The King is Coming
The King is Coming
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We have been going through the book of Acts verse by verse, chapter by chapter, but for the next four weeks, we’re stepping out of Acts for the Advent season. If you didn’t grow up in a church that celebrated Advent, [ 002 ] the word itself simply means “arrival” or “coming”. At Thanksgiving, you might have looked forward to the advent of your family. Their arrival. You may be looking forward to that at Christmas, or maybe you aren’t. But that’s what the word means.
Now, obviously, if you grew up around the Bible, or have some general knowledge of what Christians believe, you understand the Bible talks about not one, but two arrivals of Jesus, the Messiah, or the Christ. Right? One, we’re about to celebrate here in a few weeks, something we now refer to as Christmas, where Jesus came to earth as a baby. That’s the first Advent.
But then, we know from scripture that there will be a second advent of Jesus, a second arrival. And this time, he’s not coming as a non-threatening baby. This time, the book of Revelation tells us, he’s coming on a white horse, with a sword in his mouth, blood on his robe, as a conquering King.
So here’s where we’re headed these next couple weeks of Advent: We’ll be using the book of Isaiah to uncover what kind of King Jesus is, and what the prophet Isaiah told us his rule and reign would look like, both now and in the future. [ 003 blank ]
I don’t know about you, but I am a sucker for watching Presidential debates. Doesn’t matter which party they are for – even if I can’t watch them live, I always watch the full replay. I think some of it, well, at least the way I justify it in my own mind, is that I really do want to be an informed voter and I don’t often trust what I read. So I like to hear it straight from their own mouths. I genuinely want to understand the candidates’ position on various topics.
Apart from that justification, though, there is also the reality TV part of the deal that is fun to watch too, the verbal jabs, the back and forth when someone goes after someone else, the moderators trying to get it all under control - it’s high quality entertainment, minus the high quality.
But when I watch these debates, both sides of the aisle present the same dilemma. Both sides try to paint the picture that the United States is the greatest country in the history of planet earth, but that at the same time, because of the failed policies of previous or current Presidents, we are on the brink of disaster if something doesn’t happen immediately. We’ve done and are doing a lot of things well, but there are threats from other nations, threats from within, our money says “In God We Trust” but more and more it appears like that is a hollow statement. Every couple of years we are in a state of desperation for someone new to step into authority and keep this ship from going down.
[ 004 ] And what we find in the book of Isaiah is that we’re not all that different from ancient Judah, which is the regional kingdom around Jerusalem, and Israel, their sister-kingdom to the north. Under Israel’s first three kings, Israel and Judah were together as one. But Israel's fourth king caused a split, and here in Isaiah, 800 years before Jesus was born, it was Israel with its own king in the North, and Judah in the South with a 16 year old named Uzziah on the throne [ 005 ].
What Judah had going for them, is that they had the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, and so for the most part, “In God We Trust” was their motto as well. They continued the worship of Yahweh, where Israel had not. Some of the kings of Judah were obedient to the Lord, while none of Israel’s were. When Uzziah took the throne, he faithfully sought the Lord through the prophet Zechariah, and as long as he did, God gave him success. The armies of Egypt and Assyria who were their primary threats at the time were weak and didn’t bother them much, so Judah was able to get rich from all of the tourism and business that came along with being located in the center of the known world.
You can read all about this in 2 Chronicles 26, but Uzziah built up the military, invented new weapons, stabilized the government, expanded their territory by defeating the Philistines, built cities, planted vineyards, dug wells and they enjoyed some incredible prosperity during his time on the throne. But as Uzziah was nearing the end of his life, now, after almost 50 years as king, Assyria had returned to being a world power and started dominating surrounding kingdoms, all the while moving its way slowly toward Judah and Jerusalem. Even Israel had formed alliances with Assyria, and made plans to attack Judah.
Every kingdom between Assyria and Judah was being crushed one by one, and it was clear that Judah was in the crosshairs.
Along with this international pressure for king Uzziah, things had started to unravel at home too. The prosperity they’d picked up in the last 40+ years was being hoarded by the elite. Courtrooms made a mockery of justice as decisions of the judges could be bought or sold. The poor are exploited. Worship at the temple has become useless and hollow, to the point where God says in Isaiah 1, I don’t care how often you pray or what you say – I’m not listening. Your hearts are so corrupt that your worship services mean nothing to me. In God We Trust was turning out to be just an empty statement that didn’t have any legs at the end of Uzziah’s life (Webb, 22-27).
Isn’t it crazy how reading the Bible is almost identical to reading the newspaper 2800 years later?! Only the names have changed.
So at the end of his life, Uzziah let his success get to his head, thought way too highly of himself, and God humbled him with a tragic death similar to Ananias and Sapphira that we read about last week. Five years after he died, his grandson Ahaz was on the throne, and pretty much rejected everything Judah had ever believed about Yahweh. He made alliances with pagan nations, he built temples to other gods, and even sacrificed some of his own children to them. He gathered up the sacred items from the temple, cut them into pieces, and used the materials to build altars to sacrifice to other gods on street corners in Jerusalem. Then he boarded up the Temple, and God’s patience with Judah had begun to expire.
Isaiah’s assignment as a prophet of Yahweh was to warn Ahaz that they should prepare for war, because God was going to allow Ahaz’s new alliances to turn on him and infiltrate his land like a flood because of his sin. And at the end of chapter 8, Isaiah says this is what Judah is going to look like…[ 006 ] they will wander through the land dejected and hungry. When they are famished, they will become enraged, and looking upward, will curse their king and their God. [ 007 ]They will look toward the earth and see only distress, darkness, and the gloom of affliction, and they will be driven into thick darkness.
That’s what you choose when you reject Yahweh. The New Testament simply says, The payout for sin is death. And that’s what Judah is experiencing. And just like we do in our day, Judah rejects God and his ways, chooses darkness over light and becomes corrupted in their work and in their worship. God speaks clearly in his word, but they are drawn into nonsensical spirituality and even into witchcraft instead – and then when all of their choices play out in front of them and they experience the results of rejecting God, they rage at God and blame him for their emptiness and the trouble they are in. Not much has changed to this day. We still do that same thing.
[ 008 ] This is an easy illustration, and I’m sure you all have experienced something similar to this, but earlier this summer, everyone had gone to bed in our house one evening, and I was up late either working or watching YouTube or something, and before I went to bed, I went through the house to lock the doors and turn off all the lights.
And you know, when you have just turned off all the lights, it’s pretty dark for a few minutes. So after turning off the last light, I’m walking down the hallway to our bedroom, and all of a sudden, I’m crashing to the floor, hitting the wall and the door on the way down, like what in the world was that?!? Our mostly black dog was lying in the hallway and since my eyes were not adjusted to the dark, I never saw her until I had tripped over her, and then she was trying to get up and get out of my way while I’m trying to catch myself from falling… And of course, who did I blame for my crashing to the ground? I blamed the dog. It didn’t cross my mind - oh, you tripped because you turned the lights off. No way. It was the dog’s fault for being in my way.
That’s what turning off the Light of God’s word and walking in spiritual darkness does to us. It hinders us. It hurts us. We can’t see what we can’t see. And then we blame everything and everyone but ourselves. Psalm 119 says God’s word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, and the expectation is that we will keep that light on in our lives, and let God’s word expose sin and lead us to repentance.
But led by their spiritually corrupted king, the people of Judah had been living in this gloom, this despair, and darkness, this threat of war from the outside, corruption on the inside, unable to see what they couldn’t see, because they had chosen to reject the light of God’s word.
[ 009 ] And then Isaiah chapter 9 begins with a bit of a strange word. Nevertheless. Nevertheless. That word means “in spite of”, or “however.” And it is one of the great words of the Bible, because it drives a contrast. .
And what this word sets up here in Isaiah 9 is the concept of grace. Grace is the great “nevertheless.” Death and darkness and gloom look the end of the line for Judah, nevertheless…verse 2 [ 010 ] 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness.
This is one of those places you have to understand that the concept of grace isn’t something that started in the New Testament. Grace was already in full swing when Eve bit the fruit and gave some to Adam who was standing right there listening to the snake with her. God should have destroyed them in a second for their rebellion against his holiness. But instead, or “nevertheless”, he promised a redeemer, a serpent crusher, who would put this deception to death. And from Genesis 3 all the way through the end of Revelation, this whole Bible front to back is the story of God’s “nevertheless”, his story of grace, the redeeming of sinful, corrupted, rebellious humans. We could call this book the Holy Nevertheless of God.
Grace didn’t wait to show up until people had their act together. Grace didn’t wait to show up until everyone was perfectly obedient to God’s law and following his ways. Grace didn’t wait to show up until all the idols were torn down, the temple was cleaned up, and everyone was singing Lord I Need You. Grace showed up when the people were at their worst.
One day in the near future, God promised through Isaiah, the lights will come on. Light chases away the darkness. Into the gloom of sin is going to shine the light of redemption. Light does two things - it reveals the dog lying in the hallway. It reveals the things that would trip us up and cause suffering. With light comes wisdom We can see clearly to avoid those things that will bring spiritual death and gloom.
But the other thing the light does is send the critters scurrying. That’s when the evil and the wicked are exposed. That’s when the intentions of the heart are exposed. That’s when the emptiness of “In God We Trust” is exposed. And the Lord God says through the prophet Isaiah, things are dark, but I’m going to turn the lights on, starting in Galilee.
Isaiah writes this as if it’s already happened…
[ 011-1 ] 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. [ 011-2 ]The people have rejoiced before you as they rejoice at harvest time and as they rejoice when dividing spoils. Great harvests, enlarging the nation, dividing the prosperity – all things Judah was desperate for, and with it all comes Joy. This joy has three reasons in verse 4, 5 and 6 which all begin with the word “for”, or “because.” Lord, you will increase our joy “because”...
- [ 012-1 ]4 … you have shattered their oppressive yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor, just as you did on the day of Midian. God is going to deliver them from the enemies in spectacular fashion, just like he has done in the past at a place called Midian (you can read about that in Judges chapter 7). Basically, in that war, the people of God didn’t even have to carry swords into battle. God won that one for them.
- [ 012-2 ]Lord you will increase our joy because 5 … every trampling boot of battle and the bloodied garments of war will be burned as fuel for the fire. He is predicting a time of peace. Burning the bloody uniforms of soldiers instead of washing them. Burning the boots that were in battle. That’s a kind of peace that is unheard of, where you don’t even need a military presence anymore.
- [ 012-3 ]Lord, you will increase our joy and bring peace on earth because 6 … a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders.
A child will be born FOR US. A son will BE GIVEN TO US. This is a gift of grace! It’s the kind of leader that we all wish was on the ballot this next November. The kind of leader that brings peace and joy and hope. The kind of leader that doesn’t lead us into spiritual darkness, like Ahaz. The kind of leader who stays faithful to God all the way through, unlike Uzziah, Solomon and David before him. God’s gift of grace to those who were living in darkness is a better, eternal king.
[ 012-4 ]And this king will be named Wonderful Counselor (He will be wise, thoughtful, and intelligent. His wisdom is beyond ordinary), Mighty God (His power is unmatched by any rivals. His authority beyond ordinary human authority), Eternal Father (This is not putting the Messiah in the place of the first member of the Trinity – God the Father – it simply means he’s going to be a relational protector. In this kingdom, you are not simply a number on a tax return – you are a dearly loved child), Prince of Peace (His kingdom will be marked by peace because, as we’ll see next week, his judgments, his legal decisions, his moral authority will be so perfectly right that all the other nations will come to him to settle any disputes).
Here’s what his kingdom will look like: [ 013-1 ] 7 The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. [ 013-2 ]He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
This meant a lot more in those days than to you and me today, but God is the God of covenant. A covenant is a legal agreement between two parties that is based on relationship. It’s not simply a transaction – it’s about the relationship of the people making the covenant. God started with his covenant to Adam and Eve, that they would be made in his image, and rule over his creation. Adam and Eve broke this covenant when they chose to rule with their own authority instead of God’s.
The second covenant was with Noah, that God would never again destroy the world with a flood – that Noah and his family would also be fruitful and multiply across the world. This covenant renews that first one, but two chapters later we see that not much has changed since Adam – “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (Gen 8:21)
Third was a covenant with Abraham, to make him a great nation, to bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him. One of his “sons” would be a blessing to the nations, but this nation God has chosen continues to reject him!
Fourth was the covenant with Moses, or what we might call the Law. The 10 Commandments plus a lot more. The covenant here was that if the people would obey God’s voice and keep his words, they would be his people and he would be their God. That they would serve him, and he would be their king. But they wanted their own king, a human like all the other nations.
Fifth was the covenant with David, that there would always be a king from his family line on the throne… An obedient son who obeys the instructions of the Lord. But every king who sat on the throne of Israel or Judah was imperfect at best, or an outright spiritual trainwreck. A few ended up going even further and being demonic tyrants.
So when Isaiah says this new king is “a son who is given who will sit on David’s throne,” what he’s referring to is an obedient Son who is going to restore, establish, build up and maintain man’s relationship to God that started with the covenant to Adam.
And since humans have failed every single covenant to this point, how will they be sure that this covenant will not fail as well? [ 013-3 ] The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.
It’s not the faithfulness of the people or even their commitment to him that will make this happen – it is his zeal. Maybe we don’t use the word zeal all that much anymore, but in the Bible, this kind of zeal refers to the emotional fire of a dad who found out that his child was kidnapped and he’s not going to eat, sleep, or blink until he finds her. And when he does, you don’t want to be the kidnapper.
I love this. It’s almost like the Liam Neilson movie Taken, where that IS the storyline. Yahweh is not an emotionless, vanilla God who just goes through the motions of his sovereignty. He is intensely passionate for those he loves. Determined. Focused. Driven. Only he can pull off this rescue mission, and he will stop at nothing to make it happen.
[ 014 ] John 1 tells us that this light that Isaiah was talking about is none other than Jesus himself… That, just like he did at creation, God has once again seen the darkness of this world and said “let there be light” by giving us not just a son, but the Son of God.
[ 015 ]This Son of God will be an obedient son; the only human being to ever live the righteous life his Father’s holiness demands. This Son of God will uphold the law – every single corner and stitch of it. This Son of God will be the true offspring of Abraham who brings blessing to every corner of the earth. This Son of God brings life wherever he goes – grace, forgiveness of sin, healing, mercy, and peace - not only with each other, but with God.
And the death and resurrection of this Son of God will crush the head of the real enemy, and seal the plan of redemption for all of God’s people – Jews and Gentiles alike. Jesus said to his disciples, that this is the new eternal covenant on the table – forgiveness of sins, through faith in Christ. Redemption. Knowing God’s presence again. Then he promises us the advent, or the arrival, of the Holy Spirit – the Wonderful Counselor to live not just with us but in us, giving us strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.
So if you decide to put yourself through the misery of watching the debates with me on Wednesday, you can watch them knowing that although these individuals are made in the image of God, although they do image God in their desire for the world to be a place of peace, and happiness, and life – we have a much better king than any of them. We have a much better Savior who will be in power longer than 8 years – we have a king whose policies are perfect, his motives are spotless, he always and only does what is right and true and best.. And a king who loves you enough that he gave up the glories of heaven to wipe away the crimes you’ve committed against him, so that you could enjoy him for eternity.
And Our king is coming again. One day he’ll be here. We’ll see him as he is, we’ll know him the way he knows us, we’ll be perfected and made like him. Oh he won’t show up on a debate stage, because there will be no debate. He won’t show up in commercials or radio ads, because he won’t have to sell anyone on his glory. You won’t have to try to pick him out of a crowd and guess which one he is, because there will be no question who he is. How can we be sure he’s coming back again? The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.
PRAY to close
Barry Webb, The Message of Isaiah: On Eagles’ Wings, ed. J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996)
Edwin H. Friedman. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. (New York: Church Publishing, 2017)
ESV Study Bible, Isaiah