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Thursday, December 15, 2016

December 15: Christmas According to Isaiah

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
    the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and might,
    the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
    or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
    and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
    and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
    and a little child shall lead them. - Isaiah 11:1-6, ESV

Christmas According to Isaiah:
The Virgin's Child, the Son Who is Given, the Branch from the Root of Jesse

No Old Testament book is quoted more frequently during the Christmas season than Isaiah. Most famous of all is probably Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." The promise that the Lord will give virgin's child, who is Immanuel, is a dearly loved promise for believers this time of year. 

The second most popular verse gives us Jesus' throne names, from Isaiah 9:6: 

"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."



Again, the reference to a child who will be born as the Mighty God and Prince of Peace is a powerful source of strength for the faith of Christians this time of year. 

These two verses are clearly wonderful prophecies of the coming of Jesus. They are rightly dearly loved, even though they have also come under attack by critical scholars who have claimed that they can't possibly be speaking of Jesus. Believers know better and have treasured these verses for centuries.

But Isaiah has so much more to offer than these two verses. Isaiah is the second most-quoted book in the New Testament, after only the Psalms. Handel's Messiah, one of the most masterful pieces of music ever composed, is lyrically based entirely in the Scripture. More verses from Isaiah are in the Messiah than from any other book of the Bible. Among the many verses from Isaiah, almost the entire 40th and 53rd chapters are sung at one time of another in MessiahCharles Jennens (1700-1773), a good friend of Handel who compiled these verses for the oratorio, had very good reason for selecting so heavily from Isaiah. Almost the entirety of the Gospel message can be constructed from this wonderful book.

Consider these wonderful texts, drawn from the King James Version:

Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God.

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem,

and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished,

that her iniquity is pardoned.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness;
prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert
a highway for our God. - Isaiah 40:4

Ev’ry valley shall be exalted, and ev’ry mountain and hill made low;
the crooked straight and the rough places plain. - Isaiah 40:4

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together:
for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. - Isaiah 40:5   

Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son,
and shall call His name Emmanuel, God with us. - Isaiah 7:14

O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion,
get thee up into the high mountain.
O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem,
lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid;
say unto the cities of Judah, behold your God! - Isaiah 40:9

Arise, shine, for thy Light is come,
and the glory of the Lord
is risen upon thee. - Isaiah 60:1

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and gross darkness the people;
but the Lord shall arise upon thee,
and His glory shall be seen upon thee,
And the Gentiles shall come to thy light,
and kings to the brightness of thy rising. - Isaiah 60:2-3

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light;
and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death,
upon them hath the light shined. - Isaiah 9:2

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given,
and the government shall be upon His shoulder;
and His name shall be called,
Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God,
the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6

Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then shall the lame man leap as an hart,
and the tongue of the dumb shall sing. - Isaiah 35:5-6

He shall feed His flock like a shepherd;
and He shall gather the lambs with His arm,
and carry them in His bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young. - Isaiah 40:11

He was despised and rejected of men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. - Isaiah 53:3

He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them
that plucked off the hair:
He hid not His face from shame and spitting. - Isaiah 50:6

Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows!
He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
the chastisement of our peace was upon Him. - Isaiah 53:4-5

And with His stripes we are healed. - Isaiah 53:5

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way.
And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. - Isaiah 53:6

He was cut off out of the land of the living:
for the transgressions of Thy people was He stricken.  - Isaiah 53:8   

Throughout Isaiah, God poetically and powerfully shows us our need and and how He plans to meet our needs in Christ, the promised offspring of the virgin's womb, the branch sprouting forth from Jesse's stump, the one who is Mighty God and Emmanuel, God with us. This strong Savior would redeem us by being the suffering Servant, the one to lay down His life for the sins of His people, cleansing us from unrighteousness and bringing us true and lasting peace. 

Heavenly Father, You are so gracious, so powerful  so kind, so wonderful. You have seen the depths of our need, of our sin and bondage, and You have given true and lasting deliverance in Your Son. You have comforted and redeemed Your people, and we are forever grateful. In Jesus' name we praise You, Amen.   

If you've never read these sections of Isaiah or listened to Handel's Messiah, this Christmas season is the perfect time to do both.  


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