Isa 9:1-7 #14 The Warfare 11/23/2003

 

 

 

 

 

#1. The Shadow of Death (Isa 9:1-2, Rom 9:31-32)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2. The Messiah Has Come (Isa 9:6, Gen 4:23, Job 14:4)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3. The Increase of His Government (Isa 9:7)

 

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Gospel according to Matthew 4:12 (2X). In the Christmas season here in the US of America you will hear, even on the streets, many familiar hymns and Scriptures, which are being used year after year. So, you are probably familiar with the verse from Isa 9:6, which says, "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". And you have been told that this verse speaks of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, the baby in a manger. That is why this verse is heard so often at Christmas time. But did you know that this verse is not at all referring to the baby in the manger? Yes: This verse does not at all refer to the event of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. And it will take me 45 minutes to undo what has been imprinted in your memory by your past history in other churches. Other churches hold it as a tradition to use this verse at Christmas time, and they would probably want to kill me if I take this away from them. The problem is that they have used this verse out of context. Let m show that t you.

We are continuing our series that is called, "The Wisdom of God" (2X), because "The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens" (Prov 3:19). We are beginning to discover more and more of the beautiful spiritual structure that God is building to His own honor and glory. In the past few weeks we have had sermons about the church. Today I want us to see that the church is always in a warfare. That is why this sermon is called, "The Warfare" (2X). This is one aspect of the church that I do not want you to forget. We are always in a spiritual warfare. But beginning today we are also focusing on the Redeemer of this church, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us see how the Lord Jesus saw this spiritual warfare as He began His ministry among His fellow Jews, about 2000 years ago. We read in Matt 4:12-17,

Mt 4:12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;

Mt 4:13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon (Zebulun) and Nephthalim (Naphtali):

Mt 4:14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,

Mt 4:15 The land of Zabulon (Zebulun), and the land of Nephthalim (Naphtali), (by) the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;

Mt 4:16-17 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand".

By whom was John the Baptist cast into prison? By Herod Antipas, the king of Galilee and Peraea. He was the son of Herod the Great, and was just as wicked, and sly, and cruel as his father, the murderer of the babies in Bethlehem. The Lord Jesus called him "a fox". But look now at the facts: Herod was king of the region of Galilee. After Herod had cast John the Baptist into prison, where did Jesus decide to preach the Gospel? In Galilee, under the nose of king Herod. Why did Jesus do that? Jesus was demonstrating to us a principle that God has always applied throughout the centuries. It is the principle that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church". When the church is physically persecuted the church grows stronger, because God will raise up more leaders in the church who will replace the ones that have been killed by the enemy, and the church will grow stronger instead of weaker. Physical persecution has never worked to defeat the church; instead most of the time it has resulted in the defeat of the enemy. This is the reason why God created the Reprobate, to afflict the Elect and to bring persecution so that the church may grow through persecution. There is almost no persecution of the church in the USA today. But look at the deplorable state of the church in our country. The church in this part of the world is lukewarm, at best. The Lord Jesus said in Rev 3:16, "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth".

But let us return to the preaching of Jesus in Galilee. What did Jesus preach? We read in verse 17 "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". I am sure that Jesus said a whole lot more than that, but how does this compare to what John the Baptist was preaching? We read in Matt 3:2, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". God is telling us hereby that the Gospel Jesus preached was a continuation of the same Gospel that John the Baptist was preaching. No one is saved without repentance, but we cannot repent on our own. The Bible says that repentance is also a gift from God.

And why did God quote the prophet Isaiah here in verses 15 and 16? When God quotes an OT passage in the NT, is as if God is saying: "This is the fulfillment of that OT prophecy. Go back to the OT and see where this came from. This is what I was talking about at that time and in that place". But notice the setting here in Matt 4:12-17. The Lord Jesus was a full-grown man. He was not a baby. This "great light" in verse 16 did not refer to the light from the angels who appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem. This "great light" refers to the Lord Jesus as He preached the Gospel. "The people which sat in darkness" was a description of where the nation of Israel was at that point in time. The Scribes and the Pharisees fed them a gospel of works. The darkness referred to a spiritual darkness of being in bondage to Satan, and the light referred to a spiritual light from the preaching of Christ. This is what we must remember when we interpret this passage and this is what we must remember when we interpret the passage in Isaiah. Please turn in your Bibles to the Prophecy of Isaiah 9:1 (2X).

#1. The Shadow of Death (Isa 9:1-2, Rom 9:31-32)

You find the Prophecy of Isaiah about in the middle of your Bible, after the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. Here in Isa 9:1 we read about "Galilee of the nations", which is also called "Galilee of the Gentiles" in Matt 4:15. Why did it bear that name? King Solomon rewarded Hiram, king of Tyre, for certain services given to Solomon in the building of the temple at Jerusalem. Solomon gave Hiram 20 cities in an upland plain among the mountains of Naphtali. Hiram was dissatisfied with the gift, and called it "the land of Cabul", but the Jews called it Galil, or Galilee. But it continued long to be occupied by the original inhabitants, and therefore it was named "Galilee of the Gentiles". Much later Galilee was extended greatly to the South and to the East, but the Jews in Judea continued to call it in a derogatory way "Galilee of the nations", or "Galilee of the Gentiles".

Isa 9:1 Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first He lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.

Isa 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Some corrections are in order in verse 1. The words "did more grievously afflict" should have been translated "He will glorify", or "He will honor". It has to do with the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ made Capernaum in Galilee His home base, and most of His preaching and His miracles were done in Galilee. In this way Galilee was honored by His presence. Literally the Hebrew text of V. 1 reads:

Isa 9:1 Nevertheless the darkness shall not be such as was in her distress, when at the first He afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward He will glorify the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

The beginning of this verse refers to the spiritual darkness in the time of the wicked kings of Israel. God was angry and God distressed them greatly, first by the nation of Syria, to the East, and finally by the nation of Assyria, to the Northeast, which wiped the nation of Israel completely off the map. Then the word "afterward" refers to a time 500 years later, when we read in Matt 4:15 that the Lord Jesus started to preach in Galilee. God glorified the land of Galilee by His presence. This must be the correct interpretation, because this agrees with the commentary we read in Matt 4:15-16. Then verse 2 speaks of the fact that the Lord Jesus was preaching there. "The people that walked in darkness" are the Jews in Galilee. They have seen a great light, which was God Himself preaching among them. But did the Jews dwell in the land of the shadow of death? Absolutely true! God says it. Their spiritual leaders gave them a gospel of works, which cannot save. They were told by their spiritual leaders that as long as they obeyed the Law of Moses they were on the way to heaven. This was a big fat lie. God explained to us what the situation was in Rom 9:31-32, where God says,

Ro 9:31-32 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. (They remained unsaved.) Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone;

What was their stumbling stone? The previous verses in Rom 9 thoroughly explain this principle. Righteousness does not come by obeying the Law, but righteousness comes "by grace through faith". Righteousness is a gift from God. No one can be saved through obeying the Law.

It is hard to believe that most of the churches in the world today have completely ignored this fundamental teaching of the Word of God. Salvation is by grace alone, and not of works, lest anyone should boast. If anyone boasts that he is going to heaven because he has accepted the Lord Jesus as his Savior, or if anyone boasts that he is going to heaven because he has made the decision to believe on the Lord Jesus, or if anyone boasts that he is going to heaven because he has submitted himself to water baptism, or any other boast of what a person has done, then this person has stumbled on that stumbling stone that the Jews have stumbled on. Righteousness does not come by obeying a Law, not any law, but righteousness comes "by grace through faith". That is the message of "the people that dwell in the land of the shadow of death". And the death that God has in view is an eternity in Hell. If these people would die without ever having heard the Gospel that Jesus preached, then on the Last Day they would be sent to Hell. This is a certainty! What most churches have done these days is they have taught their congregations that you are OK if you have accepted the Lord Jesus as your Savior, and it is OK if you believe that God saves by His grace alone. It is not a mortal issue. But I say you must believe the Bible, and the Bible says that it is not like the choice between a Coke and a Pepsi. If you believe in a "Do it yourself salvation", you are on the way to Hell, and you are living "in the land of the shadow of death". Let us now look at the following verses.

We need to make a small correction in Isa 9:3. The word "not" goes to the beginning of this verse.

Isa 9:3 Thou hast not multiplied the nation, but increased their joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

What is the setting of verse 3? It is warfare. The setting at the beginning of verse 1 was that of warfare. Verses 4 and 5 speak about warfare. Only verse 2 does not expressly speak of warfare, but it does refer to spiritual warfare, of Christ against Satan. Of what stage in the warfare is this verse speaking about? The end stage: We are the victors! But we may not neglect verse 2, which speak of the spiritual battle as described in Matt 4:12-17. And so, the battle victory is a victory in the battle over Satan's territory. What is Satan's territory? Satan's territory is not a piece of real estate. He wants to be worshipped as God, and therefore his territory is the souls of people whom he drags with him into Hell. Paraphrased, verse 3 says, "Even though Thou hast not increased the number of people fighting on the side of God, Thou hast still given us the victory and increased our joy". And then verse 3 explains their joy in two different metaphors. #1. "They joy before thee according to the joy in harvest" What harvest is this speaking about? It is the harvesting of souls for Christ that brings great pleasure to us. We love doing that, because this kind of work is highly pleasing to God. #2. They joy as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. What is the spoil when Satan and all his messengers have been chased away? The souls of men! We love to fight Satan on his own territory and carry away the souls of men who have been won for Christ. Of course we realize that we do not have such power, but as always it is God working in us and through us who is doing al the work. Phil 2:13 says, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure". But what are we thinking of when we read in Isa 9:3 that God has not increased our number, and yet He has given us the joy of victory over the enemy. It is like the battle where Gideon with 300 chosen men fought against the Midianites who had an army of more than 100,000. It was necessary that Gideon's army be reduced to only 300 men, so that Israel could not say that they defeated the Midianites by their own strength. Read Isa 9:4

Isa 9:4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

Indeed God referred to the battle of Gideon against the Midianites. Thou, Lord, has broken the yoke of Israel's burden; the burden of feeding a few hundred thousand Midianites. Thou, Lord, has broken the staff of Midian which was on the back of Israel. Thou, Lord, has broken the rod of the oppressor, Midian, and has raised up a leader like Gideon. This was a picture of Christ's Kingdom against Satan's kingdom. If we are in Christ's Kingdom then we are also drafted into His army, and we are fighting against Satan's armies. That is why the church is always in a warfare. We must know who our enemy is. All the unsaved in the world are our enemies. Now we understand why the number of Saints is so small compared to the number of the Reprobate. God wants to make it absolutely clear to us that our victory is not of our own strength, but it is entirely by grace. Not only is our salvation by grace, but all the battles following our salvation are also entirely according to the grace of God. That is why this is a Gospel of Joy! Since Christ is on our side, we are certain of the victory. It may not seem a victory by worldly standards. When Christ was brought to the cross, Satan and all his demons thought that they had won this battle, because Christ stood all alone, and He was going to die. But in the end Christ was the victor and Satan was the defeated one. Who is the new Gideon? It is the Lord Jesus Christ. And now verse 5

Isa 9:5 For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.

Every physical battle is with confused noise, and with garments rolled in blood. But this battle shall be "with burning and fuel of fire". Is this a spiritual battle of the Lord Jesus? Why then shall it be with burning and with fuel of fire, and not garments rolled in blood? You see, this battle refers to the atonement of Christ on the cross. His garments were stripped off from Him. But where is the burning? Where is the fire? You see, when Christ atoned for our sins, He was our substitute; He was our stand in. He had to endure the equivalent of what I would have to endure if I would have to pay for my own sins. And that is an eternity in Hell. The Lord Jesus Christ had to endure the equivalent of an eternity in Hell for my sins, and for your sins, and for the sins of all the elect whom God decided to draw into heaven. There in the body and soul of the Lord Jesus Christ is the burning, and there is the fire, invisible to us, but absolutely required to meet the standard of righteousness that God demands. And now, because Christ has paid the price for our sins, and because He has purchased the church, and because He has purchased the world and all that is therein, we can say:

#2. The Messiah Has Come (Isa 9:6, Gen 4:23, Job 14:4)

Finally here is the verse I announced to you in the beginning of this sermon. Isa 9:6

Isa 9:6 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.

Let us first focus on what did God say? This verse starts with the word "For". What is the word "for" there for? Well, it refers to the previous verse, verse 5. But verse 5 also starts with the word "For". Well, that refers to the previous verse 4. But verse 4 also starts with the word "For". Well that refers to the previous verse 3, which is a verse about a warfare and about victory in battle. In fact verse 3 does not stand separate from verses 2 and 1, which in turn refer to the event described in Matt 4:12-17. All of these verses relate to each other because Isa 9:6 begins with the word "For". And by stringing all these verses together God is indicating that the event in Matt 4:12-17 is intimately connected with Isa 9:6, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given". We can understand that "unto us a son is given" relates to the beginning of Jesus' ministry for 3 years. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God who was given by the Father to the world, in order that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life in the presence of God in heaven. "Unto us a Son is given" refers to His crucifixion and His resurrection. But why did God say, "Unto us a child is born"? It is interesting that the word "child" <3206> does not necessarily refer to a baby. For example, the very first time this word occurs in the Bible is in Gen 4:23, where we read:

Ge 4:23 And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man <3206> to my hurt.

That word "young man <3206>" cannot be translated "baby". That word <3206> simply refers to someone who is a descendant. Christ was born, yet He also was given. He is the child that is born of us and unto us. He is the one born of the woman's seed, in the line of Seth, according to the promise of Shem, of the Seed of Abraham, out of the tribe of Judah, a branch out of the royal tree of David, a root out of dry ground, from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary. Yet, although He is born of us, He is definitely given! "Unto us a Son is given". How could we, who are dead through trespasses and sins, enemies of God and of one another, who are forever making war, also bring forth the Prince of Peace, who knew no sin, although He came in the likeness of sinful flesh, who was found without guile? "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one" (Job 14:4). Moreover, how could we bring forth Him who is mighty to save and to establish the eternal kingdom of peace, and whose name is Wonderful, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace? Therefore He is given. Given through the Wonder of wonders, the Incarnation. God's Son became our child. The Messiah has come, and He is called:

Isa 9:6 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.

What a wonderful name, "Prince of Peace". Even they that do not know Him, and who understand nothing of the peace He came to bring are spellbound by the charm and magic of that name. And every Christmas season they speak of Him and sing the praises of what they conceive to be the Prince of Peace! They catch the soothing music of that name, they taste the heavenly gift wrapped up in that name, and the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come, which is a world of righteousness and peace. But seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, neither do they understand. They use His name, but they reject Him. Their rock is not our Rock; their Prince of Peace is not the Christ from the Scriptures. They speak of peace around conference tables. Peace palaces were built. Peace conferences were held. Disarmament agreements were attempted. Peace treaties were signed. A United Nations organization was stamped out of the ground. A Nobel price for peace was established. Yet there was never a time when the world was so full of greed, hatred, distrust, and war as our world today. They speak of peace, peace, where there is no peace. Peace is a matter of the heart. Peace is rooted in love. But if the love for one another is not rooted in the love of God, then there really is no inner peace attainable. The love of God is something that must be given by the Prince of Peace. God says in 1John 4:10, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins". God's love is also righteousness, and holiness, and truth. Without these there is no love; no love of God to us, no love of us to God, no love of one another. And without this love there is no peace; no peace with God, no peace in God toward us, no peace of us toward God, no peace between man and man, or between group and group, or between nation and nation. Therefore it must be that there is always war. Externally there is war between nations, and there is war between people. But internally, or spiritually, people are at war with God, flagrantly violating God's commandments, and having "no fear of God before their eyes". That is why the church is always in a warfare, because we are surrounded by those who are spiritually at war against us. They are our enemies.

Christ has shown to us that there is no shortcut to peace. First He made peace with God on the basis of an everlasting righteousness. Voluntarily, in the obedience of love, He placed Himself under the wrath of God in the hour of judgment. Obediently He descended into the deepest agony of death and Hell to satisfy the unchangeable justice of God, and thus to open the way for peace on God's own terms. What are God's terms? His righteousness. And Christ gives that peace unto us. For the Prince of Peace who died to make peace was raised in peace, was glorified and exalted at the right hand of God to reign in peace and to overcome all the evil forces of war, sent His Holy Spirit to realize that peace in the hearts of all His own people. By that Spirit He leads us into His Kingdom of peace with God, He assures us of our reconciliation with God through His atonement on the cross, He removes the enmity against God that is in our hearts by nature, He pours out in us the love of God, and causes us to sing with joy: Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. We therefore, being justified out of faith, have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Then we read in Isa 9:7 about:

#3. The Increase of His Government (Isa 9:7, Matt 28:18-21, Rev 12:11)

Isa 9:7 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.

We have seen that verse 6 does not refer to the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. What about verse 7? Well, when did the Lord Jesus Christ officially begin His government over all this earth? Christ as the Second Person of the Triune Godhead ruled over heaven and earth ever since He created one speck of dust. But as residing in Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth, He officially began His reign after He arose from the grave. We have the first evidence of that in Matt 28:18, where Jesus said: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth". The Lord Jesus Christ began His reign after His resurrection, after Satan was defeated. But take a good look now how Christ reigned. First He said to the Disciples in Matt 28:19-20, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen". Christ sent His disciples, and He sends us, to do His work. But this is how He reigns, "lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world". He works in us and through us to save His elect, whom He had decided to save. We have become His messengers of peace. Does this mean that our life must now be glorious and free of trouble all the way? Well, draw your conclusions from what we find in Rev 12:11, "And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives (even) unto the death". It means that Christ sends us out into the world, but in His providence He also brings persecution so that His messengers of peace would be persecuted, and beheaded, and be burnt at the stake, and go through all kinds of sufferings for Christ's sake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Zeal of the Lord of Hosts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Merciful God and Heavenly Father,

 

We thank You, Father, for continuing to preserve us, and sustain us, and govern us by Your mighty providence. We thank You for giving us the authority to bring this Gospel to people near us, and to people far away through the media of radio and Internet.

 

We pray, Father, that we do not give up in the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in, and that we may find many open doors where we can bring this Gospel. And help us also to deliver this Gospel so that it gives people hope that there is peace with God in what we believe.

 

We pray, Father, that we may more fully understand the role of Christ as the Prince of Peace. We pray that we may understand all the implications of Christ as the King of kings and Lord of lords, and how this may give us more peace within us. Help us to forgive ourselves in our failings in this life, because You have already forgiven us.

 

We also pray, Father, that You save each one who is here, old and young, and that You make us warriors for Christ.

 

We pray for this in Jesus' name, AMEN.