Isaiah 9:6 (Advent Midweek Service)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
December 18, 2013
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Our Savior was promised to us first at the time of the Fall into sin. To the devil, that ancient snake, the Lord God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Gen. 3:15) The promise was continued by God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Old Testament patriarchs. God continued the promise to send the world a Savior to King David. Isaiah the prophet said that the Messiah-Savior would be born of a virgin and would be called Immanuel because He would be God-with-us. Who is this Immanuel who we know as Jesus? Who is this Child, born of virgin, born in a Bethlehem manger who is identified as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace? Again we explore what the Word of God shares with us about Him born to be our Savior—Jesus Christ. Tonight: Everlasting Father.
Of all the names for the Messiah-Savior that we have in the Bible, this one has always given me the most trouble. When we speak of our Triune God, we speak of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We know that God the Son is our Messiah-Savior, God-with-us in human flesh as our Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God. My struggle comes in when Isaiah describes God the Son with the words Everlasting Father. I’ve always wondered, how can the Son be the Father? That makes no sense.
But then I discovered that Isaiah isn’t really saying that God the Son is God the Father. What Isaiah is describing is a quality of the Messiah with respect to His people, you and me. Jesus, God-with-us, is everlasting Father in that He eternally acts as a father would act toward us. Jesus acts toward you and me the way God the Father acts toward you and me. And that makes sense since the Father and the Son (along with the Holy Spirit) are eternally one God. They think the same and do the same since God cannot be divided against Himself. God, the one Triune God, acts toward us like a father not only in the person of God the Father, but also in the person of God the Son, Jesus. In Isaiah 63 we are told, “You, O Yahweh, are our Father; from ancient times, Your name is our Redeemer. (Isa 63:16) Yahweh is the name of God—Father, Son, and Spirit. Thus God acts like a father to us. Psalm 103:13, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Yahweh shows compassion to those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:13) Again, God is said to treat us like a father, with compassion.
Since Jesus, then, is true God, He possesses this quality of fatherhood. He Himself as our Savior treats us in the way a loving father treats His children—He guards His people and supplies their needs. He does so as our divine King who rules with the wisdom and counsel of God. We read in Psalm 72, “He delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the week and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in His sight.” (Ps 72:12-14) At the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. “He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ (Luke 4:17-21)
Jesus’ ministry among us as the incarnate Son of God fulfilled these Scriptures as He demonstrated His fatherly and kingly love to humanity. As God-made-flesh, Jesus cared for the poor and needy of the world as he healed their physical infirmities while preaching to them the Good News of His kingdom. Through His cross and resurrection Jesus saved us all from the oppression and violence of sin, Satan and death. He redeemed us from them with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.
Listen to our Savior’s own words and you will get at the heart of the meaning of “Everlasting Father.” In John 10 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. . . . My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, laid down His life for us into death, even death on a cross. Through His sacrificial death, Jesus provided us with the forgiveness of all our sins and life forever with our Triune God in heaven. Christ has made us righteous and blameless in the sight of God. He has freed us from the slavery of sin and has freed us to serve God. We are now able to honor God with our whole lives. Jesus continues to shower His love and blessings upon us through His Word and Sacraments, taking care of our spiritual needs as a Good Shepherd cares for His sheep, as a loving Father takes care of what is most important for His children. This is the truth of the beloved Twenty-Third Psalm. Listen to the tender care and blessing our Immanuel, the Everlasting Father, gives us.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
What tenderness, love, and comfort are here for us in Christ! Eternally—a Father to His people! Eternally—our Savior from sin and death! Eternally—our Lord and King who rules over us in love and mercy giving us forgiveness and life through His Gospel, in our Baptism, and in His Body and Blood given and shed for us!
Who, then, is this Child born for us? Who is this gift of God to us, Jesus the Messiah? He is Immanuel. He is God-with-us in human flesh. He is divine Wonder. He is divine Wisdom and Counsel. He is Mighty God and Everlasting Father. And yet, He set aside His glory to live with us. He chose not always or fully to use His divine power, His wonder or counsel, humbling Himself to perfect obedience to the heavenly Father. The Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, Everlasting Father took up the cross and bore the weight of our sins into death and the grave so that we might be forgiven and live eternally with Him. Such love, such grace, such mercy! That is this Child of promise. Amen.