Zebras at a Waterhole in Okaukejo, Etosha Pan, Namibia . PHOTO : J . Rieck

Monday, November 30, 2009

THE CHILD WITH THE FOUR NAMES - Meditation on 1st Advent ( Isaiah 9:1-7)

This Advent meditation was shared with our congregation  on the evening of  the Lord's day  29/11/2009, the day  after  Namibian  Presidential and National assembly elections  were held  and  when  all eyes  were riveted  on the political process. How  important it is then to remember that  there is One  who  is far  wiser than men  ,  One more Powerful than  any human ruler ; One  more Fatherly than any "human father of the nation"  and  One more committed to Peace  than any political ruler !  


When the prophet Isaiah  had seen the Lord in  Isa.  6, and when he received his commission as prophet of the living God  (the year that king Uzziah died - in 740 B.C.) , Isaiah was given an unspeakable privilege to see and utter things that related to the coming of the Messiah. Whatever he understood about  his  own prophecy concerning the Messiah, I don't know. What I do know is that the prophet received these words through the Holy Spirit .  2 Peter 1:20  tells  us  : "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit".

And so it was put into Isaiah's mouth to  declare :

"For to us a child is born, a son is given…and he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father , Prince of Peace…"( Isa 9:6)
How we love these words! Every Christmas we read them and sing them.
What we may  forget however , is that these words of peace and comfort were spoken in an age of distress and turmoil! Isaiah was a preacher in an age of turmoil:
Israel's spiritual light shone very dimly. Her kings were largely apostate; her people were apostates.
Isaiah is explicitly warned not to follow the way of these people ( 8:11) . These people , like their king feared everything else (8:12) but  their God, whom they were  commanded to fear alone ( 8:13). Their counsel was sought from mediums and spiritists who whisper and mutter, when they should have enquired of their God (8:19).
And so things were not going well politically,  for their holy God was not with them.  He had handed them  over to  the Assyrians , who were already knocking at the door!

But that did not mean that God did not care for Israel ! God did! He cared deeply, for this was still his chosen, covenant nation!

For this reason we see two familiar themes so frequently side by side in Scripture: God’s wrath and God’s mercy. God’s wrath is necessary, for He is the Holy God who cannot tolerate sin.
But He is also the God who by His covenant is deeply committed to His people.
So, as we might expect, he sends a twin message of comfort and warning to Israel.


We focus on Ch 9 : 1-7 , a  message of comfort,  and from our perspective and with hindsight : The Christmas message.
And we must never forget that in the cross God’s wrath and mercy kiss each other!

As we consider  now in  particular v.6 we see there  the announcement of a unique child - a unique Son in history :  The Messiah - the child - the Son  with 4 names!

1. WONDERFUL COUNSELOR:

…literally translated  "counselor full of wonders" ! Wonders were needed to clear Israel of its  present spiritual and political problems.  Israel never lacked counselors. Likewise , there is never a lack of "counsel" in our world today. The question always is: What kind of counsel? Is it effective counsel? Is it counsel that takes us forward? Does it really free us, or does it enslave us?
We know from the Bible that the kings and the nation was often "misled" by bad counsellors. (see  Isa 8:19  by way of illustration!)
This world desperately need God's age old wonderful Counselor! We are living in a world that seeks counsel from everybody, but God! Our generation is in love with the wisdom of man! Isaiah's troubled generation , and our generation need the same solution : we need the wonderful Counselor!

2. MIGHTY GOD:

The second name of the child is literally "God - hero". The God of the Bible is a Sovereign King . He  is  mighty and free from any manipulation ( and least of all by mankind). He is so mighty, that He doesn’t need to make any noise to assert Himself. Has it ever struck you , that the greatest power in the entire universe is silent? Has it ever struck you , how essentially noiseless Jesus was? When you are in charge you are in charge – you don’t need to announce it . It is a fact . Our Lord Jesus is a mighty God ! He  is "weighty".  The Hebrew word for 'glory'  implies  "weightiness".  David Wells in his very insightful book "God in the Wasteland" says: "It is one of the defining marks of our time that God is now weightless. The God of our age has become a God that we can use rather than a God we must obey ; The God of our age is a God who will fullfil  our needs rather than a God before whom we must surrender our rights. We have transformed the God of mercy into a God who is at our mercy. We imagine that He is benign, that He will approve as we toy with His reality and co-opt Him in the promotion of our ventures and careers."
He is a God whom we have created in our own minds, but He is not the God, He is not the Jesus  of the Bible!

3. EVERLASTING FATHER:
The third and most unusual name for this child literally reads: "Father forever". We must not confuse this title with God the Father - the designated title of the first person of the Holy Trinity. It is nevertheless true that our Lord Jesus shares the attributes of his Father. For instance in the gospel of John, Jesus calls Himself the "Good shepherd". A shepherd is a "father to His sheep". Jesus' ministry to us is in many ways a "fatherly ministry".
Kings in Israel were known as " fathers".  Here is the real King of  Israel - the true Father! Israel in king Ahaz day  and Isaiah's day were literally "like sheep without a shepherd". The King of Israel did not exercise a fatherly role. He neglected the household of Israel. But here we have One whose fatherly care is undisputed - and that forever -"everlasting Father!"
How Israel and our modern generation need that "Father figure" - this calm , steady , firm , loving leadership!

4. PRINCE OF PEACE:
This title almost needs no qualification.
The historic situation in Israel , in Isaiah's time and in Jesus time when the Romas occupied   Palestine, and indeed   our own  times,  desperately needs  a prince of peace.
It seems as if   the politicians of this world are chronically inept  to  secure peace for the people that they govern. But this  Prince of Peace  secures peace, FIRSTLY between God and man , and then  between man and man . All true peace on earth  must begin in the heart . People whose  hearts  have beeen settled  by  Christ will be the best, and most useful  citizens of the world!
The gospel of Jesus is the only message on earth that brings true peace to the hearts of sinful men ! In fact,  it is Jesus Himself who is our peace. When the government  is on His shoulder,  there is  true  and effective governance, because:
  •  He is a truly wise Counselor
  •  He is a  true  Ruler - a Sovereign  King and God 
  •  He  is  a true Father Figure 
  •  He is a true Peace  Bringer
 What more do you want?  Who can be  more reliable  or trustworthy?



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