The King's CredentialsErwin W. Lutzer | December 4, 2011
Selected highlights from this sermon
The prophecy of Isaiah 9 brought hope and light into dark places hundreds of years ago, and it still speaks to us. The prophesied child, Jesus, came born as a human, yet fully God. No wonder this Child brings hope, for He is called the Almighty God, Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.
As God, Jesus is completely qualified to handle our day-to-day problems. In Him, we can find peace and rest. Every problem is small to Him! Will we open our heart to the Light, our Savior?
So let me begin with a question today. How is your inner world doing? Are you able to cope with all of the stresses, the guilt, and the alienation? Perhaps you are going through a difficult relationship issue. Are you finding the resources within to deal with the pressure without? Or would you say honestly that you are walking in a great deal of darkness?
There were two tribes of Israel that experienced that gloom and darkness – Zebulon and Naphtali – and they were tribes that were close to the Sea of Galilee. If you have a map in your mind of Israel you’ll know where that is. They experienced devastation when the Assyrians came in about 722 and conquered them. So here you have people who are in slavery in effect. Their land has been plundered and they live in gloom and discouragement, and it’s in the middle of that situation that Isaiah the prophet has a word of hope that things are going to change. And today maybe you come from a family where there is a great deal of pain and you’ve inherited a lot of problems, perhaps not your fault but the fault of others, and you are looking for some light and some hope and some encouragement. Well, Isaiah the prophet has it for you today.
Would you take your Bibles please and turn if you would to the book of Isaiah, chapter 9? Isaiah is speaking five or six hundred years before the coming of Jesus in Bethlehem, but he is predicting it, and what a prediction it is, and what a message of hope and encouragement Isaiah gives us. You’ll notice the person responsible for this reversal of fortune, if you will. It says in Isaiah 9:1, “There will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.” And then it says in verse 2, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwell in a land of deep darkness, on them the light has shined.” You’ve multiplied the nation. You’ve increased the joy. That’s what we want to do today. We want to increase our joy and walk in light.
Who is responsible for this great change that is going to be the experience of these people? Well, Isaiah gives it and it begins there in verse 6, and what I’d like to do today is to talk to you about the coming Messiah, and to help all of us realize that Jesus is absolutely necessary if you believe in a loving God. By that I mean this. Look at all of the natural disasters that are taking place. Whether it’s the huge winds in California, whether it’s floods, whether it is human tragedy, it is around us. How can we look around and believe that God loves the world? What we need to do is to look at Christ and to look at his rescue mission and our hearts are greatly encouraged.
So in order for us to look at this passage and to be transformed by it, first of all, I want you to notice that the person who is born has the characteristic of a very special origin. Let’s read the text. It says there, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”
Isn’t it interesting that the Bible, inspired by God, is so accurate because you’ll notice that the child is born? That’s Bethlehem! And of course he became one of us so that he could redeem us. That’s what we celebrate when we talk about Christmas – the child that is born in Bethlehem, but you’ll notice that it says, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” The son isn’t born in that sense because, you see, his sonship has to do with this divinity. To put it very clearly Jesus Christ’s humanity began two thousand years ago, but his divinity was there from the beginning of eternity. And that’s why theologians talk about the eternal begetting of the son.
You say, “Well, when Jesus was born there in Bethlehem, was he worthy of worship? Was he really both God and man?” And the answer is yes because he was born with a divine nature. He was born a child, but he was also born the Son of God with power and authority.
The magi got it right when they worshipped him. When Simeon held that baby in his arms he was holding God, if you please. Now, of course, God is spirit and permeates the universe, so it’s not as if there was no one in charge when Jesus was a baby. But what it means is that the human nature and the divine nature were brought together in the life and the experience of our wonderful savior. So he had a special origin.
And then he has a special name. I want to say names, but you’ll notice that (I noticed this yesterday for the first time) the middle of verse 6 says, “And his name shall be called….” Now he has a long name so we’re going to break it up into four names, and those names are in couplets, as we shall see.
You’ll notice that when God names the son there is no designation that is given to Jesus that he is unworthy of. He is worthy of all the names that are blessed that we could possibly ascribe to him. But let’s look at his special name and we’ll call them names for our benefit.
First of all you’ll notice that he’s a wonderful counselor. Now let me ask you a question. Where do you go when life gets difficult? Where do you go when you need counsel? Where do you go when the pain is so deep that you can scarcely bear it? Do you go to a bar? Do you use drugs to somehow deaden the pain? Do you go to a friend who has the same predicament as you do? It might be helpful to talk but what you need is some counselor who can really intervene, and Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. That word wonderful really means supernatural. He’s the supernatural counselor. Have you gone to him for counsel?
For just a moment compare a human counselor and Jesus, and there’s nothing wrong with going to a human counselor if that counselor has the wisdom actually to point us to Jesus because Jesus is able to get to the deeper issues as a counselor. He doesn’t deal simply with symptoms. Think of it this way. An earthly counselor has partial knowledge. When you are in therapy you have to explain everything and he tries to get some wisdom and context. With Jesus you can tell him everything but it will be for your benefit, not for his. He knows exactly what happened to you when you were two years old. He is able to connect dots that no human counselor can ever connect because his knowledge is exhaustive and complete. So you come to somebody who already knows all about you. You come also to somebody who has infinite power. Homan counselors can do certain things but who is able to really get to the depths of your spirit and deal with the issues deep inside that have to do with regret and anger and resentment? Who is able to get to that except Jesus who is the doctor of the human heart, and understands us so well?
And a human counselor may be trustworthy, or perhaps not trustworthy. Many years ago Rebecca and I were counseling a young woman and she said, “You know what I like about talking with Jesus?” And we said, “What?” And she said, “When you tell Jesus something he doesn’t tell anybody about it. You can trust him with your secrets,” which he, by the way, already knows all about, so you never shock Jesus. Jesus never sits there and says, “You know I thought I had heard it all but now that you’ve come I guess I haven’t.” He knows all about you when you come.
To the church in Laodicea, Jesus, as a counselor, says, “I counseled you to buy gold; I counseled you to open your eyes that you might see.” They thought they had one set of problems. Jesus, as the counselor, showed them another.
You say, “Well Pastor Lutzer, how do I have Jesus as my counselor?” Well, a good beginning point would be to read what he has to say about your predicament. Were you fired this past week because of your integrity? Were you down graded?” Blessed are you when men say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake, for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.” Jesus speaks blessing in the midst of injustice. Is it that the strain of life is beginning to get to you? Jesus, the wise counselor, says, “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God. You believe also in me.” Are you overburdened with the cares of life? Jesus says, “Look at the lilies of the field. They grow and they flower. The birds of the air get fed. Therefore, your heavenly father is not going to forget about you.”
You go to Jesus, the wonderful counselor, but we must hurry on. You’ll notice it says, “The Mighty God.” I love that. You know there are people who say, “Nowhere in the Bible is Jesus expressly called God.” Oh yes, right here he’s spoken of as the mighty God. In Hebrews 1:8 it says, “To the son he saith, ‘Thy throne, oh God, is forever and forever.’” There you have another reference. When those folks come to your door in twos and they knock and they want to instruct you, here are some verses you can remember.
And remember the other question I mentioned a few weeks ago you must always answer. “Do you worship Jesus?” It’s absolutely critical because if they say yes, they are worshipping someone less than God because they don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus. If they say no, they go against the book of Revelation where it says they worshipped the Lamb. We worship Jesus because he is the Mighty God. He is the Mighty God. (applause) Now you know the reason we need the Mighty God to rescue us is our need is so great.
If you are drowning and you are flailing away in the water, perhaps a lifeguard is able to rescue you, but if you are absolutely dead and you are to come to life, a lifeguard won’t help you there, my friend. You need God. Isn’t it somewhat interesting that the depth of our need, my dear friend, is indicated by whom it is that came to rescue us? God says, “This project of humanity is in such deep trouble because of their sin that only I am able to come and rescue them, and there’s nobody else out there who is able to do it.” Jesus is the Mighty God.
And then we continue to hurry on here. You notice the Everlasting Father. Now that should throw you just for a moment because we believe in the Trinity. We believe that the Father is different from the Son. Now to explain, God is one in essence. There is only one Spirit that pervades the whole universe. There are not three Spirits. In essence God is one, but there is not doubt that there are three persons in the Trinity. So is Isaiah saying here that Jesus is the Father, contrary to other teaching that is clear in the New Testament? I don’t think so. I think what Isaiah has in mind is that he is the father of eternity. Think of it this way. You remember Jesus said to the people of his day that the devil was the father of lies. He is the originator of lies. Jesus is the originator of eternity and so he is the Father, the Almighty Father, the everlasting Father, indicating again his deity but also understanding it has to do with the origin of eternity whose goings forth, the Bible says, have been from of old and from everlasting.
And then the Prince of Peace! A couple of weeks ago I told you about the different kind of peace that God brings to us. There is, of course, peace with God, which is critical. Your greatest problem, and mine, always has to do with God. And Jesus here is the Prince of Peace, and he not only can bring us to the Father, and you know all that sin that is troubling you? It really can be taken care of. The consequences may continue but you today are able to walk away knowing that you are forgiven, and only God can forgive you, and that’s why Jesus came, but he can bring you in peace with God, but also peace with yourself. I speak to some of you here today who are cauldrons of emotions. You have a civil war that is going on inside of you. Again, the Mighty Counselor speaks peace. Could you even imagine Freud saying something like this? “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid.” If Freud had said that he should have been locked up somewhere. Only God can say that, and the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace said, “My peace I give to you.” He is the Prince of Peace.
Some of you are struggling because of guilt, aren’t you?
There was a man by the name of Glen Tinder. Glen believed in Christian Science. Now Christian Science really does not believe in he existence of evil, and there are some pantheistic systems that actually also believe that evil doesn’t really exist. In another context we could go into that in more detail, but here’s Glen’s problem. During the Second World War he killed some Japanese soldiers that he thought were guilty but they weren’t. They were innocent civilians.
Now he’s dealing with the whole issue of guilt and evil, but the problem is his religion won’t allow him to admit that he did anything evil because evil doesn’t exist. By the way, if you meet anybody that doesn’t believe that evil exists, help him or her a little bit. Let them read the Chicago newspapers or watch the news, but be that as it may. So here he is. He’s struggling just like some of you are and then he is given a Bible and he reads about Jesus, and the coming of Jesus to rid us of our sins. That’s what the angels said to Joseph. “He has come,” the Scripture says, “to save his people from their sins.” There is then a solution for having killed two innocent people, however naively or ignorantly it was done, and Glen came to saving faith in Christ, and his conscience was eased.
There’s nobody else out there that can do that, my friend. Go and search the libraries. Do the study, and find out if you have a Prince of Peace who actually delivers, and you’ll discover there’s nobody out there like Jesus. He actually delivers as the Prince of Peace.
So, look at how far we’ve come. He has a very special origin. He has a special name, a long name that we’ve divided into four parts. And now he has a special responsibility. You’ll notice it says in verse 7, “Of the increase of his government and of his peace there will be no end on the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forever more.” Is this going to happen or isn’t it? Well what does the text say? “The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.” You know, if God says he’s going to do it, it’s going to happen.
Now, what does this mean that he’s going to rule over the territory of David – he’s going to reign on David’s throne? I’m going to give you a little lesson here in theology today. Well, actually I’ve been giving you a whole lot of lessons in theology just in the last few moments. There are some people, God bless them, and some of you were brought up in denominations that I will not mention that teach this. They teach that when the Bible refers to Jesus ruling over the territory of David or on the Throne of David, the Throne of David actually is in heaven. This is the heavenly reign of Jesus.
Well, I have to tell you that certainly would be a surprise to David to whom God gave the promise in Second Samuel 7, that there’s going to be a son who is going to reign over your territory and do it forever. That would really be a shock to David. “Oh yeah, really, in heaven? Oh, I see.” Where did David rule? He ruled in Jerusalem. Where is it that Jesus is going to rule some day? From Jerusalem! And if you have never been to Israel be encouraged because if you are a believer you’re going to be coming down to the Mount of Olives. Zechariah 14 says his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives and the Mount of Olives is going to split in two and the topography of the area is going to be changed, but Jesus is still going to rule from there. That is known as pre-Millennialism (pre meaning before). Then Jesus is returning in Glory before the Millennium to establish his kingdom, the word millennium meaning a thousand based on Revelation 20, and then that kingdom eventually is subsumed into a heavenly kingdom.
So Jesus does rule forever but there is a time coming when Jesus will still rule this earth from the territory that David ruled, and over that territory. I mean I have to tell you folks that this to some of us is so clear that we sometimes have a little bit of fun with those who disagree with us. Think of the angel coming to Mary. Just think of this. “He shall be great and shall be called the son of he most high, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father, David.” How in the world would Mary have understood that? “Oh, thank you very much for telling me he’s going to rule in heaven.” No! Jesus is still going to rule, but here’s the pay dirt for you and me. It says that the government of the world (in the middle of verse 6) shall be upon his shoulders. Well, if Jesus is going to rule and the government is going to be upon his shoulders, how strong are the shoulders of Jesus? I’d say pretty strong. As a matter of fact, those shoulders first of all bore the weight of the cross, maybe 150 pounds, as Jesus was going through Jerusalem carrying his own cross. But that cross was much heavier than the 150 pounds. That cross symbolized our guilt, our sin – your sin, Mr. and Mrs. Big Sinner. And when I pointed my finger at you I had four pointing back at myself. Jesus bore that sin so that you and I wouldn’t have to, and the wrath of God was unleashed upon his shoulders. There was no sin in Jesus but God laid upon him the iniquity of us all. His shoulders were able to bear the weight of our sin.
Do you think that Jesus can bear the weight of your coming week? Of course he can if you acknowledge him. If you think of church as just some place to attend and then you forget everything you learned and then you go back to work and back to the stress and you think about Jesus again next Sunday, he will not bear your burdens. It’s based on relationship. It’s based on faith. It’s based on trust and that is developed through your reading the Word, through your acknowledgment of him in the morning.
A woman came to her pastor and said, “Pastor, what do you think? Should we just mention the big issues in our life to God, or should we also trouble him with our little issues?” That’s a good question. Well, I’m glad you’re here to hear the answer. To God there are no big issues that we bring to him. They are all small issues to our Almighty God and our Savior. So you bring the small ones. They are no different to God than the “big ones,” and he can handle it because the governments of the world will be upon his shoulder.
The question, of course, is whether or not you are willing to transfer your burden, your need, to Jesus because Jesus becomes to us whatever we need at the moment. “But as many of ye are in Christ Jesus, who love God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” If it has to do with holiness, if it has to do with your inner world, you bring it to Jesus and Jesus is adequate for it because he is the mighty God, the great and wonderful savior.
I began by talking about Zebulon and Naphtali, the two tribes that sat in gloom, the Scripture says, to whom there is going to be light that is going to shine, and the light, of course, comes through Jesus. Can I ask you a question? Are you walking in light or are you just managing your darkness? There are many people who just manage their darkness as best they can. Whether it’s through alcoholism, drugs, the emptiness needs to be filled with something and they are managing their darkness. The Prince of Peace can come to you today and he is the only one who can do it.
Come with me to the United Nations in New York. If you are at the United Nations Building and you walk across the street, you come to what is known as the Isaiah Wall, and on it are written these words, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” And then it says Isaiah.
We? Why not give the reference? They don’t want anybody to read Isaiah at that point because the reference is “He – Messiah - shall rule and then peace will come.” Jesus is the only one who is able to bring us peace. (applause) And if you come to him today he’ll bring light to your soul, and the light might give you pain, but it will also give you guidance and you’ll be delivered from spending the rest of your life just somehow managing the darkness, stumbling over things that you don’t even know what you are stumbling over when you are walking in the dark.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwell in the land of deep darkness, on them the light has shined.” Open your heart to the light - to the savior. Special origins, special names, special responsibility and he has you in mind.
May we pray together?
And our Father, today we want to thank you for this marvelous prediction, and we thank you today for how accurate it is. This child, this son can do everything that he is named to be able to do. Would you draw people to yourself even now? Some may be watching on the Internet, listening by way of radio (whichever), or here in the sanctuary of Moody Church. Would you overcome blindness and misunderstanding?
And right now I want you to pray to God. You tell him whatever you need to tell him. Receive Christ even where you are seated or where you are listening.
Thank you, Father, for this gift. And we rejoice today with the angels that sang when that gift came – when that child was born and the son given. We join them in praise. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.