|Sermons from Lone Rock Bible Church
Index of LRBC Sermons: www.sermonlinks.com/Sermons/LoneRock/Sermons
December 18, 2005
The Name Above All Names
The list of names of Messiah in Isaiah 9:6 leaves no doubt that His character is marvelous and glorious indeed!
6For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
Names are interesting and we pay attention to them because it is the label an individual will carry through life. That may explain in part why there are many nicknames. Normally, names are intended to evoke something positive; for instance we name someone after a relative, normally not the black sheep of the family, or a respected individual in society or in history or in the Bible. Sometimes we give names that represent a particular virtue. As parents we stand back and really hope that the child lives up to his or her name. But we dont know, do we, if living up to the name is going to happen or not -- except when God is naming names.
In the case of Isaiah 9:6, we have the names of Messiah and they are plural. His names represent His character accurately and truly. I count five. I realize some Bible translations vary here and say Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace -- four groups of two words. Others, however, take a look at the grammar and say it looks like Wonderful stands alone, and Counselor stands alone. I am going to do it that way because it does not in the long run really matter, as long as we cover them all.
The names of Messiah -- beautifully listed for us here -- really ought to help us appreciate His glory because Bible names always represent character traits. This is who He is, not only what He is called.
First of all, He is Wonderful. It doesnt matter which language we use, whether the Bibles Old Testament language of Hebrew or our language of English, the word speaks for itself. It means exactly what it says. The word Wonderful means filling one with wonder. Messiah should fill us with wonder. Suggestive of the type of scene we might see in a town at Christmastime where little children are walking down the street and are caught by a display in a storefront window. They are trying to figure out how those people move and the beauty of the lights and perhaps the train on the tracks. You can see in the face of the children, wonder. How does it do that? How could it be?
Alice went through the looking glass into Wonderland, a world where she just could not quite grasp the bottom line. It was a world that, in its essence was out of reach, and that is where we find Messiah. He is wonderful. The notion of God entering the world in human flesh ought to put us in that same frame of mind, honoring Him as that One who is just out of reach. We cant fully grasp Him. He fills us with awe. We are lost in wonder, love, and praise.
He is Wonderful, first of all, in His character. By that I mean in his character, in His nature, we might say in His distance from us. Look at Isaiah 55:8 and 9 as God describes Himself. I believe He means exactly what He says with these words:
8"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Thats just a fact. His world is His world; our world is our world.
as the heavens are higher than the earth,
His nature, His character, suggest that there is a distance between God and us and that accounts at least in part for that sense of wonder. We cannot quite figure Him out, nor should we. He will always be above us. He will always be ahead of us, perfectly, gloriously so.
He is wonderful in character. He is wonderful in power.
10"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
I will always get what I want. I will always have it My way. I will always accomplish My purpose. There is no if in the vocabulary of Messiah. There is no Plan B necessary. He sets out to do what He will do. He is exalted above our understanding. Perhaps we cannot trace His hand, but His power is wonderful even as His character is incomprehensible.
There is more to it than that. We are dealing here with a God -- I have had this thought for many years. I would imagine I am not alone -- God could be and is sovereign, powerful, glorious, majestic, perfect, filling all in all and over all and all the exalted, lofty terms we can possibly come up with, all would be true of God. If however He did not deal with us in mercy, it wouldnt really help, would it? He would be just as glorious. What the Bible writers marvel at in the wonder of God is the fact that He is beyond comprehension when it comes to His mercy. We forget this because we tend to be so civilized. We forget truly the distance between God and ourselves.
In Psalm 31, the Psalmist is reflecting on his issues. This is Davids Psalm. We dont have to read much about the life of David to realize that David was anything but lily white or pristine pure in his thoughts, attitudes, and behavior. David had his problems, but, nonetheless, he had a heart for God. He says in verse 21 -- in light of everything:
21Blessed be the LORD,
David says Im getting what I deserve. Im in a besieged city. My back is up against the wall. No doubt he had it coming. But look at what God is doing. He is coming through for David in a wonderful fashion in such a way that he stands and says it is not enough that He is vast and powerful, He is also extending mercy to me. The thought is overwhelming.
Psalm 107 - taking it from David, the individual, to Israel the nation. There again, we dont read very far in the history of Gods chosen people, the Israelites, before we see they are anything but deserving of Gods grace and mercy. They remind us an awful lot of us. Psalm 107 basically traces the history of the people.
He is extending mercy in a wonderful fashion despite the fact that they have wandered, they are hungry, they are thirsty, and they deserve it. Yet He comes through wonderfully. Gods people marvel at that.
13Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble;
The Psalmist pauses once again and says:
them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness,
They are shaking their heads and saying, And can it be that I should gain an interest in my Saviors love? How can it be?
21Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness,
Verse 31 - same thing. Over and over and over again Gods people say, Ah, He is so wonderful to me. We could easily presume upon Gods amazing grace if we do not reflect, as Newton did, on his Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. John Newton, the slave trader, born again, redeemed, brought out of a life of darkness and death -- John Newton marveled at the wonder of the mercy of God, as did Isaac Watts. Amazing love, he said. How can it be that Thou, my God, should die for me.
We need to get back to the storefront window sometimes, with Jesus. We need to see, in that window, a manger and an infant whose presence we ill deserve in our behalf. We need to wonder at that. Wonderful suggests the distance God is higher than we are, suggests an other-worldly agenda, perhaps that He has something He is up to, that He has a plan He is working, that there is a human history He is controlling. It is a huge, long-term comprehensive plan. Who can understand it? We cannot, but He can because the Bible labels Him counselor.
He is wonderful, He is counselor. He is above us with an agenda. He is a counselor who understands it and who works, obviously, in sync with it.
We will talk for just a second about
where we tend to come from. In our world we have counselors. They often charge by the
hour. In many times in the Christian community its simply a matter of a cup of
coffee and a friendly chat. But we counsel all the time. In our world, counselors have to
have a couple of traits and they have to have them in balance.
We must, as counselors, have compassion and must also have wisdom. Compassion and wisdom in good balance makes a counselor. Messiah has both and He has them in perfect balance. In our world, counseling, it seems to me, follows two basic tracks. One, I would call pragmatic. That would be the secular counseling track, and that would say, We have to find something that works here. Something that fixes me and makes me feel better, changes my circumstances. Thats a pragmatic approach to counseling. The other is a principled approach, which is what I mean by biblical counseling. In other words, the Bible says this is right, this is wrong, do this and we cant guarantee the results of that but God will be honored. So stick with principle and do it Gods way.
Each has its limitations. Counseling from a strictly pragmatic approach is results-oriented. In other words, we have to make things right or fix things even if it is at the expense of the principles of Gods Word. That means, if I am in a dilemma, if I am in a conflict, if I have a problem, I have to fight back, perhaps. I have to play dirty. Or maybe its time for me not to fight, but flight. Or maybe I can just medicate myself away from the issue.
The goal of that sort of counseling is human-centered. It is my gratification, fixing my circumstances, making me happier, making me feel better. Thats the goal. Christian people: we need to be aware of this. In the design of God, as He is grooming you and me for eternity, as this life is temporary and is, in fact, training for the next, let us remember that Gods purpose in your life and mine are not primarily to make us happy, but to make us holy, to make us more like Jesus. Thus, the difference between these two approaches.
In a principles approach to counseling we may think -- it is Christian, it is biblical; therefore, I will be happy. Would that it were so. A principled approach, Bible-oriented
principles of Gods eternal Word, however, are couched against a fallen world and a self-centered nature. Not just mine, but that of my antagonist as well. So we have a problem. We have a wonderful God. He gives us clear instructions. He asks us to trust Him and obey Him and indeed we should, but that does not guarantee that the results we really want to make us happy or to fix our circumstances or to change that other person are guaranteed. What is guaranteed is that God will be honored, His way will be followed, and we will be groomed for that which awaits.
There were two things that were not issued to me. I was never issued the crystal ball. I do not know how things will turn out. When people are in dilemmas and they are heart-wrenching, they are real, and they are painful and sometimes the consequences are extremely serious. Nevertheless, though I have the Bible, I still cannot say how it will end in this life.
The other piece of gear I sometimes wish I had and never was issued, is the wand. If I had it, I would use it. I would use it so fast and so broadly that we would all have different hearts. I would change hearts with it; Id start with mine. But I dont.
In this world, in our experience, which is limited, we may not get the results we want. But what we do get is the glory of God. We do know this -- if I claim to be a Christian and I choose a course that is clearly not in keeping with wisdom, that is clearly unbiblical, that is against Godly counsel -- if I choose that course, God is clearly not obligated to do anything in my behalf.
Thats our world. Whether you are giving or receiving counsel -- and we all experience both in life -- it can be frustrating. It makes us trust Him. Trust His heart even when we cannot trace His hand. Thats where we are. Gods glory. Gods smile. Uncertain results in this life and yet guaranteed grooming for the next. Thats our world. His world as counselor is a little different and I for one am delighted that He is our counselor. It is beyond our common idea as counselor. Our counseling is like advice giving, life coaching. His transcends that by a country mile.
God as counselor is less the advice giver as He is sovereign planner and overseer. Thats what the word means. He is the sovereign planner and overseer, orchestrator of the big plan of His throughout human history. That is what He is as counselor. Let me go to Psalm 33 as we find these principles repeated in Scripture. This is good news! Somebody is in control. Somebody is steering the ship. Somebody does know whether they are afoot or horseback -- and it is the Lord. Here is what the Bible says about Jesus, the Messiah.
That is why the text says: Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.
God does not need the crystal ball I never got. He is above the parade and sees it all anyway. He doesnt need it, nor does He need the wand. He has the Word. He accomplishes what He wants when He sends it out. He is the counselor. He gives us what we have to go on. Its called wisdom. Let all the earth fear the Lord. Remember, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The wise person is not the intellectual. The wise person, who makes decisions, is the one who makes decisions and establishes priorities based on the reality of God and His spoken revealed truth. That is a wise person. It begins with being in fear of Him, in awe of Him, if you will.
Hw is the sovereign planner and overseer. This is God as counselor. In Isaiah 46, He talks about I will call who I want. I will do it my way. In Isaiah 45, He has already called a King Cyrus in order to take over Babylon. Cyrus does not even know it yet. Cyrus has not been born yet and God has him set up for international regency and his nation dos not yet exist because God has a plan. He knows the end from the beginning and He carries it out. He is the sovereign planner and overseer. He is the counselor. Thats why His counsel is always in accordance with His perfect, unchanging plan. His plan does not change because it does not need to change because He does not change.
It is linked to eternal wisdom. That is what is higher than we are. Higher -- His ways, His thoughts are higher than our own. We cannot have that exhaustive, thorough, accurate handle on God in every dimension. It is not available to us, so we trust Him with what is available to us.
Now it gets personal. How is it that we as fallen individuals, mortal individuals with limited understanding and hearts that rebel against it, how do we connect with the God? By His grace through His Spirit! He set all that up. When He saves us, He puts His Holy Spirit within us. How do I know what He wants? We may not always know, so we pray. We pray out of hearts that are surrendered and submissive even from hearts that cannot handle the truth, whether we had it or not.
Romans 8:26 says the Spirit helps us in our weakness. That weakness suggests the fact that we are frail and fleshly. There are certain places we cannot go, certain things we cannot know, so the Spirit takes up for us. The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know how to pray. We do not know how to tap into Him as we wish we did. His ways and His thoughts are higher than ours, higher than the heavens are above the earth. Our knowledge and understanding are limited so we pray and the Spirit picks up when we can go no further.
The Spirit Himself intercedes for us with, literally, unutterable words. Im not sure what everyones notion of groanings too deep for words is, but literally it says words that are not articulated. Beyond words, there arent any words in any language that will take us there because now we are in heavenly realm and we do not speak that language. Only He does and He who searches our hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is. Jesus and the Spirit in some mysterious way we cannot fathom, connect -- Jesus, exalted in heaven, the Holy Spirit living in the hearts of the believer, they connect. They give us grace. They give us power. They help us when we need help. After all, Romans 11:33 caps off the apostles argument as a turning point in the book of Romans with these words:
33Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
I, for one, am delighted that God is above me. I am thrilled that I do not have the answers, because I know what I am made of. I want a God like that. The Bible describes a God like that.
34For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS
To whom does God owe a debt?
36For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
He is the counselor. So what do we do? What are we left with? Trust Him. The Bible says if He did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for all of us, what else could we need? If we cannot trust Him for the sake of Jesus, then we are in woeful shape indeed. He gives us His Son. Trust Him in light of Jesus, not in order to change our circumstances. They may not change. God may not want them to change. He is grooming us for eternal responsibilities. He knows what He is doing. We trust Him not in order to change our circumstances but in order to grow and to be changed through our circumstances.
God knows what He is doing. Those who have endured Navy diver training tell us that it is a brutal training experience. Different military branches have their own forms of training brutality. In Navy diver training, however, the trainee is taken into a drowning experience so that he will know what the symptoms are, so that he will have the experience, so that when he is in the real situation he will know what to anticipate and better be able to know what to do. It is a training exercise. Is it pleasant? No, he must trust those who have set up the program and who have gone before so that he emerges on the other side equipped to do the job he is being trained to do. He has to trust them, and we have to trust our God too if we are going to be changed and equipped. After all, He has gone before.
3. Mighty God
How can this amazing plan come to pass? It comes to pass because our God is a mighty God. Scroll forward in your thinking from the babe in the manger in Bethlehem, several decades, to the betrayal and arrest of that same Jesus.
He said interesting words in Matthew 26. Jesus was arrested, someone had a sword, swung it and someone lost an ear, at least for a moment. Jesus said this:
53"Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?
If I want them, they are mine. Why? Because I am the Mighty God. When He was on trial before the Sanhedrin, the high priest said to Jesus, I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Messiah. Jesus said to him, You have said it yourself. In other words, Bingo! You have said it yourself, nevertheless, I tell you -- and He quotes Daniel 7:13 when He says, You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven because I am the Mighty God.
There are many names for God in the Old Testament from Hebrew roots. The name of God perhaps most commonly known is Elohim. It means the Mighty Speaking One. There is El Roi -- God Who Sees. There is El Elyon - God Most High. There is El Shaddai -- God Almighty, and El Gibbor - that is the word here, it means Mighty Warrior God. That is where He is coming from.
Here He is the Mighty Warrior God. He takes His place along such notables in the Old Testament as King Saul and his father, as King David who slew his tens of thousands, of the thirty mighty men who prevailed against all comers. They were gibbor as well -- they were mighty men. Messiah here is Mighty God. This is no secret to those who understand the Jewish notion of Messiah. As a matter of fact, they majored on this point. They were looking for a Messiah who would deliver and this went on, as far as Messiah was concerned, from Deuteronomy very early on in the history of the nation all the way to Nehemiah, who prayed to the Great and Awesome God. Same name -- the Mighty Warrior God. They understood who they were talking about, who this Messiah was and what He would do.
The words describing the Mighty God of Isaiah 9 are the words we find describing God in Psalm 145.
4One generation shall praise Thy works to another,
11They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
You are the Mighty Warrior God.
4. Eternal Father and
5. Prince of Peace
It is so common today, even at Christmas, to reduce Jesus. We can be very spiritual about it. We can say He was a fantastic prophet. He could speak true things from God. We can say fantastic teacher. Even the disciples and the Jews said He is one who speaks with authority, not like our own Pharisees. We like Him. He is really a good teacher. Others, down through the years, have said that He is nothing more than a good, moral example and that when Jesus died on the cross it had nothing to do with atonement or paying for our sins but only had to do with being a good example of submission and humility.
It is easy enough, I suppose, for many to reduce Jesus. Some would agree just in a vague sort of sense, Oh yes, I believe in Jesus as the Son of God, without really grasping the implications of that term.
Sometimes, as Christians, even we see Jesus as a baby in a manger and can even tend to leave Him there, innocent and pristine. Sadly, that leaves our society with a Jesus who is vacillating, weak, disinterested, incapable, or unwilling.
I want to scroll again from Matthew 26 to Revelation 19, where the role of Messiah not as a suffering servant but as the coming king is most clearly described. The good news is that Jesus is coming back (you have seen the bumper sticker, havent you?). The bad news is: He is not happy.
Revelation 19 - here is our Mighty Warrior God, just as real in Revelation 19 as in Matthew 2. Just as much the Mighty Warrior Conquering King as the babe in the manger. If you take one, you have to take the other.
11And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who
sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.
You know why that is? Because He is wonderful and we cannot attain to that level of knowledge in finiteness.
13He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called
The Word of God.
He is Mighty God, the Mighty Warrior God of the Bible. The message comes through loudly and clearly -- do not trifle with Him. Psalm 2 says, Kiss the Son; that is, do homage to Him, bow to Him, submit to Him, surrender to Him, lest He be angry -- and He will be -- and you perish in the way.
I think Im a pretty good person. Ive never really done anything all that wrong. I think God will accept me if I am basically good. That is a mockery of His sacrifice on the cross. God has said and Jesus has demonstrated that no, you and I are not that good. If we claim to be we make Him a liar, John says, and the truth is not in us. Do not make Him a liar. He is the God of truth.
Our need is His blood. Our need is His life for our own. He is the Mighty Warrior God. He is the Messiah. Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And He has many names. Notice how those names tie together in grandeur. He is Wonderful. He plans and executes and knows it all and He brings it to pass as the Mighty God. He is Eternal Father. He is Prince of Peace.
All those names tie together. We reduce them to that infant in that feed bunk in Bethlehem long ago. That special baby grew and lived and died, was raised, ascended to the right hand of the Father, and who reigns to return.
Lay hold of Him. Lay fast hold of Him.
taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®,
Jim Carlson 2005, Lone Rock Bible Church, Stevensville Montana, USA