As Christmas approaches excitement builds, as does the commercial hype. This world seems intent on sucking the bits it wants out of Christmas, and spitting out the rest with contempt, like cardamon pods in a curry.
So the world replaced Christ in Christmas with an X, it wants a holiday, but not a holy day, it wants a decorated tree not not a man hanging in a cursed tree and above all, it wants lots of presents, but not God’s presence.
People who refuse to teach their children about God instead teach them about Santa.
The red Santa Claus as we know him was created by Haddon Sundblom for a Coke advertisement in 1931.
I could share a message on wise men or angels or a baby in a manger, you’ve probably heard hundreds for them, but today I want to take you right back to an OT Messianic prophecy written some 700 years before the events of that first Christmas. Today we focus on the main person, not Mary, Shepherds or wise men… Jesus. Isaiah 9. Enter Immanuel!
A RAY OF HOPE
Let me give some background here. Isaiah was prophesying doom and gloom to his nation, Judah, which faced the threat of the mighty, all conquering and evil Assyrian Empire. People were rebelling against God from their leaders down, they were tolerating and even performing all kinds of evil, and they thought, because they were God’s chosen ones, they could get away with it.
I watched a storm a little while ago over the mountains. Lightning flashed, thunder rolled, all around was thick darkness, and then there was a small break in the dark clouds, and an exceptionally bright light shone through the gloom. That’s what Isaiah is seeing here…
Isaiah prophesied doom and gloom, defeat and exile for a wayward, unrepentant people. But in the middle he gives us a ray of hope, Immanuel…
Isaiah 9:2 (ESV Strong’s)
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
The Hebrew for “great light” is “or”, and it refers to the sun. What he is saying is that it’s darkest before the dawn, but that dawn will surely come. If your world is dark today, open your heart and let the great light dawn within you.
GOD’S GREAT GIFT
Isaiah then goes on to describe this great light, God’s greatest gift…
Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV Strong’s)
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
This is clearly a Messianic prophecy, and this morning I want to pull this passage apart, or unpack it if you will, to discover Immanuel.
This prophetic Word starts with a child being born, but as we shall see it goes way beyond the baby in a manger.
Isaiah 7:14 (ESV Strong’s)
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Immanuel means God with us in Hebrew, and it was given as a prophetic word, quoted in Matthew 1:23 as directly referring to Jesus.
But I want to know why Isaiah’s prophecies don’t just refer to a baby in a manger, or even the mission of the cross Jesus came to fulfil, but they seem to head a different direction.
JESUS, GOD, MAN, AND IMMANUEL, GOD WITH US
Isaiah is not just revealing a Christmas prophecy, he is giving us a glimpse of God Himself, and not just the first but also the second coming of Jesus. This prophecy is double barrelled!
Prophecy is often like this. It’s like a great mountain hidden by a small hill. The immediate prophecy sometimes hides a greater and more awesome fulfilment.
Firstly, to us a child us born. This is the good news of Christmas, that while we were dead in our sins, destined for hell, God provided a solution which involved Jesus becoming a man to save us.
Philippians 2:6-8 (ESV Strong’s)
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
For to us a child is born speaks of the humanness of Jesus, that though He is actually God, He became a man, a perfect man, starting as we all do, as a babe in the arms of His mother.
But the next phrase of Isaiah’s prophecy reveals more… To us a son is given. This speaks of the deity of Jesus.
Jesus became a man to get the job done and save us, but He was and always will be God Himself. It’s a mystery, that God can be 3 in one, but just because it is beyond our understanding doesn’t mean it’s not true. Jesus is fully God and fully man.
AWAY IN A MANGER?
Everyone loves babies, and so Christmas is a time of joy and love. A baby came to earth that first Christmas, and He grew into a man who laid His life down for all of us to reconcile wayward man with holy God. If the story stopped here it would still be wonderful, but as they say, wait, there’s more!
Jesus rose from the dead, and though Isaiah started with the baby in a manger, but in his prophecy he saw saw far beyond the baby, and he describes the Son is given by using a series of names.
Isaiah 9:6 (ESV Strong’s)
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Government is not in a baby’s shoulders. A baby makes a lousy counsellor. Clearly he is not talking about a Jesus coming as a baby, but he’s seeing ahead to when Jesus returns as a King.
THE COMING KING
Jesus was a baby for a few years, He was a man for 33 years, but He is God and the King of Kings from before time until forever!
That’s why Isaiah uses these incredible names for Jesus. That’s why Paul flips from the humility of Christ straight to the triumph and deity of Christ…
Philippians 2:6-11 (ESV Strong’s)
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So let’s look at the names Isaiah has for Jesus, the returning King…
“Wonderful”—this is not an adjective; this is actually His name. The term doesn’t just describe Jesus, it is Him! He is wonderful. In the Hebrew the word is Pele, meaning a miracle, something beyond understanding, something marvellous.
Interestingly, a derivative of this word, also translated as wonderful is used to describe the pre incarnate Jesus as the Captain of the hosts of the Lord, when Samson’s dad asks the name of who he thinks is an angel…
Judges 13:18 (ESV Strong’s)
And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?”
The Hebrew this case it also means secret. The Son of God is wonderful, but it is a secret hidden from most people today. Paul writes,
Colossians 1:26-27 (ESV Strong’s)
the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
There are Christians who have trusted Him as Savior but really don’t know how wonderful He is, and they don’t live in His wonderful power even though He is Immanuel. I hope that this Christmas you discover afresh the wonder, the glory and the miracles of Jesus, the coming King.
Jesus is a counsellor, in Hebrew ya-as. There’s no record of Him seeking counsel. The Lord Jesus Christ never called His disciples together and said, “Now, guys, what do you think I ought to do?” You don’t read anything like that in Scripture. The Lord called them together and said, “This is what I am going to do, because this is My Father’s will.” He was the counsellor.
If you face fears or decisions today, Jesus longs to be your wonderful Counsellor, your Immanuel. When you ask Jesus into your life, His Spirit lives within you and will reveal truth and guide you in all you do…
John 16:13 (ESV Strong’s)
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
If you are burdened today, He is your counsellor. This same Jesus says,
Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV Strong’s)
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Some of you here have a heavy yoke upon your shoulder, and it is ill fitting. It rubs, it hurts, it causes pain and travail and even scars, but Jesus is the true counsellor who can share the burden and make it light. Give Him your fear and pain today, for He’s no longer a babe, He’s a King and a conqueror, He is Immanuel.
“The mighty God”—The Hebrew word for this name is El Gibbor. He is the one to whom “all power is given.” He is the omnipotent God, creator, sustainer of life.
That little baby lying helpless in Mary’s arms is Immanuel, and He held the universe together. He said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” He is the Mighty God! As the writer to the Hebrews puts it,
Hebrews 1:3 (ESV Strong’s)
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
He knows everything, every thought you have, every scrap of knowledge, He sees everything, He is everywhere and He is in control of all things. He became a man for 33 years, but Jesus describes Himself as…
Revelation 1:8 (ESV Strong’s)
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Isaiah calls Him the everlasting father, from before time to beyond time, in the Greek, apó aiónia se aiónia… From everlasting to everlasting.
“The everlasting Father”—Avi-ad in Hebrew, means Father of eternity. This simply means that He is the Creator of all things, even time, the ages, and the far-off purpose of all things.
John 1:3 (ESV Strong’s)
All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
Colossians 1:16-17 (ESV Strong’s)
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Try and comprehend the immensity of Jesus, Immanuel. We can picture Him as a baby, and as a man hanging on a cross, but we cannot comprehend Him as the creator.
PRINCE OF PEACE
“The Prince of Peace”—In Hebrew, Sar-Shalohim. I spoke a few weeks back about peace, and said that man for all is efforts will never find peace apart for Christ. You will never know peace in your life without knowing the Prince of Peace.
Luke 2:14 (ESV Strong’s)
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
But Isaiah here is not specifically talking about you having peace in your heart, although God through His Holy Spirit can achieve this for you. No, Isaiah is looking ahead to the hope we who love Jesus all share, the return of the King.
And when Jesus returns again, He will take His place in the throne of David in Jerusalem and usher peace for a millennium, peace beyond human comprehension!
The great news for us is that we do not need to wait until His return to experience supernatural peace, we can have it right now as we yield our lives to the Holy Spirit. He’s the same God.
Jesus could return as King at any moment, Immanuel is returning soon! So we should live everyday like this. I feel like time us short, like there is still much to do and so I choose to maximise what I’m doing for Jesus.
GOD IS THE GREAT MYSTERY
There are many great mysteries in the world…
I don’t know the average 4 year old asks more than 400 questions per day. Or why we yawn, or get goosebumps. I don’t know why the planets stay in their places, why we have seasons, why snowflakes are so intricate or why our belly buttons have special hairs that attract and retain lint. I’ve never understood why boys’ bikes have the bar across them.
Our knowledge is limited, and our ability to comprehend or even describe God is also limited. Paul describes this great mystery…
1 Timothy 3:16 (ESV Strong’s)
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
This Christmas, join Isaiah in seeing beyond the baby, the manger, the tinsel and the presents. Use prophetic eyes and see ahead to who Jesus really is… Immanuel! He was a baby for a year or two, He was a man for 33 years but He was and is and is to come the returning King!
Normally I would call you to make a stand for Jesus in some way, but today, as Christmas approaches, I’m going to ask you to join me in worshipping the King, Immanuel.
Our nation needs godly men and women who honour and serve God, who know He is returning soon and who are prepared to both praise and fight for what is true and right…
Psalms 149:5-6 (ESV Strong’s)
Let the godly exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats
and two-edged swords in their hands,
So while we remember and honour the baby Jesus, we rejoice in what the man Jesus did, but we look forward with hope and expectation to the return of the King. Let’s praise Him now!