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Unwrapping the Son

December 2, 2018 | Isaiah 9:1-7 | christmas

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Some of us like to give hints to see if the recipient of our gift can guess what’s inside. It builds the anticipation. That’s what God did. Centuries before offering us the gift of His Son, Jesus, He gave “hints” to the prophets of Israel concerning the coming of the Messiah. One of those prophets was Isaiah. God gave Isaiah many of the over 300 Messianic prophecies found in the Old Testament.

In Isaiah 9, God gave him a Messianic prophecy of a promised Son that would be given. We can recognize that Jesus is the promised Son that would be given. He is the Son of God given unto us.

“Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch” (Isaiah 62:1 NLT).

September 30, 2018

The prophet Isaiah declared his heart’s yearning to see Jerusalem shine for the Lord. His heart burned for this and so did his prayers.

I wonder. Do our hearts yearn for our city? So much so that we cannot keep still nor remain silent? Where are those who would pray as Isaiah did? Who will declare, “I will not stop praying for my city until righteousness and salvation shine in her”?

“Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6 NLT).

September 28, 2018

Isaiah urged his people to seek and call on the Lord with a sense of urgency. For there would come a time when it would be too late. However, it is not the Lord who hides and moves away. It wasn’t God who hid in the garden after Adam’s fall. It was God who sought and called out to the man and woman He had made. Was God poor at “hide-and-seek,” that He had to call out to them? No, He certainly knew where they were hiding, but it seemed important to Him that they answer His call and come out of their attempts to hide and cover-up their own sin and to rely on His help.

The Lord is near, yet many of us are hiding and not answering His call. How many are there who have heard the gospel, yet they put off following Jesus to a later time. If you have heard the Good News that Jesus saves sinners, yet you are still hiding, come to Him quickly, while you can still “find” Him. Call to Him urgently, while He is near. For there is coming a time when it will be too late. As the apostle Paul said, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (1 Cor. 6:2).

“This is what the Lord says to Cyrus, his anointed one, whose right hand he will empower. Before him, mighty kings will be paralyzed with fear. Their fortress gates will be opened, never to shut again.” (Isaiah 45:1 NLT).

September 24, 2018

Nearly 200 years before he was even born, Isaiah prophesied the coming of an anointed king named Cyrus who would overthrow and rule the kingdoms of the land. This prophecy was fulfilled when the Persian King, Cyrus the Great, conquered the many kingdoms of the Middle East and beyond, including the Babylonians, who had defeated Judah and taken its people captive. These Judean exiles had lived in Babylon for 70 years, when Cyrus not only overthrew Babylon, but also later decreed that the exiles could return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple (Ezra 1:1-4).

The details of the Cyrus prophecy in Isaiah are amazing. God revealed both the fall of Jerusalem and its future restoration to Isaiah. This prophecy not only encouraged the prophet Daniel and the Jews who were exiled in Babylon, it continues to encourage believers today. For we understand that the fulfilled prophecies in God’s Word show that the unfulfilled ones will also be fulfilled, perhaps in our lifetime.

One other note, don’t you find it interesting that God would anoint a Persian king to rescue Israel? I wonder what God has in store for the modern peoples of Persia now dwelling in the country called, Iran?

“God, the Lord, created the heavens and stretched them out. He created the earth and everything in it. He gives breath to everyone, life to everyone who walks the earth” (Isaiah 42:5 NLT).

September 23, 2018

A worldview built on any other foundation than the dual truth that God is both Creator and Sustainer of life, will surely lead to false and foolish conclusions. The prophet Isaiah declared this dual truth and more. For the Lord revealed to him the coming of the Messiah, the One who would redeem from death those who believed in Him. So that in Christ, the title Redeemer must be recognized in addition to Creator (John 1:1-3) and Sustainer (Heb. 1:1-4). A right understanding of this truth leads to a more accurate worldview. Yet, the fullest understanding of truth is found in knowing and belonging to Jesus. Because Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).

‘They tell the prophets, “Don’t tell us what is right. Tell us nice things. Tell us lies. Forget all this gloom. Get off your narrow path. Stop telling us about your ‘Holy One of Israel.’” (Isaiah 30:10-11 NLT).

September 18, 2018

The Lord told Isaiah that the people of Judah would be known for rebelling against Him, telling the prophets to stop preaching about the coming judgment and the Messiah. In their rebellion against God, it seemed they could no longer tolerate sound teaching, especially anything about the “Holy One of Israel.”

There are many today who would silence the preaching of God’s Word, especially any mention of the Holy One, Jesus Christ. In some settings, the preacher is actually allowed to pray publicly, but asked not to say the name of Jesus. Yet, there remains a people in the earth who have given their hearts to Christ, who love to hear the name of Jesus and the preaching of His Word.

Besides it isn’t really preaching if we don’t preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the apostle Paul said, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). And later he said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).

When our preaching team prepares sermons, we always ask ourselves, “Are we preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ?” Otherwise, we are just saying “nice things” that have no power. We cannot stop telling others about the Holy One, Jesus Christ!

“But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O Lord, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat” (Isaiah 25:4 NLT).

September 17, 2018

In the midst of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the nations, he makes this declaration concerning the Lord. The Lord is a strong tower of refuge and a shelter for the poor and distressed. As we consider the aftermath of Hurricane Florence on Eastern NC, may we take encouragement from Isaiah’s words. Many have lost homes and possessions, but the Lord is a refuge to the poor. Many are getting up this day and feeling discouraged. But the Lord is a shelter from the muggy heat and distress that follows a storm..

Let us offer help and serve those who are in need in the name of Jesus. And let us also make sure to pray for them and offer this word from Isaiah to them, that the Lord is a strong tower and refuge from the storm!

“The Lord held out his hand over the sea and shook the kingdoms of the earth” (Isaiah 23:11 NLT).

September 16, 2018

Isaiah prophesied the destruction of the seaport city of ancient Tyre. He spoke of God’s power over land and sea. In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, we are thankful for God’s protection. We are reminded of what the disciples of Jesus said of Him after He calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, “Even the winds and the sea obey Him” (Matt. 8:27).

Thank you Lord for your protection and care. Now, empower us to help our neighbors throughout Eastern NC who have been hurt by the storm. Amen.

“In that day Egypt and Assyria will be connected by a highway. The Egyptians and Assyrians will move freely between their lands, and they will both worship God. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth” (Isaiah 19:23-24 NLT).

September 15, 2018

The Lord spoke through Isaiah concerning a day when the rivalry between Egypt and Assyria would end, and Israel would no longer be the battleground between them. This must have been an astounding prophecy for that time. For Egypt and Assyria had been sworn enemies and Israel suffered between them in a brutal tug-of-war. Yet, the Lord said a day was coming when a “highway” would connect them.

There have been partial fulfillments of this prophecy since Isaiah’s time. Under Cyrus, the Persian king, there was peace between the three. And again, under Alexander, the three were under one banner for a brief time. But then, after Alexander’s death, his empire was divided into four. The Ptolemaic Empire was over Egypt and the Seleucid Empire was over what was formerly Assyria. Again, the land of Israel was the battleground between them until the time of Roman rule, when peace once again prevailed for a time.

Perhaps it was the Roman period that Isaiah foresaw. For it was during that time that Christ came and the “blessed” message of the cross was carried on Roman “highways” throughout the empire and beyond. Yet, surely there is a Day coming when the ultimate fulfillment will take place.

“Then at last the people will look to their Creator and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will no longer look to their idols for help or worship what their own hands have made.” (Isaiah 17:7-8 NLT).

September 14, 2018

The prophet Isaiah received this word from the Lord concerning the people of Israel. They had lowered their eyes from the Creator to the creation, looking to their idols for help and worshiping the work of their own hands. As a result, a day was coming when their cities would fall, their crops fail, and the glory of Israel grow dim. Yet in that day, the people would pull their eyes off of their idols and look again to the Lord.

Someone has said that true worship is pulling our affections off our idols and putting them on God. The Israelites of Isaiah’s day had broken the first two commandments of the Decalogue. They had put other gods before the Lord and they had made and worshiped graven images. The Lord would not allow His chosen people to continue in this way. His discipline was sending first the Assyrians, and later the Babylonians, to help Israel remember their God.

What will it take for us to pull our affections off of our material manmade stuff and put them on God? Will it take another event like 9/11 or the devastation of a hurricane to pull our eyes off of the temporal to consider the eternal? The word that the Lord gave Isaiah for his people is just as true for us today, as it was for them.