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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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 reubenbredenhof.com
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:The Hero and Champion of Salvation
Text:Isaiah 9:1-7 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Kingship
 
Preached:2022
Added:2022-03-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 145:1,4                                                                                    

Ps 103:4,5                                                                                                      

Reading – Isaiah 8; Matthew 4:12-17

Ps 72:1,2,4

Sermon – Isaiah 9:1-7

Hy 19:1,2

Hy 19:3,4

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


Beloved in Christ, have you experienced how just one person can make all the difference in the world? You had a friend who stood by you in a dark time. You’ve been blessed with the gift of a devoted spouse with whom to serve the Lord. Or maybe a country was fortunate to have a strong leader during conflict, one who led courageously during war. Just a single person, the right person, can be hero. Just one person can have a life-changing impact and can change our course for good and blessing.

If you’ve had that experience, then you’ve got a very small (and very imperfect) taste of how much the Lord Jesus does for his people. He is just one person, one man (and God!), but with his coming to this earth, everything changes. The person and the work of Christ make a world-changing difference. He is the hero and champion of salvation, not just for you and me, but for all who believe in him—and even for all creation! This is the message of Isaiah 9:1-7, which I preach to you on this theme,

For unto us a Child is born:

  1. there will be no more gloom and darkness
  2. there will be no more oppression and war
  3. there will be no greater king
  4. there will be no better kingdom

 

1) no more gloom and darkness: We read chapter 8, and it’s a chapter filled with a lot of misery. It speaks about the overwhelming flood of the Assyrians, a tsunami of war ready to flow into Judah. It also speaks about the loss of God’s Word, how people will turn to mediums and wizards, and find no light. Instead, the people will see “trouble and darkness, gloom of anguish; and they will be driven into darkness” (8:22).

It’s pretty dismal. But there’s a change in 9:1, “Nevertheless…” Isaiah says. Despite everything, God is working on something great. His people rejected him, but the LORD is going to shine his light: “Nevertheless, the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed.” No more gloom—no more darkness of despair. Isaiah announces how there will be the gradual dawn of God’s gracious light in all the land, beginning in the north and heading south.

Now, there certainly was a time when God “lightly esteemed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali” (v 1). These are two territories in the north of the land of Israel, up along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. What does it mean that God ‘lightly esteemed’ them? It’s a way of saying that God was willing to give them up to their enemy. The LORD didn’t protect these tribes like He protected Judah. He lightly esteemed them, “and afterward more heavily oppressed her” (v 1). And these had long been tough places to live.

Not that they were more sinful territories than elsewhere in Israel. It just so happened that these areas were usually the first to fall to the enemy. Remember that Assyria was located to the northwest of Israel, and the best way into Israel was directly from the north, straight into these tribes. So the Assyrians had already captured these northern parts of Israel. It was difficult to be under foreign rule, for it meant poverty and oppression.

And it wasn’t just a one-time hardship for these people. The north had so often been a place of instability because this frontier region was surrounded by Gentile nations. On the west were the Phoenecians; to the north and east, the Syrians. These northern tribes were harassed and repeatedly conquered. For hundreds of years, this territory belonged to other nations. There’s a reason that Isaiah calls this region “Galilee of the Gentiles” (v 1). It hardly belonged to Israel anymore.

Zebulun and Naphtali have suffered for so long. It is the cruel wages of sin, the evidence of the brokenness that runs so deep in this world. They might well have given up hope that anything would change. As Isaiah says, ‘they were walking in darkness’ (v 2). In Scripture, ‘walking’ is a favourite image for how we live our life. ‘How’s your walk with the Lord?’ we say, or ‘You have to walk the talk.’ These tribes have been stumbling in the darkness. Isaiah even calls it “the shadow of death,” because that’s what they daily expected: their coming doom.

In the Bible, this ‘darkness’ stands for sin’s cruel dominion and the devil’s power. The Bible calls Satan the “prince of darkness,” and outside God’s kingdom, there is no light, no hope, but only confusion and fear. The darkness of Satan’s kingdom always encroaches. With his tools of idolatry and unbelief and fear, Satan wants to enslave all people and keep them from God.

In fact, we’re all threatened by this darkness. When sin gets a hold of you, it can enshroud you in a deep fog, to the point when you no long seek God’s face. It’s the darkness of thinking you’re free, and you’re not. It’s also the darkness of not caring anymore, being indifferent to God. The saddest thing is when a person doesn’t even realize he’s in the dark—and that he’s going to stay in the dark forever—unless God’s light shines on him.

There are probably times of life when we think that gloom is the whole story. We can’t see any light, and we despair that there will be any change: ‘There will always be this sin. There will always be this guilt, this struggle, this illness.’ The darkness is real, it is true, but it’s not the whole truth. Do we remember to see how the Lord is still working?

For in the land of Israel, devastation will give way to glory. ‘Nevertheless,’ there’s going to be a glorious change. The dawn will break, the sun will begin shining, even in the very first region that experienced God’s judgment. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (v 2).

Starting from Zebulun and Naphtali, God’s light will spread all the way through the land. Maybe you’ve seen a time lapse of a sunrise over a wide landscape. The shadows that are nearest to the eastern horizon disappear the soonest, and then others, shadows shortening then disappearing, until the whole landscape is fully lit under the glorious sun.

Isaiah doesn’t know his name, but there is one man who will do this, shine a light into sinners’ gloom. And that is Christ, whom the New Testament calls “the Dayspring from on high,” or “the rising sun from heaven” (Luke 1:78).

In that connection, it’s striking how Matthew describes Jesus fulfilling our text. For the very first place that Jesus goes about preaching the gospel is in these northern territories. He’s in Galilee, that northern-most district of Palestine. And Jesus has come here, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles’” (Matt 4:14-15).

Think of that: Jesus went to this hard-pressed and forgotten people. The rest of Israel looked on Galilee with contempt, as folks with rude manners and bad morals. But Jesus goes here to preach the gospel. It’s what He often did in his ministry: He reached out to the poor, the down and out, those of little means and influence.

For Christ came to reach sinners, came for those at the bottom, those who’ve reached the end of themselves and realized that their only hope is in him. When we are humbled in our sin, when we’ve had enough of the darkness and want to escape the gloom, Christ shines his light upon us. It’s the light of the gospel, and the hope that is ours by faith in Jesus.

 

2) no more oppression and war: One of Isaiah’s favourite themes is ‘the remnant,’ that modest group of those who remained faithful to God. The attractions of sin and idolatry would destroy some. The lies of the false prophets would deceive more. Many would be lost to exile. And so the remnant would be small.

Yet God has big plans for his remnant. Listen to verse 3: “You have multiplied the nation and increased its joy.” God will grow his people once again. Back in the days of King David and Solomon, Israel had been great; it was a time of prosperity and expansion. This is how God blessed them previously, and He would do so again—even through a holy new king who would lead them into a time of lasting peace.

After so many years of sorrow, God’s people will have reason to rejoice. Isaiah says their joy will be like the happiness at harvest time, or like the joy of a military victory: “They rejoice before you according to the joy of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil” (v 3). A rich harvest in the fields was a gift of God, just like a convincing triumph over enemies. These were occasions to celebrate, to have a party, to thank the Lord.

What exactly will God’s people celebrate? There are three reasons for joy. Look at verse 4, verse 5, and verse 6, each beginning with the word “for…” God’s people rejoice, for the rod of the oppressor is broken (v 4), for the warrior’s garments are burned (v 5), and a child is born (v 6).

God’s plan for the future of his people—for our future—includes an end to oppression and war. Verse 4: “For you have broken the yoke of his burden and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor.” These words would’ve reminded every Israelite of how God delivered them so long ago from their slavery in Egypt. The ‘yoke’ was a heavy brace laid across the shoulders of oxen, so that they could pull a load. That yoke, laid on Israel by her enemies, would finally be broken. The ‘staff’ was the stick held by the one driving the team, and ‘the rod’ was used for beatings by a harsh master. Israel had suffered much, but no more staff and no more rod.        

Egypt hadn’t been Israel’s only cruel master, and even Assyria wouldn’t be the last. Such is life in this broken world, even for us. We live in a free country, but captivity is never far away. Jesus says that when we sin, we become slaves of sin. Satan is a hard master who would love to have us, and sometimes he does have us. Satan promises much through sin, yet he is so harsh. His yoke is heavy, and his burden is cruel. Can we ever break free?

But Isaiah tells us about liberation. No more burdens or blows or tyrants. We will have victory over the one who oppresses us. You can defeat this world’s temptation. You can break free from sin. You can live in freedom, but only when you live in Christ!

And Isaiah says that this triumph will be “as in the day of Midian” (v 4). What happened on that day? There is the well-known story of Midian’s defeat in Judges 6-8. Led by Gideon, the people of Israel were able to break free from decades of oppression by the Midianites. It’s notable that Gideon’s work was particularly as the saviour of the northern tribes: Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali (just like in our text). And the stunning moment of triumph was when just a small band of Israelites used torches and trumpets to throw Midian into utter panic. The victory was a great act of God—for so it always is. There is no victory apart from trusting in God alone.

God’s people can rejoice for there will also be an end to war. Verse 5 gives us a picture of military hardware piled up and burned: like tanks, helicopters, and machine guns—all smashed and useless. “For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle, and garments rolled in blood, will be used for burning and fuel of fire.” There will be no need for the equipment of war anymore. Isaiah told us about this already in chapter 2. In the great day of salvation, the nations “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (2:4).

God will go to war, and He will win for his people a perfect peace. God will go to war, but He will not fight in the usual way, with swords and guns. For his secret weapon is a child, a little baby who will grow up to be crucified. By this most unlikely event, God will crush the kingdom of Satan. As Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you” (John 14:27). Through Christ, your war is over and the victory is certain.

And before we move on, let’s notice how this prophecy is in the past tense. Isaiah is speaking of future events—at his time, Israel and Judah were greatly reduced, and the rod of the oppressor lay heavy, and the army often went out and came home bloodied and bruised. Yet Isaiah speaks with such certainty: God has done this! The nation has been multiplied. The yoke has been broken. The army has been disbanded. It is so sure that it’s as good as done.

This is how God’s people can look at things, even today. There is trouble and crisis and persecution and godlessness, but with the eye of faith we see God’s plan as already accomplished—salvation in the past tense! He has already lifted the darkness, and destroyed the devil, and achieved our everlasting peace.

We’re still waiting for the end of oppression and war, and for the groaning of creation to be silenced, but there should be no doubt in our mind that it’s going to happen. With the death and resurrection of Christ, the devil’s power has been snapped and sin’s curse has been carried. We’re still waiting for the final moments, but it’s as good as done. For we have a great king.

 

3) no greater king: In verse 6, we find the third—and greatest—reason that there should be an increase of joy among God’s people: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given” (v 6). It is this one person who will make all the difference in the world, who will be the hero and champion of salvation.

And let’s just appreciate how this is already the third time in Isaiah that the birth of a child signals new hope. In chapter 7, we see the sign of ‘Immanuel,’ the virgin conceiving and bearing a Son with a special name: God with us! Then in chapter 8, we read about a son born to Isaiah and his wife, a child to assure Judah about the defeat of their enemies. And now this child, who will be an ideal king and triumphant lord. You can see that God loves to do things in surprising ways, even turning a child into a saviour and king.         

Who was this child that Isaiah prophesied? At the time, maybe some thought it would be Hezekiah, a good king, one for whom there were great expectations. And it’s true that the kings in David’s line were regarded as ‘sons of God.’ They were esteemed as instruments of God, his anointed servants. But this verse is clearly about someone far greater, more than just a man, a king who is going to bring an unprecedented time of peace—someone who is God himself. And only one person can fulfill this: Jesus the Christ!

A king He shall certainly be: “the government will be upon His shoulder” (v 6). To put something onto the shoulder is to carry it, to bear a responsibility. This child, this Son, will receive immense authority, even over a world-wide kingdom—and He will not fail.

When the Christ comes, He will be given special names. Scripture tells us that names are important to God: they express character and calling. In the ancient world, honorary names were sometimes given to new kings to describe what kind of person they were meant to be. For example, God gave Solomon a new name: He was named Jedidiah, or ‘The LORD’s beloved.’

This new king will be a greater Solomon, for He will receive a whole series of illustrious names. He will be called “Wonderful Counselor.” Sometimes that is taken as two separate names, but that Hebrew adjective ‘wonderful’ is almost always joined to another word. It describes someone or something supernatural, spectacular.

This child is going to be endowed with divine wisdom so that He can be the perfect Counsellor. For that’s what was expected of kings: to give guidance, to lead wisely, to know how to do the right thing at the right time. Such is Christ, the ‘Wonderful Counselor,’ in whom are hidden all the treasures of God’s wisdom.

And He will be called “Mighty God.” The Hebrew word ‘mighty’ is often used to describe a warrior, a valiant solider, someone triumphant in battle. For like every king does, this King will go to war—and He will never taste defeat but He will be victorious. For He is God himself, ‘Mighty God!’

This name reminds us of the child born to the virgin in chapter 7, Immanuel, ‘God with us.’ It’s one and the same person! For in Christ, God comes near. The LORD gives us a Saviour who is both perfectly wise and unfailingly strong, so that He can save his people to the uttermost.

The Saviour will be son, Isaiah says, but also a father, called “Everlasting Father.” Every king in Israel was meant to be like a father who cared for his people. For every king represents God on earth, God who “like a father has compassion on his children” (Ps 103:13). Such a king Christ will be, one who fatherly in his care: He helps the helpless, He pities the sinner, He is gentle toward those who are weak. No one loves us more than Christ, who has an everlasting concern for the well-being of his people. With him, all is well, and all will be well!

Isaiah looks ahead and sees God’s gift in one man, one to save to protect, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, there is end to war: no more warrior’s boot, no more flaming arrow of temptation. Christ has smashed the power of Satan and brings true wellbeing and freedom for all who believe in him. By faith in Christ, we may truly have peace: not just the absence of war, but the gift of wholeness, harmony, restoration—when all things are as God meant them to be. You should trust in him, for there is no greater King, and no better kingdom.

 

4) no better kingdom: These days, people are suspicious of empires. ‘Imperialism’ is a bad word, because it’s so often been tied up with exploitation and oppression. Human kingdoms are always about increasing wealth and power, to the advantage of some and the detriment of many others. But Christ’s kingdom is not of the world.

Says Isaiah, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (v 7). His empire will progressively expand. There will be an increase of his rule, as Christ’s dominion extends further and further. It will not suffer loss or change. Yet the kingdom of Christ will grow in a way very unlike earthly empires. For He will expand through peace! As more and more people come to faith in Christ, the blessings of his salvation spread. Think of how Christ heals broken relationships. He relieves heavy burdens. He transforms how people treat one another. His gospel of peace changes people wherever it goes.

To be sure, his kingdom isn’t perfect yet. With their dying breath, Christ’s enemies are still active. There are still so many who rebel against his rule. Yet his people can wait, and we can be confident. For this Child, the Son, will “order [his kingdom] and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever” (v 7). One day, the fullness of Christ’s power will be all in all. One day, his peace will spread to every place.

It doesn’t mean that every sinner is going to come to faith in him and enjoy peace with God. We see a lot of injustice today, wicked people getting away with wicked deeds—and so it will happen until the end. But King Jesus is going to establish justice and righteousness over all creation and over all people. His kingdom is coming when He will judge all people, putting right every wrong and rewarding every good!

Beloved, whenever we hear about such a glorious future, our faith is challenged. For a small remnant, for a struggling church, for sinful people, all of this can seem like it’s too much. This is such a grand vision of the future, and we are people short-sighted, myopic, so often earth-bound. Christ is a bigger Saviour and greater King than we can ever grasp here below.

Yet we have certainty, and we have hope. The great King will come, and his Kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, because this is the Lord’s work: “The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (v 7). God is working, and He is preparing all things for the certain end.

It only remains for you and me to put our trust in the Lord, to bow before this King. It only remains for you and me to be ready to receive him: the Child, the Son, and our great Saviour!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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