The Lord Is Come, and Is Coming Again

Posted: December 21, 2014 in Isaiah
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Christmas Sunday 2014
Isaiah 9:6-7, “The Lord Is Come, and Is Coming Again”

Merry Christmas!  Just the word “Christmas” brings to mind thoughts of joy.  We all have our favorite traditions, desserts, gifts, and songs.  For many, it is their very favorite time of year.  It’s a time to get together with family and friends, and to rejoice in all kinds of celebrations.  Of course, that’s all the window-dressing.  That is all of the obvious stuff that surrounds the holiday, but it is by no means the stuff that makes it a holy-day.  The very reason all of that other stuff is there (and some of it is very good) is because of the birth of Jesus.  God sent His only begotten Son into the world to be the Savior of the world, and Jesus is both the miracle and the true gift we celebrate at Christmas.

How good of a gift is Jesus?  The gospel of John says it best: John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."  Salvation from eternal death and the receipt of eternal life is a good gift indeed!  And it is available to any and all who would believe upon Jesus as Savior and Lord. (Be sure to come back next week for more on that statement from John 3!)  Christmas is the time we celebrate that glorious gift of God.  We remember when the Son of God first came into the world as a babe in a manger, born in Bethlehem.

But Bethlehem was only the beginning.  One of the most famous Christmas carols in the English language really has very little to do with the events at Bethlehem.  Listen to the words penned by Isaac Watts in 1719:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing.

            Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.

Does that sound like a Christmas song to you?  Isaac Watts based his words upon the latter half of Psalm 98, which is anything but a song of the Messiah’s birth; it is a song of praise for the Messiah’s future reign and judgment.  So, why do we sing it at Christmas?  Because without Christmas, we have no Christ.  Without a humble birth, we would have no death upon a cross, no resurrection, no forgiveness of sins, and thus no kingdom.  What good would it be for Jesus to come as a King, if He had no subjects over which to reign?  Without His death and resurrection (i.e. without His earthly ministry), NO human anywhere would have any forgiveness, and there would be no kingdom. 

Thus Bethlehem was absolutely necessary, but it was only the beginning.  God always had something more in mind for His Son when Jesus came to earth.  There was to be a restoration of all things.  Jesus would right every wrong in the universe, and He would rule over this restored Creation as its glorious King.  The 1st Coming of Jesus directly points to, and makes way for His 2nd Coming.

That’s the subject of our text today. Isaiah’s prophecy in Ch. 9 contains some of the most famous words about the birth of the Messiah in all of the Old Testament.  But the birth itself is only briefly mentioned.  Most of the prophecy speeds past Jesus’ birth, ministry, cross, & resurrection, and proceeds straight to His reign as King.  For all of the things that Jesus has already done in the past, some of His greatest work still lies ahead in the future.  As we celebrate, we do it not just by looking backwards in thankfulness, but also by looking forward in anticipation and hope.  We will personally see the glory of King Jesus with our own eyes.  Just as the shepherds and people of Judea could look forward to the coming of their Messiah, so do we look forward to His return.  That is worth just as much celebration at Christmas as was His birth.

Isaiah 9:6–7
6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah’s prophecy doesn’t begin with verse 6 (obviously); it comes in a greater context.  “For…”  What’s the “for” for?  God had given Isaiah a prophecy about the coming Assyrian invasion of Judah.  The king of Assyria would come through the nation of Judah like a river overflowing its banks (8:7-8).  People would be understandably distressed, and though they should turn to God for comfort (as Isaiah would in 8:17), the people overall would not.  They would be altogether in darkness (8:22).

That’s when God would intervene.  He would certainly deliver the southern kingdom from the Assyrian threat, but God looked forward to a greater deliverance: one from darkness itself.  The whole land of Israel (both north and south) would have the light of God shine upon them (9:1-2).  God promised to take His people from a time of mourning to a time of great joy and freedom (9:3-4).  How would He do it?  Through a “Child.

That’s where the prophecy in vss. 6-7 picks up.  A “Child” – a “Son” would bring this deliverance that God had promised.  Simply the existence of this Son was a gift in itself.  His birth was the ultimate fulfillment of another prophecy given by Isaiah that previewed this one.  God had told Isaiah to go to King Ahaz and have Ahaz ask God for a sign that God would fulfill all of these future things.  Ahaz refused (out of false piety and false humility), and God declared that He Himself would give a sign.  Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel."  This miraculous Son would act righteously in a way that Ahaz had not, but most importantly, this Son would be the sign that God had come.  His very name is “Immanuel”: “God with us.”

All of this was given to the historical King Ahaz as a way of confirming the judgment of God.  But God’s judgment upon Ahaz is grace upon us.  At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of this Promised Son.  We rejoice in Immanuel, born of a virgin, exactly as God promised.  Immanuel isn’t merely the promise of God (which would be grand enough); He is the Person and presence of God.  “God with us.”  Hallelujah!  We who were estranged from God in our sin are now brought near…better yet, we are approached by the One whom we could never dream of approaching ourselves.  He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6:16), and yet He drew near to us.

God came to us when Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary.  God dwelt among us…not just fulfilling the promise He made to Ahaz through Isaiah, but fulfilling the promise He made to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden.  Genesis 3:15, "And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel."  Immanuel IS the seed of the woman.  The virgin bore a Son (the only way she could have “seed”), and the result was the Son of God, Jesus – our Immanuel.

All of that takes us back to Isaiah 9:6.  The “Child is born” – the “Son is given.”  Immanuel/Jesus is the greatest gift imaginable!  The Son of God came unto mankind as a newborn Child.  He was born according to the plan and prophecy of God, and He was born for a purpose.  This Son would bring the brightness of the glory of God among His people (9:2), and even among the Gentiles (9:1).  Upon this Son, all the eyes of the world would be set.  He had been sent to rule and reign over every nation of the world.  Thus the “government” of God would “be upon His shoulder.

Objection!  Wait a minute!  Isaiah’s prophecy skips over the cross.  Jesus did come to be the King, but first He came in humility.  He came to be our substitute at the cross, bearing the righteous anger of God that we had earned in our sin.  Jesus came humbly as the Passover lamb, so that we might be saved when we put our faith in Him and in His resurrection from the dead.  Yet Isaiah doesn’t say anything about that.  He just leaps ahead to the victory of the Messiah, without looking at His sacrifice.

That may be true in Ch. 9, but Isaiah will write of the sufferings of the Messiah in great detail later on.  He will write of this same Immanuel King who will also be the suffering servant of God.  The One who will bear the government upon His shoulders would first bear our griefs and carry our sorrows (53:4).  He would be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities (53:5).  All of this as a part of His substitution and sacrifice for us.  That was THE primary purpose of Jesus’ 1st Coming, and it was perfectly fulfilled.

But the Son of God has more than one coming.  The first time, Jesus came to suffer and die.  The second time, Jesus will come to rule and reign.  It is His 2nd Coming that is primarily in view in Ch. 9.  This prophecy does briefly address the 1st Coming, but only in how it relates to the 2nd Coming.  The Child would be born – the Son would be given – amen!  And it is because this is true, that the 2nd Coming is made possible.  After all, when is the news of a Jesus who reigns good news?  It’s good news when we are included in His reign.  If all we had to face from a victorious Lord Jesus was judgment, that would surely be BAD news (at least for us).  That would mean we would have to face Jesus while we were still in our sin, and we would be held responsible for every blasphemous and rebellious thought & deed against God.  We would have no hope for forgiveness, because Jesus would never have died on our behalf.  Without coming in humility, going to the cross and being raised from the dead, we would have no chance of forgiveness, and we would be utterly lost in our sin.  Without the 1st Coming, the 2nd Coming isn’t good; it’s terrifying!

But that’s not how Isaiah describes it.  When Jesus comes in His glory, the gloom of the people disappears.  The people are brought out of darkness into light.  The people experience exceeding joy and freedom.  The coming reign of the King is gloriously good news!  Thus Isaiah doesn’t skip over the cross; he presumes it.  At this point, the sacrifice has been made – sin is forgiven, and the people can rejoice in the coming of their King.  The Child had accomplished the purpose of the 1st Coming, and now moved on to something more.

Now that sin has been forgiven, what is it that the people of God can experience?  They can know Jesus in all of His glory.  He is described here by four names: (1) Wonderful Counselor, (2) Mighty God, (3) Everlasting Father, (4) Prince of Peace.

  1. Wonderful Counselor.  Despite the comma that may exist in your translation (and the way you might be singing Handel’s “Messiah” in your head), we need to remember that the original Hebrew did not have modern English grammatical markings.  Each of the other titles for Immanuel has a description, and so does this one.  Obviously Jesus is truly wonderful as a whole, but here He is specifically a “Wonderful Counselor.”  His wisdom is infinite – His plans are perfect.  A person has no better advisor than when his adviser is the Lord Jesus.  Truly He is a wonderful counselor!
    1. The primary context here is the military strategy of the Lord, as King Jesus defeats every foe – but the principle is true in every other area.  His counsel is better than any other.  Do we receive Him as the Wonderful Counselor, or is His voice just once more among the crowd?  Is His voice one that can be ignored?  There is no one more knowledgeable than Jesus.  There is none more wise or more discerning.  Who better to be your counselor than the God who knit you together in your mother’s womb, and who knows you better than you know yourself?  The person is no fool who relies upon the Lord Jesus for wisdom & counsel!
  2. Mighty God.  This Child & Son is far more than a human babe; He is the all-powerful God for whom nothing is impossible.  He has the authority and power to work whatever He wills, thus whatever God wills will be done.  All the plans He made known to Ahaz and the nation of Judah would come to pass.  After all, it was the “Mighty God” who was doing the work.  Likewise, all the plans He makes known to us in the Bible will come to pass.  Jesus is the Mighty God – there is nothing He cannot do.
    1. Do you trust Him as the Mighty God?  We obviously celebrate Jesus’ human birth as a baby, but it would be a tragedy to think of Jesus only as a baby.  Yet that is what many people do.  The only way they think of Jesus is as a participant in the nativity scenes.  He is confined to the manger & nothing more.  But Jesus is infinitely more!  Even while wrapped in swaddling clothes, Jesus was still the Mighty God.  That is who Immanuel is, and who He will always be.
  3. Everlasting Father.  Out of all the names given to Jesus-Immanuel, “Everlasting Father” seems the most unusual.  After all, Jesus is the Son; not the Father.  As an adult, Jesus declared that He and the Father are one (Jn 10:30), and that the person who has seen Jesus has seen the Father (Jn 14:9).  All of this goes back to the unity and inner relationship of the Trinity.  Biblically, we know the Son is NOT the Father, and should not be confused with the Father.  After all, it was the Son who died for us upon the cross; not the Father nor the Spirit.  They are different in their Persons, but not in their substance.  IOW, the Trinity (Father, Son, Spirit) is one God.  It is that unity within the Godhead that is emphasized here.  The Son shares the same power and glory as the Father because the Son is God.  The Son is everlasting, just as the Father is everlasting.
    1. What a glorious contrast!  Jesus is the Son, born into the world as a Child.  His humanity had a beginning, but His Deity did not.  The Son of God has always existed, from everlasting to everlasting.  He is everlasting in His existence, and He is everlasting in His glory.  When Jesus comes back to rule and reign, His is a kingdom that will never end.
  4. Prince of Peace.  Contextually in Isaiah, the Promised Son comes in the midst of war, and He breaks the symbolic staff of those who would oppress His people.  How can this Warrior-King be a “Prince of Peace”?  Easy.  It is through His massive show of power that peace is ushered in.  There is no peace without the power of Jesus.  This is seen in abundance in our salvation.  Because of our sin, we were at war (enmity) against God.  We had rebelled against Him and made ourselves slaves to sin and death.  Yet through the cross and resurrection, Jesus removes the enmity.  We now can have peace with God.  We now have peace and freedom away from the slavery of sin.  None of that was possible apart from the power of Jesus.  His mighty work made our peace possible.  His omnipotence and victory that crushed sin, Satan, and death make Jesus the ultimate broker of peace: the Prince of Peace.
    1. Sometimes we think of peace as an absence of conflict.  That is a form of peace, but it’s not the fullest extent.  True peace is experienced when conflict is reconciled – when it is made right.  That is what Jesus did in His 1st Coming between God and Man, and that is what He’ll do in His 2nd Coming among the entire created universe.  All of creation will be reconciled with God.  Jesus will right every wrong, and the peace of God will flood every corner of the universe.

 

All of that has spoken of the person of the Son.  The Child who was to be born wasn’t just any Child; He is Immanuel, God with us.  He has all of the characteristics of God and all of the glory of God.

But the prophecy doesn’t stop there.  What makes Immanuel so amazing is that He is God WITH us.  Jesus would dwell among His people not only at His 1st Coming, but also at His 2nd.  The 1st time He came as a Servant, to seek and to save that which was lost.  The 2nd time, He comes as a King, and it is His kingdom that is described in vs. 7.

7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Put yourself in the position of the famous wise-men (the magi) for a moment.  Although we normally remember them at Christmas-time, they actually weren’t anywhere near Jesus at the time of His birth.  In all likelihood, they left their home around the time Jesus was born (perhaps Persia), and didn’t arrive in Bethlehem until Jesus was a toddler.  (If we really want our nativity scenes to be accurate, we need to place the wise-men on the other side of our house…)  Timing aside, why was it they came to see Jesus?  Matthew 2:1–2, "(1) Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, (2) saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”"  They had come looking for a newborn King, and they were ready to worship Him.  From the very beginning, people were looking for their Messiah to be a King, and to rule over the nations from Jerusalem.  This was still the expectation of the disciples, after Jesus’ resurrection, right before Jesus ascended back to His Father in heaven.  They asked Jesus, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  To which Jesus responded it wasn’t for them to know the timing of those things that were in the Father’s authority, but they were supposed to be witnesses of Him by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:6-8)  But it was no doubt a literal, physical kingdom that the magi and the disciples looked for…and for good reason.  The prophets declared that the Messiah would rule a kingdom, and this is something Isaiah specifically writes of regarding Immanuel.

The Child was born – the Son was given – but He would not remain a Child.  He would grow and receive a position of authority.  Isaiah already wrote how the government would be upon His shoulders; now he describes what Immanuel’s kingdom & government would look like.

First, Immanuel’s kingdom is ever-growing and everlasting. “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.”  Kingdoms and nations are sometimes defined in terms of boundaries.  We know where the kingdom ends because that is where the boundary line is drawn (or negotiated).  Yet what is the extent of Jesus’ kingdom?  The universe.  The King of Israel rules over far more than Israel alone.  All power and authority under heaven and earth has been given to Him (Mt 28:18).  At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow – of those in heaven, upon the earth, and under the earth (Phil 2:10).  There is no corner of the universe over which Immanuel will not reign supreme.  His kingdom is vast!  It is infinite in scope.  Interestingly enough, astronomers believe that the universe is ever-expanding.  Truly, the government of King Immanuel is “increasing.”

Of course better than an increase in square mileage is an increase in population.  Through the power of the gospel, the Kingdom of Christ is expanding every day.  Every single time a person trusts Christ as his/her Savior and is born-again by the Holy Spirit, that person is born as a new citizen of the Kingdom of God.  It’s no wonder the angels rejoice over sinners who get saved!  People are given new & eternal life, and they are given citizenship in the eternal kingdom of Jesus.  And this happens every single day all over the world.  Granted, it can be difficult to see at times…especially here in the Bible Belt.  It seems like the gospel is shared repeatedly, but few actually get saved.  But that’s not the case elsewhere.  Other countries are seeing revival break out – even in the midst of great persecution.  People all over the world are leaving false religions and coming to the truth in Jesus.  Jesus’ kingdom is continuing to increase, and we need to pray that it will continue to do so.  “Lord, Thy kingdom come!”

Second, Immanuel’s kingdom is a restoration of the kingdom of David. “Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom…”  Long ago, God promised David that God would build him a house (a family & a dynasty of kings) that would never end.  The throne of the Son that would come after David would be established forever (2 Sam 7:13).  Jesus/Immanuel is that Son & that King.  When His kingdom is set up upon the earth, it will remain for eon after eon.  We often call it the Millennial Kingdom, because the initial phase of it will last 1000 years (after which God has more in store – Rev 20:6-7). But the rule of Jesus will last far more than 1000 years – it will go into eternity!  Jesus is the King, and He will always be the King.

The interesting thing is that when this prophecy was given, David’s kingdom had already diminished somewhat.  David and Solomon each had ruled over a united kingdom, but after Solomon, the kingdom split into north and south.  Land was lost to the northern kingdom of Israel, and eventually to the Assyrians when the northern kingdom was conquered.  For the kingdom of David to increase, it would need to be restored.  Yet far more than the northern kingdom would be lost.  Though Judah was still strong at the time of this prophecy, it would also be conquered, and the people taken to Babylon in captivity.  From that time, it would only regain its freedom once for a brief time under the period of the Maccabees, but the kingdom would remain gone for thousands of years.  (Even until today.  The nation of Israel is independent, but it is not a kingdom.)  But God promised a kingdom…and not just any kingdom, but “the throne of David.

From an outside perspective, this would seem to be impossible.  How could the throne of David be restored?  Beyond the troubles of remaking the modern nation of Israel into the kingdom of Israel (in the midst of a Muslim land), how would you first even discover the rightful heir – the person of David’s line to sit on the throne?  Far too much has happened in history – there would be no way to identify a person of David’s physical descent, much less the exact line that should inherit the throne in Jerusalem.

Yet this is exactly what is promised by God, and this is exactly what God will perform.  This is not something that was fulfilled at Jesus’ 1st Coming, but it was certainly previewed.  The King was born, in that the Son had been given.  The magi knew a King had been born, though they likely knew very little about Him.  The King HAD been born, and He was of the correct lineage of David.  Jesus is a physical descendent of David by Mary, and He is the legal heir to the throne through Joseph’s adoption.  It would be impossible to find the rightful heir today, but God has already done it.  The King of Israel has been born, and He still lives.  All that awaits now is the timing of God for this King to return and re-establish His Kingdom.  That is exactly the promise of the 2nd Coming.

Third, Immanuel’s kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness. He will “order and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.”  This was quite the contrast with the kingdom of Ahaz.  Ahaz was a political compromiser who attempted to bribe his enemies.  He had no respect for the holiness of God, and even built a pagan altar within the Jerusalem Temple.  Not so with this future King.  Immanuel would be the very picture of justice and righteousness.  His kingdom would not have a hint of falsehood in it, from its foundation even into eternity.

This can be difficult for us to imagine today.  Can you a picture a nation led by Someone perfectly righteous?  Someone who cannot be bought with a bribe, nor willing to compromise His principles (which perfectly reflect the righteous judgment of God)?  It doesn’t matter which political party you most agree with, a person like that is difficult to find!  Yet He has already been found.  His name is Jesus. 

And better yet, this perfectly righteous King is not only the King of the Jews, but He is the King of all the world.  What Isaiah describes is a kingdom in which WE will live.  Those who believe upon Jesus now will live in the kingdom of Jesus later.  We already know this Righteous King through faith, but one day will experience the reign of this Righteous King in our flesh.

How will it all take place?  That takes us to the end of the prophecy. 

Fourth, Immanuel’s kingdom is instituted by the power and will of God.  “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”  Again, this kingdom is impossible to set up by the will of men.  There would be no way to find the heir, nor any way to realistically remake the modern Middle East into the expansive Kingdom of Israel.  It would have to be done by God, or it would not be done at all. 

But that is exactly God’s plan.  He will do the work, and He will receive the glory.  And keep in mind that this isn’t something that He is indifferent about, or is half-heartedly doing because He has no other choice.  This is what God wants to do.  His zealous will is to bring about the righteous kingdom of His Son and to establish Jesus’ throne forever.  If we long for this time in our hearts, think for a moment how God must long for it in His.  When Immanuel’s kingdom is established on the earth, it will be the grand fulfillment of His plans and promises given to Israel throughout the pages of the Bible.  After the first thousand years, it will be the grand consummation of all things in all the universe.  Everything that went wrong in the original Fall will be made right again.  Every sin will have been answered – every death will be done – every evil will be abolished as God Himself dwells with us and wipes every tear from our eyes.  It’s no wonder that God is zealous for that day!  And it is no doubt that He will do it, and perform the work.

Conclusion:
No doubt some of you are thinking, “OK – this has been nice and informative.  But what on earth does this have to do with Christmas?  Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus.”  True – but it’s really more than that, isn’t it?  Christmas is when we celebrate the arrival of the Son of God.  The Son has existed from eternity past, but there came a moment in time when He stepped into time and He came to earth as a Man.  He did it once, and He will do it again.  Of course Jesus has never stopped being a Man – He has remained incarnate since the moment the Holy Spirit conceived Him in the womb of Mary.  But He most definitely will come again.  He dwelt among us once, and He will dwell among us again.

That’s part of the joy and hope of Christmas.  It’s not only looking at what Jesus has done in the past, but it’s also looking forward to the hope that we have with Him in the future.  As Joseph and Mary looked forward to that first Christmas, they looked forward with hope to the Messiah’s coming in humility (His advent).  As we look forward to the next advent, we hope in the Messiah’s coming in victory.  That’s what Isaiah wrote about regarding Immanuel, and that’s what Isaac Watts wrote about in “Joy to the World.”  We look forward to that day when all the earth can sing: “He rules the world with truth and grace / And makes the nations prove / The glories of His righteousness / And wonders of His love.”

This Christmas, you can share in the same hope as the shepherds and the magi: that you will soon see the Messiah with your own eyes.  You will know the glories of His kingdom, and the wonder of the majesty of Jesus.  As a born-again believer in Jesus, you will experience these things for yourself when King Immanuel comes back and sets His kingdom upon the earth.  What a glorious privilege we have!  What a wonderful hope!  Christian: this Christmas, worship with your eyes up, looking for our Lord Jesus, and trust in His soon return.

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