- Riots in Ferguson, MO, after the grand jury decided not to indict police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown
- Nor’easter disrupts already rough travel day
- Police officers in Cleveland, OH, shot a 12-year-old boy who had a toy gun
- Four polio workers killed by gunman in Pakistan
- Two FBI special agents shot near Ferguson, MO
- Austin Police Kill Gunman After Shots Fired at ‘Multiple Buildings’
A smattering of the week’s headlines leads one to conclude:
- The world in going to hell in a hand basket
- Circle the wagons and get the women and children indoors
- Curl up in a corner and weep quietly to yourself
- Start shouting, “The sky is falling!” to all who will listen
Now, more than ever, we desperately need to understand the message of Christmas. During this season of Advent, our church is focusing on four prophecies about the Messiah found in the book of Isaiah. In 9:1-7, the message of Christmas is one of hope. In 11:1-4, it’s a message of justice. In 40:1-5, it’s one of comfort. In 52:13-53:12, the message is one of redemption. Jesus Christ brings light, joy, peace, and hope to our lives.
As Isaiah 9 is being written, Israel is facing challenges not unlike what we find in today’s news. God allows the nation of Assyria to attack Israel because she failed to obey God’s law (8:1-10). Assyria is allowed to become strong (9:8-11). Despite the fact that it seems as if God is not at work, he promises to judge Israel (10:3-4), Samaria and Judah (10:11-12), and Assyria (10:33-34).
I’ve had the privilege of hiking the Olympic Mountains in Washington, skiing the Rockies in Colorado, and driving through the White Mountains in New Hampshire. From a distance, a mountain range looks two-dimensional. One peak blends into the next. What you cannot tell from a distance is how wide and deep the valleys are in between.
In the same way, Isaiah sees a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. What he doesn’t understand is that it will occur in two phases. Part of it occurs when Christ came as a child during his first advent. The rest will occur when he comes as conquering king during his second advent. But there is a gap of time in between the two.
What Isaiah knows is that light comes to those living in the darkness (1-2). Gloom and darkness will be a thing of the past.
The lands of Zebulun and Naphtali were in the northern part of Israel. In the first century, this area was known as the province of Galilee. They were among the first regions humbled by foreign military invasions, as well as being the region most influenced by foreign cultures and religions. The way of the sea describes a major international highway running through the region. The invading Assyrian soldiers took the route when they invaded the Northern Kingdom.
God turned invasion into mission by making the people of Galilee the first ones to see the light of Jesus. That is how God ushered in the new era of triumphant grace. Matthew understood and applied verse 2 to the ministry of Jesus (Matthew 4:15-16).
God the Father will lead his people from spiritual darkness into light by sending the Messiah (3-5). Isaiah uses four word pictures to describe this glorious day. The coming of the Messiah will be a day of:
- Expansion – God will multiply his people (3a).
- Joy – It will be a time of celebration like that following a harvest or great battle (3b).
- Deliverance – It will be a time of victory like when Gideon conquered the Midianites (4).
- Peace – Like the clean-up after battle, the uniforms of war will be destroyed (5).
Isaiah records five key facts about the coming Messiah (6-7).
- God’s gift to us is a child. “Child” emphasizes his humanity; “Son” emphasizes his deity.
- The child will rule over God’s people. As king, he will govern the nation properly.
- His titles reveal his character. As a Wonderful Counselor, he has the best ideas and strategies. As the Mighty God, he defeats his enemies easily. As the Everlasting Father, he loves endlessly. As the Prince of Peace, he reconciles us while we are still his enemies.
- The Messiah will have an eternal rule of peace and justice. No one will be able to oppose his authority or undermine the positive effects of his government.
- All of this will be accomplished by the zeal of the Lord Almighty. The coming kingdom depends on God, not Israel or us.
The message of hope reassures us that God will keep his promises in spite of all the terrible, dark circumstances that surround us. Where do you need … a Wonderful Counselor … a Mighty God … an Everlasting Father … a Prince of Peace?
Jesus Christ brings light, joy, peace, and hope to our lives.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on November 30, 2014. It is part of a series on the message of Christmas. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.