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Christ Before Bethlehem

Christ The Son

Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer | December 4, 2005

Selected highlights from this sermon

In a time of great gloom and difficulty due to wicked leadership, Isaiah prophesied about a child who would bring hope, light, and freedom. This child is Jesus.

Isaiah describes Him with grand titles—Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Supernatural Counselor, and Father of Eternity. This Jesus of prophecy is the same Jesus who died on the cross and who is now our Mediator in heaven. 

You know that there’s a war against Christmas out there, and I think that the war is very real. The question is whether or not the Capitol tree can still be called the Christmas tree, the question of whether or not stores can say to their customers Merry Christmas or if they have to say Happy Holidays. I’m not going to comment more on that particularly, though it is interesting. You know I think the time might come when, if you tell someone Merry Christmas, someone might file a lawsuit because they were insulted or offended that you used the words. It would be interesting to see where we end up sometime.

But I’m more concerned today about something else and that is another war against Christmas, and that is the misunderstanding on the part of the people of God as to why we celebrate Christmas. That’s more serious. Is Christmas simply a time when we can get together and we can have parties, and we can give gifts, and we’re with relatives and friends, and make a few comments about Jesus and read the Christmas story, and be done with it for another year? No, to Christians, Christmas is something much more profound than that. It is the intervention of God on a world that has gone amuck. That’s what Christmas is.

Imagine these words being applied to any city in America, or any city in Rwanda, or any city in the world. How about these words: distress, darkness, gloom and thick darkness. Those are the words that describe the situation with two tribes by the name of Zebulon and Naphtali.

The text today is the ninth chapter of the prophet of Isaiah. Isaiah 9 – and he is talking about gloom and darkness and difficulty. Let me give you the background to Isaiah 9. There was a king reigning by the name of Ahaz who reigned for 16 years. He was an evil king, and Isaiah said to him, “Now, you’re having problems because two nations are getting together to war against you. Trust God and everything will be okay.” But Ahaz said to himself, “I’m not going to trust God.”

Would you mark it down that when we choose to not trust God, and we choose to trust someone else or something else, usually we trust someone or something that is a disappointment to us. And Ahaz said, “I’m going to call in Assyria, and Assyria is going to help me.” Assyria? In those days they were a very wicked people, untrustworthy and deceitful. So he actually reaches out to Assyria for help, and when Assyria comes to help him, Assyria begins to take over, and Assyria begins to demand tribute, and soon the latter end of Ahaz is worse than his beginning.

What happens to people when they are in a situation where leaders have made political decisions that have impacted them, where the strong have taken advantage over the weak, where a wicked king makes a decision that impacts his subjects? Zebulon and Naphtali were two of the great tribes that were greatly affected. They are the ones who existed near the Sea of Galilee. And when invaders would come, they would come from the north right past the Sea of Galilee, and they were the ones that were being overrun, taken advantage of, and that’s the description I read just a few moments ago. They were in a situation of gloom and darkness and distress.

But when Isaiah 9 opens, it’s a word of hope. It says, for example, that the gloom that existed in Naphtali and Zebulon was going to be taken away. Verse 2 says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Verse 3 says, “You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy.” Verse 4 says the yoke of the oppressor is going to be lifted. Verse 5 says all of the implements of war are going to be burned because peace is going to come.

And the question is, who is it that is going to bring about this miracle? Who is it that is going to bring about this reversal of fortune so that things are going to be different in Zebulon and Naphtali? Who is going to do it? And the answer is there in verse 6. “For unto us a child is born.” That’s a strange answer to a difficult political problem, but the answer is that it is a child that is born. God says, “I have an answer.”

Now Jesus Christ’s birth was still a ways off. But when Jesus comes to earth in Matthew 4 He spends a lot of time in Galilee – in that area. Why? It was to fulfill a part of this prophecy – not the entire prophecy by any means, but a part of it, that there is some light beginning to shine, and the gloom is dissipating not permanently but at least for a time. But God does have a permanent solution to a very difficult problem.

Well that’s the introduction. Who is then this one who is going to change the political fortune of a country ravaged by war and distress and injustice and hatred and massacre? Who is it? A child!

Let’s look at His characteristics. First of all, we notice something about His origin. It is special. “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given.” (verse 6) Notice that the text is very accurate in terms of its terminology. The child being born is the humanness of Jesus, and the Son being given is the eternality, the Sonship of Jesus that is an eternal Sonship. It is the divinity of Jesus if you please. That’s what it is.

Notice that Isaiah does not say, “For unto us a Son is born and a Child is given.” No, no! It is the Child that is born but the Son is given because his goings forth have been from of old and everlasting, and He is the one, you see, who is eternal. Jesus was born as the Son of David. That’s the Child that was given. But He was also born as the Son of God, and that’s why the text says that it is the Child that is born but it is the Son that is given. Jesus is both God and man. He is both human and He is also divine. And it’s right here in the text.

When Jesus came to this earth in Bethlehem it wasn’t His first visit to this planet by any means. In our series on the life of Abraham we noticed that Jesus was coming in various theophanies in the Old Testament. But even more than that, Jesus also was here as God. His goings forth have been from of old and from everlasting. He has a special origin.

He also has special names. What a verse this is – verse 6! It contains more names than any other verse in all the Bible. Four names are given to Jesus, and names in those days were very descriptive and in this case they are in couplets of two. Therefore its meaning is very, very plain. Who is this One with these marvelous names? He’s the Wonderful Counselor. That word wonderful in Hebrew – pala – actually means supernatural. It means the supernatural counselor. It means the one who has miraculous power. Gideon, when he saw the angel, said, “Who are you?” And the angel said, “My name is Wonderful.” And Gideon said to his wife, “We have seen God.” Oh yes, we have seen God. He is a Wonderful Counselor. He is a counselor who can help us. He is the one who comes to us in our need. He can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities. That’s what kind of a counselor He is.

I want to take a moment today to contrast Him with human counselors. Jesus Christ is one who has all knowledge. When you go to a human counselor you have to sit there a long time and explain everything. And then if it’s marriage counseling, your wife comes along and she explains everything. And at the end of the day he doesn’t know what in the world to believe. Isn’t that right? Everybody has his different spin.

Jesus has all knowledge. Every single detail is known. You say, “Well, is it okay for me to spill out my soul to Jesus?” And the answer is yes, but you are doing it for your benefit. It’s not for His. It’s not to teach Him anything. It’s not that He’s going to learn finally what your real problem is because He has all knowledge. He has all power. “For all power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore…” He has all authority.

And then, here’s something! All of His advice and all that He does for us is free. Isn’t that good news? Now if you are here today as a psychoanalyst or a psychologist, I am banking on the hope that you have a sense of humor because I’m going to tell a story.

A man was walking along and he saw two doors. One said psychologist and the other said psychoanalyst. And he didn’t know which one to go into so he counted the letters and discovered that psychoanalyst has more letters than psychologist or psychiatrist. So he decided to go in through the one that said psychoanalyst, and when he walked in that door he noticed two other doors. One said with a couch and the other said without a couch. He said, “Well, since I’ve come this far I might as well choose the one with a couch. So he went through that door, and then he came to two other doors. One said $200,000/year income and the other said less than $200,000/year income. He thought, “Well, I don’t make $200,000 a year,” so he went through that door, and discovered that he was back out on the street. (laughter) Some of you aren’t laughing. That’s troubling.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to pay for some good advice and some counseling, but when you come to Jesus, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” “To whomever who believes I will give to him of the water of life freely.” And remember this: He has no office hours.

A story just is coming to me even as I am speaking that I didn’t intend to tell because it hadn’t come to me until this moment. So I’ll go ahead and tell it and wonder later whether it was profitable.

There is a story about two psychiatrists, one an old man and the other a young man, and they were next to each other in this office. The young man would be weary at the end of the day. He was just wrung out. And the older man was always very relaxed and very jovial. And so the young guy said, “How do you do it? You listen to all these people’s problems and it’s so wearing. And the older man said, “Oh, just relax. I’ve learned the secret.” And the younger guy said, “What’s the secret?” The older man said, “You know, I just don’t listen.” (laughter) Once again I’m banking on the hope that you have a sense of humor.

But Jesus is the wonderful counselor. You can spill out your heart to Him and you are actually in the presence of one who can take away the division between you and God. He’s the one, you see, to whom we come, and He grants us strength, and He grants us ability, and as we study His promises He gives us the grace to go through trials and to manage them by His grace and by His power. He is a wonderful counselor. I commend Him to you.

It doesn’t mean that we don’t go to others for counsel, because sometimes God does that so that we might see the unity of the Body, and the humility that has to exist between us, and the recognition that not a one of us has all of the answers. And so we go to those who have more wisdom than we do. But at the end of the day we always go to Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor.

You’ll notice also in the text, secondly, He is spoken of as the mighty God. Now sometimes it is said that nowhere in the Bible is Jesus expressly called God. Really? Here He is the mighty God. And then you get to Hebrews 1:8 and it says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” He’s speaking to the Son and He says, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.”

As you know, there are people, who go door to door, and they knock on your door, and after they’ve done that, they want to convince you that Jesus isn’t God. I heard a man say one time that he invited the people in (those folks who knock on your door) and he brought them in past the kitchen into the den. And he sat them down and he said, “What do you have to say?” And they said, “We don’t know. We’ve never gotten this far before.” (laughter)

I was standing at O’Hare Field in a line, waiting for a teller, with one of those people standing behind me, and I struck up a conversation as I frequently do, and discovered that that’s what he believed. I said, “Do you worship Jesus?” He said, “Oh yeah, we worship Jesus.” I said, “You are guilty of idolatry because if Jesus isn’t God, you are worshiping someone who isn’t God. That’s idolatry.” I hope I was smiling when I told him that, but he was so glad that at that moment one of us had to go to a teller and the other went the other way.

Of course, He’s God. Listen, it depends on what your problem is as to what kind of a Savior you need. If all that you need to do is to be rescued because you are drowning, maybe a lifeguard could do it. If you were sick, maybe a prescription from the drugstore would make you well, but if you are dead, you’ve got a God-sized problem. And the Bible says that we have a God-sized problem because we are dead in trespasses and sins. What we need is a Savior, who is the mighty God, to come along and to save us. (applause)

And then notice that He’s the everlasting Father. Maybe that strikes you as odd because in the Trinity there is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and you are saying to yourself, “I don’t quite understand this. How could He also be the Father?” Well, He isn’t the Father. What the text really means is the Father of eternity, in the sense that He is the originator of eternity. That’s the idea. It’s not that He usurps the position of the Father in the Trinity. He is the Father of eternity. And isn’t it wonderful to know that because He is eternal He connects all the dots in our lives? The same Jesus that appeared to the Apostle Paul on the way to Damascus and converted him is the same Jesus that converted me. It’s the same Jesus that converted Simon and Kedras on the other side of the world. It’s what unites us together. It’s because He is the everlasting Father, the Father of all eternity.

And then He’s the Prince of Peace. You say, “Well, there is no peace in the Middle East today.” What about the song, He Rules the World with Peace and Truth? And in the next message I’m going to go into that in more detail. We won’t comment on it today. This is really a series of messages on Christ Before Bethlehem, and each message is based on one of the predictions made from the prophet Isaiah, so next time we’re going to talk about Christ the King in Isaiah. So He is the Prince of Peace. He’s the one, though, who can give individual peace to us. Think of who Jesus really is.

Now you know that there are churches here even in Chicago who this Christmas are going to preach that Jesus was a mere man. I know that to be a fact because sometimes I’ve actually read the sermons that they have preached. Sometimes they are on the Internet, and all of the miracles are taken out, and all that you have is Jesus, this wonderful example.

Could I say this rather clearly? It’s not only foolish. It’s heresy. (applause) In order to understand how foolish it is, could we do a little parody this morning? Let’s suppose that I were to make the same claims that Jesus did, and you were to go home afterwards and your friends were to say, “What did Pastor Lutzer say at Moody Church today?” and you were to say this: “Well, you know what he told us was that Solomon was wise, but he was greater than Solomon. Furthermore he told us that he was the way, the truth and the life, and that no man could possibly come to the Father apart from him. He said that before Abraham existed, he existed. He said that those who believe on him have eternal life, and those do not believe shall not see life, but that the wrath of God abides on them. He said that everything is about him. He also said that we should come to him if we were weary and heavy-laden and that he would give us rest. And then the real kicker was this: He told us we had to repent but he said he didn’t have to because he was sinless.”

Now could you imagine me preaching that? Right after the benediction, or sometime before, there would be 12 elders waiting for me over here with two or three security people. And all the rest of you would be saying, “Pastor Lutzer, Adios Señor.” I mean, that’s absolutely foolish. That’s why Jesus was crucified. It’s because He made such claims but He made the miracles and had the “chutzpah” to prove that He was what He claimed to be. That’s who Jesus really is. (applause) He is the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.

Where does this leave us? First, keep in mind that He is able to bear your burdens. He’s strong enough to bear your burdens. You’ll notice that the text says even in verse 6 that the government of the world shall be upon His shoulders. Verse 7 says, “Of the increase of his government and of his peace there will be no end,” and as I mentioned to you we’re going to look at the kingship of Jesus in Isaiah next time. But think of the fact that upon his shoulders rest the governments of the world. And now comes your problem. Is He able to handle it? Is it too much for Him? I don’t think so.

Let us suppose that you were to have a bridge, and that bridge was made out of reinforced concrete and heavy steel. Would it matter to the bridge whether you just walked across, or whether or not you walked across with a heavy burden on your back? Would it make any difference? Not to the bridge! You could drive over it with an SUV and that wouldn’t make any difference either. We’re talking about a Savior, who has the governments of the world upon His shoulders, and He bears those governments well, and we don’t have to worry about how it’s all going to end up. That’s what kind of a Savior we have. (applause)

He’s strong enough to bear your problem on His shoulders, but He’s also able to give you the grace of forgiveness. Strong enough to bear your burdens and gracious enough to forgive your sins!

Some of you who are listening have never trusted Him as Savior, and let me explain why some of you haven’t. It’s because of one of two reasons. Either A – pride! You don’t need a Savior. After all, you’re doing very, very well. You are really an okay person down deep where someone can do some archeological work and find all the goodness. The little child in you is actually a very good child. It’s very difficult to find, but the little child supposedly is there and innocent and sweet. Pride! And Jesus comes to put an end to that pride. That’s one of the reasons why some of you have never trusted Him as Savior.

There’s a second reason and that is despair because some of you, God bless you, are listening to this and you are saying, “I am unworthy of Him because of my sin. It is so great.”

Which of the two do you think is closest to salvation? It’s the latter person. It’s not the prideful person who doesn’t think that he needs a redeemer because he’s got a good bank account and things are going well. It’s the person in despair, the person who feels that he has fallen into a pit, and does not know how to get out. That’s the person who is closest. That’s why Jesus said that the prostitutes go into the Kingdom of Heaven ahead of some self-righteous people who don’t think they need a redeemer. Wow! That’s who it is because Jesus is able to redeem the lowly. He is able to redeem those who have blown it so badly that they don’t know where to turn. As the Wonderful Counselor He is able to do it.

Before his death, one of America’s great preachers, S. M. Lockridge wrote a formative poem, and I’m going to read part of it to you today. I wish I could say it like Lockridge used to say it. Some of you may remember him and his marvelous booming voice. I’m going to try to do my best, and this is what he wrote speaking of Jesus:

He’s august and He’s unique. He’s unparalleled. He is unprecedented. He is supreme and pre-eminent. He’s the superlative of every good that you can call Him. I’m trying to tell you, you can trust Him.

He can satisfy all of our needs, and He can do it simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He sees. He guards and He guides. He heals the sick. He cleanses the lepers. He forgives the sinners. He discharges debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent. He beautifies the meek. I’m trying to tell you, you can trust Him.

He is the master of the mighty. He’s the captain of the conquerors. He’s the head of the heroes. He’s the leader of the legislators. He is the overseer of the over comers. He’s the governor of the governors. He is the prince of princes. He’s the king of kings. He’s the Lord of lords. I’m trying to tell you that you can trust Him.

His yoke is easy. His burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you. He’s indescribable because He’s incomprehensible. He’s irresistible, and He’s invincible. You can’t get Him off your hands. You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t outlive Him, and you can’t live without Him. Death couldn’t handle Him, and thank God the grave couldn’t hold Him. You can’t impeach Him, and He’s not going to resign. (applause) I’m trying to tell you that you can trust Him.

Amen. Let’s bow in prayer.

Father, when confronted with the beauty of Jesus, we are out of words. I pray for those, Father, who have never savingly believed on Him. May they reach out right now where they are seated and say, “Jesus, I believe. I accept you as my Savior, as my redeemer.”

And for those, Father, who feel a sense of pride, a sense of distance, they’ve come here and they have held everything at arm’s length. Overcome that resistance. Show them their need that they may believe in Jesus, the Child that was born, the Son that was given, the Savior who died.

You talk to God now.

Father, do in our lives that which is well pleasing in Your sight. For those with heavy burdens, may they cast them upon the shoulders of One who can bear the governments of the world. We love Him. We worship Him. We honor Him, and we delight in His salvation. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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