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The Message of Christmas: Justice

07 Dec

Manger-and-Cross - crosshatchWhen we come to the story of Christmas, our eyes are drawn to the baby in the manger. Many of our favorite Christmas carols focus on baby Jesus—“Away in a manger,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “Silent Night,” “What Child is this?” and “Sweet little Jesus boy,” to just name a few. Occasionally, we might reflect that the manger sits in the shadow of the cross and remember that Jesus came to die for the sins of the world. On even fewer occasions do we recall that Jesus is the righteous ruler who will establish a kingdom of justice and peace.

During the season of advent, our church, First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, is examining several of the prophecies in Isaiah. In 9:1-7, we read the divine birth announcement, “It’s a boy!” We discovered that Jesus Christ brings light, joy, peace, and hope to our lives. In 11:1-16, we read a royal announcement, “It’s a king!” The Message of Christmas:We learn that Jesus Christ will establish a kingdom of justice and peace.

In Isaiah 10, God brings judgment on Israel (3-4), Samaria and Judah (11-12), and Assyria (33-34). God’s judgment is like a logger clear cutting a stand of trees. Nothing is left standing. But from a small, inconspicuous stump sprouts a shoot that grows into a spectacularly fruitful tree (11:1). From the humble family of Jesse will come not only King David but Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

As the righteous ruler, Jesus Christ is empowered by the Holy Spirit (11:2). Isaiah pictures what will take place at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-11). The Spirit provided him with wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, and knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

When we hear the word, fear, we think of intimidation, terror, or trepidation. Surprisingly, Isaiah says that the Messiah will take great pleasure in fearing God (11:3). wonderHe will have a sense of awe and wonder at who God is.

A healthy sense of the fear of the Lord will lead to righteous judgment (11:3-5). Jesus will not be swayed by popularity, persuasive arguments, public opinion polls, or bribes. He will judge with righteousness and fairness. The weak will not fear oppression. The guilty will not escape punishment. The righteous ruler will be a just judge.

Isaiah pictures a kingdom of peace established by the coming ruler (11:6-9a). The Messiah will not only change the social order, he will also reestablish nature as it was intended to be. Predators and prey will coexist together in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.

In the same way that water covers the oceans, so the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God (11:9b). Rather than merely knowing about God, people will live out the truth in obedience.

In what will look like a second exodus, the Messiah will regather his people from the ends of the earth (11:10-16).

As I reflected on this passage, I took away several principles.

  • You are never too small or insignificant to do something great for God. I may feel like I have nothing to offer. But who knows, I might raise the next great world leader or disciple the next evangelist.
  • If Jesus needed the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s purpose, how much more do I need his power? I desperately need wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, and knowledge that can only come from God.
  • Take delight in knowing and fearing God. Rather than checking off my list that I read the Bible, I should take great pleasure in getting to know God better. Instead of treating him with casual indifference, I should maintain a healthy fear of God.
  • Trust God to be a just judge. I don’t need to take matters into my own hands and seek revenge. God will settle the account in due time. He will be just, fair, and righteous.
  • Enjoy the peace of God. God can not only break down the barriers, but he can pour out an abundant blessing.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on December 7, 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.

 

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