Summary: To many of the people it seemed that even God had turned His back upon them. But Isaiah's faith & hope was not dimmed or shaken. God spoke through him, & in the 9th chapter he speaks about the coming Messiah. (PowerPoints available - #182)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(PowerPoints used with this message are available for free. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request #182.)
INTRO. There are so many beautiful Christmas hymns. But for some reason the words & music of a Christmas hymn that is not too well known, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the terrible days of the Civil War, seem to touch me the most.
It almost always causes a catch in my throat & a mist in my eyes. Three of the verses go like this:
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild & sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong, & mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud & deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!
The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men!"
ILL. During that Civil War, one of the oldest colleges in the United States, the College of William & Mary in historic Williamsburg, VA, was left in ruins. After the war it struggled to continue on, but finally its doors were closed.
For 7 years there were no college classes. There was no faculty to teach, no students to learn, & the rains dripped through the decaying roofs of the deserted buildings.
Yet every morning during those 7 years, through summer's sun & winter's snow the old college president went into the deserted chapel & rang the tower bells so that the people of Williamsburg would know that the college was still there.
He refused to quit. He wouldn't give up. And he won! This year, the College of William & Mary celebrated its 321st Anniversary, one of the oldest colleges in the United States of America!
Now let's go to the Bible, to a time when the northern kingdom of Israel had been laid waste & its people carried away into captivity. The southern kingdom of Judah, with Jerusalem as its capitol, was under attack but not yet conquered
And to many of the people, it seemed that even God had turned His back upon them. It was in that sad & depressing atmosphere that the prophet, Isaiah, lived.
But Isaiah's faith & hope was not dimmed or shaken. God spoke through him, & in Isaiah, the 9th chapter, he speaks about the coming of the Messiah.
Vs. 2 proclaims, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."
And then in vs's. 6 & 7, around 700 years before Jesus came to earth, Isaiah wrote this prophecy concerning the Messiah.
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, & the government will be on His shoulders. He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
"Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
"The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this."
Those words came at a time when most Jews had lost all hope for the nation of Israel. Yet, even in the midst of their despair, God gives those who would listen a clear & certain message. We could almost call his words "The Bells of Christmas" also, for Isaiah is writing about Jesus.
And Isaiah's words still ring out a very special message to those who will listen. So let's take a closer look at them this morning.
I. FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN, UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN!
A. Isaiah 9:6 begins with these words, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given." Think for a few moments with me about that word "given."
Seven hundred years before it happened Isaiah said that Jesus would be a very special gift from God to us. Well, isn't that exactly what John 3:16 says? "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
God gave Jesus as a gift to us. Listen to Peter as he boldly proclaims this when he & John were arrested & threatened by the leaders of Israel, the Jewish Sanhedrin, for healing the lame man at the gate of the Temple in the name of Jesus.
Peter responds to them in Acts 4:12 (Phillips), "In no one else can salvation be found. For in all the world no other name has been given to men but this, and it is by this name that we must be saved!"