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Nov 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 25, 2018 – Isaiah 9:1-7

How We Can Keep “Christ” in Christmas

But there will be no more room for her who was in anguish; 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.
The people who walk in darkness

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

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.
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.
For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult,
And cloak rolled in blood will be for burning, fuel for the fire.
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.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:1-7

Intro: I recently read a rant written by a Christian regarding Christmas

It began with a complaint about the abbreviation “X-mas”
– basically, this person saw it as a larger conspiracy to secularize a Christian holy day
• I don’t think she knew that Christians were first to use this abbreviation
◦ X, the Greek letter chi, is the first letter of the word “Christ”
• so let’s be good X-ians and keep X in X-mas
– Christmas is our nation’s favorite Christian holiday
• but it’s also the easiest holiday to get distracted from God
• we don’t even have to drop “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays”
◦ with all the craziness goes on, we would still forget Jesus,
◦ even if we called it “The Jesus Day”

Long before Jesus was born, Isaiah made this announcement

Something we need to know about biblical prophecy
– “prophecy” does not mean “prediction”
• what it means is inspired speech
• in fact, there are times when it refers to an inspired event or activity apart from any message spoken or written (cf. 1 Sam. 19:23-24; 1 Chr. 25:1-3)
– when there is a prophetic prediction, we can’t imagine what that future would look like
• even the prophets did not know

Isaiah 45:15, Truly You are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior!
Jeremiah 32:25, You have said to me, O Lord GOD, “Buy for yourself the field with money and call in witnesses”—although the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.”
Habakkuk 1:5, Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days— You would not believe if you were told.

• the fulfillment would arrive in a future different from the prophet’s time
◦ the message given in one context would be fulfilled in a different context

It is as Helmut Thielicke wrote, “God interprets his promises by the way he fulfills them.”

What amazes me is how quickly the disciples connected OT scripture with Jesus after his resurrection
– when Matthew reported the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, he quoted this passage in Isaiah

He introduced it, saying This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet (Mt. 4:12)

• he saw Jesus’ ministry in Galilee as God’s light shining there

What did God promise his people in this passage?

A future very different from their present experience
– it is difference of earlier times (contempt) and later on (glorious)
• they have lived in darkness, but a light would shine on them

Walter Bruggemman observes that “‘Light’ is regularly linked to the coming of Yahweh’s ‘glory,’ that is, to the visible evidence of Yahweh’s splendor, majesty, and sovereignty”

◦ that’s what Matthew saw when Jesus arrived in Galilee
• a time when the nation would grow and prosper
◦ the outstanding characteristic of new situation was a pervasive joy
◦ the people would know to attribute this blessing to God’s presence
– at last they would be rescued from oppression
• Israel’s monarchy lasted for about 400 years
◦ towards the end, they lived under constant threat of invasion
◦ more powerful nation conquered them and imposed tribute on them
• villages frequently raided by neighboring kingdoms
◦ but all of that would end

At the heart of these future changes was a person

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

– can you hear the difference in these two lines?
• a child would be born, but a son would be given
◦ God told David he would have a son
◦ and God would establish the kingdom of that descendant – then God added,

I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me (2 Sa. 7:14)

• on that first Christmas night, angels announced to shepherds

good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is [Messiah] the Lord (Lk. 2:10-11)

– Isaiah also says, And the government will rest on his shoulders
• that is, he will have responsibility for running the nation
• it will be up to him to bring about justice, righteousness, and peace
◦ and there would be no end to the growth of his rule, neither in space or time

There’s one more statement I want to emphasize

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this

Only God could create a perfect government
• humans are totally incapable of accomplishing this
◦ we’ve had tens of thousands of years to do it–and failed
• this is not something that will naturally evolve from human society
◦ humankind will not gradually mature into it
◦ it will come as an irruption from something beyond us; an act of God

Now let’s make the jump from prophecy to fulfillment

Israel could hear in Isaiah’s speech what we hear
– that God would intervene in human history
• that he would put an end to all that is wrong with the world
◦ and bring about all that is right, good, and beautiful
• life on earth would become a utopian paradise
◦ we are familiar with the poetic description in Isaiah 11

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion [will feed together];
And a little boy will lead them (v. 6)

– but what Israel could not see was how the carpenter’s son,
• from Nazareth could be the fulfillment of that vision
• from his appearance, they couldn’t picture him in that role
◦ even Jesus’ disciples expected something different,
◦ from what he told them would happen to him

But after Jesus’ resurrection, a new inspiration came to them
– the disciples were given a new understanding of scripture
• they realized what Jesus would do one day on a worldwide scale
◦ he was already doing in individuals

God’s name would be revered, his kingdom would come, and his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. But what they discovered was that his name was already being revered, his kingdom had already come, and his will was being done in them!

– this was the good news they were to share with others
• life could be different, it could be peace and the end of oppression

I once heard Chuck Kraft teach a class on how the presence of God’s kingdom was associated with the work of the Holy Spirit. He stressed the fact that people needed new paradigms to be able to comprehend and make room for the supernatural presence of God’s kingdom. When I asked him how we could begin to grasp those new paradigms he first paused and said, “Well, story can be useful. Also, it helps to have a credible witness.”
When it comes to stories, I thought of the way Jesus used parables to help people make their own discoveries regarding what he was saying about the kingdom of God. As far as a credible witness, I began praying that God would send someone into my life to give me counsel and assistance in my spiritual development. Then, in 1988, the Lord spoke to me one morning from Psalm 32:
I will instruct you and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress (v. 8, The New Living Bible)
Years later, God brought a Christian Monk into my life, who for two years helped me to experience the presence of Jesus more than I ever had before. In my last conversation with him two weeks before he died, I asked him, “Romuald, why do you suppose God thinks it’s alright to take you, when I have known you such a short time, have gained so much from your instruction, and have so much to learn?”
Romuald smiled and said, “Chuck, I am not your teacher. The Holy Spirit is your teacher, and he will continue to provide for your ongoing growth.”

• Jesus is our credible guide, our Wonderful Counselor

How does this come home to us?

How do we ask God to put this gift under the Christmas tree?
– most often Paul described being a Christian with just two words: “in Christ”
• with variations such as “in Christ Jesus” and “in the Lord”
• he explains that this position in Christ changes the condition of our lives

Anyone who is in Christ, is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Cor.5:17)

– it takes a lot of contemplation to penetrate the meaning of “in Christ”
• what makes sense to me at this point is that being in Christ does the following:

  • it creates a perimeter or boundary around us
  • it means being enveloped in him somehow, embraced in his arms
  • it is an awareness or consciousness we have
    ◦ a fish may not know it lives in water, but it knows when its out
    ◦ and we know when we are trying to live apart from or outside of Jesus

St. Patrick’s famous prayer gives us a sense of what it means to be in Christ:

“Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise . . . .”

Some things are possible only in Christ

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing (Jn. 15:5)

– if we don’t get this, our faith will always be struggle, weakness, and futility
– the are somethings that grow and develop on their own

And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)

• what we have to do is:
◦ plant a seed and watch it grow
◦ hoist a sail and let the wind fill it and carry us
◦ light a candle and let it draw other people to Jesus
• once we’re in Christ, there are no more worries whether we are right with God
◦ he does within us, what for us is impossible (Mk. 10:27)

Conclusion: How do we ask for this Christmas gift?

How do we begin to walk in the light of our Wonderful Counselor?

Believe Jesus is all of what Isaiah says,
• that these tell us what he is to us and does for us

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace

Believe Jesus and say Yes to him
Believe Jesus and leave everything else to him
Trust that he will work his life into us,
that he will counsel us, govern our thoughts and behavior,
be our Mighty God, and give us his peace

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