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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
 www.bethelurc.org
 
Title:His Name is Wonderful!
Text:Isaiah 9:1-7 (View)
Occasion:Christmas Day
Topic:The Incarnation
 
Preached:2021-12-05
Added:2021-12-07
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs from the URC/OPC Trinity Psalter Hymnal:

122A (1, 3, 4)

119E

300 (1, 3, 4)

306 

Also used the responsive reading of the law from the Heidelberg Catechism:

Leader: And God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt . . . You shall have no other gods before me.
People: We sincerely acknowledge the only true God, trust Him alone, look to him for every good thing and humbly and patiently: love Him, fear Him, and honor Him with all our heart.

Leader: You shall not make for yourself an idol . . . . You shall not bow down to them or worship them.
People: We shouldn’t try to be wiser than God.  We shall worship God in no other way than He has commanded us in His Word

Leader: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
People: We shall use the holy name of our God with reverence and awe, so that we may properly confess Him, pray to Him, and praise Him in everything we do and say.

Leader: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
People: On this festive day of rest we shall regularly attend the assembly of God’s people to learn what God’s Word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publicly, and to bring offerings for the poor.

Leader: Honor your father and your mother.
People: We shall honor, love and be loyal to our father and mother and all those in authority over us.  We shall obey and submit to them … when they correct and punish us ... for through them God chooses to rule us.

Leader: You shall not kill.

People:  We shall not belittle, insult, hate or kill our neighbor – not by our thoughts, words, looks or gestures, and certainly not by actual deeds.  Instead we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly to him … to do good even to our enemies.

 

Leader: You shall not commit adultery.
People:  We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul, and God wants both to be kept clean and holy.  Therefore, God forbids everything which incites impurity whether it be: actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires.

 

Leader: You shall not steal.
People: God forbids outright theft and robbery as well as schemes designed to cheat and swindle our neighbor.  God also forbids greed and the pointless squandering of His gifts.  We are to do whatever we can for our neighbor’s good, and work faithfully so that we can share with those who are in need.  

 

Leader: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
People: We shall avoid lying and deceit of every kind; these are the devices the devil himself uses.  Instead we shall love the truth, speak it candidly, and openly acknowledge it so as to guard and advance our neighbor’s good name. 

 

Leader: You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.
People: Not even the slightest thought or desire contrary to any one of God’s commandments should ever arise in our heart.  With all our heart we shall hate sin and take pleasure in whatever it right.

 

Leader: Can any among us keep these commandments perfectly?

People: No, even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience. Nevertheless, with all seriousness of purpose, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit, we do begin to live according to all of God’s commandments. Praise be to God for the renewing power of His Holy Spirit.

 

 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


His Name is Wonderful

Isaiah 9.1-7

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, long before the day of his birth, and long before the angel Gabriel told Mary and Joseph that their son shall be called Jesus – the eternal Son of God already had a long list of names. He was called by the names listed in Isaiah 9:6.

 

Many of us have heard these names as they have been set to music so beautifully, so powerfully in Handel’s masterpiece: the Messiah. For those who know that piece of music well, when you read this verse, you do so with that score of music running in the background in your head. You can hear the strings and trumpets and timpani playing in background: And his name shall be called: Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

 

But what do we really know about these names? What do they mean? What do they signify or indicate? To whom do they refer?  These names have been referred to as “Throne-Names”, the names or designations given to the Royal Messiah, to the son of David who was to be born of a virgin, and who would suffer and die on the cross, all to save God’s people from their sins.

 

These names reveal and describe the nature and the character of the Messiah. The prophet Isaiah is already revealing to us the identity of Christ our Savior! This morning we are going to consider the name or the designation “wonderful”. The prophet Isaiah reveals that the Christ child is Wonderful.      

  1. The Meaning of Wonderful
  2. The Comfort of Wonderful

 

1) The Meaning of Wonderful

Before we discuss the title itself I want to provide a little historical background for this passage from the book of Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah served during the reign of King Ahaz. Ahaz was a wicked king who reigned over the southern kingdom of Judah 730 years before Christ. 

 

These were very dark and difficult days in Judah’s history. King Ahaz had turned away from God and worshipped pagan gods and idols. He worshipped Molech, the god of fire, and even burned his own son as a sacrifice to him. He did things that would shame even the most pagan of kings.  

 

It was during these dark days that the king of Israel (the northern ten tribes), king Pekah, conspired against Judah, against king Ahaz. Pekah made an alliance with the king of Syria to make war against Judah and dethrone Ahaz so that he could put someone on the throne in Judah who would be more sympathetic to their cause.

 

So Ahaz (and all the people of Judah) were filled with fear and dread. Isaiah 7: 1-3 tells us this: When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it. Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.

 

The people were terrified. But what did Ahaz do? Did he turn to the Lord for help? Did he pray to God to deliver him?  No.  Ahaz reached out to another wicked king to make an alliance with him. 

 

He requested the help of a foreign nation – a pagan king. Ahaz put his trust and confidence in Tiglath-Pileser, the king of Assyria. He looked to him for deliverance and help. Historically the Assyrians were enemies of Israel. Yet, Ahaz took the gold and silver from the temple of the Lord and sent it to the king of Assyria (Tiglath-Pileser) to bribe him, to pay for him (like a mercenary) to help defend Jerusalem against the allies King Pekah and Rezin the king of Aram. 

 

This was the tragic downfall of king Ahaz. The Lord sent the prophet Isaiah to him saying (vs 4), Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood. By this, the Lord was saying that these kings were nothing to be afraid of; they were all bark and no bite. They were a flickering flame whose light was about to go out. They were nothing to be afraid of. The Lord is your protector and shield.

 

But Ahaz didn’t listen to God or want God’s help. He didn’t trust God to deliver him. Even when Isaiah stood before him and told him that God would give him a sign to assure him of His help, Ahaz didn’t even want to know what that sign was. But the Lord gave it to him anyway.

 

That’s because the sign which the Lord gave was for the hope and assurance to the people of Judah that help was on the way; their deliverance was coming! The Lord gave Ahaz a sign to confirm his promise. Isaiah 7.14: The virgin will be with child, and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 

 

The Lord promised that before that child grew up and knew right from wrong, right from left, the land of those two kings would be aid to waste. So Judah had nothing to fear. God gave them a sign to prove it! It is believed that the virgin that was referred to was Isaiah’s own wife, and the child mentioned in this passage was to be their own son. So he was a child of hope. His birth would be a sign that Judah’s deliverance was near.

 

And yet, as we know, the sign that the Lord gave Isaiah and the people of Judah, pointed ahead to a something else, to something more. To a future hope, to a future fulfillment, to a true hope and deliverance that the people had been anticipating for centuries – to a deliverance from an enemy that was far greater and more powerful than any foreign king or army. It was the power and bondage of sin; the curse of sin. And the enemy was Satan himself.   

 

The sign the Lord gave pointed ahead to the blessed virgin, to the long expected and much anticipated Messiah. And this Son’s birth would be the ultimate sign of hope -- the sign that deliverance and redemption from sin was at hand! That God gave them victory over sin and death and hell and the grave!  

 

And that is the theme, the promise that carried over into chapter 9 (and that is found elsewhere in the book of Isaiah). We read that today: Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And his Name shall be called Wonderful.

 

As we said before, this is a character description of the Christ child – the King of kings and the Lord or lords. The first name or designation is wonderful. The word in the Hebrew language is pella, which means full of wonder, extraordinary, amazing, beyond comprehension.

 

You may be familiar with the name of the town Pella, Iowa. When I was in seminary our Hebrew professor Rev. Vander Hart was always happy to remind us that this was his hometown – and to remember it by its Hebrew definition: wonderful!

 

In our English language we use the word wonderful in much the same way. The word can mean: inspiring delight, something that brings great pleasure, or something worthy of admiration; something that is extremely good; or marvelous or amazing!

 

Around Christmas we hear the word wonderful a lot: Think of the Christmas Classic: It’s a Wonderful Life. Or, I think of one of my favorite Christmas Carols: It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That song is saying that there’s something truly extraordinary about Christmas – that’s set apart; that’s different about the rest of the year! And I would certainly agree with that.

 

But in the Hebrew language the word pella is often reserved for deeper and greater and grander contemplations. It’s a word that is used not so much when describing a wonderful day or a wonderful time with family and friends. Instead, it is used when describing and contemplating the greatness of God; the great things God has done; the praiseworthy deeds of God!!   

 

It’s used to describe something that is almost beyond description, beyond words. In I Chronicles 16:8-9, when the ark of the Lord was finally brought into David’s city, David sang; Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. (The very words which are repeated in Psalm 105:2).

In Psalm 107: 21: Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. The Psalmist uses the wonderful 5 times in the Psalm when speaking about the Lord deeds.  Psalm 119: 129 says Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them.

 

So the word pella is used to convey the idea of wonder – that God’s people are awe-struck, they are filled with a sense of amazement and astonishment and even surprise at what God has done for them!

 

Perhaps a New Testament parallel to this idea, to this kind of wonder and amazement at who God is and what God has done is Ephesians 3. There Paul reflects for a moment on the amazing, indescribable, unfathomable love of Christ – and his prayer is that the saints might power to grasp how wide, and long, and high and deep is the love of Christ, to know this love that surpasses knowledge. And then, with a heart full or praise and glory and wonder Paul writes: Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in all generations, to him be glory forever and ever! 

 

Paul is saying: Our God is Wonderful. Our God is indescribably rich and wonderful in His power, grace, love, mercy, kindness, and especially in His Son Jesus Christ who is the physical embodiment of God’s wonder! Jesus Christ, God’s Son is Wonderful – which is to say He is beyond human thought, description, and words!  Jesus is Wonder, Marvel, and Amazement

 

And isn’t that what we’ve been contemplating these past two weeks. In these stories from Luke’s account of the conception of John the Baptist and Jesus – Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph have encountered the wonder of God! And the very sign which Isaiah announced 700 years before was again spoken to Mary: you, a virgin, will conceive and you shall have a son and he shall be called Immanuel – God with us.

 

Wonder of Wonders – God in the flesh. The Greatest marvel and mystery and miracle this world has ever known!! And Christ’s birth was accompanied by other miraculous signs and wonders – as angels announced the birth of the Messiah to shepherds while they watched their flocks by night! After the shepherds came to Bethlehem, to see the child, they left and spread the word to others about what they had seen – and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said.

 

Then there was the Star in the East that God placed in the heavens which directed wise men to travel afar. That star directed them right to the place where the Christ-child lay. The wise men came bearing gifts fit for a king, and when they saw the infant-King Jesus, they bowed down and worshipped him! 

 

All these wondrous signs, all these wonderful events that were evidence that this new-born child was indeed the one Isaiah foretold; He was Wonderful.  God in the flesh! The Divine Son of God; the King of kings and Lord of lords, wrapped in human vesture.

 

As we said earlier, this signaled that deliverance was at hand! Born His people to deliver, born a child and yet a king! God’s Word was fulfilled. He kept his promise to send the Savior and save His people. And today we stand in awe of that. And that is why – even though Christmas is in many ways just a Holiday on the calendar – there is something so special about that day.  

 

The true meaning of Christmas is wrapped in wonder and amazement – and it should thrill our hearts even as parents to tell our children the story; to celebrate it in the true and Biblical sense of the word. So that even when giving gifts, even at our celebrations, we understand, we explain that we celebrate the wonder of the seasons, and we even give gifts as an expression of the most wonderful gift ever given – that God gave us the gift of His Son Jesus Christ, so that all who would believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life!

 

And every Christmas is also a reminder that God calls us to come to this Savior, to come to this Christ who has come to us. To put our hope and trust in Him. To look to Him in faith and in trust – that He has come to forgive us of our sins; that we need His forgiveness. We need the salvation that Jesus brings.

 

Sadly, there are so many in the world, and yes, even in the church, and yes there are even those in our own church who, like Ahaz, reject God’s help. They reject the Savior. They would rather put their trust and hope in the things of this world; in things they can see and touch and have here and now. But God calls us all once again – while it is the day of grace – to call upon His Name, and to renounce our fears, and to pronounce our trust and hope in none other than Jesus Christ – whose Name is Wonderful!

 

2) The Comfort of Wonderful

So that is the meaning of the name Wonderful. Now let’s consider the comfort we receive from the One who is called Wonderful. That comfort is essentially this: Jesus came to save a wretch like me. He did all this to save the likes of us.

 

One of the greatest wonders (not just of Christmas), but of God’s grace in general, of God’s grace throughout the history of God’s dealing with sinful man -- is that our God would even look upon us in mercy and love.

 

How is it that our God -- who is altogether holy and pure and perfectly righteous, who cannot (even for a moment) stand to look upon our sins -- how is it that our God did not instantly consume us in His wrath and condemn us, and blot us out of his mind for all eternity?  Who are we that we – who are rightful objects of His wrath, would become the undeserving objects of his mercy – to be a people for whom He himself would suffer and die in the person of His Son Jesus Christ?

 

That is a question that in one sense we will never be able to fully comprehend – and yet, our God answers it very simply by saying: because I chose to do so. I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. God so loved the world, that instead of consuming all sinners in His wrath, He chose to save some in His mercy, for His glory!    

 

And so Jesus came -- the Wonderful Son of God took on our flesh and blood; he took to himself a truly human nature; in coming in the flesh, he identifying with us as brothers and sister. He was not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. He came into this world of sin and suffering, of darkness and despair, and he not only suffered the same ailments and pains and indignities that we did – but he took upon himself the full burden and weight of all our sin and guilt! 

 

And it was especially in the end, in the Garden of Gethsemane, and then as he hung upon the cross of Calvary, that the one who was called Wonderful suffered the most indescribable and horrible and agony and anguish of all as he endured the pangs of hell all for us!  

 

Christ did what was necessary to save us. He came to crush the head of the great enemy of God’s people. Jesus was God’s ultimate answer, the fulfillment of the sign given through Isaiah the prophet – not just to the people in that day, but to the people in our day as well – so that we would not fear. So that we would not tremble at all that is happening in our world today.

 

Some of you who have Facebook may have read what I posted two weeks after the first reports of the Omicron variant were heard. If I would plagiarize myself – I wrote: It's OMICRON verses the ALPHA and the OMEGA! Who wins that battle in your heart and life? After some introductory words about living in fear of this virus I wrote:

 

God calls us to live our lives in a world of death -- not by trying to avoid death at all costs; not by being alarmists; not by allowing fear and paranoia to take control and dictate our every action. Instead, we are called to live by faith. And that faith is such that it emboldens us, it gives us the courage not to run from death, but rather, to face the reality of death everyday.

 

We live life each day knowing that at any moment, in any circumstance God may call us from this life to the next. But that (reality) does not paralyze us or cause us to stop living, or to stop worshipping together, or to isolate ourselves from community. We must keep on living in fearless faith. In Philippians 1:21 Paul said: "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." In Romans 14:8 he said: "If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." Did you hear that? We belong to the Lord whether we live or die. Faith teaches us fearlessness. What's left for us to fear?

 

Christ our Savior, He who is Wonderful, has come and He has won the victory for us! That changes everything. It changes our whole outlook on life; it changes our entire perspective of what it important; of what it is of value in this life compared to the next, and it changes our perspective on things we should never fear. Omicron – like all other earthly threats -- is nothing compared to the Alpha and the Omega. So let us be encouraged by this Wonderful Gospel and by our Wonderful Savior and Lord. And let us live our lives in fearless faith and in childlike wonder of God’s grace.

 

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Pastor Keith Davis

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