Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Advent Midweek Sermon 2

Advent Midweek 2 – Isaiah 9 – December 10th, 2014

In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
          One of the things that is so refreshing about the Scriptures, about the prophets, is that they never feel the need to softsell or white-wash anything.  They are blunt and honest, and blunt and honest about the harsh and lousy realities of life in a sinful, fallen world.  “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.”  Whom is Isaiah addressing here?  People who have been walking in darkness – those who are faced with doubts and despair even as they go about their daily life, their normal walk.  Isaiah is addressing those who live in a land, not just of darkness, but of deep darkness.  A land that is rife with wickedness and trouble, a land where so often there is little or no leadership, or what leadership there is oppresses and rules unjustly.   It’s a wonderful, poetic way of describing the blunt and often sorrowful and nasty reality of this world, realities Isaiah saw terribly clearly in his days.  And there are no platitudes – Isaiah doesn’t waste his breath saying, “It’s not so bad.”  He doesn’t just tell folks to just buck up.  That’s not the way of the Scriptures – when addressing the sinful fallen world – that’s what it is.  Sinful and fallen.  Gloom and darkness.

          Yet there is this – even though there is gloom, even though there is darkness, real, impactful, frightening and terrible darkness, God does not leave you to your own devices in the midst of those troubles.  No, He sends a great light – indeed, He sends the Light of Light, Christ Jesus, to be the Savior, Redeemer, and rescuer.  And what we see here in the rest of Isaiah 9 is Isaiah recounting, telling who exactly the coming Messiah would be, how He would be Light in the midst of that darkness.  How He will come and give growth and joy and put an end to war.  And then we move to the famous part from the Messiah.  “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”  The prophecy pointing forward to the coming Messiah highlights the idea of hope, of something new – but also a wait.  A kid isn’t elected president the day after the Baby shower; oh, sure, one of my kids might cure cancer, but it ain’t going to happen tomorrow.  Isaiah is calling for patience, but hope in that patience.  There will be One coming in the future. 

And what shall He do?  “And the government shall be upon His shoulder.” This is one of those wonderful bits of language that can be read, can be seen two ways – a theological, prophetic surprise.  Yes, Christ Jesus would be the ruler, He would take the burden of ruling upon Himself.  But how would Christ Jesus do this – how would Christ Jesus take up rule and leadership?  When the government, when Pilate places the cross upon His shoulder.  What we have here is a pointing towards the Cross – and of course we do.  The world is full of darkness, deep darkness, and the Messiah who comes to rescue us, to be the light in the midst of this darkness is going to run head on into the worst of it.  So there He will be – innocent, falsely accused, a victim of an unjust government and a bloodthirsty mob.  The government is laid upon His shoulders as He goes to His death in order to destroy the very violence and wickedness that He suffers from. 

This is an important point – because what comes next is the famous “name” section – “And His name shall be call-ed”.  And these names are important, but they are all tied to the fact that the Messiah comes and suffers, dies, and rises.  They are tied to the fact that the Messiah takes upon Himself, upon His shoulder the weight and wages of sin and brings redemption.  Because Jesus goes to the Cross, what will Christ Jesus be called?  He will be called “Wonderful.”  Why is Christ Jesus called wonderful?  The Latin puts this as “Admirabilis” – as the one you look upon and admire with awe and wonder.  Because what do you see when you see Christ Jesus?  Though He is God, He doesn’t cling to that fact, He doesn’t demand His rights as God.  Rather, He comes down from heaven, empties Himself, and goes to the cross for our sake.  There is nothing more wondrous, more admirable than this, nothing more profound.

Jesus is the “counselor”.  Now, normally we think of a counselor as someone who gives advice.  I’m the circuit “visitor” but that used to be called the circuit counselor – I’d give advice.  But this word here is bigger, stronger than that.  A counselor, a helper – this is your attorney.  It’s counselor like in the phrase “legal counsel.”  Jesus is your defense lawyer – and he’s a good one to have.  When Satan comes with his accusations, when he cries and threatens that you deserve death and hell and eternal punishment – you have the best defense lawyer ever.  Christ Jesus has already borne your punishment; He has already died for you.  He has taken up your sin – there’s no more sin to pin upon you.  That’s some defense counselor!  Christ Jesus is your great defense.

Jesus is the “Mighty God.”  If you want to understand the might or power of God, you don’t look to earthquakes or thunder – you look to the Cross.  Consider from 2 Corinthians, where Paul is lamenting the thorn in his side, and God tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you” – but the verse doesn’t stop there, it continues, “for My power is made perfect in weakness.”  Where do you see the power, the might of God?  In weakness, where God Himself hangs upon the Cross – and what does He cry out there?  “It is Finished”.  That word for “finished” is the exact same word for “made perfect”.  Everything is accomplished, completed, made perfect – you have salvation and redemption won for you by God suffering and dying for you, and that is how you see that He is the Mighty God.

Jesus is the Everlasting Father.  Now, of all the names Isaiah gives, this is the one we use the least for Jesus today – and partially this is to avoid confusion between Jesus and the Father when we are speaking about the Holy Trinity.  Partially, this is because we don’t have a king, we don’t have a tribal set up.  Think on the old Native American title for the president – he was the “great white father.”  The leader is the “father” – that’s why the 4th commandment, honor your father and mother, extends over all sorts of government and authority.  Christ Jesus’ rule is everlasting, He sits at the right hand of the Father and of His kingdom there will be no end.

And then there is the final name – Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  He is the One, who as soon as He is risen from the dead breaks into the upper room, dark and cold and locked for fear of an angry mob, and who declares to the Apostles “Peace”.  Jesus is the One who creates His Church to go out all throughout this rough and tumble world to proclaim peace – to proclaim the forgiveness of sins and restoration to God.  He is the Prince – all authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to Him, and He uses that authority to make peace, to forgive sins.

“Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.”  The Messiah comes, the Light of Light comes to stand up to the darkness of this sinful, fallen world.  He comes to conquer over sin and death with His own perfection and death and resurrection, and all this He does for you, to redeem you, to save you.  Thus He is Wonderful, the Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, and He shall be called this forever and ever.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus.  In the Name Christ Jesus, our Advent King.

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