December 16, 2007
What is the significance of the list of names in Isaiah’s prophetic depiction of the Messiah? In this message, Alistair Begg demonstrates how titles such as Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God describe Christ’s character and establish His divinity. Christ’s triumph over sin and death fulfilled Isaiah’s anticipation of a mighty Savior. As believers, we can therefore rest in the truth that Jesus is powerful to accomplish all His good purposes.
Sermon Transcript: Print
Can I invite you to turn to Isaiah chapter 9? We’ll set the context for our study in verse 6 by reading the opening seven verses of Isaiah 9:
“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan—
“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.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And 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.”
A prayer as we come to the Bible:
Make the Book live to me, O Lord,
Show me yourself within your Word,
Show me myself and show me my Savior,
And make the Book live to me.
For Christ’s sake. Amen.
Well, it’s good for us to remind ourselves when we study, not least of all in the Old Testament, that the Bible is a book about Jesus. And very quickly we will lose our way in the study of the Bible if we take our eyes away from Christ. In every part of the Bible, we will find that it is pointing either backwards or forwards to him. And in the Old Testament he is predicted, and in the New Testament he has revealed. In the Old Testament, expectations and anticipations abound; in the New Testament, we discover that they are fulfilled. It’s been said that what is concealed in the Old Testament is then revealed in the New Testament, or what is contained in the Old is explained in the New. And there is a sense in which—and we’ve said this to one another quite routinely—there’s a sense in which we’re helped by reading the Bible backwards, by working from the end towards the beginning, simply because of the way in which the story unfolds.
Indeed, even as I say that, I think in the first service a number of people were feeling that they might have done better if I had preached my sermon backwards, simply because of the clarity that I hope was present at the end—that it wasn’t, apparently, as I could tell from their eyes, necessarily there at the beginning. You’re a much brighter group, and so we won’t have that problem. But I do think that you need to understand that in the process of things, my task is the task of a waiter, in many ways: to go into the kitchen and to bring out the food and put it in a manageable way upon a plate. I can’t force you to eat it. I don’t force-feed you. I simply try and make it as palatable as I can. And some days there are more vegetables than others, and I want you to know that in the early part of this sermon there are quite a few vegetables. Actually, there’s a significant amount of broccoli and Brussels sprouts, but if you stay the course, you should be all right by the time we get to the end. In fact, we have a wonderful hymn that concludes it that makes everything crystal clear, and so that is my fail-safe.
But I want to try and teach you this morning along lines that we’ve been before, but in order that you might have a real understanding of your way around the Bible. We’ve begun to look—those of us, for the last couple of Sundays—at Isaiah 9:6, where in the prophecy of Isaiah, we’re introduced to this child, the son who is born. And the names that are given to him provide an accurate description—a designation, if you like—of the nature of this child, both his being and his character.
There’s no anticipation in this that this child when he grows will actually be referred to by any one of these designations. In fact, there’s nowhere in the New Testament that we discover that happening. But the prophet is encapsulating, seeking to summarize, the wealth, the grandeur, the significance of the arrival of this child. And we see that he is introduced to us as the child who is born and as the son who is given.
It’s interesting that the word for child is yeled, which is actually the word for a male child. So it’s quite interesting that it then says, “For to us a [male] child is born, to us a son is given.” Every male child is a son, so clearly the reference to son is a very significant reference. His birth speaks to his human parentage, and the fact that he is “given” speaks to the fact of his divine origin.
And Isaiah includes himself with the company of those who are the recipients of the blessing that the son’s birth will bring. That is the significance of it saying, “For to us a child is born.” “To us.” To whom? To all who are the recipients of the blessing that this child will bring. You don’t actually think of children being born to corporate groups of people, do you? You don’t say that a child is being born to a group. You say a child is being born to his mother, or a child is being born into his family. But this child is no ordinary child. It is “to us” this child is born. It is “to us” that this son is given. Who are the “us”? Well, Isaiah includes himself.
You find a similar thing, interestingly, when the angels come and announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem, don’t they? Because what do they say to them? They sing out from heaven, and they say, “For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” What? Born to shepherds? Born to shepherds? “To you” is born a Savior? “Yes, to you. To you.”
This is no ordinary child. This child is the one on whose shoulders rests the very government of the universe. He is the one who comes to us. He is the one—“Immanuel” in 7:14—who is with us, and he is, as we will see, the child who is for us. If this child be for us, who can be against us?
When we considered the designation “Wonderful Counselor” last time, we noted that this is the child with a plan. If you like, here is the one who has the best ideas in the entire universe. People say, “I like people with ideas. I like ‘ideas people.’ I like meeting people who have good ideas.” Well, here we’re introduced to the one with the best ideas of all. We’re introduced to the one who has the answers to life’s ultimate questions. Here in the Wonderful Counselor we discover someone who can answer all of our whys and all of our wherefores. And since he is not only Wonderful Counselor but Mighty God, we discover that he has the power to accomplish his plan. So, as Wonderful Counselor, he has a plan which actually stems from all of eternity, and as Mighty God, we need be in no doubt that he is able to achieve the plan as introduced.
Now, when in air traffic control there is a transition from one controller to another, the transition period is called by some “getting the picture.” And for our comfort we should know that somebody does not simply clock out at ten fifteen and walk away and leave his computer screen with aircraft all over the sky, but no, he or she stays there until the person who is replacing them comes and stands beside them, or sits beside them, for a transitional period. And it is in that transitional period that the one who is taking over seeks to “get the picture,” so that when the person vacates the seat, the one who now is in the seat will be clear as to what altitude the various aircraft are on. Now, I mention that because in seeking to deal with the bald statement “Mighty God,” you have to say to yourself, “I’m going to have to sit here a while to get the picture. I’m gonna have to find the points, as it were, on the compass that allow me to do something with this.”
Now, if you imagine what it’s like—and some of you experience this, you teach—but last Sunday, after “Wonderful Counselor,” Monday came, and on Monday I took a fresh sheet of paper, and I wrote at the top of it “Mighty God.” And there was nothing underneath. There was nothing underneath by the end of Monday either. Tuesday I took a day off, and Wednesday I came back to my page with “Mighty God” written at the top. And then I just crumpled up that paper. I thought, “If I write it again at the top of another page, maybe something will happen.” But I wrote at the top of the next page, and still there was nothing there at all. And I want you to feel something of the pressure of that, and to feel the tension of that, and the discovery, as you say, “O Lord God in heaven, help me to speak about you, the Mighty God, in a way that would be clear and concise and helpful.”
Well, of course, the Mighty God to whom we’re introduced here is found throughout the pages of the Bible. And we could stay in the Old Testament, but we won’t. I want to go to the New. But we should notice that, for example, in the Psalms—and I’m not going to make you turn to these passages, but I’ll reference them for you—in Psalm 45:3, this “mighty” God is clothed “with splendor and majesty”; in Psalm 50:1, it is the “Mighty … God” who speaks with absolute authority; and in Psalm 45, and also here in Isaiah chapter 9, it is this Mighty God who establishes his victory. Now, that doesn’t tell us everything that we need to know about this Mighty One, but at least it gives us three points of reference, as it were: he who is enthroned in majesty and in splendor speaks with absolute authority and can call the nations and the earth to himself, and he is the one who establishes victory and reigns victoriously.
And that, of course, we’ve noticed, haven’t we, when in Isaiah 9:4–5 he is the one who shatters “the yoke that burdens” the captives, “the bar across their shoulders,” and “the rod of their oppressor”? How is that he is able to do this? How does he remove the burden from the shoulders of the captive? Well, he does so because “on his shoulders” rests all of the government of the universe. Only someone who is supreme and authoritative and kingly and God can intervene in this way.
And it is perhaps of interest, as a cross-reference, that when you think about being yoked and burdened in that way, Jesus then works as a carpenter, and works with Joseph, and builds things, and manufactures bits and pieces. And who’s to know but they might have had as their slogan outside their carpenter shop, “My yokes are easy”? In other words, “You can come and get these; they won’t chafe the neck of your oxen.” Maybe. Certainly we know that Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn [of] me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you[’ll] find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Because as Mighty God, the government rests upon his shoulders. He is able to remove the burden and the oppression of the captive and replace it with the lightest of burdens: a life lived in obedience to his kingly rule.
Now, what we need to get ahold of this morning if we’re going to move properly from this prophecy, or from any prophecy, into the New Testament is the notion of expectation and fulfillment. So, for example, the whole idea of authority and kingly rule and the government being upon his shoulders—many of you will fast-forward right to the end of Matthew’s Gospel in your minds, and you will remember that when Jesus sends out his disciples into all the world to proclaim the gospel and to baptize people in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, he precedes his command to them with a statement: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given unto me. Therefore, go into all the world.” The reason that Christians have evangelized, do evangelize, and will evangelize is because this child is the Mighty God, and there is no other; because he is the authority; because he is the only supreme counselor, and therefore the only hope of salvation in the entire world.
Now, when you think along these lines and you realize what Isaiah and the other prophets were doing, I wonder, do you say to yourself, “I wonder, how much of this did Isaiah get”? Because here he is writing these things down—you know, having the equivalent of a cup of coffee, talking with his wife. She’s saying, “How are you getting on?”
He says, “Well, I just finished the first half of chapter 9.”
“And what was that about?”
“Well, I wrote about the child who’s going to be born.”
And his wife said, “And exactly what did you mean by that?”
And he said, “Well, I’m not sure I really get it all.”
Well, of course, we know that that’s the case, because the New Testament clarifies what’s cloudy in the Old. First Peter chapter 1: Peter is explaining what is happening in the use of the prophecies of the Old Testament, and he says—1 Peter 1:10—“Concerning this salvation, the prophets,” Isaiah being one of them, “who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the [suffering] of Christ and the glories that would follow.”
So, for example, let’s go forward to Isaiah 53, and he takes his pen and he writes, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was pierced for our iniquities; the chastisement that brought us peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.” Peter says that when Isaiah wrote something like that, he was searching intently, he took the greatest care, trying to find out what the Spirit of Christ was doing in predicting these things, and “it was revealed to them”—that is, to the prophets—“that they were not serving themselves but you”—who is the “you”? the readers of 1 Peter—“when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you.”
You see how it all fits. Peter’s now writing his letter. He says, “When the people explained the gospel to you, they explained the gospel on the strength of what the prophets had written. What the prophets wrote, they wanted desperately to discover. They stood on their tiptoes trying to figure it out. But they never saw the fulfillment of it all.”
Well, were they simply writing their own ideas? No, actually, they weren’t. They were writing as normal men. They were writing in relationship to their personality, to their history, and to their context. But as he says in 2 Peter 1:21, “You must understand that no prophecy of Scripture [ever] came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” We can’t delay here, but this is just a reference to the dual authorship of Scripture—what we refer to as the dual authorship of Scripture. Isaiah wrote it, and God wrote it. Did God write it on his own? No. Did Isaiah write it on his own? No. Who wrote it? Isaiah wrote it; God wrote it. The same is true of every book of the Bible.
Now, we know from the words of Jesus himself in Matthew that this was the great distinguishing feature between those who had gone before and the disciples themselves. And I’ll just reference this for you, because it does actually fit. And that is in Matthew 13:16, Jesus, having quoted Isaiah the prophet—if you’re in a cloudy section in your mind, don’t worry; this will become clear—having quoted Isaiah the prophet in the preceding verses, he then says to his disciples—Matthew 13:16—“Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did[n’t] see it, and to hear what you hear but did[n’t] hear it”—including Isaiah.
And in fact, Matthew’s Gospel serves, of all the four Gospels, as the best bridge between the predictions of the Old Testament and the fulfillments of the New. And if you want something to do on a cold afternoon in relationship to the development of your understanding of the Bible, you can take the phraseology which is recurrent in Matthew and look for it. And the kind of phrase to which I refer, you find in 1:22: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet.” That is a recurring statement all the way through Matthew’s Gospel. Trust me on that, and then go and look for them, and it will reward your search. If you underline in your Bible, just look for every place in Matthew where Matthew says, “And the reason I’m telling you this is because the prophet said it. The prophet said it, and I’m telling you what it was.” So that what is contained in the Old is revealed in the New: “This is what was meant. This is why he is preaching the kingdom of God in the land of Naphtali: because the prophet said this about it. This is why he was put upon a cross: because the prophet said this about it.” And all the way through, the link between expectation and fulfillment is given to us in the bridge that is built by Matthew himself.
And just as Isaiah 9:6 gives to us four names to encapsulate the wonder of this child, so in the New Testament we actually have four Gospels essentially achieving the same thing. Isaiah is writing prospectively, and he says, “Unto us a child is born, a son is given; the government will be upon his shoulders, and his name will be called this and this and this and this and this.” What is all that about? What is all that going to mean? You fast-forward through your Bible, you come into the Gospels, and you discover that Matthew says, “I’m going to write a Gospel and make it clear that all of the stuff that is unfolding is on account of what the prophet said.” Mark says, “I’m gonna write a Gospel and make it clear to everyone who reads it that Jesus Christ came as a Suffering Servant, as a ransom for the sins of many.” Luke says, “I’m gonna write a Gospel, and I’m gonna make clear the absolute universality of the gospel,” established in the words of Simeon: “Let your servant depart in peace, because my eyes have seen your salvation, a light to lighten the gentiles and the consolation, or hope, for my people Israel.” That’s what he’s doing. And in John’s Gospel, John is establishing with absolute clarity the great evangelistic appeal of this Mighty God. And it is in John’s Gospel that I want to spend the final portion of our time. And here, hopefully, in going backwards in your thinking, some that we have already noted will become even clearer.
John, like the rest of the Gospel writers, was not writing a biography. He was writing a Gospel. He was putting the material together under the direction of the Holy Spirit in such a way so as to seek to convince people. In fact, we need be in no doubt about that, because he tells us that the purpose of his Gospel, in John 20:, was absolutely that. He makes it clear that “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.” In other words, John says, “We don’t have a comprehensive life of Christ here. If we were going to write down everything that Jesus said and did, there aren’t really books enough to contain it.” But he says, “What I have done is I’ve written certain things down. And I have selected, if you like, in order that I might provide evidence”—“so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ,” that he is the Messiah of God, that he is “the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
So, in other words, he says there is a process that is in his thinking: he takes, if you like, the prophetic notion of this Mighty God and this Wonderful Counselor, and then he takes the life of Christ, and he puts it together on the pages of his Gospel so as to allow people like you and me to get something of a handle on the nature of what it means for this one to be the Mighty God—evidence that would compel faith or belief that would in turn lead to life.
And he gets at it from the very beginning of his Gospel. That’s why he begins as he does, not with the incarnation but with the preincarnate Christ. And those of us who know anything of the Bible at all exult in the clarity and conciseness and profundity of the opening verses of the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” And every thoughtful child says, “Daddy, Mummy, how can he be both God and with God?” And then we explain that what we receive a glimpse of in Isaiah, even in Isaiah 9, of the plurality within the Godhead is now teased out and worked out in the unfolding of John’s explanation.
And he begins to unfold the story. “No one,” John 1:18, “has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” Verse 34, John the Baptist says, “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” Nathanael, in this wonderful encounter, such a priceless little piece of the New Testament: “‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip [even] called you.’ [And] Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.’” Right out of the chute, John establishes the credentials of this one.
And the miracles that he then turns us to—you turn a page in your Bible, you come to the first of these, at Cana in Galilee, where Jesus changes water into wine—all of these miracles, or miraculous signs, or signs, are presentations of evidence concerning the identity of Jesus. If you like, this is John’s way of saying, “And this is what Isaiah meant when he wrote that he is not only a Wonderful Counselor but he is a Mighty God.” The miracles are like acted parables underscoring the claims of Jesus. By means of these miraculous signs, the glory of God in Jesus is made clear. That’s what John editorializes with in verse 11. After the changing of water into wine, he says, “[And] this, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana [in] Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.” He says, “And this is how it was for his disciples: we stood there and said, ‘Wow! What is this? Who can do such a wonder? Nathanael is right! You are the King of Israel. You are the Lord of Glory. We get it.’” Evidence, belief, life.
Incidentally, it gives the lie to the notion that Christians are people who have disengaged their minds or kind of dopey people who have simply bought into some mythology—as if what John writes here is mythology. If you read this and think this is mythology, you don’t know anything about mythology. Because if you read mythology, it doesn’t read like this. This is somebody reporting what happened. And each of the recorded signs, or miracles, add, if you like, color, texture, drama, depth, breadth to John’s picture of this Mighty God.
A few of you—about 1 percent—will remember that two weeks ago, when we referenced the notion of “Wonderful Counselor,” we said that “Wonderful” was not an adjective, but actually, in the Hebrew, it’s in an abstract. And we said that the notion of wonder as in that context and as in the framework of the Old Testament, a wonder was that which demanded God for its explanation. That was the nature of wonder. And we went, I think, to Psalm 78, where the psalmist reminds the people—actually, chides the people—for forgetting the wonders that God has done. And one of the wonders that he references there is when he made the water to stand up like a wall, causing the people in their day to say, “Who can make the water stand up like a wall?” And some little bright spark said, “Only God can do that!”
Now, you gotta understand that the Jewish mind, then, carries all of that wonder out of the Old Testament and into the New and into the search for the Messiah. And here are all these Jewish boys—fishermen and the likes—out on the Sea of Galilee, with the Lord Jesus asleep in the stern with his head on a pillow, and they wake him up to let him know that he, with the rest of them, is about to drown. And, of course, he stands, and he calms the winds and the waves. And they look at one another and say, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the [waves] obey him!” They knew that such a wonder demanded God for its explanation.
Now, without belaboring this, let me just show you that when Jesus healed the sick and when he walked on water, he wasn’t doing magic. This wasn’t a forerunner of the David Copperfield show. When Jesus healed the sick and walked on water, he was displaying his majesty. He was making it absolutely clear that the powers of nature were under his control; that he who was the very agent of creation, à la John 1—“Without him nothing was made that has been made”—he who was the agent of creation was the Lord of creation. And therefore, it only made perfect sense that he who had fashioned all of this, he who had established it by the power of his hand, would be able to reign and rule over it. And in doing these things, he was dramatizing, if you like, the nature and the identity of his person.
And if you think in those terms, then go back through John’s picking of the miracles, and I think it’ll all fall into line for you. The feeding of the five thousand. What else would you expect from someone who stands up on the stage of human history and says, “I am the bread of life. [And] he who comes to me will never [grow] hungry.” Now, that’s the kind of sign that you would expect from someone who is the Bread of Life. And what of the man who was healed from his blindness by the touch of the one who said, “I am the light of the world; [and] he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”? “This is the kind of thing I’m talking about,” he says.
You see, the physical elements, the natural elements, in the miracles are not the issue. These are signs. These are signs—many more signs than we even have. But these that John gives us he represents as the very evidences of the person of Jesus. He is a Mighty God. How else do you explain him standing outside the grave of his friend Lazarus and calling for him to come out? Anybody would’ve said, “No one in their right mind stands outside of a grave and asks for somebody whose body has been in there for at least four days and has already begun to decompose, to expect that that body will come out.” But it was no ordinary person who stood at the graveside, was it? It was he who said, “I am the resurrection and the life; and he that believes in me, even though he die, yet shall he live, and whosoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Who is this? This is the Mighty God! This is the Wonderful Counselor!
You see how pathetic it is when our considerations of Christmas are reduced to the sentimentalities and trivialities of twentieth- and twenty-first-century invention, allowing us to dispense with things with ease, to set them aside as irrelevant. I understand the skeptic’s disinterest in it. I share it in part. But a skeptic cannot set this aside so easily. No, the “child in the manger,” the “infant of Mary; outcast and stranger,” is the Lord of Glory. You see, it is as in the Psalms: he is crowned with majesty. He speaks with authority. He reigns victoriously.
And we don’t have time—and I’m sure you’re delighted to discover this—but the fact is, if you go on in John’s Gospel, right around chapter 13, John, as it were, decides to paint things in just a different light. He washes his brushes and comes back with a different color and a different tone. And from all of the dramatic displays of Christ’s majesty and Godhood, he then turns to the paradox of it all: that this one who is majestic and powerful and God himself washes the feet of the disciples; that his glory is ultimately revealed in this most dramatic of signs as he bears sin on a cross.
I mentioned that we’re going to finish with a hymn, and so, let me doff my hat to hymn writers, because hymn writers have and continue to press language to its limits in an attempt to capture the paradox that’s at the heart of this. So, for example, the Creator assumes the human frailty of his own creatures. That’s what the Bible claims: that the Creator assumes the frailty of the creatures he has made. And the hymn writer says, “Who is [this] that stands and weeps at the grave where Lazarus sleeps?” How do we explain God weeping? How do we explain God crying? How do we explain God recoiling from that which has been planned from all of eternity? The Creator takes on the very frailty. The eternal enters time. “Child of our destiny, God from eternity.” The all-powerful makes himself vulnerable, “bearing shame and scoffing rude,” and “the immortal dies.” We leave it to Wesley, don’t we?
’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore [this] strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
If you’re looking, incidentally, for a religion that you can completely put in your hip pocket, stay far away from biblical Christianity. If you’re looking for something that will allow you to be God and will serve you in your own godlike existence, then stay far away from the claims of Jesus. But if you are prepared to bow all of your intellect, all of your emotion, all of your hopes, and all of your dreams down before this one, then you will discover that he is the one with the absolute best ideas.
Do you have a better idea about how the family would work than the way it’s written in the Bible? Do you have a better idea for how society should be framed? Do you have a better idea for what it means to be a mom? Do you have a better idea of what it means to find fulfillment and hope and significance and meaning and purpose? No, you see, it is this Wonderful Counselor to whom we come.
And wouldn’t it be dreadful if he had a fantastic plan but was unable to execute? But he is both Wonderful Counselor, with a plan from all of eternity, and he is Mighty God, so that he may effect his plan in time. And because he is Mighty God, he is able to save those who put their trust in him. And he will save you if you call on him—if you call on him even now. Wouldn’t you call on Christ, the Mighty God, to save you? What, you don’t need a Savior? So we finally found a sinless person! Well, we’ll put your face up on the screen so we can all identify you: “Here we have found him, we’ve found her—the one who needs no Savior.” I don’t think so.
Father, we thank you for the mystery of it all, for the immensity of it all. We might as well try and fill a teacup with the Pacific Ocean as bring our minds underneath the vastness of all that you make known to us. And it is in its very incomprehensibility that we find some measure of confidence that you are beyond our finding out, that there is no intellectual road to you, that it is because you have taken the initiative to speak to us, to disclose yourself, to make yourself known, that the light can dawn in our hearts, that your light can shine into our darkness.
And I pray earnestly, Lord, for those who know that they remain outside of Christ, that they’ve already determined they don’t want a Mighty God who reigns supreme on the throne of their lives. I pray, O God, that you will be merciful to them, that your kindness might lead them to repentance, so that voices upon voices may be added to the company of those who declare both your meekness and your majesty, and to stand with countless millions around the world to declare that Jesus is the Mighty God, that he is none other than Lord of the universe. And it’s in his name we come to you. Amen.
 R. Hudson Pope, “Make the Book Live to Me” (1943). Language modernized.
 Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter, chap. 27.
 Luke 2:11 (RSV).
 See Romans 8:31.
 See Psalm 45:4.
 Matthew 11:29–30 (RSV).
 Matthew 28:18–19 (paraphrased).
 Isaiah 53:5 (paraphrased).
 1 Peter 1:12 (NIV 1984).
 2 Peter 1:20–21 (NIV 1984).
 See Mark 10:45.
 Luke 2:29–32 (paraphrased).
 John 1:1–2 (NIV 1984).
 John 1:48–49 (NIV 1984).
 John 2:11 (NIV 1984).
 See Psalm 78:13.
 Matthew 8:27 (KJV).
 John 1:3 (NIV 1984).
 John 6:35 (NIV 1984).
 John 8:12 (RSV).
 See John 11:43–44.
 John 11:25–26 (paraphrased).
 Mary MacDonald, trans. L. Macbean, “Child in the Manger” (1888).
 See John 13:1–17.
 Benjamin Russell Hanby, “Who Is He in Yonder Stall” (1866).
 Timothy Dudley-Smith, “Name of All Majesty” (1984).
 Philip P. Bliss, “Hallelujah! What a Savior!” (1875).
 Charles Wesley, “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?” (1739).
 See Romans 2:4.
Copyright © 2023, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.