It’s 730 B.C. The King of Judah (Ahaz) is about to be attacked by Assyria. Generally attacked meant destroyed, conquered and those not killed were put into slavery. So Ahaz (the king, in case you lost track already in one sentence) is deciding what to do, how to strategize, who can he make allies with to help. In the middle of this quandary, God sends Isaiah the prophet. So Isaiah tells Ahaz (the king remember) that they will not be destroyed, God Himself will take care of this and he need not worry. Oh yeah, to seal the deal God will provide a sign as proof. Ahaz however says “no thanks, I’m good, no sign required.” See Ahaz knew accepting the sign would lock him into obedience to God and he wasn’t really on board with all of that. Isaiah says too bad, you’re getting a sign anyway. Now the explanation of that sign takes a few chapters however one verse in particular (maybe two) we recognize and are familiar to us.
Isaiah 7:14 –14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. (also in Matthew 1:23)
Isaiah 9:6 – For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
OK, so that’s nice but what does the promise of Jesus have to do with Ahaz and his problem? I mean there is a real army, a real threat and the answer is 700 years away? Maybe you go a bit further and say: “see, the bible isn’t relevant to me, its answers are future hopes and promises and I’m here right now and these promises are nice but they don’t help me now.”
Well, I’ll try to answer some of that. See in the Bible often there is prophecy that is answered now, some later and some both now and later. This story of Ahaz is the now and later. (Not the candy) Ahaz was delivered from his enemies and a partial prophecy was fulfilled. He would have a son and that son would be a good king. The ultimate and later fulfilment met his greater problem, our greater problem. So what is our real problem and how does the birth of Jesus solve it? I mean you have real issues, problems and concerns and God genuinely cares about them, has a plan for them and may even have a miraculous answer for them. But would a genie in lamp type of god solving our problems address the root problem in our lives? Would it be like treating symptoms without curing the real infection? Yes. Ok, so how? And what does this verse show us about God’s plan and assurance for us?
The birth of Jesus reveals and deals with our biggest problem.
Our biggest problem isn’t parents, school, health, poverty, social injustice, depression or relationships. Those are real and 100% legitimate problems. Our biggest problem is sin and that we are terminally separated from God because of it. Wasn’t that the real problem of Ahaz? He had real issues, literally life and death but really his sin caused a separation that even he realized. That’s why didn’t want to lock in a sign and be obligated to obey God. Sin does that. You break fellowship and stay clear of God, church, Christians and even just good people because we instinctively sense that sin separation. See that is why a genie god doesn’t work. All he would do is fix problems because we create new ones all the time. Salvation wasn’t coming as valiant warrior defeating all enemies and situations that cross us. Salvation came as a child, born like we were yet every bit God in that little baby. He lived the sinless life were supposed to live and can’t. He took sin upon Himself and stepped into our place and took the punishment we deserve so we wouldn’t have to. He died in our place so that we only experience the shadow of death. God raised Him from the dead so that we could have eternal life free from sin, death and pain. See the root problem began to be solved when the Child was given. His substitution on our behalf releases you from the bondage of sin. Do we still sin? Yes but we are not captive by it. We are not dead in it and Jesus died for that sin so let’s stop the guilt because when we ask for forgiveness in faith…. It’s forgiven! There’s no distance you have wandered that is too far to return. There is no horrible sin that you have done that can’t be forgiven. When God sees us, He sees Christ. So that sin is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are incapable of being righteous/ blameless/ guiltless before God because we wear this constant robe of sin but because of Jesus work at the cross we are clothed in His righteousness, His perfection and His innocence. Condition on that however. We have to choose Him. I mean we confess our sins, repent, believe in faith and follow Him as Lord. Look up Romans 10:9-10 for evidence.
For many of us, if we are honest, we want the genie god and the birth of Jesus and the Easter story are nice quaint stories. Meaningful and important – yes. But we want the now problems solved and the story is believable yet we’re not sure it fixes anything. Wasn’t that Ahaz’s problem? The root problem is sin correct? So let’s look at it like this. Could sin be a factor in your relationship with your parents? Your friends? School? Social injustice? Of course it is. Let’s deal with the real problem then. By the way I don’t mean that the problem you are experiencing right now is some kind of Gods judgment on some specific sin and He is punishing your health or relationships. But If He took away all of our problems and healed every hurt; the root problem of sin still exists. What you will find is that as we live free from sin many of those problems get easier, manageable, tangible and some might even get resolved.
Here’s reality: You are a sinner and God is sinless. This sin is an offense to Holy/ sinless God. The penalty or payment required for sin is death. Eternal death in a real and literal hell. Eternity in hell knowing you are forever separated from God. The good news (the gospel) is that God loved you, so much He demonstrated it by sending Jesus to die in our place. He would take upon Himself the pain and death we deserve so we no longer had to be separated from Him. That’s seen in the resurrection: God raising Jesus from the dead to live forever with Him. Nothing you did or will do is going to help you; it’s what He did for you. That’s why salvation is found in none other than Jesus. Our contribution was the sinning. His was the saving. A man named Fred Kornis once said something that has stuck with me through the years: “He had to come as He did to be who He was. He had to be who He was to do what He did. He had to do what He did so that we can have what He is – Life.”
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.(1)
Next post will be the second half of the verse. The names listed in Isaiah 9:6 give us hope confidence in Him as one who is able to save, willing to save and understanding of your current and future situation.
Contact me if you want to know more about Jesus, how you can have forgiveness and freedom from sin.