The light of the gospel transforms gloomy places into glorious places and transforms gloomy people into glorious people. The hope of the gospel means celebration of joy, inclusion in a family, freedom from bondage, and peace with God. In this message on Isaiah 9:1–7, Pastor David Platt teaches us that the Jesus of the gospel is a wonderful counselor and mighty God.
- The promise of Christ’s coming brought light into darkness.
- The promise of Christ’s coming brought hope into hopelessness.
- The promise of Christ’s coming brought God into godlessness.
Please turn to Isaiah chapter nine in your Bible. If you don’t know where Isaiah is, we’re in the Old Testament today. So look in the Table of Contents, find the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament, and then chapter nine. While you’re doing that, I hope you’ll multi-task and grab the worship notes that are in your guide there and use those to follow along and we’ll navigate this passage of Scripture together.
As Chris mentioned earlier, we begin a journey today that we call “Advent.” The word “advent” means “a coming to a place,” or “coming to view,” or “coming into being.” It is most often used to describe the journey of these four Sundays leading up to the celebration of the birth of Christ through Christmas. It’s kind of a road map to help us to navigate our building anticipation toward that celebration. So I just want to encourage you to engage that journey, not for the sake of a sentimental celebration of the season, but for the sake of you and I engaging the Person of Jesus Christ in a new way.
You see of those shades of meaning, “a coming to place, to view; coming into being,” I think the middle one— “view”—is my favorite. That is “a coming into view” as we enter into this season that we have set aside to celebrate the coming of God into this world in Jesus Christ. I don’t know that there’s anything better that we could do than see Jesus better than maybe we have in the past. To bring Him into view, almost like taking a precious diamond and holding it up and turning it different ways, just adoring it, just observing it, just soaking in everything we possibly can. So over the next several weeks, we’ll not just use the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, but the one after Christmas as well.
This is what we want to do: We want to see Jesus Christ better. So what we’re going to do is take a representative passage in God’s Word that helps us to think about each of the aspects of Jesus’ life—the phases of His life if you will—the parts of the promises of the Person of Christ, of this Expected One (which we’ve kind of used and designated as the title of this series) and we want to see Him better. I want us to begin this morning in this passage, Isaiah 9:1-7, thinking about the promise of His coming. So you follow along as I read these seven verses.
The prophet Isaiah under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit said this:
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations [or Galilee of the Gentiles it’s often called].
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 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 to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Now just like any time we come to an Old Testament passage of Scripture, we have to consider it from two angles. We have to consider it historically, first of all. What did this say to the people who were living in the day when Isaiah penned these words? What was he talking about? What was going on? Then we have to look at it prophetically. We have to ask the question, “What did it look forward to? What did it anticipate?” If we leave either of those two out any time we come to the Word of God, especially the Old Testament, then we run the risk of missing hearing His voice. We don’t want to do that. So I want us to take both of those angles this morning and I want us to consider each one of them. I want us to hear the Word of the Lord to us here in 2013 on the verge of 2014, thousands of years removed from when these words were written, and I want us to ask, “What does God say to us? What is He saying to us today?
So let’s start with the historical. What was going on historically? Historically, this is about the Syro-Ephraimite War that took place in the 8th century B.C., when the Assyrians, who were an incredibly strong regional power, were coming against the nations around them. So the smaller nation of Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel—also known as Ephraim—were forming a coalition together to push back (which they wouldn’t be able to do) to try and stand their ground against the oncoming assault of the Assyrians.
God speaks into their situation, into their circumstances, a word through the prophet Isaiah to say to them, “Your God…”Watch this now. I want you to think about this, why it’s so important for us to go back historically and try to put ourselves in their position. They’re about to be squashed. I mean literally. People, generations, taken into captivity. That is what is about to happen in this passage of Scripture. And God, through the prophet Isaiah, speaks into their situation and says this: “Your God can be trusted. And He can be trusted to fulfill His promise to you of bringing into being an eternal Kingdom led by a righteous ruler that will sit on its throne forever.”
That’s why the tone of this passage is vibrant. It is upbeat. It is a message of hope. But get it now, it comes right on the verge of some really, really bad news and some really, really bad times. But in the midst of that it is a testimony of God’s great salvation; of how God, by His strong hand, would be true to His word and consequently His people. Even in the midst of what they were about to experience, their God could be trusted to be faithful.
That leads us to the prophetic because from the prophetic standpoint this is about the gospel. This is about God’s great salvation. It is about His strong hand that He speaks into the lives of His people to say, “I can be trusted to fulfill all of the promises that I have given you, to bring about everything that I spoke into being. Even though you don’t see it, even though your circumstances are not going to suggest it for a while, I can be trusted in the midst of them.”
Let me show you how we know this. I mean, just from the outset, you just kind of bring into mind your knowledge of the gospel accounts of the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke especially. You know there are themes here that rise, not the least of which is the birth of a child that God promises. We know this is referenced in the Christmas story; that this is a passage about good news that gives birth to great joy which is mentioned here.
That’s exactly what the angels said to the shepherds. This is what’s going to happen. This is a passage about a Ruler that is going to sit on the throne of David over God’s people Israel for all time and that’s exactly what the angel said to Mary when he appeared to her and said, “You’re about to have a baby and this is what’s going to happen.” He cited these very things. We can’t look at the gospel accounts and not see the similarities. But let me show you one that is even more direct that comes really on the heels of the Christmas story.
Hold your place here and go over into the New Testament to the first book in the New Testament, the book of Matthew. So just fast forward a few books in your Bible and come to Matthew 4.Let me show you something. So in Matthew 3, Jesus is baptized and it’s kind of the inauguration of His public ministry. So this is a number of years after His birth. You come into chapter four, Jesus goes into the wilderness and He’s tempted by Satan in that very familiar passage of Scripture. Then you come to verse twelve and this is what I want you to see. Beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and this is how it starts:
Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali (does that sound familiar?), so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled…
If we didn’t get it with the similarities in the names, Matthew under the inspiration of the Spirit, just straight up says, “This is happening. This took place in order to fulfill what Isaiah says.” And guess where he quotes from in Isaiah? Isaiah 9. Matthew 4:15-16:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—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.”
And then Matthew says in verse 17, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ’Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” It doesn’t get any clearer than that. Matthew writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, cites the passage you and I are studying in Isaiah 9 and says, “This is fulfilled in Jesus’ birth, in His life, in His ministry, in His gospel proclamation.” When we come to Isaiah 9, let there be no doubt about it: We are talking about Jesus and we’re talking about the gospel.
For those of us who are living on this side of the cross, we can’t afford to see this Old Testament passage any other way. That’s what I want us to do. I want us to hold this Jesus up. I want us to hold this gospel up, and turn in different ways, and behold Him, and look at Him and look at how this gospel speaks in to our lives.
Before I show you that in the passage, don’t miss this in Isaiah 9.Whatever it is we study—whatever it is God says—here is something that you and I can build our lives on. We can take it to the bank. It’s credible. Do you notice the last sentence in this paragraph, Isaiah 9:1-7? End of verse seven, look at what Isaiah says: “The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.” That’s kind of like just kind of underscoring, putting in bold, italicized, underlining, highlighting however you want to say it. God comes to the end of all of this and He says, “You can take this to the bank.”
I want to say this to you this morning. Whatever you bring into the room today, whatever darkness, whatever heaviness, whatever chaos, whatever life you bring that’s crumbling, I want you to hear the Word of the Lord today. I want you to see the gospel. I want you to see Jesus. I want you to hear those things and see those things knowing that God took the initiative on the very end of it to say, “You can bank on this! This is my Word. You can build your life on this.”
So let’s look at it: the promise of Christ that’s found in Isaiah 9 does what? Well I want us to think about just the timeless realities that really started in the situation of these people that were hearing this for the very first time and then I want us to see how each of those are fleshed out in the gospel.
Isaiah 9:1–7 reminds us the promise of Christ’s coming brought light into darkness.
So let’s start at this point: The promise of Christ coming brought light into darkness. You see verse one here in Isaiah 9 is a transition verse; it’s a hinge verse that moves people from the tenor, and the atmosphere and the mood of the last part of chapter eight—really all of chapter eight—into the good news that’s fleshed out in 9:2-7.It is an incredible contrast. Did you see it? Did you notice it? I mean just glance back for example to 8:22, right above this. “They will look to the earth and behold distress and darkness, and gloom and anguish and if that were not enough it’s thick darkness,” he says. And then words like “gloom” and “anguish” are used again in verse one. If you glance down to verse two toward the end, he says “deep darkness.” Is there any other way to describe the depth of the bad situation that is going on here? And it is about to get worse.
But notice what God says through Isaiah. He says in 9:1, “That characterizes your former time,” he says. “But your latter time on the other hand is going to be characterized by something different. Something completely opposite.” Verse one, “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.” Verse two, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.”
There is the contrast between this utterly chaotic, this situation that is so bad, that is so messed up to a situation that is so good. In the language of the New Testament in verse one, the verbal nouns “gloom” and “anguish” in my English translation are in a form that indicates that former time, that gloom, that was a temporary situation but the light and the new situation that is coming, this is going to be permanent. Stark contrast between the situation they found themselves in and (listen to me) would be in for a while, for a long time. But there is a contrast between that and what God was promising when He said, “I’m bringing light into darkness.”
Now let me show you the gospel in this. One of the places we find it is in this imagery of darkness and light. In Scripture darkness is something that just speaks of despondency and delusion and depravity. It is an utterly hopeless situation, Old Testament and New. On the other hand, light speaks of the knowledge of God and the ability to see life and approach life the way He intended it to be.
These are always put in stark contrast to one another, nowhere more clearly seen than in John’s Gospel where he clearly identifies the Person of Jesus Christ as the light that would come into the world. I want you to look at it. Travel with me over there again into the New Testament. Hold your place here. Go to John’s Gospel.
Let me just give you some representative examples from one biblical writer’s perspective. There are numerous other places where this theme of light in the midst of darkness comes in the Person of Jesus Christ but look at in John’s Gospel chapter one. Start right there. This is where John, in his prologue, identifies the One who came in the flesh, Jesus Christ, to be very God. He is God. This is what he says in 1:4-7:
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.
That’s what God wants to do. He wants you to believe in Him, me to believe in Him. That’s what John’s testimony was about. That’s what the testimony of all the Gospel writers was about. Verses 8-9, “He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.”
Look at chapter three. This is a famous passage. The most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16.“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Sometimes we stop there and don’t read the full context. Look at verse 19.“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” This is why there is so much animosity toward Jesus. He’s the light. So many people push back, so many people reject Jesus. It’s for this reason: “He is the light,” the Bible says. Light makes people’s sin known. Verse 20-21:
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.
Beloved listen to me, if you’re sitting here today or you’re listening to the sound of my voice today as one who has been pressured to be here or to listen, or has been drug along in a holiday season like this with relatives who may be more religious than you, and you’re just accommodating them and you hear this today with push back in your heart, let me say to you this is why: It’s not because you know something everybody else doesn’t, it isn’t because people are deceived who have been trying to pull you to this Jesus. It’s for this reason right here: It is a principle of supernatural reality. Jesus is light and when people whose deeds are evil—which includes every one of us from birth—come into contact with that light, it’s uncomfortable. We by nature push back against it.
Chapter eight. Look at it. You’re here in John’s Gospel. Look at this if it’s not clear enough at that point. John 8:12, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” Look across the page at 9:5, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world,” Jesus said.
A couple of chapters over, chapter twelve. John just keeps hammering it home. Verses 35-36:
So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
Verse 46, same chapter: “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” Hear the gospel today. Hear the gospel today. We live in darkness. We are born people of darkness. We pursue darkness because we love darkness. But God has sent the light of the world into the world. His name is Jesus. Though there is discomfort when His light shines on our evil deeds, He beckons us to recognize this truth, this principle, and believe in Him, even if we don’t see it physically around us and our circumstances don’t dictate it. Remember what God was saying to these people in Isaiah’s day. “I can be trusted. Believe me.” So now He says to everybody on the planet, “Believe this gospel. Believe this Jesus.” I pray today if you’ve never trusted Him, trust Him today. He’s the Light of the world.
Isaiah 9:1–7 is a gospel of grace
Let me tell you something else about the gospel in Isaiah 9:It’s a gospel of grace. This is not something that you can do. This is not something you can earn, you can make happen. Notice it says that in the former time “…he brought…”It says but “…in the latter time he has made glorious…”God was the One orchestrating this whole deal. He was bringing discipline on His children for their disobedience, but now He would be the One to bring light into their darkness. About the time you and I begin to experience and exhaust every possible way that we think we can manipulate our salvation or save ourselves, or pick ourselves up by the boot straps, and then if we find ourselves falling flat on our face, every time God in His grace through Jesus Christ brings light into our lives. This is a gospel of grace.
So you know what it does? Do you know what this light of the gospel does? A couple of things we can identity here.
This light of the gospel transforms gloomy places into glorious places.
Number one, this light of the gospel transforms gloomy places into glorious places. You see the reference to the land of Zebulun and Naphtali there in verse one? This was a region that was given to these two tribes, along with the tribe of Asher, during the conquest. This was their allotment of land in the Promised Land. But the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, instead of obeying God and running out all of the Canaanites and all of the pagan people, they let some of them hang around. What ensued over the years were mixed marriages which brought about a syncretistic religion and a watered down devotion to God, if any devotion to God at all. It created a darkness in this region that hovered over it. It permeated their community just like it does—listen to me—just like it does nations and states; and just like it does communities and churches; and just like it does families who try to play both sides and who try to keep one foot in the world and one foot in the gospel. The mixed relationship there creates an impurity that is horrible to God.
It’s in the midst of that that God brings the gospel like He says He is doing into this region. When a community of people—and let’s just take the family, maybe that’s the most personal to us—a family unit that is dark and is heavy. It is characterized by despondency and delusion and depravity and there’s heaviness in the home. The gospel can transform that because when this light shines into communities like that, groups of people, it transforms gloomy places into glorious places.
I pray, moms and dads, leaders in the home, that you’d make sure the gospel is allowed to penetrate your place. Let it penetrate your place of business, your neighborhood. We pray that it would penetrate our nation and our state again because the gospel transforms gloomy places into glorious places. Not just places but people.
Isaiah 9:1–7 reminds us the light of the gospel transforms gloomy people into glorious people.
The light of the gospel transforms gloomy people into glorious people. This land beyond the Jordan at the end of verse one—Galilee of the nations, of the Gentiles—it came about partly because of a trade route, a very famous trade route which actually is called by the name here “the way of the sea.” That’s the way people knew it. It started in Damascus, it came down into the Northern Kingdom, went across into the Mediterranean Sea and then down to Egypt. It passed right through the region we’re familiar with as Galilee.
So what happened over the years? The people of Galilee began to be influenced by other peoples of the world who traveled that trade route. They brought their idolatrous worship and their religions of pursuing after other gods and their immorality. It began to influence the people of Galilee. Over time it created a reputation among other Jews that those Jews that lived in Galilee were from the other side of the tracks. We see this all the way through the New Testament. This is why, when Phillip went to tell his brother Nathaniel about Jesus and he told him it was Jesus of Nazareth, Nathaniel’s response is, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).
In John 7, the people were saying, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee?” And the religious leaders said to them, “Search the Scriptures. No prophet will ever arise out of Galilee.” And the Holy Spirit fell in Acts 2, the people standing around were saying, “This couldn’t be of God. These men are Galileans.” Because they were from the other side of the tracks, bad reputation, held in disdain and ill repute among the other people.
Listen to me beloved, this is where the gospel intersects lives and people’s lives like that. People who feel like they’re from the other side of the tracks, who know their lives have been influenced by worldly, worldly influences and factors that they didn’t sign up for but they woke up one day and realized how their lives, and their homes and families, were characterized by the world. These are the people that God speaks into their lives.
Do you find yourself feeling like an outcast, far away from God? Looked down upon by the rest of society? Or maybe you perceive yourself looked down upon by people in your own family because of some of the scars that are in your life or maybe stuff that is going on right now. Hear the gospel! It’s designed for people like you which, if we’re all honest, characterizes every single one of us: Separated from God, from the other side of His tracks. Dirt in our lives. Uncleanness. Looking at ourselves, trying to figure out, “How can I ever fix this? How can I ever do anything about it?” God says, “You can’t, but I can.” So He lets the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ shine into your life and He transforms gloomy people into glorious people. So the promise of Christ’s coming brought that kind of light into that kind of darkness.
Isaiah 9:1–7 reminds us the promise of Christ’s coming brought hope into hopelessness.
But not only that, the promise of Christ’s coming brought hope into hopelessness. By anybody’s assessment, if they’re honest in reading this story, this was a hopeless situation. If you just glance back at chapter eight for a moment that is speaking of the coming Assyrian invasion and look at some of the descriptions here. Verse four says that the wealth of Damascus and Syria and the spoil of Samaria and the northern King of Israel, it will be carried away by the King of Syria.
Verse seven, “A wall of water,” he says. God is bringing against them a mighty river and many, he says, “…it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks” (Isaiah 8:7). I mean this is just overwhelming. It’s flooding the place. It will sweep into Judah and it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, he says. That’s a desperate situation, the water rising up to the neck. Verse nine he says the people will be broken and shattered. In verse ten he says, “Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand.”
In verse seventeen, this might be the worst thing of all. This might be the most desperate, hopeless thing. The face of the Lord will be turned away from the house of Jacob, he says. In verse twenty, he says that they’ll have no dawn. Verse twenty-one, they’ll be greatly distressed and hungry. And when they’re hungry, they’ll be enraged and they’ll speak contemptuously, he says, and turn their faces away from God. It’s going to cause them to be angry with God. “God, why did you do this to us?” And then all those descriptions: Distress and darkness, gloom, anguish, thick darkness, in verse twenty. This was a hopeless situation. Yet in the midst of that, God speaks through Isaiah. Verses 3-5 and from a number of different standpoints says, “I can bring hope into this and I will.” Let me show it to you.
The hope of the gospel means inclusion in a family. He says, “You have multiplied the nation.” Are you kidding me? Did you track with those descriptions back there in chapter eight? Water up to the neck. God turns His face away. You’re going to be hungry, starving. You’re going to be mad at God. You’ll be overwhelmed; the river is rising; distress, gloom. Then he turns around in 9:3 and through the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah says, “God you’ve multiplied the nation. You’ve increased their number.”
How does that happen? Well I’ll tell you how it happens. He takes those foreigners who travelled that trade route back up there in verse nine, people who worship pagan gods. He takes the Galileans that they’ve influenced along the way. He takes those citizens of Zebulun and Naphtali who have sold their souls to pagan nations and tried to mix the authentic religion of God with the religions of the world. He takes those people and He draws them to Himself; He dusts them off and He cleans them up from the inside out with the gospel. He says, “You come and be a part of my family.”
I love Zechariah, the way he describes it. Just look at the screen here for a moment. Zechariah 2:11, “And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people.” Do you see it? Many nations other than Israel. “And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.”
Over in chapter eight, this is my favorite one. Zechariah 8:23, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” Isn’t that incredible? People who are not part of the family of God, people who are outside the ranks, people who are distant, people who have sold their souls to the world; God reaches out in His grace and He invites them into His family. That’s the way He multiplies the nation. That’s the way He multiplied Israel. That’s the way He fulfills this promise.
What an incredible privilege you and I have, number one, to be those people because the vast majority of us in this room today are people who are not from Jewish heritage, Jewish lineage. We are those nations who grabbed a hold of the garment of the gospel and said, “Take us with you!” That’s what we celebrate today.
Yet another privilege we have is to be able to go to those nations like Jonathan was talking about, people represented on these boxes right here. People we’re giving to mobilize others, the people we’re going to, people we’re praying for; we get to be a part of now extending the garment of the people of God out and say, “Grab a hold of the gospel and come with us.”
That’s why we do this. Others still standing on the fringes, not feeling worthy, not feeling like you because of your sin, what you’ve done, thinking it’s unforgivable, thinking you’re too dirty, standing on the outside; the gospel today says, “Grab a hold of the garment and come with us because the hope of the gospel means you too, in Christ Jesus, can be included in God’s family.” That’s what the hope of the gospel means.
The hope of the gospel also means celebration of joy. You see it mentioned three times in verse three: “increased its joy…they rejoice before you…”And he gives these images: “the joy at the harvest…”A farmer reaping a good, incredible crop that saves lives and sustains his family. They’re glad when they divide the spoil. The picture of a general coming back from war, victorious, having won the battle.
You know I’ve got to be honest with you here and tell you…and I fought it. I fought it really hard to even bring the Iron Bowl into this sermon today. And I’m not going to hate on our college football here; that’s not what I want to do. But I want to tell you, I was trying to think right here, “Gosh, anticipation. Boy, that’s what we’ve been all doing; looking forward to this thing.” And then you come to this place right here, and the contrast at the end of the ballgame last night of joy and gloom and celebration and sadness. I thought about this picture and I thought, “You know what? We don’t identify as much with the farmer and we don’t identify as much with the celebration of the victorious warrior but that’s something we can identify with.” But the more I thought about that, the more I thought, “No. No way.”
You know why? Because this stuff was a matter of life and death. Isaiah’s illustrations were a matter of life and death. The farmer’s good crop was a matter of sustaining lives. People depended on it. The victorious warrior was a matter of defending the people of the city or the nation. It was a matter of life and death. And he says, “When life surfaces and the crop comes, and the deliverance is made and victory comes, that speaks of life and that’s when we celebrate.” That doesn’t even compare to us celebrating something like a football game or something else that’s attached to this world. This is life and death.
This is more parallel to the people who had been given a curse of death with a life sentence of cancer; who hear a doctor come in and say, “I can’t believe the x-rays say it’s gone!” It’s that kind of joy! It’s people who are on the fringes of slipping into eternity that now have been given a new lease on life. Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says, “That is an occasion for celebration.” And guess what? That’s what the gospel does. That’s what the gospel does. It’s a matter of life and death. When it’s a matter of life and death, it is great occasion for joy when the verdict is life. That’s what he says here.
That’s what the angels said, wasn’t it? The angels say that, speaking to the shepherds in Luke 2, “…I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” This is what Jesus said to His disciples in John 15.He says, “I’m saying this to you so that my joy will be in you and as a result your joy will be full.” That’s what Jesus does. He gives fullness of joy; joy to the max. Joy that’s not limited and dictated by circumstances but joy that only comes by attachment to God that only comes through Jesus Christ. That’s where joy comes from and that’s what the hope of the gospel does.
Hope of the gospel means freedom from bondage. Verse four, a yoke is mentioned, a staff, a rod of the oppressor. All of these were instruments that described a people that had been forced into a heavy burden and all of them in chapter ten are described as images that the Assyrians would use in coming against the people of God. But here God says, “I am lifting that burden from you.”
Religious leaders tried to put people under a yoke. You remember what it was, don’t you? It was the yoke of legalism, of having to feel like they had to earn points with God. You ever been there? “I’ve got to clean my life up. I’ve got to get this right then God will accept me. Then He will receive me if I get things straightened out.” Some of you have told relatives before, “I know you want me to come to Jesus but I’ve got some things I’ve got to get right first.”
We all have that mentality that somehow we’ve got to earn points with God. We live under this yoke of a burden of never feeling like we quite make it. That day never comes because it can’t come because we can’t do anything about the heaviness we live under. There’s no way we can earn our way to a holy God, nothing we could do to take care of our sin. So Jesus, into the heaviness of people’s lives, spoke these words: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
What rest the gospel brings when you finally come to the place where you realize you can’t earn this and you can’t do it. You can’t be good enough; you can’t take care of your sin. You understand this is why Jesus came into the world. This is why He lived a perfect life that we couldn’t live. This is why He went to the cross and died on it there in our place. This is why He rose from the dead, to give us back God’s life, to do everything we couldn’t do for ourselves. That is freedom from the bondage that says, “You just need to get some things together, clean your life up, make yourself a good person, pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” That is a heavy, heavy weight. Set it down today, beloved, and trust Jesus Christ as the only One that can save you.
The hope of the gospel brings peace with God. The images in verse five are about the celebration that took place when they took the war-torn boots of the conquered enemy and the blood stained garments, and they would pile them up in the city square and set them on fire as part of the celebration. It was a demonstration that peace had come. This is what the Christmas story tells us about the announcement of Jesus’ birth. To those same shepherds, the angel came and said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased! (Luke 2:14).”
You say, “Peace with whom?” A holy God, of course. You and I are born into this world sinners and because we love sin so much we run to it at every point and by default that makes us enemies of a holy and righteous God. All of the wrath of heaven is levied against our sin but because we are sinners, levied against us. That puts us opposed to Him and opposite of Him. The gospel said, “God did something about that. He took His only Son and He took Him and He put Him on the altar of sacrifice in your place and mine and there He unleashed all of His wrath on Him instead of you.” On Him instead of me who deserved it.
This is why the Apostle Paul said this in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In verses 9-10:
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
That was us! That was me! A lot of times I pause to think about the wrath of God being levied against Jesus and unleashed against Jesus. Yes, I celebrate that but that’s only realized in its magnitude when I think about the fact that the situation was all of that was levied against me. I deserved it. I’m the one that needed to own that and God stepped in in the Person of Jesus Christ. In between me and His wrath. And He saved me from His wrath. That’s what the gospel does. It means “peace with God.
Isaiah 9:1–7 reminds us the promise of Christ’s coming brought God into godlessness.
So light and darkness, hope and hopelessness; ultimately it comes to this: That the promise of Christ’s coming brings God into godlessness. This one is the one on which everything else hinges. You see in our English translation, the beginning of verse six the word “for” ties this to those other two and said that both of these—light and darkness, hope and hopelessness—both have to have a cause, a legitimate cause. This passage of Scripture says, “That cause that brought these about is a child being born into this world; a Son being given on whose shoulders the governments would rest.” Everything hinges here.
Now the language here speaks loudly to a previous prophecy about a child coming into the world just two chapters before. Just turn one page back and look at Isaiah 7.I know many of you know the verse—verse 14—but it’s so important. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” This is the verse of Scripture that was quoted by the angel to Joseph when he was trying to clarify his confusion in Matthew 1.He said, “The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,” and then he translated it, “God with us.”
We can’t deny that 9:6 is similar in language to 7:14 because this is the reality of this: “God with us.” You know what? That’s what all of these descriptions in verses six and seven…This is the common denominator—this is the thing that ties them all together—the deity, the Godness of Jesus Christ. And here’s what God said through the prophet Isaiah to the people of that day, and He says to us in this day, “I personally am going to step into the chaos of your lives and rescue you.” Then that’s what He said to these people and that’s what He says to us through the Person of Jesus Christ. This is what’s so non-negotiable, what’s so absolutely essential and crucial about the deity of Jesus Christ. It is God coming into the midst of godlessness; being born into this world to come into our situation to rescue us.
So the Jesus of the gospel is Wonderful Counselor, a word that speaks of the supernatural and the word that speaks of an otherworldly wisdom. This is what Jesus said to His disciples when He was about to leave. He said, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” in John 14:11.He said, “If you don’t just believe that, believe me for the very works that I do because not just anybody can do the things you’ve seen me do.” The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1—we studied it a few months back—that God has given us Jesus Christ who has become to us wisdom from God. These are brought together in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus of the gospel is the Mighty God. Now in the language of the Old Testament, the word God is used in a lot of Hebrew names but in the context of this story right here it can only be referring to the God of the universe. If you look at 10:21-23 he says:
A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts will make a full end.
There is no question about to whom he is referring in this passage of Scripture. Jesus of the gospel is the Mighty One. You know what? The guys that were closest to Him got this, they didn’t ever question whether Jesus was God or not. John, in the prologue to his gospel, in chapter one, he referred to the One who has come in the flesh as God. The Word is God. The Apostle Thomas when he saw Him after His resurrection said, “My Lord and my God.” That’s what he said to Jesus. The Apostle Paul writing to Titus referred to Him as, “Our great God and Savior.” The ones that were closest to Him never questioned His identity as the God of the universe, intervening into humanity.
The Jesus of the gospel is the Everlasting Father. It’s true that the word “father” is rarely used in the Old Testament to refer to either God or a king but let me tell you this: The word “everlasting” is never used to refer to an earthy ruler. This could only be speaking of Israel’s paternal heavenly shepherd, especially since He often referred to them as His sons. In John 8, Jesus talking to the Jewish leaders didn’t have any problem equating Himself with either being everlasting or being Father.
He’s the Everlasting Father and He is the Prince of Peace. We’ve already seen it in this passage of Scripture. Every earthly ruler desired to bring peace to his kingdom. In the Davidic covenant, there was a promise that one day there would be peace for Israel for all of eternity. This is what the angels announced at the coming of Christ, that peace was coming in this way.
Then finally, the Jesus of the gospel is the Promised Savior. That’s what you come to in verse seven—the fulfillment of the One who was promised to sit on the throne of David forever. Twice he says, “It is eternal. It is everlasting.” It couldn’t refer to anyone who is limited by this life. There will be no end and for this time forth and forevermore.
Straight up, he says that this child that was to be born would sit on the throne of David and over His Kingdom and He would do that forever. He would establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness and He would do that forever. In the words that the angels spoke to Mary in Luke 1, he said this very thing. “And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32).
The author of Hebrews quotes God speaking about Jesus. If you just kind of try to get your mind around that. He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.” God said this because this is who the Jesus of the gospel is. Light in darkness, hope in hopelessness, all brought about by God in godlessness.
Now I want to invite you to this table today, those of you that are believers in Jesus Christ. Hang with me just for a second, okay? I hope you haven’t put your notes up because I really want you to write down three words today. I want them to be that which brings us to this table because they’re all three represented here. I pray that in a meager attempt to walk us through this passage, that by the grace of God—and this is what I was praying earlier today, “God, just go beyond my words and the sentences I put together and let people see Jesus”—I trust that we’ve seen Him in a better view.
Let me tell you I also desire for us to know what to do with this in this Christmas season. How do we obey this? And I think in this table there are some ways. So the three words that I want to give you to hang your hat on today are: Celebration, anticipation and proclamation; celebration, anticipation, proclamation. Those are not blanks to be filled in just some words to write down and to remember how we obey this.
The first one, celebration. Let me call you to this, those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ. Let’s celebrate the promise of His coming. We have received this. You understand Advent builds up to the celebration. It doesn’t build up to the event because the event has already taken place. Jesus has already come into the world. We know this as a people who have embraced this. We put our heads on our pillows at night, knowing that He has come into the world, He has lived the perfect life, He has died on the cross for our sins, risen from the dead to give us back God’s life. We go to bed at night a forgiven people. We know this promise. So we have something to celebrate.
I want to invite you in a focused way this month of December over these next weeks to do that intentionally. Use that Advent guide that Chris spoke about a minute ago, that Scott James, one of our elders, put together. Lifeway has made it available for Android and for iPhones. It’s accessible to you; eBooks and e-Readers. It’s out there, The Expected One. Use it in your devotions. Use it with your families as a tool to help us be intentional about celebrating this. Find occasions along the way to weave gospel threads of celebration. This is what we do as a people.
Secondly, anticipation. Let’s anticipate the promise of His coming. You say, “Wait a minute, Shaddix, you just said we don’t have to look forward to it, it has already come. ”Yeah, yeah a big part of it has. But you understand that there’s a lot in this passage of Scripture that hasn’t come about yet, right? I mean it’s safe to say that the governments of this planet are yet to really appear to be on His shoulders. We don’t turn on the evening news and hear lots of stories about justice and righteousness. There’s not a lot of peace on earth and goodwill toward men that we see. We still see a lot of mourning and crying and death, tears and pain.
Why? Because this is a message about the hope of the gospel in its fullness. Those things are not going to happen until Jesus comes fully and finally to establish His reign in this world. We look forward to that. So when we come to this table we remember what we celebrate—the forgiveness of our sins—but Jesus also gave this table to His disciples to help them to anticipate His coming again to completely fill all of this up. That’s why He said, “I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). We come to this table in anticipation of that.
So I want to encourage you to remember that this season, too. Let’s renew our commitment to be about the things Jesus told us to do in anticipation of His return; to pray a lot, to stay alert, to tell as many people about Him as we can and to live noble lives. This Christmas season let’s anticipate the promise of His coming by yielding our lives afresh and let this table today be a reminder of that anticipation.
Then finally, proclamation. Let’s proclaim the promise of His Kingdom. We are a people today that celebrate what has been fulfilled and anticipate what is yet to be fulfilled. We know the forgiveness of sins. We are a people that know what it means to have been included in the family of God but some of these pictures on these boxes represent some 187,000,000 people that are a part of about 3,000 different people groups that have never even heard that there was a promise of His coming, much less to hear that He came the first time and will come again. Never even heard that.
I was thinking about that this week and that is that a promise, really to be a promise, hinges upon hearing it and knowing it, and being able to relate it to your current situation. There are 187,000,000 people that are yet to even know that there is a promise. That’s not to mention the 6,000 people groups who have heard but never really have had the gospel established in their midst and the billions of people on this planet who still have rejected the Person of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11 about the Lord’s table, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). It just makes sense that those who know the promise of His coming would do whatever it takes to make sure that those who have never heard the promise of His coming will hear. So when you come to the Lord’s table today, I invite you to consecrate yourselves. Let’s give ourselves afresh. To give sacrificially this month and beyond to this global missions offering and our regular ministries of getting the gospel to the nations.