Title: The Hope of the World
Text: Isaiah 9:1-7
Christmas hasn’t always been a holiday in America, in fact it didn’t become an official holiday until the Administration of U. S. Grant in the 1870’s. During the time of President Lincoln, Mrs. Lincoln would hold a Reception in the White House on Christmas Day for the President’s Cabinet and their wives, along with other special guests. At some point in the proceedings, the President and his Cabinet would step out of the room and go upstairs to his office for their annual Christmas Cabinet meeting.
One of those meetings, the one in 1862, was quite important in American history because they took up their final preparations to prepare for the Emancipation Proclamation which took effect a week later on January 1, 1863. Just as that historic session was about to break up, the Secretary of the Treasury dropped a bombshell on the group: The United States Government, embroiled in the midst of Civil War, was bankrupt. Secretary Chase’s only solution for this crisis was to issue paper currency to the general population, and to hope they went along with it, since there was no more gold or silver with which to mint coins. It may be hard for us to comprehend this now, but the Government had never done anything like that before…
Attorney General Bates agreed that in spite of the fact that paper currency was illegal and Unconstitutional, this drastic move was a wartime necessity− as was the Emancipation Proclamation itself, which was also probably Unconstitutional.
Someone came up with the idea that since the value of paper money is based upon faith alone, perhaps there should be some sort of a motto on the bills, and the President himself quickly offered a suggestion from the Holy Scriptures. Mr. Lincoln suggested the motto should be: “Silver and gold have I none but such as I have give I thee.”
The Cabinet chose instead, “In God we trust” and it remains the motto on our currency to this very day.
Ironic isn’t it, on this weekend of back room deals and Government shutdown? I think Mr. Lincoln was probably the last honest politician. Even so, there is one in whom we can really place our full faith and trust:
In God we Trust.
There is so much that goes on this time of year, so many distractions, so many little traditions that we find ourselves going through, sometimes without even thinking about what we are doing. Yet the birth of Christ, His arrival on the scene, was an event that had been foretold centuries before, had been anticipated, yearned for and dreamt about… and then it happened! You know… there is a lesson just in that small fact: “and then it happened!” Isaiah 9 is one of the prophecies that is held dear by millions… let’s have a quick look at it:
This passage falls within a section that runs from 8:1-9:7. The section begins with a discussion about the relationship between the lack of belief in Judah and the resulting invasion of the Assyrians. (8:1-10) It affirms that God will not allow His people to be entirely wiped out, and moves on to tell those who remain faithful not to join in disbelief (8:11-22) presenting a very dark picture of anguish for those who are not faithful to God. 9:1-7 tells of hope; that just as God brought light out of darkness at the creation, so will He bring light to a world darkened by unbelief.
Our passage begins by telling the people that deliverance will come first in the North; “Galilee of the Gentiles”. This area was the first to be invaded by foes from the North, and would also be first to see deliverance. It is “of the Gentiles” because at the time of writing, the Israelites had been taken into captivity from this area, and the resultant inhabitants were Gentiles. The two tribes mentioned in the text, Zebulun and Naphtali were representative of those “lost” tribes. The reference, in verse 4, to the defeat of Midian is noteworthy, as it reminds the people of what God has done for them in the past. In addition, it was a deliverance that had particular effect on Zebulun and Naphtali. (Judges 7). Of course, after God’s deliverance the people again fell into disobedience and were re-conquered. This was a cycle that Isaiah’s readers should have been well aware of. Yet this time, the deliverer would be far greater than before:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:6-7 KJV
Deliverance would come through a child of the House of David; but not a ruler like any they have seen before. Verse six contains a series of names for this coming ruler which reveal beyond dispute that the child will be no mere mortal: “Mighty God” for example is hardly a term that Jews would apply to a mortal man. “Everlasting Father” is most definitely another one that is beyond debate: the child would be God Himself!
Verse 7 indicates that His rule will last from that time on forever, and that all of this would be accomplished through the “zeal of Lord Almighty”.
In short, Isaiah is telling the people that they have grave trouble with God, and bad times ahead. This is all brought on by their own disbelief and rebellion against God, yet in the end, God will replace their disbelief with deliverance when He Himself will rule over His people.
It would be unthinkable for a Christian not to see Jesus Christ as the fulfillment for this prophecy in light of Matthew 4:13-17 in which Matthew specifically states that Jesus went back to Galilee to fulfill it. Note also that in verse 17 what is Jesus telling the people? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Jesus was bringing the kingdom of heaven to Galilee. He established this kingdom by bringing deliverance to those who would remain faithful to God through His work on the cross. This was deliverance not by the sword, but by forgiveness; and the Kingdom of Heaven came into being. This Kingdom makes war obsolete, for it is not of this world. (Isaiah 9:5; cf. John 18:36)
In this Christmas season, may we remember who is faithful, may we place our full faith and trust in Him, and live, from this day forward, in His service.