Scripture Text: Isaiah 11:1–10
Last week, we read a birth announcement about a child that was given to us. The passage today begins with another announcement – this one about a Savior-King who will rule a peaceful kingdom. Although Israel at the time was suffering as a result of poor leaders and the evil forces surrounding them, God’s people should trust Him because of what He promised to do. He would raise up a new king who would be empowered with the wisdom, strength and the Spirit of the Lord. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas this year, we should consider what the birth of this Savior-King means. Billy Graham said, “The very purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was that He might offer up His life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas.” Jesus was born to die so that those who trust in Him may have life. But what does this mean for us today? If Jesus is our hope and life, what does it mean for His Church?
A New Beginning that Bears Fruit (v. 1)
Isaiah presented the Savior as a shoot or twig growing from a stump remaining after God’s judgment. All that was left of David’s dynasty was a stump. His descendants had ruined the kingdom that God had established. Though it was a stump, the line of David was not broken. God would keep His promise to David that an heir would come and His kingdom would endure forever. God was going to raise up a new king and unlike the previous kings, this king would be like a new tree that gives good fruit in a new season. This would be a new beginning with hope for all!
The Spirit of the Lord Shall Rest Upon Him (v. 2)
The Spirit of God came upon the saints of the Old Testament: Moses, Joshua, the judges, certain kings and prophets. The Spirit of God would also come upon the future King and Savior, but in a uniquely powerful way. This new King would not depend upon His own wisdom and strength as the former kings did. He would be wise and depend upon God. We read about the Spirit resting upon Jesus during His baptism, when the Spirit descended like a dove (Matthew 3:17). The Spirit of the Lord would empower the Savior to be wise, to live according to God’s will and in fear of the Lord.
He Shall Rule Righteously (vss. 3-5)
This new King would govern with righteousness and justice. It seems like everyday we hear news of someone else in leadership who has lied, or embezzled, or has used their power for selfish motives. Many leaders take advantage of the weak or powerless and some rob people of justice. The Savior of mankind, however, will rule righteously. There is no fear of injustice in His kingdom. He will strike down the oppressors and remove the wicked. Do you desire a day when justice prevails and when evil is destroyed? By the power of His word will the new King make these things happen.
Peace will be a Hallmark of His Reign (vss. 6-9)
We have already seen in other passages of Isaiah how the Savior’s kingdom will be marked by unparalleled peace. Most people desire peace, but some will never see it. My dad used to say that all he wanted was “peace and tranquility.” I doubt he saw it with my unruly self. We may not see peace in this life, but there is peace for those who know the Savior and live in His kingdom. Isaiah illustrated this extraordinary peace with the wolf dwelling with the lamb, the leopard lying down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion being together. Natural enemies in the animal kingdom will live together, feed together, and play together. This is the type of peace the Savior of mankind will give to all who come to Him. Do you want this peace? If so, trust in Jesus!
He will be a Signal for the People (v. 10)
The Savior will also be a signal to the people, a banner to rally people together. In the movie The Patriot, the main character, Benjamin Martin, reluctantly joined the fight for America’s independence from England. Toward the end of the movie during the battle of Cowpens, the American troops broke formation and began to flee from the British army. America’s hope for an independent nation stood in jeopardy as their own army fled in defeat. That was when Benjamin Martin picked up a tattered and torn American flag and began waving it in view of his troops. He did this to rally the troops to battle, calling them to push on to victory. The flag was a signal to inspire the troops to rally for battle.
Earlier in Isaiah, this same word, “signal”, was used to rally the other nations to attack Israel. In this passage, the Savior of the world is a sign of hope and a rallying point to draw people to God. The nations will seek God and come to Him. Paul referred to this prophesy to describe his reason for sharing the Gospel to the Gentiles. Jesus Christ is the hope God has called us to share with those who do not know Him. You cannot read through the Bible without running headlong into God’s missional purpose for the world. God is drawing people from around the world to Himself through the banner of His Son.
John 12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
The Church plays a part in God’s work by sharing our hope, our delight, with others. In regards to this delight we have, I would like to focus the remainder of the message on one statement made in verse three.
His Delight shall be in the Fear of the Lord (v. 3)
The Savior will delight in the fear of the Lord. Is fear something you delight in? Probably not. We should certainly fear God. It is Him we are told to fear, not man (Luke 12:4-5). In contrast to how all other human beings rebel against God, the Savior of mankind will be faithful to Him. He will find deep joy in serving God and obeying His commandments. Because He delights in God, He will have a divine source of power to act righteously. What is your delight? Why do you go to church? What is it that you really want out of it? I am going to speak of four types of people about delighting in God.
Those Who Delight in Themselves
There is a disturbing phenomenon in churches today. I call it me-ism. The way it plays out in the church is that people will say things such as, “I want this or that”, “I want the church to do this”, “I would like to see this happen.” What you hear from this group is “I, I, I,” or “me, me, me.” Some may think to themselves, “I have served this church, I have been here so long, or have given so much.” The thing is that the Church is not about us, but about Jesus Christ. The Church is not about what we want, but about what God wants. There is no room in God’s church for “I” and “me”. If the Church were just a club where we put names on a list and pay our dues, then maybe it would be about us. But the Church is not like that.
For one thing, the church building is not God’s house. The people who are following Jesus Christ are God’s house. God does not live in buildings made of wood, stone or brick. He dwells in temples made of flesh and blood. The Church is a holy people who are saved from the penalty of their sin, who are called together by God, and who are on mission together to share Jesus Christ. Another thing is that outreach does not happen by waiting for people to come into the church sanctuary or by improving the church grounds. Do you think the family in your neighborhood that is in conflict and does not know Jesus Christ cares about the church building? Do you think the person who is struggling to make ends meet cares how the sanctuary looks? Do you believe the person who is considering suicide right now cares anything about the condition of a cemetery? I am not saying that we should not be good stewards of God’s resources, but that should not take priority over the mission of the Church – to make disciples.
What about the music? Many churches struggle with this one. Is delighting in God about a particularly style of music we have? My opinion about music is that if our hearts are right with God, we will be able to worship Jesus Christ whether the music is traditional or contemporary, whether we have a piano, a choir, or a band. Our preference for music is just that – a preference. The job of the worship leaders, including the pastor, is not to entertain the congregation, but to lead them into worship. The question any church should ask is this: How is what we are doing when we worship together, including the music and the singing, going to honor Jesus Christ and draw more people to Him? If the people are more focused on what they want or what they prefer, then they are already thinking about it wrongly. Are you willing to do what it takes to reach those outside the walls of the church building, even if it means not getting what you personally want?
Another thing, should we focus more on the building, the grounds, or a cemetery when so many lost people are in our community? Should not our priority always be those who are not with us right now – who do not know Jesus Christ? Where in Scripture has God commanded us that our mission is a building or the style of music we play? Has He not, however, commanded us to “go, make disciples of all nations?” If we want to see the Church grow, to be healthy, and to be faithful to God we have to focus more on how to reach those who are not in the Church right now? Do you delight in God? Do you delight in what He wants? If not, or if you fall into this group, then you need to repent. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you His thoughts and His will, and stop focusing or your own desires.
Those Who Are Losing their Delight
There are some people in the Church who have a passion to serve God. They faithfully come to worship on Sunday and they serve God in various ways. But they may see things going on around them that concern them. They may see the way others act that cause them to not want to be more involved than they already are. Why would they join a people who are not focusing on the mission of the Church? They may be losing their delight in God. If that is you, then why would you be in that situation? Why would you give of your time, money, and energy, and leave the future of a church to people who do not share the same priorities as you? If you would like to see a church do more things to reach others for Jesus Christ, what are you going to do to make that happen? It does no good to expect others to change and then complain about it when they do not?
There was a movie in the late 1990s called Stepmom. It was about a divorced mother called Jackie, and her ex-husband’s new bride, called Isabel. Jackie was dying from cancer and resented Isabel, who was going to be the stepmom of her two children, Anna and Ben. Isabel tried to connect with Jackie and the children but nothing she did seemed to work. In one scene, the daughter, Anna, was sitting in the cold after school one day and crying about a boy who had said something hateful to her. Isabel, said to Anna, “As I see it, there are two choices, on the one hand you can sit here, crying, in the cold, by yourself, and the other you can do something about it…crying, do something about it. So what do you choose?” Anna replied, “Do something about it.”
So, what are you going to do? I can tell you what the Apostle Paul might say: Gird up your loins. Dress for action. Fight the good fight. Who ever said serving God and leading His people was easy anyway? Service to God and His Church is not easy when you fight Satan and deal with people who are selfish and controlling. And that is true wherever you are. But if you want to see a church grow and become healthy, then what are you going to do to make that happen? If God has placed you with a particular congregation, then He has you there for a purpose. I do not think that is to wait for something to happen or to watch others control the future of that congregation. What can you do where you are today to help build up a church and make it more healthy? Lastly, I encourage those who may be in this group to not let others steal your joy and delight in God. You are there to serve God and not man. Delight in Him!
Those Who are Delighting in the Lord
Some of you may be delighting in God. You may be focused on the mission of reaching others for Jesus Christ. You may be fully committed to the work of the Church and desire to see the congregation you serve grow and become a healthy disciple making center. I encourage you to continue in that delight. I encourage you to continue focusing on the God of the possible Who works all things for good for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Do not be discouraged by the naysayers or those who are less interested in reaching the lost. The work of making disciples and reaching the lost will be hard and it will take time. Be steadfast. Pray for the Church. Pray for the leaders. Pray for our work to reach others for Jesus Christ.
So, Merry Christmas! This is a perfect time for us all to really think about what the Church is and what the Church should be doing. Do you see the Church as a place where you get to call the shots, where you control what happens, and where what you want is most important? Or do you see the Church as a people belonging to God who were bought with the price of Jesus’ death, and were called to reach others in this world for Him? God did not send His one and only Son to die for the world so that His people would have a nice place to gather or so that we would focus on material things that moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19-20). You have a choice. You can choose to delight in Jesus Christ and to be focused on the mission of reaching others. You can choose to delight in Jesus Christ no matter what the circumstances are, no matter what others may be doing. You have a choice to faithfully serve God and help grow His Church. The choice is yours. What will it be?
Now, I said I was going to speak to four groups of people. The fourth group are those who do not know the object of our delight. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior then you are the reason God has placed the Church here and has not taken His people home yet. If you have not turned from your self and your sin and turned to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can today. The Bible tells us that no one is righteous and everyone has sinned and broken God’s Law (Romans 3:10, 23). The Bible also tells us that the result of sin is death and eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23). But the Good News of Jesus Christ is that whosoever calls upon Him, confesses his or her sin to Him and places his or her trust in Jesus as Savior, then he or she will be forgiven and will have eternal life (Romans 10:9-13). God’s free gift of salvation is available to you today. You do not have to wait for Christmas to receive it. Trust in Jesus Christ. This is Good News. Thanks be to God. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.