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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:God provides the greatest gift ever
Text:Isaiah 9:6 (View)
Occasion:Christmas Day
Topic:The Incarnation
 
Preached:2020
Added:2020-12-27
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 20

Hymn 16:5 (after the law)

Hymn 21

Hymn 19

Psalm 89:1-3

Scripture readings: Luke 2:1-21, Isaiah 9:1-7

Text:  Isaiah 9:6

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

Many families have a tradition of exchanging gifts at Christmas.  Different families do it at different times.  But the connection between gifts and Christmas is definitely an appropriate tradition.  It’s fitting that we give gifts to one another as we’re commemorating the greatest gift that’s ever been given by anyone. 

Today we’re celebrating God’s gift of his Son to us.  Some 2000 years ago, the time had finally come when God would send his Son into the world to become one of us.  In his love, the Son of God would take on a human nature.  The Son of God did that so he could perfectly obey God in our place.  He took on a human nature so that later he could make the perfect sacrifice which would pay for all our sins.  There could’ve been no greater gift than that, a gift which leads us to life forever in the presence of God. 

Our passage for this morning is all about this incredible gift.  It’s a famous passage.  It’s famous in its own right, but it’s been made even more famous by the composer Georg Friedrich Handel.  If you’ve ever heard Handel’s Messiah, you can’t forget the oratorio based on this passage from Isaiah 9:6.  It’s simply one of the most beautiful and joyful pieces of music ever composed.  If you’re not familiar with it, when you get home look it up on YouTube:  “Handel, For Unto Us a Child is Born.”  You’ll agree that it’s beautiful and joyful, I’m sure.   

Which makes sense because Isaiah 9:6 is a beautiful and joyful passage of Scripture.  But it came at a time that was anything but.  Isaiah 9:6 was written in the context of a time of upheaval.  Isaiah was a prophet during the days of King Ahaz of Judah.  Like many of the Jewish kings, Ahaz was a wicked king.  2 Kings 16 says that he even burned his son as an offering to the god Molech.  Because of that kind of wickedness, God was sending judgment upon his people.  Foreign nations like the Assyrians would invade.  They’d be like a flood of destruction sweeping over the land.  But that wouldn’t be the end of the story.  God still gave encouragement to the faithful among his people.  He gave them hope with prophecies like the one in Isaiah 9. 

On this Christmas morning, I preach to you God’s Word as we hear about how God provides the greatest gift ever

We’ll see how this gift is:

  1. A Child
  2. A King
  3. Truly the God of our salvation

If you look at the beginning of verse 6, it speaks of someone being given.  If something is given, that makes it a gift.  And behind every gift is a giver.  So in this case, who is the giver?  To answer that we need to skip ahead to the end of verse 7.  Right at the end of this prophecy, Isaiah says, “The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”  God is behind all of this.  God is the giver of this gift. 

This gift is a surprising one.  It’s a child born, a son.  It’s a baby boy.  That’s surprising because of the situation God’s people were up against.  Remember, they were facing foreign invaders.  Armies were threatening to move in, to set up sieges and kill and destroy.  In the face of that, God’s answer is the gift of a baby boy.  Hope caught up in a child.    

That’s so typical of God.  He works with what’s weak and despised.  You can think of 1 Corinthians 1:27, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”  God turns human thinking upside down. Human thinking says that God’s answer to brokenness and trouble in the world should be someone impressive and powerful.  But God says, “No, I’ll send a baby boy.”  That plays out later in the life of that baby boy too.  He grows up to be a man.  He hangs on a cross.  Human thinking says God’s answer to sin should be something decent and proper.  But God says, “No, my answer is a naked, bleeding man on a Roman instrument of death, completely humiliated on a cross.”  With the cross too, God turns human expectations on their head.

Another important thing to see at the beginning of verse 6 is the fact that the child is born “to us” and this son is given “to us.”  Those words “to us” indicate who’s receiving the gift.  Who is the “us” here?  It’s the people who’ve walked in darkness and are now seeing a great light.  It’s those who are rejoicing before the LORD.  Basically, it’s those of God’s people who are believing in him and trusting in him.  They’ve been holding on to his promises for salvation.  For them, they’re going to rejoice at this gift of a baby boy. 

Here you can think of what happens further on in Luke 2.  God tells us about two faithful Jews who’d been waiting for the gift God had promised.  There was old Simeon and a prophetess named Anna.  Both Simeon and Anna rejoiced that God had finally provided the greatest gift ever, the gift of the promised Child.  They knew that this Child was the one about whom Isaiah had prophesied.  Now, finally after long years of waiting, they could see him and hold him.  For that, they praised God, because they knew what God was doing.

He provided a gift to them, to us, to all who believe.  This gift is for the benefit of all who place their trust in God and in his promises.  It benefits those who believe God because this gift brings life.  God designed it so that the life of a baby boy would lead to life for all who believe in him.  Loved ones, that’s what we’re all called to do.  We’re called to look to Jesus Christ in faith so we’ll live forever.

One last thing to see at the beginning of verse 6 is that Isaiah speaks about the birth of this child as if it’s something that’s already taken place.  From our perspective, it has.  It took place over 2000 years ago.  But for Isaiah, it was something that lay ahead a few hundred years.  But notice that it says, “a child is born, a son is given.”  It’s so vivid to Isaiah it’s like it’s just taken place.  You sometimes see this with prophecies in the Old Testament.  You sometimes see the prophets describe something that lays way ahead in the future as if it’s just taken place.  It shows the confidence that the prophet has that what God has told him is definitely going to happen.  And it did, a child was born, a son was given.  God did provide the greatest gift ever! 

And this greatest gift was not only a child, but also a royal figure, a King.  In the middle of verse 6, Isaiah says that “the government shall be upon his shoulder.”  That’s another way of saying that the promised One will be a ruler.  He will carry the responsibility to reign.  He’s going to be a King. 

A faithful Jewish person in Isaiah’s time would read this and understand something right away.  A believing Jewish person would right away understand that God’s greatest gift would be someone from the line of David.  In 2 Samuel 7, God had promised that there would always be a descendant of David on the throne.  So, if you’re looking ahead to the one promised in Isaiah 9:6, that’s also got to be a descendant of David.  He’s going to be what we call a Davidic king, a king from the line of David.

Isn’t that exactly what happened?  Think about the Christmas story as we read it from Luke 2.  Why is Jesus born in Bethlehem, the city of David?  It’s because Joseph was from “the house and lineage of David.”  The New Testament has two genealogies for Jesus.  There’s one in Matthew and one in Luke.  There are some differences between these two genealogies.  We don’t need to get into that right now.  The important thing to note is what both of these genealogies have in common.  They both make it clear that Jesus was from the line of David.  He’s in the royal line.  Jesus comes as someone God has appointed to rule.

Loved ones, the greatest gift ever is a King.  In our day, this is a really counter-cultural gift.  What I mean is that few people today would say that God giving a king to rule over them is really a valuable gift.  Most people would say that a really good gift would be for you to be able to rule over yourself.  Have no one rule over you, no one tell you what to do.  A really great gift would be a throne for you to sit on, ruling over your own life.  But God again turns worldly thinking upside down.  He says, “No, you don’t know what’s good for you, but I do.  I’ll give you the greatest gift and it’s a King, someone else to rule over you.”

What people fail to see about this King is three things.  First, the shoulders upon which the government rests belong to someone good.  King Jesus is infinitely good.  Everything he rules over, he’s going to rule over in a good way. 

Second, the shoulders upon which the government rests belong to someone wise.  King Jesus is infinitely wise.  Everything he rules over, he’s going to rule over in the wisest possible way.  As a King, he’s going to govern with the most profound insight and discernment.  The decisions he makes, the actions he takes, will always be the most appropriate.

And finally, the shoulders upon which the government rests belong to someone loving.  King Jesus has infinite love.  As he rules over us, he rules with a love deeper than any you’ve ever encountered.  As a King, he even laid down his life for his rebellious subjects.  That kind of love is unheard of.  And now, for those who acknowledge his rule, King Jesus loves them and directs all his affairs in a way that works for their flourishing and for their good. 

Brothers and sisters, God’s greatest gift is a King who came into this world 2000 years ago.  He was a King who had shed all the trappings of majesty.   And he was born, not in a palace, but among the animals and placed in a manger.  But a King nonetheless.  Today he continues to rule as our infinitely good, wise, and loving King.  Our calling is to acknowledge our King, confess our King to whomever we can, be faithful to our King, and trust in our King.  Because of who he is and what he’s done, King Jesus is worthy of our love and commitment.

So God’s greatest gift ever was a Child, is a King, and then last of all, we also want to see how he is truly the God of our salvation.  That’s our last point from Isaiah 9:6.  Here we’re looking at the last three lines.  Here we’re told what he will be called.  There are four names he’s called.  Let’s go through each of them. 

First, his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor.  He’s someone who will provide counsel.  He will give instruction, direction to believers.  And he’s “Wonderful” Counselor.  That word ‘wonderful’ is only ever used for God elsewhere in the Old Testament.  That’s because God is the one who is truly the Wonderful One.  He is full of wonders.  He is impressive and amazing, both in who he is and in what he does.  No one is Wonderful like the God of our salvation. 

Then Isaiah says his name shall be called Mighty God.  Here it’s said directly that he’s divine.  He’s not god-like or similar to God.  He is God, the one and only true God.  The Mighty God.  That means he has the strength of a warrior.  He has irresistible strength.  No one is more powerful than this God.  No one can resist him.  Anything he sets his mind to do, he will do and no one will stop him.  And that includes rescuing us from the hell we deserve for our sins. 

The next name for the Messiah here is Everlasting Father.  Here we need to spend a little more time because there’s some potential for confusion.  Here the promised Messiah is described as Father.  Now you know that the Messiah is the Son of God.  Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  So how can he be called “Father”?  Doesn’t that make it sound like the Messiah is actually the first person of the Trinity?

Here’s what you need to realize.  In the Old Testament, God is sometimes described as Father.  If we just stick with Isaiah, in Isaiah 63:16 it says, “…you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.”  When it says that, that’s not saying anything about the Trinity.  It’s just about God as one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit together.  It’s the same thing as in the Lord’s Prayer.  When Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven,” he’s not telling us to pray to the first person of the Trinity.  Rather, he’s telling us to pray to God as our Father.

That’s how it’s possible for the Messiah to be called Everlasting Father here in Isaiah 9:6.  It’s simply another way of saying the Messiah is God.  He is God who acts like a Father to his people.  He protects them, he sustains them, and he provides for all their needs.  The Messiah is Everlasting Father, which is to say that his protection, sustenance, and provision never end.  They go on forever.           

The last name he’s given is Prince of Peace.  When we think of peace, we usually think of a situation where there’s no conflict, no war, no fighting.  Here in the original Hebrew the word for “peace” is “shalom.”  Shalom is a pretty well-known Hebrew word.  Shalom is about more than just an absence of conflict or war.  Shalom is wholeness, having things the way they were designed to be.  Shalom is not only about peace between human beings, but about addressing the root cause of fighting and hatred.  It’s about addressing the sin which makes a nasty and conflict-filled world.  Shalom is about addressing the sin which disrupts human relationships, but more importantly having sin out of the way between God and humanity.  Shalom includes taking sin out of the way so that there can be fellowship between God and people.  The Messiah is the Prince of this Peace.  He’s the one who brings this peace, who embodies it.  Jesus Christ addresses the problem of our sin and brings wholeness to us and to the world.  The Messiah is God’s greatest gift ever because he is our peace, the peace which leads to our salvation.  If you want to have peace in your life, you need to have Jesus in your life, because he is the Prince of Peace.

If we take all these things together, the Holy Spirit is telling us here that the coming Messiah is truly the God of our salvation.  Yes, he comes as a human baby, but he also comes as God.  The Messiah comes as the God-man to save us from our sins and the just punishment we deserve for them.   

What we really read about here in Isaiah 9 is the fulfillment of God’s first promise for salvation.  In Genesis 3:15, we find the so-called mother promise.  It’s called the mother promise because from it all the other promises in the Bible are birthed.  In Genesis 3:15, God said that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head.  It was a promise for a child, a son.  A child would be born, a son would be given, who could finally be victorious over Satan.  The only way he could be victorious was by being one who could be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  The only way the seed of the woman could smash the skull of the serpent was by also truly being the God of our salvation.

God has been so good in giving us the greatest gift ever.  Whatever your gift-giving tradition may be, I’m sure that there’s one thing that’s the same with all of us.  It’s normal and expected that when you get a gift, you say “thank you” to the one gave it.  We teach our children to do that.  And we’d all consider it rude and selfish, boorish, for someone to receive a gift and not say “thank you.”  So as we think about the greatest gift ever, the gift God has given of his Son, how should we respond?  There ought to be heart-felt gratitude.  It’s not just a matter of saying “thank you” with our lips, we also want to say “thank you” with our lives.  With everything we are, we should be constantly thankful to the One who’s given us the greatest gift that’s ever been given.  AMEN.

PRAYER

Our gracious God,

From our hearts we thank you for the greatest gift that’s ever been given.  In your love, you gave your Son to be our Saviour.  Father God, we praise your name that a child was born to us, a son was given.  We worship you for your wisdom in sending him in our human flesh.  We worship you for sending him in faithfulness to all your promises.  Thank you that he came him as our King.  King Jesus, we willingly acknowledge you as our rightful ruler.  You rule us with goodness, with wisdom, with love.  There’s no king like you.  And we also praise you Lord, as the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Truly, Lord, you are the God of our salvation.  Through you we have eternal life and blessing.  Thank you.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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