Points Covered: A Christmas devotion on hope from the writings of Isaiah. A look at the hope that came to mankind at the birth of Jesus Christ. The hope in Jesus Christ.
Everyone comes across circumstances of pain, despair, and loss. In the midst of all the trials and troubles of life, the one thing that keeps us going is hope, hope that God is in control and will lead us to all our troubles. The people before Jesus Christ lived in hope of his coming and one of the books of the Bible that is filled with hope for mankind is the Book of Isaiah.
The Book of Isaiah was written about 700 years before the time of Christ. Some call Isaiah as the “fifth gospel” because it is filled with so much good news.
Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves” and he ministered for more than 50 years during the reigns of four different kings. By his time the Kingdom of Israel was divided into two – Israel with 10 tribes up north and Judah in the south with 2 tribes. Isaiah was ministering in the south, Judah during a time of cultural corruption (kind of sounds like our world today. Isaiah was impacted when the northern kingdom of ten tribes, referred to as Israel, was destroyed and its inhabitants were led into captivity. A part of his mission was to warn the people that the same thing would happen to them like their brethren in the north unless they repent.
His opening words begin with a complaint in Isaiah 1:4 Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him
In spite of the wickedness and failure of the Kings and people around him Isaiah was devoted to God and continued to offer words of hope. He dared to believe that something better was coming even though everything around him seemed so dark.
Isaiah 60:2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. The Word of God brings hope in a dark world, dark life. You may be surrounded with darkness, hopelessness and pain but God is here to give you hope for the future today.
Isaiah 64:1 Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! He is longing for the Lord to somehow come down into his world to bring peace to all the problems, dispel darkness, and to extricate evil. Isaiah is hungry to have the Holy One enter our whacked-out world in an extraordinary manner. Brothers and sisters, aren’t you glad that the Lord has come down?
So from the writings of Isaiah’s hope we are going to see some passages of Christmas that brings us hope for today.
1. Christmas Hope: Stand firm.
Isaiah 7:9 If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all. Stand firm in faith.
Now an evil king named Ahaz is on the throne in Judah. He had deliberately disobeyed God and as a result his kingdom came under attack from all quarters. Isaiah 7:2 Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.
Here Judah’s own brothers, Ephraim (Israel) has allied with a foreign nation Aram and is fighting with Judah and their king Ahaz. They were shaken by the trees of the forest shaken by wind. They could tolerate anyone come to war with them but when the conflict came from their own brothers, they were shaken.
Friend, if you don’t know God when trouble comes, you too will be shaken to the very core of your being. Instead of turning to the Lord, Ahaz begins to think about partnering with the evil empire of Assyria. At this crucial time, God in His love took the initiative and sent Isaiah the prophet to help King Ahaz and told him to stand firm in the Lord. Isaiah 7:9 If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all. If there is no belief, you will find no relief.
Isaiah 7:11 Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights. Ahaz refused to ask for a sign. Isaiah 7:12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.” Then we come to this remarkable prophetic passage in Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
The sign was given to all of us. The word “you” in this passage is plural, indicating that it was not just a sign to Ahaz but to everyone. The angels made it clear in Jesus’ birth: Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”
The sign will be a son born to a virgin. This is no ordinary pregnancy and no ordinary birth. A virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son. This would certainly stand out as a miraculous sign and because of him we can stay strong in the time of trouble.
The Son would be God incarnate. The name Immanuel means, “The strong God with us.” This is who He is. From the point of this miraculous birth on, God would Himself be present among His people. He will save his people. This verse is quoted in Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). So the sign – The birth of Christ is a reminder that we do not have to be troubled when trial comes. He is with us and will take care of us. God is telling us to hold on, stand firm, your pain ends in Christ.
2. Christmas Hope: Be Glad.
In Isaiah 9, again we have the second announcement of Jesus’ coming and his birth. This announcement was made in the midst of grief and gloom for Israel. Isaiah 9:1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. (Gloom will be replaced with gladness. If you are in gloom, you are going to be replaced with gladness with Jesus Christ.) In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan.
Zebulun and Naphtali are tribes from the north of Israel, making up the land of Galilee. For many years the people in this region knew only grief because they lived closest to the enemy in the international boundary, so they were the first ones to be attacked. Their cities were ruined and streets abandoned. Isaiah tells of a time in the future where gloom will be replaced with gladness in Galilee. This was fulfilled when Jesus came and he did his ministry main in Galilee.
When Christ comes into our life the gloom of the world is replaced with honour. Dear beloved, Christmas was, and is, birthed in the midst of great grief. Christ comes in a world of grief to bring tidings of joy. Even on Jesus’ brith while the angels were proclaiming “peace on earth,” Herod was preparing to annihilate infants; while Mary was worshipping, other mothers were weeping for their children, and it is in this background that God gives peace and gladness to us.
Matthew 2:18 A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more. Christmas joy is best understood with the junk of life all around us because gladness comes when we’re grieving. Is that where you’re at today? That’s ok if you are because that’s exactly where Immanuel will meet you.
The birth of Christ will bring brightness to a dark world and give us peace: Jeremiah 9:2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
Jesus spoke in John 8:12 I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
Isaiah 9:4 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.
The enemies of Israel had burdened the people with “bars across their shoulders.” When the light of life comes, the heavy yoke will be shattered. Instead of wiping us out, Jesus said: Matthew 11:30 My yoke is easy and my burden is light. In the place of burdens, God wants to give us blessings.
Isaiah 9:6 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.
The phrase “to us” means “for us, for our benefit.” Notice here that both His humanity and deity is described.
For to us a child is born. – This describes his birth as a baby.
To us a son is given. – This child is not ordinary human being, this is God’s Son given as a gift.
It’s amazing to me that Isaiah not only knew that Immanuel would be born to a virgin as a sure sign; but he also understood that He would be the sent Son. We’re reminded of what Gabriel said to Mary in Luke 1:32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He’s a sure sign and a sent Son.
The government will be upon His shoulders. The baby bundled in the clothes holds the universe together. The one nestled on Mary’s shoulders, bears everything on His shoulders. He is redeemer and ruler of all.
Isaiah 9:6 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 (He is Profound, great.), Mighty God (He is Powerful), Everlasting Father (He is Personal), Prince of Peace (He is the author and giver of peace)
So the announcement of the birth of Jesus is good news of joy for the mourning.
3. Christmas Hope: A fresh start.
Turn now to Isaiah 11:1-2 1A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD.
Illustration: We have Neem tree growing in front of our house. Some passerby broke the entire plant for the leaves and when we came back from visiting what was left was just a stump. We thought it would not survive. It did not look very good anymore and we wondered if the stump would make it. But what surprised me is that after a couple of months the season changed and a new shoot came up, the tree started growing again. It is come back to its glory.
In Isaiah’s day it felt hopeless because it seemed like the only thing left were stumps. The northern kingdom had been destroyed and things were looking bleak for the south. Do you ever feel like that? Have the stumps in your life covered your hope?
But wait. A shoot will come up from the stump. Jesse is the father of King David and it’s through his line that the Savior will come to the world. Listen to the words of Luke 2:4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. Jesus is described in Revelation 5:5 The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.
This shoot will become a branch that will bear fruit. Isaiah is not only able to catch a vision of the Savior as a bring coming out of a shoot, he can see a time when peace will come to the ones who believe in Jesus. Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.
Isaiah also looks forward when the branch will really establish as a kingdom. Isaiah 11:6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. When Jesus comes again, He will come as the conquering King and the Prince of Peace. What we should be doing is waiting for the days of Christ when eh comes in glory and power.
4. Christmas Hope: Suffering to blessing.
Jesus came at Christmas so that he would grow and minister and one day he would be sentenced to crucifixion. By his suffering death, we can be blessed and we can be saved from our sins. Matthew 1:21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
There is an amazing amount of pinpoint prophecies in Isaiah 53 that describe the suffering death of Christ on the cross: Isaiah 53:3-5 3He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 4Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Illustration: Someone told this story about Jesus. A man fell into a dark, slimy pit. He tried to climb out of the pit, but he couldn’t. His family came along, saw the man and said, “Poor fellow, had he listened to us, he never would have gotten there,” and they went on. Then his friends came along and saw the man in the pit and said, “Poor fellow, if he’ll come up here, I’ll help him,” and he too kept on walking. Then Jesus Christ came along and said, “Poor fellow.” And then he jumped down into the pit and lifted him out.
The significance of the first Christmas does not end in the birth of Jesus Christ but the blessings that comes to us because of his death. He overturned the human suffering of sin to blessing for those who believe in him. He took our pain. He bore our suffering. Jesus took our sickness and by his wounds we are healed.
Jesus came not only to be born in this world but to be born in us. One can never start too early when getting ready for something really big. Are you ready right now to receive the Christ of Christmas? Isaiah’s promises about Christ give us hope and when they’re fulfilled in us they bring peace. But like a present, Jesus must be received.
A woman was in the mall doing her Christmas shopping and was stressed out trying to find the perfect present for everyone on her list. Knowing that her credit cards were almost maxed out, she couldn’t wait for Christmas to be over. With her arms full of gifts she tried to get in a crowded elevator. As she squeezed in with the other weary shoppers she exclaimed, “Whoever came up with Christmas out to be strung up and killed!” Several around her shook their heads in agreement. Then, from somewhere in the back a voice spoke up: “Don’t worry. They already did that to Him.”
Conclusion: Loved ones, let’s not miss the meaning behind Christmas this year. Isaiah gazed through centuries and it took him to the birth or the first advent of Jesus and it is a message of hope for us. Still it is talking to us – HOPE: Hold on pain ends.