Updated: Sep 26, 2020
September 24, 2020
Isaiah teaches us that to live by the faith required to please God we must live today confident of the future realities God will create through Christ. And God creates that confidence when we consider how compelling it is when Christ will be king over all. His reign is worth the wait.
Isaiah 9; 11
This coming Sunday in our Grow Groups, we’ll study Isaiah 7 and the prophecy of a virgin who will give birth to a son who will be called, Emmanuel, God With Us. As we’ll learn, when Isaiah first gave this prophetic sign in the days of King Ahaz, he wasn’t only looking forward to the coming of Jesus the Messiah over 700 years later—the truest and ultimate fulfillment of this promise. There was also a son to be born in Ahaz’s day, whose healthy and normal development, unharmed by the threats of aggression from the surrounding kingdoms and empires, would be a sign that God was preserving and protecting his people. As always, Isaiah is calling the people to trust God and then watch God glorify himself by proving himself trustworthy.
But as Isaiah begins to unspool the threads connecting what God is doing in his day to what God will ultimately do in Jesus, it doesn’t take long before the promise far outruns what is possible with even the greatest of human kings. God promises what only God himself can do.
Which is what we need, no less now than then. Like in Isaiah’s day, when we look just to the earthly possibilities, “behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness” (Isaiah 8:22).
But when we look to God in trust, everything changes as decisively as when the sun breaks over the horizon—the day has arrived and nothing can turn it back:
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.
You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.
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. (Isaiah 9:2–7)
With Christ Jesus, the gloom of darkness and being left to the illumination of our own devices (Isaiah 50:11) is dispelled by the joyful, indomitable radiance of the God who is Light and in whom there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). Now instead of being vulnerable victims, the people can rejoice as victors never to be conquered again because wars and violence will be no more.
And what brings this dawn is the birth of a baby boy. This kind of flourishing and peace is possible because he rules over the world with unquestioned sovereignty, and so the reality perfectly reflects the perfection of his wisdom and goodness and steadfast love. The result is a world filled with peace and justice, where the wicked are destroyed and the poor and meek receive all that God graciously desires to give them (Isaiah 11:3–5).
And this is possible because this king is not only begotten from the line of David, but also eternally begotten by God the Father. One worthy to himself be called the Mighty God and the Everlasting Father. Or as Isaiah prophesies in 11:2, “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” The Messiah will be truly human and truly divine. In the words of the Creed, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, one essence with the Father.
God will be glorified by the reign of the Messiah because the Messiah is none other than, as Paul will later describe him in Colossians 1:15, the visible image of the invisible God. And so God, the Commander of the Heavenly Armies, is zealous—committed fully and without reservation or limitation—to bring about this reign of peace and justice and pure and delighted worship of God. And eventually, as God promises in Isaiah 11:9, “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
And notice that Isaiah often talks about these things waiting seven centuries in the future from his day—some of them even still in the future from our own perspective—in the past or present tense: The people “have seen a great light”; a child “is born.” Isaiah’s confidence in God’s future faithfulness is so great that he can talk about the realities to come as if they are present now. And he can walk the talk and live now in a way that makes sense only in light of the reality God creates through Jesus the Messiah.
Even in a world that seems hopelessly divided along political, racial, economic, and religious fault lines, we strive for peace because we trust our king is the Prince of Peace. Even when wickedness seems to never weary, we work for justice and righteousness in every sphere of life. Even when the world dazzles us with so many shiny objects, so much fool’s gold into which to invest our hopes and our affection, we delight in the knowledge and fear of the Lord.
And all this because a fresh shoot will emerge from the burned-out stump of David’s dynasty, because a child will be born, because a virgin will conceive and bear a son named God With Us.
And that’s what it means to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Isaiah teaches us that to live by the faith required to please God (Hebrews 11:6) we must live today so confident of the future realities God will create through Christ that we live for his glory rather than our own or anyone else’s. And God creates that confidence when we consider how compelling and glorious it is when Christ will be king over all.
Isaiah begins to announce this gospel of Jesus in advance back in ch. 7 and shows us how the coming of Jesus as God With Us transforms our current crises when we look to him in faith and simple trust. That’s what we’ll go deep to discover this Sunday in our Grow Groups. On Zoom or in the room, we’ll see you there.