Sermon: Getting Christmas Right Part 2 (Isaiah 9)

Getting Christmas Right Part 2

 Isaiah 9:1-2 (ESV) 

    But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

    [2]  The people who walked in darkness

        have seen a great light;

    those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,

        on them has light shined.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV) 

    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.

    [7] 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.

Introduction

Have you ever trusted in the wrong thing?  Have you ever trusted in someone only to be disappointed, betrayed, and even severely hurt?  The Book of Isaiah is all about a people who were placing their trust in the wrong thing.  We must be very careful that our hope is not placed in people, even ones who look to be trust worthy. People fail us and are very poor vessels for trust.

People in Darkness

To begin our message today, I want to take some time to set the context of what is going on in the Book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 1:1 (ESV) 

    The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

During the reign of King Uzziah, Egypt’s power was deteriorating. They were seen less and less as a superpower. King Uzziah took advantage of the situation by reclaiming land and enlarging Judah’s territory. In the north a shadow was growing.  Assyria was getting stronger and stronger and by the time of King Hezekiah, they were the superpower of the region.  During this time, Assyria had overtaken the Northern Kingdom of Israel and was coming south.  At one point they were within eight miles of the City of Jerusalem. 

Throughout all this historical and geographical action existed an evil and rebellious people.  Rather than trusting in God they were trying to find security in their political abilities. 

Isaiah 1:4 (ESV) 

    Ah, sinful nation,

        a people laden with iniquity,

    offspring of evildoers,

        children who deal corruptly!

    They have forsaken the Lord,

        they have despised the Holy One of Israel,

        they are utterly estranged.

Isaiah 1:21 (ESV) 

    How the faithful city

        has become a whore,

        she who was full of justice!

    Righteousness lodged in her,

        but now murderers.

Isaiah 59:2 (ESV) 

    but your iniquities have made a separation

        between you and your God,

    and your sins have hidden his face from you

        so that he does not hear.

Isaiah 59:7-8 (ESV) 

    Their feet run to evil,

        and they are swift to shed innocent blood;

    their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity;

        desolation and destruction are in their highways.

    [8] The way of peace they do not know,

        and there is no justice in their paths;

    they have made their roads crooked;

        no one who treads on them knows peace.

The problem with the Israelites was that they trusted in everything but God.  They looked everywhere else first. 

Isaiah 1:2-3 (ESV) 

    Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;

        for the Lord has spoken:

    “Children have I reared and brought up,

        but they have rebelled against me.

    [3] The ox knows its owner,

        and the donkey its master’s crib,

    but Israel does not know,

        my people do not understand.”

God had raised the Hebrews to be His covenant people.  He says that even though He had done everything for them, they were rebellious and trusted in other things for security.

It’s important at this point to ask ourselves, What are we trusting in for security?

As we begin to look at some clear examples of what they trusted, I think we’ll be able to some degree, to see ourselves.  We must be careful not to trust in the things they did.

They Trusted in Their Own Abilities

They looked to their own abilities to assess enemies and strongholds but didn’t look to the Lord.

Isaiah 22:8-11 (ESV) 

    He has taken away the covering of Judah.

    In that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest,  [9] and you saw that the breaches of the city of David were many. You collected the waters of the lower pool,  [10] and you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall.  [11] You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.

They were on the verge of battle and they were assessing their strengths and weaknesses as they should have been doing, but they forgot to inquire of the Lord. They left Him out of their planning and left Him out of their defenses. They were guilty of the sin of self-reliance. They thought they could handle every situation. They were wrong. 

A manifestation of their self reliance was the fact that they didn’t read the Word of God.

They were so self reliant that they had every excuse why they could get around to reading the Word of God.

Isaiah 29:11-12 (ESV) 

    And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.”  [12] And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.”

They gave every excuse to not read God’s Word.  They were trusting in themselves for security. They turned their back on God.  This happened because they were walking by sight and not by faith.  They relied on their own logic and reasoning abilities to do what surly God would have us do. 

It’s like the Deacons who sit in their meetings and make plans because they think they know what God would do if He were there. We must be careful with this type of thinking.

They Trusted in Foreign Kings

Once their reasoning abilities became their guide, then the door was opened for all types of wrong thinking.  When our logic becomes authoritative we are treading on thin ice. 

The Assyrians were coming so they turned to Egypt for help.  Rather than reading from the Word of God and rather than obeying what the Word said and rather than trusting the Lord, they ran to seek the aid of a foreign king.  The king of Egypt will save us from the Assyrians, they cried.

However, God said something different… 

Isaiah 31:1 (ESV) 

    Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help

        and rely on horses,

    who trust in chariots because they are many

        and in horsemen because they are very strong,

    but do not look to the Holy One of Israel

        or consult the Lord!

When their ties with Egypt proved to be unprofitable, they struck a deal with Assyria itself.  King Ahaz signed a treaty with the King of Assyria so that they would protect Israel.  Years later when the Assyrian Empire begins to crumble, they turn and place their trust in Babylon.

They Trusted in Foreign Gods

The people had spread idolatry throughout the land.  They had been burning incense to foreign deities, bowing down to Ashtera poles, praying to Baal.  They were trusting in their own ability to fashion an idol or a god to their own liking.  Rather than repenting and seeking the true God they went even further into rebellion and made for themselves gods of their own hands.

Isaiah 2:8 (ESV) 

    Their land is filled with idols;

        they bow down to the work of their hands,

        to what their own fingers have made.

Not only did they worship what they themselves had created, but they sought out wisdom from fortune tellers and spiritualists.

Isaiah 8:19 (ESV) 

    And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? 

So we see they trusted in themselves, other kings, other gods rather than trusting in the true and living God.

Who do we trust?

In chapter 40 of Isaiah, he says, ok; let’s compare the real God with the junk you fall down and worship. He shows the people that their gods have been fashioned with human hands but the real God is eternal.  He compares the wisdom of the idol that just sits there to the infinite wisdom of God.

What do you think the people in Isaiah’s day should have done?

I think we should pause and place ourselves in that day and wonder, what would I have done?  Then we must bring ourselves back and think what am I doing currently?  Do I trust in the same things they trusted in? Do I trust in politics?  Do I trust in our government and their attempts to bring stability to the economy through massive bailout strategies?  Do I trust in my own abilities to secure my future?  Am I worshipping money, home, or any other idol? Egypt had horses and chariots, America has nuclear weapons. Egypt fell and so can America.  God is eternal. In many ways we battle the same things they battled. We must fight to find security in the Lord.

Israel had turned to everything else but.  They had rebelled in every way imaginable.  God could have at any time simply said enough is enough. However, there was one thing that bound God to these people.  That one thing was His promise.  He had made a covenant with Abraham and with David and God always keeps His Word.

A Light Has Dawned

Chapter eight of Isaiah speaks of a people who, because of their rebellion, are in darkness. For them the prophet writes there has been no dawn and they are in deep darkness.  But then something happens.  God, the offended party, the One whom they don’t even give a thought to begins to move.  He takes the initiative and brings hope to these hopeless rebels.

To these people who have been in utter darkness, God says, a light has dawned.  Let’s look together at what Matthew considers to be the fulfillment of our text this morning.  He clearly tells us that the birth of Jesus brought light into the dark world.

Matthew 4:13-17 (ESV) 

    And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,  [14] so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

 

    [15] “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,

        the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-

    [16] the people dwelling in darkness

        have seen a great light,

    and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,

        on them a light has dawned.”

 [17] From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

The people were in darkness but they were no longer in darkness.  They were under the Lord’s judgment but now they are under grace.  When Jesus entered the world that first Christmas morning it’s like turning on the lights in a dark room.  He brought light with Him.  In fact He is the light.

John 8:12 (ESV) 

    Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 

When the Israelites looked at themselves they came up short.  They knew they were in no way going to trust in themselves for security.  So, they looked to foreign kings and foreign gods to try to find security.  What Isaiah is all about is that security and help in times of trouble can only be found in true and living God.

The ones who struggled the most with looking to man’s power for help were the people living in the northern part of the southern kingdom, [15] “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,  the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-

With the Assyrians suited up and ready for war and headed south these lands would be the first to be slaughtered by the new super power.  They came up short because they had placed their trust in the wrong things and immanent destruction was coming.  They were in total despair and in total darkness. 

Matthew takes this verse found in Isaiah and uses it 800 years later to say that we were in darkness when Jesus came.  In the day of Jesus the Israelites were under Roman domination and had no hope.  They were also in darkness.  The spiritual condition of those in the first century was very low.

When Jesus appeared, the darkness left.

John 1:4-5 (ESV) 

    In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  [5] The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Jesus began His ministry where it was darkest.  In the north around the sea of Galillee He came.  He set up camp in Capernaum and the darkness could overpower the Light of the world.  Rather than being overcome by a foreign superpower, they were overcome with the Savior. 

No longer will the people need to look to foreign kings and foreign gods but they will have the King of Kings and Lord of Lords dwelling with them.  They will have Emmanuel, God with us…with them.  When the next superpower comes our Lord will keep us.

The same prophecy that Matthew tells us that Jesus fulfilled is meant for us today.  You may be in darkness. You may be trusting in other things to bring you security.  You may be trusting in friends, parents, relatives to bring you security.  You may be trusting in some secret idol you have that no one else knows about.  It’s time to embrace Jesus Christ.

Matthew 4 tells us that those who were in darkness saw the dawn.  It goes on to say that…

[17] From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Once the light has shined then the answer is not to hide in the darkness any longer because the shroud of darkness that has kept you hidden has been overpowered by the Light.  Now with the Light shining men and women, boys and girls must repent of their misplaced affections and misplaced loyalty. 

The light has dawned and remaining in your sin is not an option.

 

Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV) 

    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.

    [7] 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.

Don’t trust in a president or a king because… the government shall be upon his shoulder.

Don’t trust in some man-made god because Jesus is Mighty God, Everlasting Father.

Don’t trust in anything else to bring you peace because Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

I pray that this Christmas season, we get Christmas Right.

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