May 15, 1994 7Th Sunday of Easter Matt
December 24, 2017 Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; 11:1-2; 53:5 COJLBC
Preparing For Something Bigby Mark Jarvinen
The simple, yet profound Season of Advent is coming to a close. We have rehearsed the fact that the Advent Season is a time of prayer, penitence and preparation to help believers slow down enough to savor the Savior’s birth. It’s during this season that we have focused on the greatest gift ever given by God – the gift of His Son. We have been preparing for something big.
Today, as we culminate our Advent preparation, we are again led into the book of Isaiah. Although Isaiah includes some portions that deal with judgment, this extensive OT book of prophecy has also been called “the fifth gospel,” because it’s filled with so much good news. Written 700 years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah contains some amazing prophecies that were specifically fulfilled in the person of Christ. Isaiah prepared God’s people for something big that would come to pass in the distant future.
Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves,” which is meaningful because his 50-year ministry as God’s prophet unfolded during a time of deep cultural corruption, when it was clear that a Savior was needed for God’s people. Nevertheless, in spite of the times, Isaiah spoke with bold hope of a better future. For example, in Isaiah 64:1, the prophet cries out to God, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down ….” Here the prophet longs for the Lord to take center stage and right all wrongs, to bring peace in the midst of problems, to dispel the darkness and extricate evil. Aren’t you glad that in Jesus Christ, the Lord has already come down, and one day will come again to permanently establish His rule?
This morning I’d like to take a brief look at four passages from Isaiah’s prophecy that speak of his bold hope for something big to happen with the coming of the promised Messiah.
I. A SURE SIGN (Isaiah 7).
In Isaiah 7, an evil king named Ahaz is on the throne. As a result of his disobedience to God, his kingdom had come under heavy attack from all sides. The people and their king were badly shaken. But instead of turning to God, Ahaz contemplates an alliance with Assyria, the evil empire to the north. Despite this, God in his mercy sends Isaiah to Ahaz with a Word from the Lord, which we read in 7:10-14:
10Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11“Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
12But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
13Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Even though Ahaz, in his unbelief, refused to ask God for a sign, God graciously provided one anyway. A young girl would conceive and give birth to a son, who would be called Immanuel, which means “The strong God with us. Did King Ahaz understand the far-reaching implications of this sign? In a word, “no.” If Ahaz would have had the faith to believe in a sign from God in the first place, it would have needed to be relevant to his current political situation. To Ahaz, the promise of a virgin conceiving and bearing a son as a sign from God would have been a reference to one of the unmarried young women from within his royal household who would soon marry and conceive a son, whose birth would have something to do with his immediate political situation. Ahaz was not seeing the far-reaching future impact Isaiah had in mind concerning the coming Messiah, which was spoken of by Matthew in Matthew 1:22-23 –
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: `The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ – which means, `God with us.’”
In other words, Isaiah’s prophecy would be ultimately fulfilled 700 years later when a virgin, named Mary, would give birth to son, named Jesus, who would be called Immanuel, “God incarnate.” Immanuel, was not to be the proper name of the Messiah, but rather an attribute – who He is – God with us in a unique way – God in human flesh – God among his people.
II. A SENT SON (Isaiah 9).
Isaiah 9 features a unique birth announcement. Don’t you love birth announcements? This birth announcement in our text is made in the midst of the grief and gloom of a people in distress. The tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, located in the northern most regions of Israel, situated closest to the “bad guys” from Assyria, whom God had used in the past to humble Israel because of their sins, were by God’s grace, about to receive good news. In chapter 9, Isaiah tells of a time in the future in which their gloom would be replaced by gladness in their region, referred to in the text as “Galilee of the Gentiles.” Don’t miss the fact that the ministry of Jesus, some 700 years later, was situated in this northern region of Israel, called Galilee.
Allow me a moment for a sidebar. Christmas was birthed in the midst of great grief. While the angels proclaimed “peace on earth,” at the birth of Jesus, jealous King Herod prepared to annihilate all the infants in Bethlehem in order to stamp out the threat of a “newborn king.” While Mary worshipped her promised Son after fleeing to Egypt with Joseph, in order to avoid Herod’s annihilation, other mothers wept at the loss of their sons, in this “Slaughter of the Innocents.” As we approach Christmas this year, some among us grieve the loss of loved ones. Yet, there is good news. In our grief is precisely where Immanuel meets us.
Furthermore, Isaiah 9:2 describes how the birth of Christ will bring brightness to a dark world:
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
It’s interesting that in John 8:12 Jesus said of Himself –
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Then, notice how Christ’s birth is foretold in Isaiah 9:6 –
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,”
Notice this reference “to us” used twice here. “To us” means “for our benefit.” The emphasis is on the child. The baby spoken of here was given for our benefit. This verse sets forth the incredible uniqueness of Jesus. Both his humanity and deity are described. “For to us a child is born” speaking of his humanity. “To us a son is given.” Jesus is God’s Son, referring to His divine nature; and He is given to us by God as a gift, i.e. He is one of us in our humanity.
Notice also his four-fold title:
1)“Wonderful Counselor” – He is Profound
2)“Mighty God” – He is Powerful
3)“Everlasting Father” – He is Personal
4)“Prince of Peace” – He is the Royal Bringer of Peace
It’s amazing that Isaiah prophesied that this Immanuel would not only be born of a virgin, but would be a sent son. Thirdly, Isaiah’s bold hope was based on …
III. A SHOOT FROM A STUMP (Isaiah 11).
Isaiah 11:1-2 says:
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
When I lived in Pennsylvania the birch trees, that had once flourished at each of the four corners of the home in which we lived, all died within one year of each other. I cut them all down, leaving the stump close to ground level, but with the roots still intact. Looking at the stumps, all signs of life seemed gone. Things looked hopeless. But surprisingly, after a time, living shoots began to spring forth from those tree stumps. There was still life in the roots. The same was true in Isaiah’s day, things seemed hopeless, but there was life in the roots. A shoot would indeed come up from the stump of Jesse. Now we know that Jesse was King David’s father. From the Davidic kingly line would come the Messiah. Hope was alive in the coming of a Savior.
Another interesting feature of Isaiah 11:1 is the statement that from Jesse’s roots “a Branch will bear fruit.” The editors of the NIV have capitalized the word “Branch” because it is a reference to Jesus the Messiah, who would “bear fruit” in terms of many lives saved.
How do we know that this reference to a Branch refers to Jesus? The word “Branch,” translated from the Hebrew word “nezer,”is also the root of the word “Nazareth,” which interestingly was Joseph’s home town, the very town from which Joseph went up to Bethlehem with Mary to be taxed, and the very town which also became Jesus’ home town.
And so we see that Isaiah gives a sure sign, he points to the sent Son, and he ties the Messiah to David’s throne as the shoot from a stump. Lastly, Isaiah’s bold hope is wrapped up in …
IV. A SUFFERING SAVIOR (Isaiah 53).
There are an amazing amount of pinpoint prophecies in Isaiah 53 that describe the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross, but I want to share with you just three verses. As I do, think with me about what Jesus bought for us on what we call “Good Friday.” Isaiah 53:3-5 says,
3He was despised and rejected by mankind,a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faceshe was despised, and we held him in low esteem.4Surely he took up our painand bore our suffering,yet we considered him punished by God,stricken by him, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions,he was crushed for our iniquities;the punishment that brought us peace was on him,and by his wounds we are healed.
It’s still Advent, but one can never start too early when preparing for something this big.
Have you ever wondered what Isaiah knew about Immanuel? Ministering seven centuries before Christmas, how could he be so specific? Jesus was a sure sign. He was the sent Son. He was the shoot from a stump. He was the suffering Savior. Isaiah wrote about the future but his words seemed to indicate that he saw the Savior with his own eyes, perhaps in a vision from God. Listen to John 12:41: “Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.”
Jesus came not only to be born into this world but to be born in us. One can never start too early when getting ready for something this big. Today, as Advent concludes, behold the Christ of Christmas. As we believe the promises of Isaiah about Christ, we receive hope and this hope brings us peace. Listen to the extent to which God was willing to go to reach people with His love in the words of Isaiah 65:1-2:
“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me … all day long I have held out my hand to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations.”
That’s our God. Sinners though we are, He sent us a Savior! This reminds me of the NT verse found in Romans 5:8 –
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Loved ones, let’s not miss the meaning behind Christmas this year. Isaiah 64:9 summarizes our plight and our plea:
“Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord; do not remember our sins forever ….”
A woman was in the mall doing her Christmas shopping and was stressed to the max trying to find the perfect present for everyone on her list. Finally, with her arms full of gifts she tried to get on a crowded elevator. As she squeezed into the elevator with the other tired shoppers she exclaimed, “Whoever came up with Christmas out to be strung up and killed.” Several knowingly shook their heads in agreement, but from somewhere in the back of the elevator a voice spoke up: “Don’t worry. They already did that to Him! (Brian Bill, Sermon Central).
Doesn’t that say it all? Our sins killed Jesus, but that wasn’t God’s final word on the subject. The promise that gives us a bold hope like Isaiah’s is found in Isaiah 1:18 -
“Come now, let us reason together … though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.”
The Jesus who came into the world that first Christmas, also died on the cross for the sins of the world, and then rose from the grave to seal our victory over death. We have life eternal because Jesus came. That’s our bold hope today and for the rest of time. The coming of Jesus to this world means everything to us, and indeed,that’s something BIG. Something that big has been worth getting ready for, don’t you agree? A-men.