To Us a Son Is Given
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, December 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002, P. G. Mathew
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. 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 for ever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
The first five verses of Isaiah 9 speak about the great joy of a group of people who had been sitting in darkness but who saw a great light. By a miracle, the yoke of these slaves was broken, the bar shattered, and they began to celebrate their great salvation with inexpressible joy.
What is the reason for this great joy and celebration? "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given." In the Hebrew text it reads "because a child is born to us, a son is given to us." The emphasis is placed upon the child, the son, which speaks about the human and divine nature of Jesus Christ.
During a recent Christmas celebration in a large church, the senior pastor declared that his church is a fun church, where people can "hang with Jesus for fun." Additionally, he said, his church has no rules. This pastor is very wise. No doubt he observed that what most people want is fun, not rules.
We make no such declarations in this church, but we do say that a person can learn how to be truly happy by serving Jesus. Here we proclaim Jesus, who leads his people in the way of righteousness. We delight in his law, knowing it is the law of liberty. Christianity is not lawlessness; for a Christian, the yoke of Jesus is easy. The kingdom of God that we proclaim is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The apostle John tells us, "This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3). "If you love me," Jesus said, "you will keep my commandments." This Jesus is the cause of our joy.
Who Is This Child?
At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ-the promised Seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15), the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Judah, the Son of David. We celebrate the birth of the son born in Bethlehem to the Virgin Mary. We celebrate the birth of the Son of God.
Jesus once asked his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" So we also must ask, "What sort of a man is Jesus Christ?" The answer is, he is the one who commanded, and the wind and the waves obeyed; he is the one who healed the sick, cleansed lepers, raised the dead, and walked on water; and he is the one who taught with authority and prophesied that he would be raised from the dead.
The Mission of Jesus Christ
We must not see Jesus Christ, then, merely as a helpless infant lying in a manger in Bethlehem, but in the totality of his mission. In Galatians 4:4-5 we are told, "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons."
The mission of Jesus Christ was to crush the head of the serpent and declare war upon all who are wicked. As the ever-victorious warrior, he did not come to give us fun or to usher in an age of antinomianism; he came to fulfill the law and destroy death itself.
This Jesus does not need our sympathy or singing of lullabies or material gifts. The Bible says that he who was rich became poor that we might become rich through his poverty. Remember what he said to the women who were weeping for him on the day of his crucifixion: "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children" (Luke 23:28).
What is God's message to us at Christmas? "Don't sympathize for me. You must repent of your sins and trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation. Away with all sympathy and silly sentimentalism!"
God Becomes Man
Who, then, is this infant whose birth we celebrate at Christmas? First, he is God/man. The incarnation of Christ is the conjunction in one person of all that belongs to the Godhead and all that belongs to manhood, as Professor John Murray said in his Systematic Theology. "Incarnation" means "in flesh"; in the incarnation of Christ, God came and clothed himself in flesh. The invisible became visible, as Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:16, saying that God appeared in flesh. John wrote of this also, saying, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). That is why this One does not want our sympathy. He sympathizes with us, not the other way around.
God himself, the Word, became flesh and dwelt among us. The second Person of the Trinity came in the likeness of man yet without sin. Listen to this profound statement of Paul: "For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering" (Romans 8:3).
Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ, Isaiah prophesied, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: 'Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel'" (Isaiah 7:14). Immanu means "with us," and El means God. This promised child would be the "with-us God." Just as God was with Israel in the wilderness, so also Jesus Christ, as God-with-us, saves us, guides us, protects us, and provides for us. Because God is with us in Jesus Christ, we can always be triumphant and rejoice. We can do all things through Christ! We can resist temptation and cause the devil to flee. In Christ we have all that we need. We can rejoice in tribulations and be fearless in the face of death.
John 1:14 tells us, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." Then we are told, "From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another" (v. 16). In Colossians 1:19 Paul says, "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him." Then he says, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9). God does not need anything, but we need everything from this God-with-us.
In Isaiah 6 we find a description of the glory of Christ before his incarnation. John 12:41 tells us that Isaiah was speaking about the second Person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ, in that passage. The holy God of Isaiah 6 is Christ our Lord. So in Isaiah 9 we read that the people rejoiced before the Lord. Why were they rejoicing? "For to us a child is born" (v. 6). "To us" means "for us, for our benefit, for our advantage, for our help." But in the Hebrew text the emphasis is not on "for us," but on "child." A child is born for us! That is speaking about the human nature of Jesus Christ. Then we read, "to us a son is given." This is emphasizing the divine nature of Jesus Christ. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.
Isaiah also says in chapter 9 that the people who lived in darkness saw a great light. They were slaves, but their yoke was broken, the bar across their shoulders was shattered, and the rod of the oppressors was destroyed. How did this happen? "For to us child is born, to us a son is given."
So the explanation of our joyous celebration is found in the child, who is the second Person of the Trinity incarnate. There is no other explanation and no other Savior. This child, who was born of a virgin, without a human father, by the agency and power of the Holy Spirit, was born for us! And Luke 1:31 and Matthew 1:21 tell us that this child was to be named Jesus, for, Matthew explains, "For he shall save his people from their sins." This Jesus is for us-for our benefit, for our salvation. He saves, not everybody, but his people, the elect of God. The angel told the shepherds, "I bring good news to you" (Luke 2). He was using the dative of advantage; the good news is for the benefit of people like the poor shepherds, Simeon, Anna, and Zechariah. He continued, "Today in the city of David is born to you a Savior." Then the heavenly host sang, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men of his good pleasure, upon whom God's good pleasure rests." Thus this child was born, this son was given, for the salvation and joy of his people.
In Isaiah 9 we are told, "And he will be called Wonderful Counselor." In the Hebrew text we read, "He is Wonder." Jesus Christ is the greatest wonder imaginable because his very person is wonder: As God/man, there is no one else like him.
In Judges 13 Samson's parents asked the angel, "What is your name?" The angel replied, "Why do you ask my name? It is wonderful." This aspect of incomprehensibility means he is God, Deity.
Is Jesus a wonder to you? Have your eyes been opened to the person of Jesus Christ? He is wonder, especially to his people. He is Wonder of wonders.
Not only that, he is Counselor. In ancient times, kings, such as David, had counselors, such as Ahithophel. Even today our political leaders need counselors. But this One does not need any counselor. He is the Counselor and does all things according to the counsel of his own will. What he plans, he always fulfills. So in Romans 11 we read,
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? (vv. 33-34)
This One does not need our counsel, but we need his. Joshua failed to seek God's counsel and was deceived by the Gibeonites. Saul, after being abandoned by God, sought the counsel of a witch. The people of the world seek the counsel of mediums, spiritists, and "experts" who whisper and mutter nonsense: "When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God?" (Isaiah 8:19) But God has given us the counsel of his Son, Jesus Christ, in the Bible.
Not only is this One the Wonderful Counselor, but he is also the Mighty God, El-Gibbor, an expression that appears also in Isaiah 10:21. El means God and Gibbor means he is a warrior. Jesus Christ is God who is mighty in battle.
Listen to what he says in the book of John: "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). This God/man is Mighty God. Do you confess him as such? Has he conquered you?
He is Everlasting Father, Father of eternity. "Everlasting" points to his deity and "Father" to his humanity. Jesus Christ is father to us eternally. As an earthly father does, so also Jesus Christ cares for us, forgives us, instructs us, provides for us, and loves us everlastingly.
In Isaiah 63:16 we find this idea of God as Father: "But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name." And in Psalm 103:13 we read, "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him." Think about the father of the prodigal son, waiting for the sinner to return. He received him with great joy, saying, "Let's celebrate! This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." Jesus Christ is such a Father to us.
Prince of Peace
This One is the prince who brings peace, not by negotiation, but by the conquest of all his enemies. Peace comes to us from the cross of Jesus Christ: "The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).
Because Christ died for our sins, he now offers us peace. God's enemies are reconciled to him by the death of his own Son. So Paul wrote, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Isaiah 57:18-19 tells us, "'I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him, creating praise on the lips of the mourners of Israel. Peace, peace, to those who far and near,' says the Lord. 'And I will heal them.'"
In Isaiah 66:12 God tells us, "I will extend peace to her like a river. . . ." I cannot understand how Christians can sit in gloom and misery, complaining and murmuring. But if you find yourself in this condition, I hope you will look at this promise from the Prince of Peace: "I will extend peace to her like a river." God promises to give us his peace in abundance! Jesus told his disciples, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27).
The world cannot give us peace. Pax Romana came and went. Now Pax Americana has come and is going. (PGM) But the Prince of Peace says he will extend peace to us like a river. That is why the heavenly host could sing at the first Christmas, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Peace and Government
Peace means salvation in its fullness. This child accomplished it by his life and death on the cross: "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end" (9:7). There is a link between having God's government in your life and experiencing peace. If someone tells you, "Come to our church for fun; we don't have any rules," that person does not understand this linkage. Where God's government is, there will be peace. So if you want more peace, you must come under greater government.
Remember the condition of the people before this Son came to them? They were blind, sitting in darkness and cursing God (Isaiah 8:19-22). This describes the life of any who are without God, who refuse to consult the word of God and be guided by his truth.
But Isaiah 9:1 tells us that God is going to save a certain people, called his people, for whom there will be no more gloom: "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." This was literally fulfilled when Jesus Christ grew up and ministered in that part of the world where many people were able to come to hear him and be healed and saved by him.
Jesus Christ Is King
We have said that this child promised by Isaiah is God. But not only is he God, he is also King-the everlasting, final King. There is no king after him in the house of David. He is the royal Son of David as well as David's Lord.
"Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this" (9:7).
This idea of the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ comes straight from the Davidic covenant: "He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever" (2 Samuel 7:13). If we read the history of Judah, we see that there was no king in the house of David who ruled forever. In fact, after the fall of Jerusalem, the kingdom dissipated and the people became slaves of foreign powers: "We are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our forefathers" (Nehemiah 9:36).
But God made a promise to David concerning his son, "And I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men" (2 Samuel 7:13-14). But then God adds, "But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever" (vv. 15-16). David's throne is eternal, and, in God's time, the fulfillment came: The virgin conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and gave birth to a son, Jesus Christ.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in Nazareth, he referred to this promise of 2 Samuel 7 as well as to what God spoke through Isaiah in Isaiah 9 concerning the kingship of the Messiah. So in Luke 1:32-33 we read, "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." Jesus Christ is the final and everlasting King of his kingdom. He has a people whom he will rule.
Here again we see the foolishness of a church having no rules. If you truly understood Jesus Christ, you would never speak about "hanging with him for fun." He will never let you. He demands that you worship him as God and serve him as King.
We can never escape Jesus Christ as God and King. His government will always increase. Jesus himself told us to pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." We see God's government in the actions of the angel Gabriel. At the command of God he went to Nazareth, entered Mary's house, and greeted her. This is the way the angels operate. They always render complete, joyful, instant obedience to their great King, who destroys all other kingdoms. He alone rules in justice and righteousness to the ends of the earth, and his kingdom is forever.
Why are people miserable, fearful, anxious and confused? They are not under the rule of Christ. "There is no peace for the wicked" (Isaiah 48:22). Jesus told the false Christians, "Depart from me, you workers of iniquity!" This notion that somehow we can negate Jesus Christ as King and, at the same time, have peace, is false. If we want true peace, we first must have the government of God in our lives.
There is no end for the increase of the government of Jesus Christ; thus, no one will oppose him successfully at his second coming. Christ's first coming was in humiliation, but his second coming will be in great manifest glory.
What about those who rebel against God? The Bible tells us rebellion is like witchcraft. Where there is rebellion, there is demon activity. But none can oppose God successfully. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the one of whom the wise men asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?" (Matthew 2:2)
He is king, not only of the Jews, but also of the Gentiles. He is King of everyone. Every Buddhist, every Moslem, every Hindu, every Jehovah's Witness, every Mormon, and every other person-even an atheist-must surrender to him because he is not just the king of the hill of Zion; he is King of the whole world. If this is true, why are some people still stubborn? It means they haven't understood who this God and King is.
Rejoice, church, in his great power, wisdom, and rule, because his kingship benefits us. A son is born, a child is given for us-for our advantage and benefit. Yes, he will destroy all who refuse to surrender to him, but he will also save all who confess "Jesus is Lord."
God wants us to worship and serve him. When Saul of Tarsus was arrested by this King on the road to Damascus, the first question he asked was, "Who are you, Lord?" The answer came, "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute." Then Paul asked, "What do you want me to do, O Lord?" And he confessed many years later, "I have not been disobedient to the heavenly vision of the glory of the resurrected Christ."
Jesus Christ is King, and no one will be saved without confessing that he is Lord, that is, my Lord.
Jesus Christ Is Savior
Not only is Jesus Christ God and King, he is also Savior. So in Isaiah 9:1-5 we notice people are rejoicing. This child, this son, saves his people and gives joy to those lived in darkness and were under the tyranny of Satan.
"His name is Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." What does it mean to save us from our sins? First, we must recognize that there is such a thing as sin, and we are sinners by nature. The problem is, we are so used to our sin that we don't even recognize it. Remember the lame man of Acts 3? This man was accustomed to his affliction. He heard about Jesus, but what did he ask Peter for? Not healing, but a little money. We also are seriously crippled by sin, but what do we want? As long as we get a little money, we are all happy. But Jesus Christ saves us from sin: first, from its guilt; second, from its pollution, which permeates our entire being; and third, from its power.
Not only does Jesus save us from something, but he also saves us for something. He saves us for glory. He saves us for blessing. He saves us for fellowship with God. He saves us for eternal life. He saves us for eternal pleasures, for in his presence there is fullness of joy and on his right hand, pleasures forevermore. He saves us so we can be adopted as sons, so that we can be heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. He saves us so we can have authority and rule.
How does he save us? By his life and death. He came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many. We needed a God/man to save us, and Hebrews 2 tells us that we have such a qualified mediator in Jesus Christ, who is perfect God/perfect man, who died on the cross for our sins and was raised for our justification.
Jesus Christ is God, King, and Savior of the world. The Samaritan people recognized this and told him, "You are Savior of the world." Peter declared in Acts 4:12, "Salvation is found in no one else."
God promised in Genesis 3 to send a Savior, and in Isaiah that promise was repeated with the addition that the Savior would be a virgin-born Son who would also be Mighty God. The promise was fulfilled seven hundred years after Isaiah's prediction when the virgin Mary became pregnant, not by a man, but by divine action, and brought forth a son, Jesus Christ.
So in Isaiah 9:6 we read, "To us a child is born, to us a son is given." Who is this child? He is God. He is King eternal. He is the only Savior of the world. "To us a child is born, to us a son is given." The angel said, "I bring you good news of great joy. . . . Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord."
What About You?
Is Jesus Christ your God? Do you worship him? Is he your King? Did you surrender to him and embrace his rule and laws?
I hope you will not sympathize with Jesus. There are people who come to church every year, once a year, to celebrate Christmas. But even after a whole lifetime of celebrating Christmas, they die without Christ. Every Christmas is a great opportunity to surrender to this God, this King, this Savior.
If you are included in the people for whom the child is born, you will repent and believe on this Savior, this King, this God/man. Is Jesus Christ your God, your King, and your Savior? He has come to you; have you come to him? He says, "Come to me, all those who are weary and heavy-laden; I will give you rest." Have you seen the great light? Has your iron yoke of burden been broken and shattered by him? Have you experienced the liberation from the guilt of sin-from its pollution, power, and punishment?
If Jesus Christ is your God, King, and Savior, then you have a God-given right to be happy. But if he is not, you are still in your sins. You are a slave to fear and it is impossible for you to be happy. My counsel to you is to repent and believe on Jesus the Savior of the world. Would you come to him and acknowledge him, saying, "You are God and you are my God. You are King of kings and Lord of lords; you are my King. Rule my life, that I may have peace and greater peace. And, finally, you are Savior of the world, but you are also my Savior."
May God deliver us from sentimentalism, stupidity, emptiness of mind, and silly conformity to the ideas of the world! May we be sober-minded and recognize that this child, this son, this divine gift whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas, is Mighty God, the great King and only Savior of the world. Then we will be able to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, and our hearts will be filled with peace because his rule is in our hearts. Amen.
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Copyright © 2002, P. G. Mathew
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