Textual Sermon on Isaiah 9:6 – 7
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 1/3/2020
©2020 by Maylan Schurch
(To watch or listen to the YouTube broadcast of this service, click the link just below. The sermon begins at the 41:30 mark)
Please open your Bibles again to Isaiah chapter 9.
I hope each one of you had exactly the kind of holiday time you had been hoping for. I am just so grateful for how the weather made it easy to travel here and there. The weather people are hinting this might start to change, but let’s remember to be grateful to the Lord for what He provides for us, and how He protects us.
Today’s sermon is still another in the series I’ve been preaching for the last few months, called “Jesus’ Bible Footprints.” Jesus made it very clear to His disciples that He was present throughout the Old Testament. In fact, whenever you read through those Old Testament books and see the name “LORD” in little capital letters, that stands for the Hebrew word Yahweh, and that is almost certainly always talking about Jesus Himself. You might say that His “footprints” are in every Old Testament book.
And Jesus is especially easy to see in the book of Isaiah, especially here in chapter 9. A few Sundays ago, Shelley and I attended a performance of Handel’s “The Messiah,” and sure enough, the choir sang, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.”
However, one thing that has puzzled me from time to time is that when you see one of these Old Testament Messianic prophecies, often – in fact, most of the time – the context doesn’t seem to lead up to pointing out clearly that this text actually refers to the Messiah.
That is not true, of course, about Isaiah 9:6, because this is absolutely clear who it’s talking about. But even here, you don’t have groundwork laid before this Messiah text, nor afterward. I actually spent a little time sort of summarizing the first few chapters of Isaiah, and there is a lot of chaos happening. The Jewish nation has basically turned its back on God. They have been worshiping idols, they have been desecrating the Sabbath, and when they face any kind of crisis, it’s like they look in every other direction besides the Lord for help.
In fact, in the couple of chapters leading up to Isaiah 9, we see that the northern kingdom of Israel has joined forces with the nation of Syria, and are trying to take over the land of Judah. King Ahaz of Judah naturally gets very concerned about this, but the Lord sends him a prophetic message not to worry, because in the not-too-distant future, the nation of Assyria, which is different from Syria and a whole lot more dangerous, is going to come down and cause problems for the northern kingdom.
Anyway, there’s a lot of chaos going on. And unless you have just arrived this morning from the planet Mars, you know that chaos is happening in our world today. 2019 was not a happy year for many people in many nations. We need solutions. Within the last couple of days, our relationship with Iran has worsened, and nobody except the Lord knows what the final result of that will be.
But you see, back there in these Old Testament times we’re talking about, the chaos happens, the chaos is detailed and described, and all of a sudden, out of the blue, we have a glorious, hopeful Messianic prophecy. Just out of the blue.
And the fulfillment to that prophecy doesn’t happen right away. Once we hear about the Child who will be born, that story stops and the chaos continues. Nobody fulfilled that prophecy until Jesus came along, and the rest of the prophecy still hasn’t fully been fulfilled.
It’s almost like once in awhile, during the darkest periods of history, God sends a brilliant ray of prophetic hope, which is designed to give people courage as they wait through difficult times.
So what I’d like us to do this morning is to look through this Messiah prophecy and find out why it is such a powerfully encouraging one. And I believe we can take its courage with us into our own chaotic new year. Let me show you what I mean.
Why is this prophecy such good news – news we can use?
First of all, let’s look at one verse’s worth of the chaos, so you can get a feel for what a breath of fresh air this Messiah prophecy will be. Just one verse.
Isaiah 9:5 [NKJV]: For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle, And garments rolled in blood, Will be used for burning and fuel of fire.
So that gives you a taste of the chaos. But now, suddenly, without any warning, we come to verse six. George Frideric Handel ignored verse five when he wrote “The Messiah.” But he did not ignore verse six:
Verse 6: For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given;
We’re going to go through this prophecy, verses six and seven, pretty much phrase by phrase. As we do so, I think you will catch the same excitement I caught, and the same courage I gathered. There was chaos back there in the Old Testament, and there is chaos right now in 2020. But there are some very specific reasons why we can face the year ahead with courage.
Let’s look again at the two sentences we just read.
Verse 6: For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given;
We must never allow Handel’s quick-march rendition of this verse to cause us to take its words for granted. Let’s take it slowly.
“For unto us.” Something or someone is coming to us from somewhere else.
“A Child is born, unto us a Son is given.”
In the next few phrases, of course, we will see that this Child is divine. But notice that He is a Child, not an alien. He is a Child, not an angel. He is a Child, not a grown-up.
“Unto us a Child is born.” Not transported down in a fiery chariot, but born. “Unto us a Son is given.” We did not have to go out and recruit or capture the Son—He was given to us.
If you’re taking sermon notes, here comes what we could call Sermon Point One. What is this part of this messianic prophecy telling us?
Jesus has complete humanity.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that He is only human. He is fully human and fully divine, as other Bible passages remind us. But it’s important that He’s human.
Why is that? Earlier this week I was online, and I clicked on a little icon whose contents promised to tell me “10 reasons not to move to Seattle.”
The narrator was a cheerful young man who had assembled a lot of photographs, some of them comical, and used them to illustrate his talk while he ticked off several of the usual reasons you hear as to why not to move to Seattle. There is the rain, there are the cloudy days, there’s the high cost of renting or home-buying, there’s the traffic, there’s the fact that we drink the most coffee of any city in the country – at least in this young man’s opinion.
I got a kick out of listening to him. But one thing caused his credibility to sag a bit. It was how he pronounced a couple of Seattle area names. One of them was “Pudget (like “budget”) Sound.” The other was Mount Rain-er (rhymes with “trainer.”)
I thought, “Wait a minute. This guy is claiming to be an authority on why you shouldn’t move to Seattle, when it’s obvious that he hasn’t spent any real time here himself!” (Actually, I think he makes a hobby of doing this kind of video, because further down on the little strip of YouTube icons I saw one that said “10 reasons not to move to Denver.”) I don’t know if he’s done a video on 10 reasons you shouldn’t move to Pierre (peer), South Dakota. If he ever does, I’m sure he would probably pronounce it pee-YAIR, like the French do.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Since Jesus has taken on complete humanity, being really born to a real mother, raised as a child, working as a small businessman – He has complete credibility. Often as an election approaches, a politician will actually change his or her residence to the place they’re trying to get elected. They want people to feel as though they are part of the community.
Well, Jesus was part of the community, IS part of the community. And that not only says a lot about Jesus, but it says a lot about the Heavenly Father. “For God so loved the world that He gave . . . .” God didn’t delegate an angel to go down and rescue us. He didn’t find a resident of some sinless planet to do this. Divinity itself became humanity. That’s how much God and His Son care for us.
And that’s a piece of good news to remember as we check our world news tonight to see whether Iran has retaliated for the death of their top general. Jesus has complete humanity! And that means that He identifies with me. If I’m going through tough times, He went through tough times too.
Now let’s go back to verse six and learn another reason we need this prophecy in the days ahead.
Verse 6: For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.
Don’t you like that picture? It doesn’t say, “The government will be at the dangerous end of His cracking the whip.” It doesn’t say, “The government will be at the business end of His AR 15 rifle.” Some earthly rulers try to rule that way, but not Heaven.
No, it says that the government will be on His shoulder. During His rulership, He’s the one who will do the heavy lifting.
So what’s another reason this messianic prophecy is so important?
Not only does Jesus have complete humanity, but Jesus has the highest authority.
And notice what His government will be like. Look at the next verse, verse seven.
Verse 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.
Every once in a while on the news you hear about “regime change.” Normally, regime change doesn’t work very well. Remember the Arab Spring, and all the hopes that the various peoples had that tyranny would evaporate and democracy would flower in those cultures? It’s taking a lot longer than they thought it would.
But this prophecy is talking about regime change, and it’s a good kind. Jesus constantly spoke about the kingdom of God and how good it will be. And here in verse seven we can see that this government will be endless, it will be a follow-up to King David’s rule, it will be an orderly government, and it will have judgment and justice.
Last night as I was typing away on the computer, getting this sermon ready, the power suddenly went out. I gave a yelp of surprise, and started trying to remember where I put the little flashlight I keep on my computer desk.
But a second or two later, the lights flashed on again. Of course, my computer was restarting, and eventually told me that there had been a power surge which its software had successfully avoided. The microwave clock downstairs had not come back on, but everything else seemed to be fine.
Shelley and I are subscribed to a neighborhood email program where people in our area can get online and ask questions. Sure enough, two or three people asked, “Did anybody else’s power go out?” And a few others answered “Yes, mine did.”
It’s when your power goes out, or your car stalls at a stoplight, or something else unexpected happens – that’s when you realize that when all is said and done, you and I don’t have a lot of authority.
Over the last few weeks, a psychic palm reader in Massachusetts convinced one of her clients that the client’s daughter was possessed by a demon, and convinced the client to give her $71,000 in various goods and cash so the demon would be cast out. Fore awhile, the palm reader had some authority over that client, but not any more. The police have arrested the palm reader, and they are getting the word out so that any other victims can come forward.
So now that we know that the Son of God has the highest authority, what should we do? Well, we need to remember that this means that Jesus has the right to tell me what to do, and what not to do. So this means that if earthly authorities threaten us and try to compel us to disobey God, we need to stay true to God’s word.
You see, each of the Bible characters we name our kids after—Peter, Andrew, Paul, James, John, Samuel, Noah—recognized God’s authority, and He honored them for it. If God said to do something, they believed it, and did it. They bucked the culture. They obeyed God no matter what—and sometimes it cost them their lives.
Paul, for example, started out as a zealous ISIS-style terrorist persecuting Christians. But when he met Jesus in a blaze of heavenly light, he switched sides, and started preaching Jesus’ good news in spite of mob stonings, prison, and finally execution.
Joseph, who’d been sold as a slave, served an Egyptian government official who had a lustful wife. When she tried to seduce him, he backed away. “How could I do this great wickedness,” he asked her, “and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9) Sadly, honoring Number Seven of the Ten Commandments earned Joseph serious jail time.
One afternoon in Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood upright alone among acres and acres of people who’d fallen flat on their faces to obey King Nebuchadnezzar’s command to worship a golden image. The penalty for disobedience was incineration in a horrendous furnace fire, yet these three men firmly told the king that their God was able to deliver them. “But even if he does not,” they said, “we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:15)
Daniel himself faced a similar threat. His political enemies tricked a later monarch into making a law that for a month, nobody should worship any god, but only the king. Daniel, whose habit was to open his windows in the direction of Jerusalem three times a day and pray out loud, ignored the law. He was immediately toppled into a lion-pit and trapped there all night. God protected him, but like his three friends, Daniel was ready to die rather than disobey Commandment One, about worshipping other gods. (Daniel 6).
Now let’s look at one more reason why this Messiah passage is so important.
Verse 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.
That’s a big job description, isn’t it? And it clearly elevates Jesus to where He belongs. He is called not only the mighty God, but also the Everlasting Father. No wonder in John 20:28, that the disciple Thomas, when he realized that Jesus really had risen from the dead, called Him, “My Lord and my God.”
And the disciple John was watching this happen, and maybe called it to mind when he later wrote in John 1:1, “The Word [Jesus] was God.”
But the phrase I would like to focus on in Isaiah 9:6 are “Wonderful Counselor.” Both the King James and the New King James versions put a comma between those two words, and it could probably work that way. But most of the more recent translations take out the comma, and call Him “Wonderful Counselor.”
The word “counselor” meant something slightly different back in those days. Nowadays if we go to a counselor, were talking about someone who can help us deal with issues in our life. But the Hebrew word here has a lot more to do with advice-giving. Jesus is a “wonderful” advice-giver. He knows the answer to any problem you have. He may not cause your difficulty to vanish in an instant but He can guide you to the right answers.
In fact, let’s lay down Sermon Point Three right here:
Not only does Jesus have complete humanity, and not only does Jesus have the highest authority, but Jesus has perfect advice.
The first way to get this wonderful advice from Jesus is to follow His instructions in Matthew 4:4: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”
So do you want good advice? Here’s the Wonderful Counselor, the Wonderful Advice-giver, telling you where to get it – the words which proceed from the mouth of God. That’s the 10 Commandments, and it’s anything else God said down through history.
And in John 6:63, Jesus has this to say about His own words: “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” So anything Jesus said is useful for us, taken in context.
And Paul widens our dependable source of advice. In 2 Timothy 3:16 he tells us, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness . . . .”
In other words, all of the Bible is a great source of advice. Over the last few weeks I’ve mentioned that there’s a plan by which you can read your Bible through in a year. There is a little stack of Bible year guides on the counter beside the steps leading up to the fellowship hall. And you can find the same plan on the “links” section of our church website. And it’s in your bulletin today as well.
But maybe reading from print isn’t the easiest for you. In that case, there are many good online Bibles and dramatized Bibles that can fill your mind and your heart with Scripture.
A week or so ago in a used-book store I spotted a delightfully weathered-looking Bible. It’s the old King James Version, and since I like to stay familiar with the version I grew up with, I bought it.
As I mentioned, it seemed as though this Bible had been well-used. It was very clear that human hands had held, and worn, its front cover. Yet as I opened it, I couldn’t see any highlighting or underlining, nor notes of any kind. (Of course, some people prefer to not mark in their Bibles.) Still, I pictured a pair of faithful Christian hands opening this Bible often, and Christian eyes gazing upon verses in all parts of Scripture.
When I got it home, however, and began to really turn the pages, I discovered that an alarming number of them were stuck together at the edges! The gilt edging, as it dries, often causes this to happen. But all you have to do is carefully separate them—and you only have to do this once—and they’ll be fine.
But I discovered pages stuck together in several spots in that Bible, including Mark chapter 8. I mean, Mark isn’t an obscure minor prophet, but contains the very story of Jesus. How could these pages still be un-separated?
The more I turned the those stuck-together pages, the chilling reality crept upon me—whoever owned this Bible had carried it back and forth to church over several years. From its masculine color and cover it seems to have been owned, and carried by a man.
But he didn’t read it. What a tragedy. This Bible doesn’t seem ever to have been a spiritual resource, just a prop in a play.
Well, I own that Bible now. And I’m reading through the book of Job. I’m not sure what I’ll read after that, but I want to collect as much perfect advice, as much wonderful counsel, from it as I can.
How about you? Would you like to become better acquainted with the Heavenly Father, and his Son the Messiah, during this new year? Would you raise your hand if that’s your desire?