Sermon – December 3, 2017

Advent 2017

Isaiah 9:2-7 – The Role of Prophecy (mp3)

There are many things that vie for our attention this time of year.  Schedules, trips, presents, family get-togethers.  The one thing, though, that we need to focus on is often the one thing that we push to the background.  That is precisely why we celebrate the advent throughout December: that we may drink deeply at the mystery and wonder of the Son of God becoming human for our sake.  To that end, we start where the NT starts, with the fulfilment of prophecy.  But why do we have prophecy?  Is our understanding of prophecy just a specific case of confirmation bias?  With these questions in mind, let us today look at one of the most important passages surrounding the birth of Christ: Isaiah 7-9.  What does our study tell us about prophecy?

1. Prophecy is reliable
Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14 about the virgin birth of Jesus, much to the chagrin of many OT scholars, who argue that Isaiah simply meant his own son, born just a few verses later (8:3).  But Matthew demonstrates he understands the passage well, for there is no reason to suspect that Isaiah is talking about his own child – but rather a child that will change the course of Judah, and indeed the world.

2. Prophecy is God-centered
In this sense, prophecy is directly related to an acknowledgement that God has orchestrated all things.  In the later portions of Isaiah, God’s creation of the world, which sets him apart from all else, is related directly to his creation of the future, his ability to accomplish all of his purposes.  The events around Jesus birth are not happenstance, not luck, not random, not normal.  They are no less than an undertaking from God himself, a sign higher than heaven and deeper than Sheol.

3. Prophecy is comforting
Therefore, we are to be comforted when we read prophecy.  Indeed, of all the prophetic portions of Isaiah, the latter chapters of 40-66 are filled with words of comfort, even amidst the horrible pain of the exile.  We ourselves should be comforted by these words, for the one who spoke them also told us that we would not be orphaned here, and that he would come back for us!

4. Prophecy is hope-filled
And thus, while we are comforted in the present, we then have hope for the future.  We are not dismayed by world events, echoes of turmoil and despair, rumors of war and genocide.  For we have hope, in Christ, that all evil will come to an end; for the very Prince of Peace has come to us.

Prophecy highlights the nature of the gospel we believe in: reliable because it is the very act of God, providing comfort and hope to  those who believe.    This Christmas, do not forget that God has spoken, not only about what has happened, but what will happen.  He who has been faithful, will continue to be so.  Place your hope in him!