There is a heaviness hanging like a cloud over many hearts this Christmas Season. The sounds of Christmas joy are muffled by the kettle drum beats of fear, loneliness, and uncertainty. Hearts that were once full of joy, excitement, and expectation are hollow and the emptiness wrings out the soul. Many are the scenarios that could be shared this morning, but those who are experiencing the emotions that I am describing don’t need a scenario, they are living the story of heaviness as we speak.
Where do we turn when the doctor says, “I’m sorry. There is nothing more that we can do.” Where do we turn when your husband or wife says, “I want out and there is nothing you can say to change my mind. “Where do we turn when the boss says, “I’m sorry, but we need to make some cut-backs at this time.” Where do we turn when nothing brings us satisfaction and the thought of cashing in our chips lingers in the back of our minds? Where do we turn when we’ve turned in every possible direction looking for answers, for some solution, or some sense of calm in the midst of the storm?
Some seek to escape. A night out, a binge, a spending frenzy, an affair, a solution at the end of a barrel of a gun, or a handful of pills—that will take care of the pain. Others seek alliances. If I can only find somebody to bail me out, or if nothing else, to simply tell me that I am right and justified—that will bring what I’ve been looking for. Still others seek flight. The old, “I’m outta here” mentality. All of these so-called solutions to the pain and fear that have gripped the human heart for thousands of years have been tried, but they have failed. They have all failed! Oh, they may have been thought of as a panacea for the predicaments we find ourselves faced with in life, but in actuality they were merely a placebo for what ails us. We may lead ourselves to believe that placebos eradicate our emotional wastelands, but in actuality they place us in even more perilous predicaments.
This morning we are going to take a look at Isaiah 9:1-7. In this section of Scripture we find Isaiah giving four titles to the promised Christmas gift—the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. This morning we will spend our time examining the second of these wondrous titles—He is the Mighty God. As we begin our study let’s read together once again from Isaiah 9:1-7.
1 Nevertheless, 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—2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. 3 You 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. 4 For 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. 5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of 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)
These seven little verses of Scripture are full of such hope for you and me if we will just take the time to dig beneath the surface and seek to allow the Lord to teach us what was going on at the time that they were written. The problem for many of us is this: when the curtain of darkness surrounds us and weighs heavy upon our hearts, then we lose sight of everything other than the fear and pain that we are experiencing. In the midst of our fear and pain we are not instructed by the truths of God’s Word, we are tragically led by our own inner compass that cries out for relief at any price.
Let me give you an example from the period in which this Scripture was written. There were four kings who reigned during Isaiah’s forty year ministry in the land. In Isaiah 1:1 we read the names of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. In Isaiah 6:1 we read about the vision that Isaiah received in the “year that King Uzziah died.” In Isaiah 7:1, Isaiah skips right over Jotham’s sixteen year administration. He turns his attention to king Ahaz and the utter darkness that began to fall on the nation of Judah.
Ahaz is an interesting king who is described as “not doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” When you study his life you can see that there were many reasons why this epitaph was inscribed on his tombstone. In 2 Chronicles 28:1-4 we can get a snapshot of Ahaz’s ungodly practices. Read along with me.
1 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD. 2 He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and also made cast idols for worshiping the Baals. 3 He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his sons in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 4 He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree. (2 Chronicles 28:1-4 NIV)
You have to ask the question, “What was going on in Ahaz’s mind, or life, to bring him to make such foolish, ungodly decisions?” What led to him turning away from the Lord? Did he just one day decide that he would turn away from God because he didn’t believe any longer? Ahaz wasn’t an atheist. An atheist doesn’t believe in God, there is no god to worship. Ahaz worshipped at the shrines of many gods. He believed passionately…so passionately that he sacrificed his own son to the god Molech. What happened to Ahaz that led to him releasing his faith in God and clinging to something that was empty of power? I am so glad you asked.
Let’s go back and take a minute to see what was happening in Judah in Isaiah 7-8. Immediately after Isaiah has his glorious vision of the holiness and majesty of the Lord and his call to speak for God to the people, we read in Isaiah 7:1.
1 When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it. 2 Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. (Isaiah 7:1-2 NIV)
I have spent hours studying Isaiah 7-8 this past week to try and understand all of the historical activities that were going on during this period and I can summarize for you what we could take weeks to discuss. Let me give it a try. King Rezin of Aram, also known as Syria, and king Pekah of Israel, just to the north of Judah, decided that they wanted king Ahaz to become their ally against the Assyrians. When king Ahaz refused to join them, they attacked Judah and it struck fear in the hearts of the king and all of the people of the land.
Ahaz feared for his life. He would toss and turn at night wondering, fearing, dreaming, and dreading what lay ahead. Ahaz would hear noises in the night and spring out of bed only to find that nobody was there. He constantly looked over his shoulder as he went about his business during the day. He stepped up the royal security forces and had metal detectors put in the palace. He closed the borders and battened down the hatches. There was a pervasive heaviness about him. His chest was tight. At times he would have anxiety attacks as he thought about his enemies. These were dreadful times for king Ahaz.
Even though Ahaz was forgetting about God, the mighty One of Judah, who had delivered His people out of the hands of their enemies over and over again, God had not forgotten Ahaz. God told Isaiah to go and talk to Ahaz. Turn with me to Isaiah 7:3 and let’s read together.
3 Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field. 4 Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “‘It will not take place, it will not happen, 8 for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. 9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’” (Isaiah 7:3-9 NIV)
God says, “I know what they have planned, but it isn’t going to happen.” I love the last line that Isaiah delivers to the king who is trembling with fear—“If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” I love the translation of verse 9 in the New Living Translation of the Bible. Let me read it to you because it really captures the heart of the message that God is delivering to Ahaz.
9 Israel is no stronger than its capital, Samaria. And Samaria is no stronger than its king, Pekah son of Remaliah. You do not believe me? If you want me to protect you, learn to believe what I say.” (Isaiah 7:9 NLT)
“If you want me to protect you, learn to believe what I say.” What an incredible word for you and me today as we face our own enemies! Believe what God says! Not just when the seas are smooth and the sun is shining, but when the dark clouds gather and it seems that the light will never shine again—believe what God says!
Ahaz heard, but he did not believe. He was frantic. His nerves were frazzled. Ahaz decided that it would be more expedient, more practical, to trust in Assyria since they were the power that his enemies feared. Ahaz emptied out the temple of God and sent all of the gold and silver to king Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria, with this note, “I am your servant.”
The people of Judah turned away from trusting in God as well. They began to consult spiritualist and mediums. They went to palm readers and those who supposedly had powers to know the future instead of going to God. A nation turned away from trusting God because their situation was difficult, they couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, and in their fear they frantically sought a solution—any solution.
Isaiah stands with his two boys in the midst of a nation that has turned away and he speaks these powerful words. Read with me from Isaiah 8:18-22.
18 Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion. 19 When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. 21 Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. 22 Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. (Isaiah 8:18-22 NIV)
Darkness did fall. The very power that Ahaz sought to protect him is the very one that eventually did him in. There is a powerful lesson in this my friend. We are not to trust in people for our deliverance. We are not to form alliances when we fear hoping that those alliances will calm our fears. Our hope is in the Lord our God and in Him alone!
When we get to Isaiah 9, the prophet speaks about what God is going to do in the future. He speaks to those who see only distress, darkness, and fearful gloom with these comforting words. Read with me from Isaiah 9:2-3.
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. 3 You 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. (Isaiah 9:2-3 NIV)
To us a child has been born, a Son has been given, and His name is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace! He is the Mighty God. He alone was able to deliver Ahaz and the people of Judah from the hands of their enemies, if they would have only trusted in Him. He alone is able to deliver you and me from the fear and pain that grips us like a vice, if we will only trust in His power and might.
What kind of power does this “mighty God” possess? That is a great question. Let me show you something from our Scripture from today. In Isaiah 9:6 we find the phrase, “Mighty God.” In Hebrew, the word for “God” literally means, “God, god-like, or mighty one.” The word is used for both people and God, but it is used to describe God in 213 places in the Old Testament. The other word in the phrase, the word for “mighty” is an adjective and it literally means, “strong” or “mighty.” Let me give you a couple of examples of how the Mighty One shows His might and power on the behalf of His people. In Zephaniah 3:17, the prophet speaks of God’s mighty power.
17 The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17NIV)
Jeremiah was a prophet of God who was hated by the people because he would not compromise the Word of God. Jeremiah writes in chapter 20.
10 I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side! Report him! Let’s report him!” All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him.” 11 But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten. (Jeremiah 20:10-11 NIV)
Over and over again God shows His mighty power on the behalf of His people. His power was demonstrated when the Hebrew slaves were powerless to defend themselves against Pharaoh. He showed His power when blessing Abraham and Sarah with a son long after they had converted their nursery into a spare bedroom. He showed His mighty hand when He took a shepherd boy from the fields and made him the greatest king that Israel has ever known. He left His people bug-eyed with awe when He took the greatest antagonist, the most virulent persecutor of the Christian faith, and made him the greatest missionary the world has ever known. Oh, how God has shown His power throughout the ages on the behalf of His people!
But Isaiah tells us that a child is born, a son is given and His name will be called, “Mighty God!” Who is this child that would be born? Who is this son who was to be given and would be called the “Mighty God?” Long before He was ever born they longed for His coming. They never dreamed that the child would be born to a peasant girl, a virgin, who had never known a man in an intimate way? They never dreamed that He would come from the very land that had been ransacked and run down by kings like Ahaz? The child has come! The Son has been given and His name is Jesus. He is the Mighty God who emptied Himself of His royalty and became one of us. He is the One who was written about by Paul in Philippians in this way.
6 Christ himself was like God in everything. But he did not think that being equal with God was something to be used for his own benefit. 7 But he gave up his place with God and made himself nothing. He was born to be a man and became like a servant. 8 And when he was living as a man, he humbled himself and was fully obedient to God, even when that caused his death—death on a cross. 9 So God raised him to the highest place. God made his name greater than every other name 10 so that every knee will bow to the name of Jesus—everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. 11 And everyone will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and bring glory to God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11 NIV)
Just as the Father had demonstrated His mighty power in times past, Jesus, God with us, showed us the Father’s power in an unmistakable way. To the woman at the well, He was the water of life. To Zaccheus, He was a new lease on life. To the woman caught in adultery, He was the One who spared her life. To the man with the demon possessed son, He was the Deliverer who set his son free. To you and me He is the Savior who has come to take our sin and set us free.
Jesus is the Mighty God who is with us in everything that we experience in life. Regardless of how dark the night, He is the light that shines with brilliance if we will trust Him. Regardless of how lost and desperate we may become, He is the way through whatever has us fearful and desperate.
Not only is Jesus with us as we go through difficult times in life, but He has come to take our sin upon Himself so that we might be forgiven and receive eternal life. Charles Haddon Spurgeon has written about this Mighty One’s act on our behalf.
We know also that Christ proved himself to be the “mighty God” from the fact that all the sins of all his people were gathered upon his shoulders, and “he bare them in his own body on the tree.” The heart of Christ became like a reservoir in the midst of mountains. All the tributary streams of iniquity, and every drop of the sins of his people, ran down and gathered into one vast lake, deep as hell, and shoreless as eternity. All these met, as it were, in Christ’s heart, and yet he endured them all. With many a sign of human weakness, but with convincing signs of divine omnipotence, he took all our griefs and carried all our sorrows. The divinity within strengthened his manhood, and though wave after wave rolled over his head, till he sank in deep mire where there was no standing, and all God’s waves and his billows had gone over him, yet did he lift up his head. He put the sins of his people to a public execution. They are dead. They have ceased to be; and, if they be sought for, they shall not be found any more for ever. Certainly if this be true, he is “the mighty God” indeed. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Mighty God.” June 19th, 1859)
He is the Mighty God whose shoulders were strong enough to bear the weight of all of our sins and not give way. My friend, you and I cannot bear the weight of our sin, but He has taken all of our sins upon Himself and yet they could not hold Him in the grave. Up from the grave He arose! He arose! With a mighty triumph o’er His foes! He arose! Because death could not hold the Mighty God in the grave there is hope for you and me this Christmas Season. He is the Christmas gift! He is the mighty God!
I pray that this very morning you will receive the gift of God and accept Jesus into your heart as Lord and Savior. Won’t you bow your head and ask God to forgive you of your sins so that He might give you the greatest gift in all the world?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
December 9, 20112