“Everlasting Father”                       Isaiah 9:2-7                     December 25, 2011

 

SCRIPTURE INTRO: 

Our celebration of Christmas, our hope and joy in this annual feast,

   is a testimony of our faith in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

 

When you are a child, it’s not hard to get excited about Christmas.

The older you get, it’s often harder to celebrate for many reasons.

   The more you have to take yourself in hand and say:

   Self, have hope, rejoice—Christ is born. 

But that’s exactly what you have to do—stir up your faith and joy.

   And that’s what we want to do at Christ Covenant this Advent season.

 

One way is through our study of this great prophecy.

Looking at names given to the promised child.


 

INTRO:  His name shall be called Everlasting Father.

   Who is the Father of our country?  That’s easy.  George Washington. 

Let me ask you about some other famous fathers.  I have five of them.

   1.  Father of the Constitution?  James Madison

   2.  Father of Western medicine?  Hippocrates

   3.  Father of evolution?  Charles Darwin

   4.  Father of modern astronomy?  Copernicus

   5.  Father of nursing?  Trick question.  This Father is actually a Mother.

        Florence Nightingale

In each of these examples, “Father” means founder, author, originator.

   A person who gives an identity to a new idea or practice or way of life.

 

At first glance, this title of the Messiah is puzzling. 

   How can the Son of God be called Everlasting Father?

   Is there some confusion in the Trinity? 

   Are God the Father and God the Son the same? 

Is it right to call Jesus, Father?

   When we pray:  “Our Father which art in heaven”—who are we praying to?

   Are we in some way praying to Jesus Christ?

 

No, there’s no confusion here.  This is not a statement about the Trinity.

   This is not saying that Jesus is our Father in a paternal sense.

Remember, as I’ve pointed out in first two sermons, Isaiah 9 is a political passage.

   It’s about the coming of the Messiah and the government he will establish.

   “And the government shall be upon his shoulder.”

These four names of the Messiah are what scholars call throne names.

   They are names ascribed to a king that speak of

   the extent of his authority and the nature of his rule.

 

This throne name, Everlasting Father, could also be translated Father of Eternity.

   Jesus Christ is the Father of Eternity.  What does that mean?

At the most basic level it’s simply affirming that the Messiah will reign forever.

   As the hymn says:  His reign shall know no end. 

But on a deeper level, Father of Eternity means that he is the Founder and Author,

   the Originator of a new way of life.  A way of eternal life for all his subjects.

 

You have to remember the historical context in which Isaiah spoke this prophecy.

   It was a very unsettling time.  Let me remind you what was going on.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of those believers.

Isaiah received his visions during the reigns of four kings of Judah— 

   Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. 

Uzziah was a good king.  He reigned for 52 years. 

   Because of an illness, he made his son Jotham co-regent for last 11 years of reign.

   Uzziah was confined to palace.  Jotham carried out the day to day government.

What that meant was that when Uzziah finally died, there was a seamless transfer

   of the throne from father to son.  Jotham was a good, steady king like his father.

So when Jotham finally died, the people of Judah had enjoyed 60 years of wise rule.

 

Then came King Ahaz, who was not at all like his father or grandfather.

   He had no fear of God.  He was incompetent militarily.  Self-serving politically. 

And to make it all worse, he reigned during a time when Judah was facing serious

   threats to its existence—a possible civil war with Israel and the expansion of the

   Assyrian Empire.

 

There was a sense many people had that the best days of Judah were behind them.

   A deep sense of regret and sadness for a past that was lost. 

   Maybe even, among more sensitive, that past sins of nation finally catching up.

   A kind of paralysis that set in, even among believers. 

There was also the feeling that the mistakes being made by King Ahaz were

   going to be irreparable.  That the future of Judah was doomed. 

There was a lot of worry about the future that sapped all the joy and hope

   out of God’s people.

 

If they looked back they were filled with regrets at what might have been.

   If they looked ahead, they were filled with fear.

Into that very unsettling time Isaiah spoke these words—Have hope.

   The Messiah is coming.  A child will be born who will be the Everlasting Father.

He will not only reign forever—but he has your past and your future in his hands.

 

The life of faith is not different now than it was in Isaiah’s time.

   We often look back with regret and other negative, paralyzing emotions.

   And we often look forward in fear and worry. 

But we don’t have to do that if we trust the Everlasting Father.

 

Let’s look at this throne name of Christ under two points.

   Christ is the Father of Eternity Past.

   Christ is the Father of Eternity Future.

And we’ll see what different that makes in our lives today.

MP#1  Christ is the Father of Eternity Past

When the Bible tells us God is eternal, it means that he is eternal in both directions. 

   Not just that he will always exist in the future, but that he has always existed.

God does not age in any sense.  All is thoughts and plans are eternal.

   He does not come up with new thoughts or ideas.

   He is not bound by time.  And yet he carries out his eternal plans in time.

His work in the past has laid the foundation for all that is now and all that will be.

 

Psalm 102:25-27 says:

   “In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your

   hands.  They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.  Like clothing

   you will change them and they will be discarded.  But you remain the same, and your years

   will never end.”

The writer of Hebrews quotes this passage word for word in chapter 1 of that letter

   and then applies it to Jesus Christ. 

He’s Lord over the past.  He laid the foundations of the earth.

   All that was part of his grand sovereign plan that is being revealed in history.

 

What that means for us, and our little lives, is that everything in our past

   is completely, fully, totally under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The things in your past that were completely outside of your control—

   who your parents were and how they raised you and where you were born

   and the opportunities you were born with or not born with—he rules over that.

All the significant events in your past—your big successes, your big failures,

   even your past sins and pains—the Everlasting Father rules over those things.

 

That means if you trust Jesus Christ, if you believe in him and follow him—

   then you don’t have to allow your past to paralyze your present.

Isn’t that true of so many people?  Their past paralyzes their present.

   Regret—whether it’s for roads not taken, or bad choices, or people harmed.

   Bitterness—for what was done to you by others, or just the hand dealt in life.

 

It paralyzes the decisions you make now, the way you relate to God and people. 

   It affects the way you parent your children. 

   It sometimes traps you into constantly thinking destructive thoughts.

Who can redeem your past so that it no longer paralyzes your present—

   Jesus can—because he’s the Father of Eternity.  In the beginning he laid the

   foundation of the earth and he laid the foundation of your life.

 

Last week we were given a book as a Christmas gift by someone in this church.

   The book was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. 

Several people had told me about it, but I had never read it. 

   Well, I started reading and couldn’t stop.  Read the whole thing.

It’s the biography of a WWII veteran of the Pacific War named Louis Zamperini,

   I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who plan to read it, but it’s such a

   powerful illustration of this very thing—Christ’s lordship over your past.

So this is a spoiler alert.  If you got this book for Christmas and haven’t read it,

   put your fingers in your ears if you don’t want to know.

 

Louis was in a B-24 bomber that crashed in the Pacific. 

He and another crewman survived the crash and drifted in a rubber raft for 45 days. 

   It’s a survival record for days at sea in a rubber raft. 

   By the time they spotted land, they were basically sunburned skeletons. 

But before they could land on the island, they were captured by the Japanese.

 

Over the next two years, Louis endured extreme deprivation in POW camps. 

   He weighed 154 pounds when his ordeal began but for those two years his weight

   hovered around 90 pounds as he existed on a starvation diet.

But the darkest shadow during that time was not the hunger and slave labor,

   it was a prison guard that the Allied prisoners called the Bird.    

The Bird was a sadist and for some reason he became obsessed with Zamperini.

   He focused his cruelty on him.  Singled him out day after day. 

I won’t go into detail, but the treatment was so inhumane and persistent

   that it broke Louis’ body and almost broke his mind. 

 

After the war was over, Louis returned to California, got married. 

   He was very social, very popular.  He had been a Olympic athlete in ’36

But his past drove him to very typical destructive behaviors. 

   He became more and more alienated from people who loved him. 

He became obsessed with revenge, began to believe that the only way he could ever

   deal with his past and find relief would be to return to Japan, find the Bird,

   and kill him with his own hands. 

And just when his past was about to destroy him, he found the Lord through a

   Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles.  And the Lord began to redeem his past.

 

I’m not doing this story justice.  So much pain and wrestling I’ve passed over.

   But this is where Louis found himself.  The morning after Billy Graham crusade,

   he went to a park where he usually went to get drunk. 

But instead of a bottle, he brought a Bible. 

   He began to read and pray and think back over those two terrible years.

This is how the author describes what happened: 

   “Resting in the shade and the stillness, Louis felt a profound peace.  When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him.  He was not the worthless, broken, forsaken man that the Bird had striven to make of him.  In a single, silent moment, his rage, his fear, his humiliation and helplessness, had fallen away.  That morning, he believed, he was a new creation.”

 

What happened?  Christ broke the hold his past had over him. 

   Louis experienced that as he personally trusted in the Lord.

   As he bowed the knee to the Father of Eternity and acknowledged that—

Yes, even then, in the raft at sea and in the prison camp, the Lord was there.

   The Lord was in control and loved him.

By faith, Louis’ past was redeemed and became a source of blessing to many. 

  

Paul Tripp says in his book on middle age, that when we are young,

   we are like astronauts.  We’re always looking up, always looking ahead.

But then, he says, there comes a point in every life where you change from

   being an astronaut to an archaeologist. 

You start to sift through the layers of your life, trying to make sense of the past.

   There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  The Patriarchs did it.

 

But how do you see your past?  What is the sense you make of it?

   Is it mostly a source of regret and bitterness? 

Or do you see, in the people and pains, in the ordinary and the surprises,

   in the good and the bad—the face of Jesus Christ?

Do you see the Everlasting Father, the Father of Eternity who loves you? 

   You get that vision of your past by faith.  Faith in the goodness of God.

   Faith in Jesus Christ. 

 

I recently heard a grown man, the son of missionaries, talk about how he was sent

   as a nine-year-old to a boarding school hundreds of miles away from parents.

He said, I know for some MKs, this was a sorrow that darkened their lives.

   But he said, for me it wasn’t.  Every time I’m filled with gratitude because I see

   how the Lord was there with me, and used my peculiar past to make who I am.

Don’t let your past paralyze your present with regrets and bitterness.

   Trust Jesus.  Let him redeem it.  He’s the Father of Eternity and he loves you.


 

MP#2  Christ is the Father of Eternity Future

Not only do we sometimes allow the past to paralyze the present,

   we sometimes allow the future to do the very same thing. 

You look at your life, your situation, and think—What if? 

   What if this happens?  What if that happens?  Fear.  Worry.

There is sometimes so much preoccupation with the future what-ifs that you

   don’t pay attention to and enjoy the present.  You miss what God doing now.

 

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus addresses the subject of worry and he treats

   it very seriously.  He describes it with the same sense of mastery that he gives

   to his treatment of money. 

Worry can grip a person just as powerfully as money can.

   Worry can drive a person.  It argues with you.  It threatens.  It bullies.

   It’s a powerful and destructive spiritual force.

 

Worry is a destructive spiritual force that argues against any relief

   And the way worry works is that it transports you where? 

   Into the future.  It’s an imaginary future that you’ve dreamed up in your head.

   It’s not full of any real facts.

But in that future you imagine all kinds of scenarios that might occur—

   some very bizarre.  And there are no solutions, mind just goes around and around,

   always covering the same ground and finding no satisfying answers.

 

Maybe you have experienced this when you are trying to encourage a fellow

   Christian who is worrying.

The person comes to you and says I’m worried about this problem, this situation.

   Listen to him, consider it, get out you Bible and say.

You know the Lord is in control.  Listen to this Bible verse.

   You read them a wonderful verse.  Romans 8:28.  All things work together . . .

   See, Lord is in control of the future. 

 

They respond by saying:  “Yes, but . . .”

   Yes, I know that’s true, but you don’t understand. 

   Then person lists reasons why these comforting words don’t amount to much.

 

When this happens—drains mental and emotional, even physical energy.

   The power of worry nothing compared to power of Word of God and Holy Spirit. 

But don’t think worry is easily dealt with by some psychological tricks.

   It’s a master.  It enslaves. 

But your fear of the future can be broken by Father of Eternity, Jesus Christ.

   If you will listen to him and trust him when he says over and over and over

   in his Word that the future, your future is firmly in his hands.

When you start to think about how many things Jesus said about the future,

   it’s amazing.  All the statements in the New Testament that he made with utter

   confidence about what is going to happen in the age and the age to come.

 

There are several that I have personally come back to over and over again.

Matthew 16:18,

   “I will build my church and the gates of hall shall not prevail against it.”

I can’t tell you what an encouragement that is to me.

   I’m often fearful about the future of this church, of my ministry.

Allison has a very cruel statement that she says when she wants to be mean to me.

   She says:  “I hear people are leaving the church in droves.”  Ask her.

   She will have to admit it.  She knows it touches my deepest fears.

 

So I have to come back to Jesus’ words.  And I realize that this is not a promise

   that he will build every individual congregation, or keep every church from

   closing its doors.  Obviously that’s not the case. 

Sometimes pastors do fail and churches do close.

   But here is this grand statement from the Father of Eternity, that in the big scheme

   of things, he had the future in his hands and is upholding and building his church.

That helps me. 

 

The other passage that has been a help to me over and over is the parable of the

   wheat and the tares in Matthew 13.  The farmer sows wheat in the field.

Then his enemy comes and sows weeds, tares.  The weed come up with the wheat.

   Servants of the farmer ask if they should pull up the weeds.

   Farmer says no, if you do, will pull up some of the wheat as well.

Wait till the harvest, then we will pull them up and separate. 

   Take the wheat into the barn, and burn the tares.

 

Then Jesus says:  The field is the world.  Wheat is the kingdom of God.

   Weeds are the kingdom of darkness.  Harvest is the judgment, harvesters angels.

   At the final day, there will be a great separation.

I can’t tell you how those words of Christ have helped me.

   I can get so worried about the state of things.  The state of America.

   Loss of freedoms in the West.  The rise of secularism.  Attacks on Christianity.

 

I don’t know if you’ve read about the New York City law that prevents churches

   from renting public school buildings for worship services.

This is not because of complaints from the schools.  In case after case principals

   were thrilled to have churches rent on Sundays.  It was good money for school.

   The churches always improved the facilities, often got involved in tutoring.

It is a blatant anti-Christian law and the Supreme Court declined to hear it.

   So there are now 60 churches in New York City without meeting places. 

If the Ku Klux Klan wanted to rent space from a New York City school

   for a meeting, they would not be allowed to discriminate against them.

 

I read about those things and I have to tell myself that’s not the whole story.

Yes, the kingdom of darkness is growing and gaining ground.

   But the kingdom of light is too.  The wheat is growing along with the tares.

   Jesus said it.  And he is planning a harvest when all will be set right.

He’s the Father of Eternity.

 

I got a letter recently from a friend of mine.

He was in a very secure ministry position.  He had been a PCA campus minister

   at a large university and was very successful.  Then he moved into a leadership

   roll in our denominations campus ministry—Reformed University Fellowship.

And he could have stayed there for years.  He was respected.  He did good work.

   But he and his wife left that two years ago to plant a church.

   They are in a little storefront going through growing pains and financial worries.

All the things he didn’t have to face at all back in his old work.

 

He said in this letter that obviously there were goals they hoped to meet,

   growth levels they hoped to achieve.  Lack of certain things was difficult.

But he said:  I love where we are.  I’m enjoying every minute of it.

   I’m not for a minute letting worry or preoccupation about the future

   spoil my enjoyment of this present time and what God is doing right now.

And I thought—Wow!  Isn’t that great.  He has such confidence that the Lord

   has the future in his hands that he can let go and enjoy the present.

 

How do you do it?  I’ve told you before M. Lloyd-Jones definition of faith. 

   He says:  I know it doesn’t sound very spiritual, but for a Christian,

   faith is thinking.  Worry is not thinking.   Worry is being irrational. 

   Letting circumstances control you. 

Faith will not grow if you sit and expect it to happen, must discipline mind.

   Take teachings and promises of God’s word, apply them to situation.

Take self in hand and say, Self, this is what God says. 

   I feel like panicking—but I’m not going to panic because God in control.

In the case of this passage. 

   I will not worry, because Christ is the Everlasting Father. 

 

One of Martin Luther’s Christmas carols says:

   “All praise to Thee, Eternal Lord,

   Clothed in the garb of flesh and blood.

   Choosing a manger for Thy throne,

   While worlds on worlds are Thine alone.”

 

And that reminds us of the all-important fact—

   That the Father of Eternity became a man, and lived in time,

   and had a past and faced a difficult future.

So you can be assured that he understands life as a man in time—

   and he sympathizes, even as he sovereignly rules.

 

Trust him and worship him this Christmas Day.