There are few things as constant as change. Have you thought about it? Take just a moment and think about what has changed since last Christmas. Some of us are working different jobs than we were working at this time last year. For some of us, we have had a child leave home that was living with us last Christmas. I have friends who were married last Christmas, but who are now divorced. I have other friends who were not married at this time last year, but now they are married. There are couples who have welcomed children into their homes during the past twelve months. I know of other people who have attended a funeral for one of their kids since last Christmas. There are folks among us who will struggle through this Christmas celebration as loved ones are now absent who were such a strong and comforting presence last Christmas.
For those of you who are thinking about how your life has changed during the past year and you really can’t come up with any big changes – give thanks. If you are still employed—give thanks. If you are still married—give thanks. If you haven’t attended the funeral of loved ones—give thanks. If you are still experiencing good health—give thanks. Enjoy the moment for it will not last forever.
I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that I am changing, that I am getting older, and that many, many things have changed about my own life. I can remember like yesterday when folks would say,“You are young for a minister.” It is a rare occasion when I hear those words today. It was not too many years ago that I could work-out with my boys as they were getting ready for some sport and I could stay with them – most of the time. It was just a few months ago I went to a football field to run pass routes for Nate and I learned that I may have lost a step or two…or twenty! It was not too long ago that I could read the smallest print and never even think about what a blessing it was to be able to see. Now I can hardly read the writing on water towers or billboards unless I have my glasses on. Oh, things are changing! Change is constant, change is continuous, and it will not slow down or cease until this life is over. With the passage of time, and a growing awareness of change, I have become much more intentional about doing what is important, and yet I am also seeing that there will not be enough time to get done all of the things that I would like to get done in this one life I have been given to live. A.W. Tozer once wrote,
We poor human creatures are constantly being frustrated by the limitations imposed on us. The days of the years of our lives are short! Life is a short and fevered rehearsal for a concert we cannot stay to give. Just when we appear to have gained some proficiency, we are forced to lay our instruments down.(The Knowledge of the Holy, p.52).
Our lives are limited. We are finite creatures who have been given a set number of days to live and a limited number of resources to work with. We can’t do everything. We don’t have the ability to do everything that we would like to do and our limitations constrain us, frustrate us, and bewilder us when we really stop to consider them.
If it isn’t enough for us to suffer from such great limitations, we are also faced with the fact that those around us, those we love, those we draw so much strength from, they are also limited. What do we do when we face some insurmountable situation that calls for someone bigger, smarter, stronger, or wiser than ourselves?
We learn, sometimes at an early age, that those we count on will not always be here for us to lean upon when we need them. I will never forget the times I spent with my grandfather when I was young. I grew up just a few blocks from my grandfather and he was a huge influence on my life. He would take me to breakfast on Saturday mornings and he would talk to me about sports, life, the stock market, family, character, and he would always find some way to end our conversation with how he felt like I had great potential. I learned that I could talk to my grandfather. He seemed to have every answer. There was no problem that was too big that my grandfather couldn’t figure it out. Then, one day, I learned that my grandfather was very sick. I was in seminary at the time inFt. Worth,Texasand my grandfather was inBaylor HospitalinDallas. I made trip after trip toDallasto be with my grandfather. There were no more talks about life. Sports held no interest in our hearts during that time. I never understood anything he said about the stock market while I was young and it never came up when he was hanging on to life. Then the day came when my grandfather died. Connie and I were just beginning our family and I couldn’t stand the thought that he wouldn’t be there to see my kids grow up. I could hardly imagine not being able to talk to him about problems that I would face so that he could put his arm around me and give me the answer that I needed. My grandfather was gone.
I learned that those I love are not always going to be there for me to lean upon. I thought long and hard about that fact, oftentimes through tears of sorrow. I still had my mom and dad, but my grandfather’s passing caused me to consider that one day my mom and dad wouldn’t be there for me either. How would I make it if I didn’t have someone larger than life to help me through the tough times, someone to supply the answers to the equations that baffled me, and someone to encourage me and reassure me that things would get better when I was down in the dumps?
The answer had already been provided for me before my grandfather became ill. My real problem was that I was only thinking about the here and now, the immediate moment, and I was fixing my attention on the provisions of people rather than the eternal, sovereign provisions of my Heavenly Father who has no beginning or end.
As we move into our third week of studying Isaiah 9:1-7 I want us to fix our attention upon the phrase,“Everlasting Father.” I will promise you that if you will stop and be still for the next few moments, if you will really listen to what is shared and allow the Lord to teach us, then you will walk away from this morning knowing that you have a Friend who sticks closer than a brother, you have a Counselor whose wisdom is without fault, you have a Power Source without limitations, you have a Comforter who promises to wipe the tears from our eyes, and you have a Savior whose salvation is sure. Turn with me to Isaiah 9:1-7 and let’s read together.
1Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan—2The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;on those living in the land of the shadow of deatha light has dawned.3You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.4For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.5Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be calledWonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.7Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.(Isaiah 9:1-7 NIV)
He is called the “Everlasting Father.” “Fatherhood” is a prominent theme in Scripture. When you study the Word of God you can find several themes that describe and define the role of fathers in the lives of their kids. Let me name just a few for you. Fathers are providers, comforters, counselors, protectors, and teachers for their children. Each of these features of fatherhood finds their ultimate expression in God as our Father. Let me share some Scripture with you to show you what I am talking about.
God provides for us.Paul wrote to the Philippians about God’s faithful provision for their lives in Philippians4:19where he says, 19“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”(Philippians4:19NIV)
God comforts us. Oh my friend, I have learned in my life that there is no comfort like the comfort that God wants to shower upon us when we are broken. Friends are precious gifts of God, but there comes a time, or times, in each person’s life when the grief and sorrow are so deep and so broad that a mere mortal cannot begin to fill the big hollow place of our souls. At that time a person may face utter despair or he or she may can surrender to the One whose comfort knows no end. Paul wrote the Corinthians these powerful words.
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.(2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)
God will teach us. We go to school for years to gain a basic education, but we do not receive a word of instruction concerning what is most important in life. God promises us that He will teach us. Psalm 32:8 says,
8I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;I will counsel you and watch overyou. (Psalm 32:8 NIV)
In Isaiah 48 we see another example of how God desires to teach us and to show us what is best for us in life. Another marvelous aspect of God’s teaching is that He doesn’t simply teach in concepts and theory, but He leads us and directs us in the way that we should go. Take a look at Isaiah 48:17.
17This is what the LORD says—your Redeemer, the Holy One ofIsrael: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.(Isaiah 48:17 NIV)
God will protect us. Over and over again Scripture teaches us that God is our protector and that we can trust in Him. Once again in Psalm 32 we read,
7You are my hiding place;you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.Selah (Psalm 32:7 NIV)
I could share many, many more examples of God “Fathering” you and me, but I think the Scriptures we have just read are ample evidence that this is a Father like none other.
Some of us have been blessed with a wonderful earthly father. Some of us see these same characteristics that we’ve just read about present in our own dad’s life. I hope that my kids are able to see some of these aspects of God’s character present in my life, but the sad fact is this—though at times I may be a good provider or teacher or counselor—I also fail them. There is worse news—I will fail them again. This reality is reason enough for me to desire with the greatest of desires and pray with fervent prayers that my kids would see God as the Father who will never fail them.
All of the troops in the world can’t provide them with the protection that He has ready at this moment. The greatest counselors the world has ever known can’t scratch the surface of their Father’s wisdom and counsel. Silver and gold may provide for them material goods in this life, but only the Father can provide them with what is truly essential for living and eternity. Most importantly, He will never leave them. It doesn’t matter how long they live, God will never leave them. He will always be present—at any time, on any day, regardless of where they are, or what they are doing—He is present and His presence will sustain them to the end of their lives.
Now that we understand some of the characteristics of God, the Father of all of us who have trusted in His Son, let’s take a look at something Isaiah 9 tells us. We read in verse,
6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be calledWonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.(Isaiah 9:6 NIV)
This verse from Isaiah tells us that the promised child, the Messiah, will be called “Everlasting Father.” Jesus is the promised Messiah who has come and given His life for His own. He died so that we might live! He lives so that we might live victoriously in this life with its heartaches and disappointments. He is the Everlasting Father! Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote in his sermon, “The Everlasting Father.”
How complex is the person of our Lord Jesus Christ! Almost in the same breath the prophet calls him a “child,” and a “counselor,” a “son,” and “the everlasting Father.” This is no contradiction, and to us scarcely a paradox, but it is a mighty marvel that he who was an infant should at the same time be infinite, he who was the Man of Sorrows should also be God over all, blessed for ever; and that he who is in the Divine Trinity always called the Son, should nevertheless be correctly called “the everlasting Father.” How forcibly this should remind us of the necessity of carefully studying and rightly under standing the person of our Lord Jesus Christ! We must not suppose that we shall understand him at a glance. A look will save the soul, but patient meditation alone can fill the mind with the knowledge of the Savior. Glorious mysteries are hidden in his person. He speaks to us in plainest language, and he manifests himself openly in our midst, but yet in his person itself there is a height and depth which human intellect fails to measure. When he has looked long and steadily the devout observer perceives in his well-beloved beauties so rare and ravishing that he is lost in wonder; continued contemplation conducts the soul, by the power of the Holy Spirit, into an elevation of delighted admiration which the less thoughtful know nothing of. So deep is the mystery of the person of our Lord that he must reveal himself to us or we shall never know him. He is not discovered by research nor discerned by reason. Eternity did not bring him forth from its mighty bowels, but he brought forth eternity. Independent, self- sustained, uncreated, eternal existence is with Jesus our Lord and God.(Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Everlasting Father. 1859.)
My mind cannot comprehend the marvelous, matchless wonders of God. Who would have ever designed such a plan? Who could have thought up such a paradox? A Baby is King? A crucified Man is the Everlasting One? Oh, these are but one facet of the beautiful gemstone of Jesus! There are so many brilliant, gleaming facets of His glory and majesty. Our minds cannot even begin to understand the depth of His holiness, the height of His love, the breadth of His bountiful goodness, and the width of His glory and majesty!
The Scriptures teach us that Jesus is God, the Third Person of the Trinity who is self-existent, self-sufficient, and eternal. Jesus was born, but long before He was born—He was. I understand that some of you question what I am saying. I understand that many of you have been caught up in the popular teaching of our day and you have become convinced that Jesus is only one of the ways to God, that Jesus is part of the vast highway system leading to Heaven. According to this wildly popular belief there are many roads leading to Heaven and all you and I have to do is find the one that best suits us and be true to it. You can hop on the Muslim Mass Transit system, the Buddhist Bus Lines, theHinduism Highwaysystem, or New Age Avenue—it really doesn’t matter because they will all get you there. I know that this is a popular belief today, but it is a mistaken belief, a mistaken belief that holds eternal consequences and Jesus would beg to differ with popular opinion.
Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins and He alone possessed what was necessary to accomplish this for us because He was God in the flesh. In John 14:8 one of Jesus’ disciples asked Him to show him the Father. Listen to this conversation found in John’s Gospel.
8Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”9Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?10Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (John 14:8-11 NIV)
Jesus made the outlandish statement that if Philip had been with Jesus then he had already seen the Father. Jesus makes an even bolder statement to the Jews who were always questioning Him and trying to bring Him down. In John8:51 we see the beginning of a conversation that Jesus had with the Jews who were trying to trap Him. In this conversation Jesus says, “Before Abraham was ever born, I am.” Read along with me.
51I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”52At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed!Abrahamdied and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. 53Are you greater than our fatherAbraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”54Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.55Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word.56Your fatherAbrahamrejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”57″You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seenAbraham!”58″I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “beforeAbrahamwas born, I am!”(John 8:51-58 NIV)
These are outlandish statements, the ramblings of a madman—if Jesus were not telling the truth. On the other hand, if Jesus were telling the truth then He has shown Himself as the “Everlasting Father.”
Let me show you something truly awesome about the phrase that we are studying today. The phrase, “Everlasting Father” is one word in Hebrew. The Hebrew word is really made up of two words: the common Hebrew word for “father” and a word that means, “everlasting, future time, or a continuing future.” What is really interesting is that there is a Hebrew letter inserted between the two joined words, the letter “yod” which is called a “pronominal suffix.” Now, that probably doesn’t mean a thing to you, but it will in just a minute. Let me explain. Without that little Hebrew letter we have a Father who is everlasting, but when the letter is inserted it changes the abstract idea into a personal reality. The little Hebrew letter changes “Father” into “My Father.” This suffering Savior who has promised to never leave us or forsake, this glorious King who has promised to provide all we need according to His glorious riches, this Holy One come to earth who has invited all who are weary and heavy laden to come to Him is not a distant Ruler, but He is my King, my Comforter, my Counselor, my Provider, and my Friend! What a glorious gift from God He is to those who will receive Him!
Jesus is my Savior and your Savior if you will surrender your heart to Him this morning my friend. He is the Everlasting Father who is true to every promise He has ever made. Though we are limited in our abilities to help one another He is unlimited in power and grace to save, heal, and comfort you and me. Won’t you invite Him in to your heart this morning?