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The True Meaning Of Christmas - It's About The Cross

CHRISTMAS 2014 - IT'S ABOUT THE CROSS

Isaiah 9:6

 

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

 

Who is this child? This prince of peace? A child whose name will be Eternal Father and Mighty God.

 

Who is this?

 

Of course, we know this is Jesus Christ, the Son of God... God Himself and our savior.

 

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

 

Who is speaking here?

 

This is Isaiah speaking, giving a prophecy from God. I ask this question because, in some cases Isaiah quotes God... but, in this case this is Isaiah speaking what God has revealed to him.

 

The first word, “For...” - is a link to the previous verses in chapter 9. So let's start by looking at those verses...

 

verse 1a - But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish;

This part of verse one is actually a part of chapter 8.

Chapters 7 and 8 are about the days of King Ahaz who had allied with Syria to attack the Southern kingdom of Judah. That didn't go well.

 

This was followed by an invasion by Assyria, and at this pint in time an occupation of part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by Assyria.

Isaiah is a prophet in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, and the presence of Assyrians to the North was a threat to Judah's security. In addition, in chapter 7 Isaiah prophecies the downfall of the Northern kingdom. So this is a time of trial for the Nation of Israel – the Northern and Southern kingdoms. The future is looking dark and they are not turning to God.

For example verse 8:19 God is wondering why His people do not consult Him:

 

When they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?

 

 

These are perilous times for the Jews... yet they have rejected what God is saying through Isaiah.

That's chapters 7 and 8. The Nation of Israel is in trouble, but they are not turning to God. That's the overall context.

Let's start with the second part of verse one in chapter 9 where we have a prophecy about Christ:

1b - in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.

 

God has already humbled the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, treating the people living there with contempt. This refers to the beginning of the invasion and conquering of the northern parts of Israel by the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III. We read about this in 2 Kings 15:29.

But later on God will make it glorious... and two places are named.

by way of the sea” most likely refers to Sharon... also known as Philistia.

 

Galilee of the Gentiles” is probably Gilead in southeast Syria, or what we know as Galilee... the place where Jesus started his ministry.

 

And that's what it says here, written 600 years before Jesus' birth – Zebulun and Naphtali would be the first to see the light God focuses on Israel. They are where Jesus would begin His ministry. We read about this prophecy being fulfilled in Matthew 4:15 & 16:

15 - “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—


16 - the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”

 

Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee... beginning to bring light -- like the dawn breaking – to the Nation of Israel.

 

The timing is not specified, but through Isaiah God tells His people that He plans to give them light again – the great light of truth from the Savior. In verse 2 the prophecy continues:

 

The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.

 

The times seem bad. It is a depressing dark time for Israel... but God promises light... a great light.

 

Next Isaiah starts to address God... to pray... he speaks to God celebrating the Messiah – the coming light – and anticipating Israel's joy. In doing this in verse 3 he mentions the Abrahamic covenant that Abraham's physical descendants will be multiplied:

 

You shall multiply the nation,
You shall increase their gladness;
They will be glad in Your presence
As with the gladness of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

 

Verse 4 continues with Isaiah telling God what Isaiah alrady knows God will do – and celebrating God's victory:

For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders,
The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.

 

If you just read this, what type of messiah would you expect?

 

To the people in Isaiah's day the message they got was that God will free National Israel from bondage to Assyria and Babylon... the two empires that will conquer Israel and Judah during the times of Isaiah... and God will also free Israel from every other Foreign power that has oppressed her.

 

The Jews of Jesus' time were right to expect a Messiah that will free them from human bondage... but they were looking at only part of the story. They did not look beyond their worldly desire. – BTW, as we'll see we are no better.

 

Here comes the theme of this morning message.

 

What must we be freed from before we can be freed from human bondage?

 

What is Christmas truly about? Who is it that came to earth on Christmas day?

 

To be freed from bondage, we must first be freed from... sin. It is the savior... the one who saves us from the consequences of sin... from God's wrath for sin.

 

It won't work the other way around. Freedom from human bondage does not lead to freedom from sin – The statue in Nebuchanazzer's dream shows us that empires rise and empires fall... you get free from one and it is replaced by another.

 

On the other hand, freedom from sin does lead to freedom from human bondage. If all sin were eliminated, would people be putting other people into bondage? If we were free from sin, would there be wars, and conquering armies, and one group of people compelling another group of people to do their will?

 

No.

 

The whole story involves the cross first... the defeat of sin. Then comes the defeat of empires... and the end of war as described in the next verse – verse 5

 

 5 - For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult,
And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.

 

The tools of war will no longer be needed, because of the universal peace brought by the Messiah... brought by the return of Christ. The tools of war can be destroyed, thrown in the fire, because they will no longer be needed.

 

This brings us to the verse we are looking at today... Isaiah 9:6. We see that it is Isaiah speaking... talking to God about the Messiah who will set Israel free.

 

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

 

Isaiah is saying this 600 years before Christ.

 

For a child will be born to us...

 

For” refers to what we just read. The near-term future for national Israel looks bleak. But, a light is coming. That light will bring great joy. That light will end the repression of Israel. That light will end all war... How? Why? Because a child will be born.

 

That's amazing. All of these horrible things will end – Israel will be freed from oppression – because a child will be born.

 

This is not the first time a child is mentioned in this section of scripture. This refers back to Isaiah 7:14. Verse 9:6 is providing more detail on the child mentioned in 7:14.

 

So what does 7:14 say?

 

14 - Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

 

A child. Born of a virgin. A child whose name will be Immanuel – “God is with us.” A baby, an infant will save them. An infant who is called “God with us.” And who is truly God with us.

 

Keep your finger in Isaiah, but turn to Matthew chapter 1. Matthew 1:23 confirms that Jesus is the one whom this prophecy is about. Starting in verse 22 in Matthew chapter 1...

 

22 - Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

 

23 - Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

 

24 - And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife,

 

25 - but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

 

This child, born of a virgin, who is to be called Immanuel... is the child Isaiah is talking about in chapter 9 verse 6:

 

For a child will be born to us...”

 

Who is “us?” That is Israel... but it is also all of us. Not just Israel... but all of mankind. But mainly this is talking about Israel... remember Isaiah is trying to encourage Israel... things are dark now, but a light is coming.

 

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;

 

son” here refers to a royal son of David with rights to the Davidic throne. In addition to being “God with us” – Immanuel – this child will be the royal son of David, having the right to rule...

 

And this child will rule the nations of the world, not just Israel. Isaiah 9: 6 continues by saying:

 

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;

 

Now let's go to Psalm 2. The government will rest on His shoulders. Not just the government of Israel, but for all the nations.

 

Psalm 2 talks about this... about the son who will rule all the nations. starting in verse 7 in Psalm 2...

 

7- I will proclaim the decree of the Lord,
he said to me, “You are my son;
today I have begotten you.

8 - Ask it of me,
and I will give you the nations as your inheritance,
and, as your possession, the ends of the earth.

9 - With an iron rod you will shepherd them,
like a potter’s vessel you will shatter them.”

 

Isaiah 9 is an encouragement for Israel, but it also encourages us. This child will have the government of the entire world resting on His shoulders. It will be a righteous government. It will be a government that quickly judges sin --

 

With an iron rod you will shepherd them,

 

A government that requires conforming to God's law or facing immediate judgment. A nice place to be. A world ruled by Christ.

 

Back is Isaiah 9 verse 6 – Isaiah gives this child four names. This is important. Remember names describe who you are. So Isaiah is telling us who this child, on whose shoulders the government of the world will rest, who this child is.

 

The four names Isaiah uses to describe who Jesus Christ is:

 

  • Wonderful Counselor

  • Mighty God

  • Eternal Father

  • Prince of Peace

 

Wonderful Counselor – I wondered why “Mighty God” did not come first in the list. Isaiah starts with “Wonderful Counselor.”

 

This section of scripture is about King Ahaz. Ahaz was not listening to the counsel of God – even when God spoke to him. In chapter 7 (verses 10-12) God specifically tells him to specify a sign God can give him. And Ahaz refuses to ask God for a sign. He will not listen to God when God says I'll give you proof you should listen to me.

 

Imagine... Ahaz refuses to listen when God is speaking directly and clearly to him.

 

Let's say you hear a voice talking to you... and let's even give Ahaz the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's not sure. Scripture says this is God talking. Scripture indicates Ahaz knows who is is talking with... But let's assume Ahaz has some doubt in the back of his mind. So let's say this is you. You are hearing a voice... having a verbal conversation with the voice... a voice that could be God... a voice that claims to be God... but you've decided to ignore what the voice says.

 

Then the voice says, “Test me. Ask for a sign. Any sign. And be sure to make it something difficult. Something only God can do. Don't make this an easy test.”

 

That's basically what God told Ahaz. What would you do?

 

Ask for a sign! And make it something only God can do.

 

Now you can ask for anything as a sign. What type of sign would you ask for? Something that would benefit you? Maybe for a family member to be healed or yourself to be healed.

 

Gideon asked God for a sign. He asked God to keep make some wool wet when everything around it was dry. Then he asked for the wool to be dry when everything around it was wet.

 

But Ahaz said no, he wasn't going to ask for a sign. Why? He said didn't want to test God. He was acting righteous in order to actually disobey God... He was acting righteous in order to continue to do what.?

 

To do what he wanted to do. It didn't want proof this was God. Ahaz wanted to ignore God and follow his own desires. Proof would put him in a real bind – he would not have any excuse. He'd never be able to say, “I didn't know it was you, God.” God was speaking directly to him and he still only wanted his own desires.

 

So Ahaz acted righteous... or what would appear to the world as righteousness. But what was he doing? He was disobeying God. Isn't that what we see today. “Christian” leaders who act very righteous... who have the appearance of righteousness... who use a lot of Christian words... but it is a false front... a mask... an image they put on in order to do what they desire instead of what God desires.

 

And that's what Ahaz was doing. He was acting righteous while denying God. He was ignoring the Word of God in order to follow his own desires.

 

So Isaiah starts with what Ahaz most needed... Wonderful Counselor... Ahaz needed to be paying attention to the counsel of God.

 

Isaiah tells us the child will be called Wonderful Counselor. He is the one we need to listen to. He is the one we need to follow. He is the source of truth. The source of all knowledge. He is the Wonderful Counselor.

 

This child is also “Mighty God.”

This speaks of the power of God.

 

The power to do the things mentioned in verses 3 through 5, for example. Multiply the nation of Israel. Break the yoke of repression. And not only defeat all of their enemies, but totally eliminate the need to fight a war again... ever. This is a Mighty God.

 

These first two names speak about the attributes of God. The last two names speak of how those attributes are used for the fatherly care of His people, and to bring peace and all of the blessings that come with peace.

 

This child is the Eternal Father...

 

This is not saying the child is God the Father. What this says is the He will be like a father, like a good father, to His people. As the Davidic King, He will compassionately care for and discipline them... us... eternally.

 

And the child is the Prince of Peace...

 

In this context – the context of the rule of Ahaz and the war and threat of war the nation of Israel faced – this refers to the government of Immanuel resulting in peace among all the nations of the world. Israel as a nation will be at rest... will be at peace.

 

But, what kind of peace is this? Is it the peace people are expecting today? In Jesus' time the Jewish people were looking for the wrong type of Messiah. Are people today still looking for the wrong type of Messiah? Yes, we are. After 2000 years we have not changed.

 

I started thinking about this last week when I was in Fred Meyer in Warrenton. I needed to buy a box of Christmas cards. Many of the cards had the word “Peace” on the front or had the words from Luke 2:

 

Luke 2:14

 

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

 

What kind of peace is this? What is the peace mankind desires... desires as a second priority?

 

We talked about the Christmas truce of 1941 in our Thursday Bible study:

 

 

World War 1 began in 1914. By December of that year it had become a war in which both sides were in strong defensive positions, and neither side could make any progress against the other.

 

The warring countries refused to create any official Christmas cease-fire, but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.

 

To describe what happened I'm going to quote from a description on the History Channel web site.

 

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.

 

This was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

 

BTW, what did the last line of the History Channel description say?

 

but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

 

That basically we are good. Deep down, our essential nature is that we are good. Is that true? What does scripture say? No... we are sinners.

 

So... Is this what Christmas is about? Is the attitude that brings peace on earth? Where is God in this story? Was this a lasting peace?

 

 

The answer is NO.

 

 

When the Bible talks about peace, what is that peace? What kind of peace is it?

 

As the solders in World War I did, we desire peace. I think every person in the world wants peace. The peace between men. Peace is a blessing.

 

But never, in all of history, have we ever had a lasting peace. In fact, the times of peace we've had, such as the Pax Romana – the peace of the Roman Empire – have only happened as a result of war and military might – someone imposing their will on everyone else and forcing everyone to live in peace. The peace of Rome was a peace of slavery... if you opposed Rome you were crushed. A peace because no one could oppose that will.

 

 

Here is a question: Why don't we have peace? Why will we never, through our human efforts, have peace?

 

Because there is something we desire more than peace. Peace is actually secondary to humanity. There is something we treasure more than peace.

 

That sounds strange. There is something we treasure more than peace? But it is true. What do we treasure?

 

Us... ourselves... we want to be in control.

 

Nebuchanazzer said: “and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”

 

That's all of us. Every one of us. There will not be peace because we want to be in control. We want to be the boss.

 

If I want to be in control, and you want to be in control... what do we get?

 

A fight.

 

We're not willing to bow down to God. We're not even willing to bow down to other men. We only bow when we are forced to. Or when it benefits us.

 

So how can we have peace on earth? That takes a change of heart. That takes first being at peace with God. The peace on earth Luke is talking about is peace with God. That is the peace Jesus – the child who is the Prince of Peace – that is peace He brings.

 

The child is the one who brings peace among nations because He brings peace between man and God. We're given a new heart that desires God first.

 

Romans 5:1

 

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

We are no longer enemies of God, but we are reconciled with God by the death of His Son... and being reconciled, we will be saved by Him.

 

This is the peace on earth the child brings. The Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Eternal Father... the Prince of Peace whose birth we are celebrating.

 

600 years before He was born Isaiah wrote the words of God... telling us about the child who was to be born of a virgin, and who would bring life and peace to the world.

How did He do this? By dying. Life and peace comes through the death of the Son, His taking away the death we deserve... paying the death penalty we've earned. And that is what Christmas is about. That is the true meaning of Christmas.

It's about the cross...

 

SONG – IT'S ABOUT THE CROSS (By GO FISH)

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