Read an Excerpt
Joy to the WorldInspirational Christmas Messages from America's Preachers
The King with Four Names
BASED ON ISAIAH 9:1-7
Suppose that an alien from another planet, or even another galaxy, were to come and visit our earth during the holiday season. What do you think that alien would discover and conclude about Christmas? Would he conclude that it is more about Santa, or Savior? Rudolph and reindeers, or a Redeemer? Jingle bells, or Jesus? Happy Holidays, or Merry Christmas?
During the 2005 Christmas season in Denver, a Christian group was denied permission to participate in the city's annual Parade of Lights because they planned to sing hymns and say "Merry Christmas" on their float. A part of Denver's holiday celebration for over thirty years, the parade was open to the vast majority of the community, including homosexual American Indians, belly dancers, and, of course, Santa Claus among its participants.
In McHenry County, Illinois, children, parents, and teachers gathered for a time of holiday celebration at school concerts. They sang of Hanukkah, gave a rendition of a Jamaican folk song, and made their list for Santa. In the "spirit of inclusiveness," however, there was no mention of Christ and no word about the Christmas story. Later it was reported that the slight of our Savior was "inadvertent."
Even Time and Newsweek magazines entered the debate withcover stories about Christmas, though the observations from Times's "Secrets of the Nativity" and Newsweek's "The Birth of Jesus" probably would not impress those of us who take the Bible seriously. For they question the reality of the Virgin Birth. They question whether or not the shepherds ever came or the Wise Men ever showed up, and they questioned, "Did it ever really happen?"
Well, from Genesis through Malachi, the Word of God paints for us a beautiful portrait of the Savior who is to come, the Christ of Christmas. The Old Testament unfolds the drama of redemption and the true essence of what Christmas really is all about. There, painted for us in magnificent detail, is a king with four names.
The year is approximately 725 B.C. Israel, the Northern Kingdom, faced an ominous and perilous situation from the north, as an evil and aggressive Assyrian empire was growing and expanding. Tiglath-pileser III had built Assyria to its zenith in power, and now Shalmaneser V was poised and ready to attack and to morally bankrupt a militarily weakened Israel.
It's important to note here that just three years later, in 722 B.C., Israel would be sacked, overrun, and crushed in humiliating defeat by the Assyrian empire. Loved ones would be brutally killed, families would be broken up and destroyed; the land would be devastated, and economic havoc would be rampant. The once- proud nation of Israel would be brought to its knees in shame, humiliation, and judgment. And yet, in the midst of their despair and hopelessness, they received a Word from God.
In Isaiah 9 we are told that sorrow would turn to rejoicing. The distress of verse 1 would turn into the joy of verse 3.
The oppression of verse 1 would turn into a broken yoke in verse 3.
The darkness of verse 2 would turn to the light of verse 2.
The shadow of death of verse 2 would be overcome in verse 6.
In these verses, all of the verb tenses are in the perfect tense. In Isaiah's mind, these things had already happened; they were a settled reality. Why? Because there was to come, in a wonderful new day, a king with four names.
E. J. Young, a wonderful Old Testament scholar, notes that these verses find initial fulfillment in Matthew 4:14-16. There is going to be great rejoicing among God's people because God has broken the yoke of burden and oppression! The burden and the oppression are removed because the weapons and garments of the warrior are destroyed. The basic reason for these blessings is that a child has been born.
And so, seven hundred years before the Wise Men gave, before the angels sang, and before the shepherds arrived, Isaiah explains for us in wonderful detail what Christmas is all about. He tells us about a king with four names.
What would Isaiah have us understand from this wonderful text? There are three truths that I want to put before you as we walk through these verses.
HE IS MARVELOUS IN HOW HE CAME
Verse 6 reads, "For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given." Now, it is imperative that you see the flow of Isaiah's argument in this section of his book. Here Isaiah intimately connects to the virgin-born Immanuel of Isaiah 7:14 -- this Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace of Isaiah 9:6, who we learn later is the bloodline or the stem of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), and ultimately is the Suffering Servant of the Lord in Isaiah 53.
There is something particularly marvelous and majestic about His coming, something that is indeed mysterious as we try to unfold the truth of what we have before us. He is marvelous in how He came for two reasons. First, He came in the form of earthly humanity. "For unto us a child is born . . ." And literally, in the Hebrew language, the phrase "a child" is fronted for emphasis: "A child is born unto us."
Isaiah is not looking at his day but to a new day -- a wonderful day, a day out there in the future of unparalleled joy and blessing for a one- of- a- kind child, when a king with four names is born for us. A child is born. "A child is born" draws us to the baby in Bethlehem. It was unto us, for us, and for our good that this child was born.
Hebrew 2:14 (KJV) helps us understand why it was necessary that this One be born as a human baby. There the Bible says, "Inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, he himself, likewise, shared in the same."
Paul adds his commentary in Galatians 4:4, where he says that when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.
Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is quite clear and quite precise in his prophecy. He did not say, "A child is born," but rather, "A son is born." No. Isaiah, the inspired seer of messianic prophecy, wrote words that he may not have fully understood, but words that were clearly, specifically, and precisely true. Indeed, it's been well that God's Christmas gift came in the person of deity, wrapped in the package of humanity.
Now, please understand that Jesus' birth in Bethlehem was not the beginning of the Son. There was a time when Jesus was not; His beginning was Bethlehem. But there was never a time when the Son was not. Indeed, John 1:1 reminds us in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Hebrews 1:1-2 says that God -- who in the past spoke many times and in many ways through the prophets of old -- has in this last day spoken to us by His Son.
John Phillips, that wonderful expositor, explains it beautifully: "The great mystery of the manger is that God should be able to translate deity into humanity without discarding the deity or distorting the humanity." Yes, indeed, the incarnation was a true and genuine wedding of perfect deity and sinless humanity.
I love the way R. G. Lee, that wonderful pastor for many years at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, explained it: "Jesus is the only one born with no earthly father, but an earthly mother. He had no heavenly mother, but a heavenly father. He was older than his mother, and as old as his father."
John would add in his gospel, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son" (3:16). Yes, He is marvelous in how He came. He came in earthly humanity; He came in heavenly deity.
HE IS MAJESTIC IN WHO HE IS
And now see with me that He is also majestic in who He is. From Genesis to Revelation there are more than 250 names and titles given to our Lord; but here, Isaiah does something utterly unique. Here, Isaiah brings together four names in a concise package -- names that appear nowhere else in the Bible.
Indeed, more names are crowded together in Isaiah 9 than anywhere else in all of Holy Scripture. Taken together, they encapsulate in a beautiful way the totality of both the person and the work of Jesus -- who He is and what He does. And when these four titles are coupled with the fact that He is the child who is born, He is the Son who is given, the result is nothing less than the God- man Immanuel, "God with us."
In the ancient Semitic mind, names, titles, often constituted the character of the person and the activity of the person -- who they are and what they do. Jesus Christ will show Himself to be absolute perfection in terms of these four names that de- scribe Him.
What can we say about these four names?
This name tells us He is a wise counselor who solves my confusion. "Wonderful counselor" could perhaps be translated as a "wonder of a counselor." In other words, He is glorious and He is wondrous as a counselor, unfailing in His wisdom. It's interesting to note that the word translated "wonderful" there is never used in the Bible to describe humankind, but always as an attribute of God.
Of course, we live today in the day and the age of the counselor, of the psychiatrist, the psychoanalyst, and the therapist. It has been said that a counselor is someone who will help you organize your hang- ups so you can be unhappy more effectively.
It was by a counselor that the world fell into sin. Satan got Eve involved in psychoanalysis. She got Adam involved in group therapy; together, they plunged the whole world into insanity. Yes, the world was ruined by a counselor, but the world is also redeemed by a counselor.
In 1 Corinthians 1:24, we are told that Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God. This phrase tells us He is our adviser and He is our teacher. He is our friend and He is our confidant. And Jesus Himself said in Matthew 11:28 (KJV), "Come unto me all ye who labor and I will give you rest." Jesus gives rest for your body, rest of your mind, and rest for your soul. He is a wise counselor who solves my confusion.
Jesus is a worthy defender who shelters us from conflict. He not only is a wonderful counselor, He is a mighty God. It is the Hebrew phrase El Gabbor. Some translate this the "hero God," or the "warrior God."
Here you have a title that causes severe discomfort and agitation among liberal and Jewish scholars. He is the mighty God, and so they try to tell us this is nothing more than popular exaggeration, royal hyperbole or court flattery. However, when taken in its context, and in the greater context of Isaiah's book, we are inescapably driven to the conclusion that here is an affirmation of a Child and a Son who is nothing less than deity.
The argument is indeed settled quite clearly, I believe, in Isaiah 10:21; for there the Bible says of the remnant of Israel, "the remnant will return to El Gabbor, the mighty God."
It's been well noted that the term "mighty God" conjures up images of warfare and the battleground; indeed, the king with four names is a warrior God. He is a hero- God who would fight a battle far greater than Waterloo or Valley Forge and more decisive than Gettysburg or D-Day. This warrior- God, whom Hebrews 2:10 calls the "captain of our salvation," will take the field of battle at a place called Calvary.
There he would engage the titan forces of sin and Satan, death, hell, and the grave. And when the dust had settled, an empty tomb stands as a monument to the victory of El Gabbor, the mighty God. He is a worthy defender who shelters me from conflict.
He is a watchful father who showers me with compassion. He is father of eternity; He is eternally a father. Of course, the idea of eternity speaks of the fact that He is the source and the origin of eternity. In John 1, we have had that affirmed. And then, in Revelation 1:8, we are told of this one who is the Alpha and the Omega. And amazingly, in Hebrews 1:8, God Himself declares, "but to the Son he says, your throne, O God, is forever and ever."
And so here is a child who is also a father -- fatherly in His love, fatherly in His care, fatherly in His goodness, fatherly in His compassion. He acts toward us like a father, a good father, a perfect father, a provider and a protector. And as the eternal Father, the everlasting Father, His provision and His protection are forever. He is a watchful father who showers me with compassion.
Prince of Peace
Jesus is a wonderful comforter who soothes my conscience, for he is the Prince of Peace. In Luke 2:14, the angels sing to the shepherds of One who will bring peace on earth. And as the Prince of Peace, or Saar Shalom in Hebrew, He is the supreme giver of peace. He is the one who is going to see that the warrior's boot and the garments rolled up in blood are nothing less than fuel for the fire (verse 5).
He is, indeed, the greater Gideon of Judges 7, where in the day of Midian He put an end to the forces of evil who stand against and oppose the people of God.
When Saar Shalom shows up, darkness, despair, and death will come to an end and the boots and the blood of battle will cease to be, never ever again to appear.
Of course, we are informed in the New Testament that He is the one who gives us peace with God (Romans 5:1).
In Philippians 4:7, He is the one who gives us the peace of God. He is the one who brings about universal peace -- peace between God and humanity, peace among humanity, and peace even within humanity. He gives us peace in the present, and He will give us peace in the future.
In verse 7 Isaiah tells us, "Of his peace there will be no end." And so He is marvelous in how He came; He is majestic in who He is; but there is one final thing.
HE IS MIGHTY IN WHAT HE WILL DO
Our God is a promise- keeping God. He will fulfill what he says He will do. And in 2 Samuel 7:12-13 (NKJV) is found one of the key covenant texts in the Bible. There, God said to David, "I will set up your seed after you who will come from your body . . . and I will establish his kingdom. I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever."
Building up on the inside of those two texts, Isaiah tells us that He is mighty in what He will do; for he will rule completely (verse 6). It says there, "And the government will be upon his shoulder."
His unending reign is reaffirmed in the New Testament in Luke 1:32-33 (NKJV), where the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and says, "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son and shall call his name jesus. He will be great, and he will be called the son of the highest and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom, there will be no end."
His rule will be universal. His rule will be unending. His rule will be unparalleled. The government will rest upon His shoulder.
Respected theologian Herbert C. Leupold said "the government . . . upon His shoulder" speaks of the golden chain that hangs around the neck of and lies upon the shoulder of the great ruler as a symbol of his authority.
And my good friend James Merritt says this text "makes one thing clear, no one will vote Him into office, and no one will vote Him out of office. When He comes, He comes to take over. He comes to rule completely. He will rule completely. This child is a king; this son is a sovereign lord. He will rule completely."
Verse 7 (NKJV) tells that He will rule eternally: "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end." No end in time; no end in space. His government will increase and grow and flourish, never, ever to be brought to an end.
Hope is going to burst forth out of hopelessness, and it will just keep on growing. Peace will come forth out of "peacelessness," and it will keep on growing. Justice will burst forth out of injustice, and it will keep on growing -- and the character of His kingdom, judgment and justice, now and forever. "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end."
He also will rule powerfully, according to verse 7: "From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform it" (NKJV).
Bring about the kingdom of this child, the kingdom of this Son -- this king with four names is not left to the devices of humanity. God Himself, Jehovah, will see that His Son is rightly enthroned and rightly honored.
It has been well said, "The Father is jealous and has a passion to establish the rule and reign of His Son. And He is certain to see that it will come to pass."
In heaven, there is no confusion about Christmas. In heaven, there is no confusion about who belongs on the throne forever. And, indeed, God is burning. He has always burned with a passion, a zeal, for one thing and one thing only -- the glory of His beloved Son in whom He takes great delight.
Martin Lloyd Jones says, "Ultimately, nothing matters but what we think of Jesus." Isaiah says that we should think He is marvelous in how He came; He is majestic in who He is; and He is mighty in what He will do.
A gift tells us much about the giver. In this passage in Isaiah, which almost has a magical quality about it, we discover and we try to remember at this time of the year that we are the recipients of a surprising Gift, and a supreme Gift; a humble Gift and the highest Gift. Indeed, we learn that God will never, ever be able to outdo Himself in the gift that He gave at Christmas.
Dr. W. A. Criswell has said well, "The shoulders that bear the government of the universe are the shoulders that bore the cross to Calvary."
What, then, should be our response? We can join with Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:15 and say, "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift." We can join with Isaiah and say, "Thank You, Lord, for the king with four names."
Heavenly Father, we have stepped into and upon holy ground in a text that I recognize that no human lips are adequate to fully and completely describe all the truth, all the glory, and all the majesty and awesomeness that we find there.
And yet, Lord, even though we may be infants in our understanding, and though we may not be able to know you exhaustively, we can know you truly.
I am so grateful for that Child who was born and that Son who was given. And I thank you so much for the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace, who is the Lord Jesus.
May we, if no one else does this time of the year, remember the truth and the essence about Christmas. May we be courageous and faithful, not to be intimidated by a secular culture, not to be cowed by skeptical writers and theologians who scoff at the reality of the Incarnation.
But may we, out of our own experience of having met you personally, share with them about the Child who was born and the Son who was given, not only for us, but also that others might come to know Him as their Wonderful Counselor, their Mighty God, their Everlasting Father, and their Prince of Peace. This we ask and pray in His name. Amen.
Copyright 2006 by Adrienne Ingrum, LLC
Excerpted from Joy to the World by Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.