The Perfect Name for the Perfect Child
A sermon based on Isaiah 9:2-7
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Aaron, Abner, Abraham, Adam, Adan, Ahmad… Every day, expectant parents around the world ask, "What should we name the baby?" And so they read books like "The Very Best Baby Name Book Ever" and "Biggest Book of Baby Names."
Mary and Joseph didn't have to go through all that. Gabriel told them what to name the baby: Jesus, which means, "He saves." But even before the angel announced his name, this little baby had already been given a name. 700 years before he was born the prophet Isaiah gave him several names. And every one of them fit perfectly.
This evening let's take a quick look at those names, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace and see how they're the perfect names for the perfect child… Isaiah 9:2-7 reads…
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4 For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. 5 Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
I. A Child to Bring Us Perfect Victory
What wonderful names God gave the promised Messiah through the prophet! They described not who the Messiah would be, but what he would be and what he would do.
When the Messiah would come, he would lead the people out of darkness, shatter the yoke that burdened them, destroy their enemies and rule in peace forever. Isaiah saw in this little baby, the Savior that we need.
"He will be called… Mighty God," Isaiah writes. And how we need a God who is mighty! Let's face it. As tough as we want to appear to everyone, we're weak—at least when it comes to spiritual matters. On our own, we're walking in darkness. We can't see where we are or where we're going. Deceived by Satan, influenced by the world, led into sin by our own sinful natures, we can do nothing but sin. We rebel against God not only in what we do, but in what we say, in what we think, and in what we don't do.
We sin with our bad priorities in forgetting God in regular worship or in our budgets. We sin when we think we're good enough to make him love us. We sin when think we only need a little help from God, as if to say, "Nice work on the cross, Jesus, but I'll take it from here."
And even when we do something "good," we ruin it with our selfish motives. I give to a charity, but not out of love for God. I do it because it makes me feel good about myself—like I'm not really that bad. How full of sin we are!
But even if we fool others—even if we fool ourselves—we can't fool God. Because even one sin, like any one pin prick, pops the balloon of perfection that God demands of us. We are stuck in sin, "living in the land of the shadow of death," with eternal death in hell our deserved fate after our physical death.
And there's nothing we can do about it. We can't undo what we've done. We can't unsay what we've said or un-think what we've thought. We can't achieve perfection any more than we can tape a popped balloon back together. How weak we are! In fact, we're worse than weak. By nature we're spiritually dead. We need a miracle—an act of God.
And that's exactly what we have in our Mighty God. Though he hardly seemed mighty as an infant, laying in a trough in a barn smelling of manure… though he hardly seemed mighty as he walked this earth as a poor, homeless man… though he hardly seemed mighty as he hung on the cross being tortured to death for a crime he didn't commit… what a Mighty God he is!
He had the strength and power to defeat our enemies. In fact, that's why the Mighty God humbled himself to be born as a lowly human—to win a victory for us.
As Mighty God, he had the strength to live a perfect life, never sinning—even once! And he gave that perfection to us. As Mighty God that death on the cross could pay for not just one person's sin, but for the sins of the world! And by his mighty power he shattered the yoke of guilt that once burdened us. He shattered the bar of sin across our shoulders. He shattered the rod of our oppressor when he undid Satan's work, figuratively crushing his head on the cross. Our Mighty God won the perfect victory for us!
"And he will be called Wonderful Counselor…" What does a counselor do? He or she gives counsel or advice, helps you with your problems, and gives you the encouragement you need to keep going. Our Wonderful Counselor didn't just win a perfect victory for us, but he brings it to us in his Word. There he advises us how to be rid of our sin: "Trust in me and in my work on the cross," he says, "Do nothing. It's already done." He advises us how to live our lives in thanks for what he's done. And he encourages us, reminding us that though he may not shatter every burden of suffering we face right now, he will when he takes us to glory. And that truth brings us lasting peace…
II. A Child to Bring Us Lasting Peace
"And he will be called… Prince of Peace," Isaiah says. "Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire." The soldiers' boots and bloodstained clothing could be burned in the fire because they would no longer be needed. When the Messiah would come there would be perfect peace.
But wait a second! Jesus did come! He was born more than 2000 years ago! So where's this perfect peace? There are still wars in Afganistan and West Africa. There are still conflicts on the streets, gang activities, murders, rapes filling the headlines. And even in our own homes there seems to be little peace: There are bitter fights among family members, sickness and surgeries, and financial troubles that leave us feeling anything but peaceful. And we may feel like shouting at Isaiah, "You have no idea what you're talking about!"
But he knew what he was talking about. He wasn't talking about a physical or political peace or a world without problems. He was talking about peace with God. Though Christ and the forgiveness of every one of our sins, we appear holy and perfect to him.
And so we're no longer at war with a holy God who must pour out his wrath against sinners. He already poured out his wrath on Jesus. Because of Christmas (which allowed for Good Friday) you and I are free from sin, death and hell. We have peace with God. And no matter what turmoil we go through, this peace can never be taken away.
"And he will be called… Everlasting Father," Isaiah says. "Of the increase of his… peace there will be no end. He will reign… over his kingdom… upholding it… from that time on and forever."
We may fight to win a war and establish peace in some country, but as soon as we leave, some new enemy could quickly rise up and destroy that peace. In fact, someone once said that peace is that rare moment when everyone stands around… reloading.
But that's not the case with God's peace. Just as God has no beginning, so he has no end. Jesus always was, always is, and always will be. And so, because "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever," (Hebrews 13:8) his work will always last. The peace with God he won for us will never be lost.
In fact, the peace he's established can only increase. His peace will increase as we grow in our faith and learn more and more to put our trust in him and in his promise "that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…" (Romans 8:28) His peace will increase as we let go of the petty arguments and the worthless stuff we cling to and realize that soon enough heaven itself will be ours. And finally, it will increase and become perfect peace with no more war, or suffering, or struggles or pain, when he takes to heaven forever.
This Christmas, dear friends, remember this little baby's name: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given… And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Remember that your sins are forgiven. Satan's been crushed. Hell conquered. So no matter what burdens weigh you down, rejoice "as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder," because one hundred years from now, whatever troubles you today won't matter. You'll enjoy the perfect, eternal peace accomplished by Jesus, "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." In his name, dear friends, amen.