unto us a Child is born, and unto us a Son is given. This is our King; and today, may we celebrate His birth into this world!

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