The Wonderful Name
December 14th, 1958 @ 10:50 AM
THE WONDERFUL NAME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Isaiah 7, 9
12-14-58 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Wonderful Name. I have been asked many times, "Pastor, when you are through preaching through the Bible," and it is about, it is over thirteen and a half years that we have been doing that, "When you finish preaching through the Bible," we have now after thirteen and a half years come to Titus, "When you are through preaching through the Bible, what are you going to do then?" Well, if I live long enough to finish preaching through the Scriptures, this is what I hope to do: I want to go back to some of the great, great books of the Bible, books that I spent just a little while on as I went through, I’d like to go back and in some of those books really prepare for delivery here the message of the prophet or the apostle. And one of those books is Isaiah. My remembrance, when I went through the Bible and came to Isaiah, I did not preach more than six or eight sermons from the great prophet. A man could preach a lifetime in Isaiah alone. I preached two years in Matthew, two years in John, two years in the Book of Acts; I’d like to spend at least that length of time preaching from the Book of Isaiah. The sermon this morning because of the season in which we live is taken from the prophet. You can follow it easily in your Bible if you so desire. I shall preach this morning from the seventh and the ninth chapters of the Book of Isaiah.
The seventh chapter begins:
And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it. And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And Ahaz, the king of Judah, his heart trembled, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.
We must first be introduced to Ahaz the son of Jotham, the previous king, the son of Uzziah the great good king, Ahaz the grandson of Uzziah is the king of Judah. Unfortunately, tragically so for this period in the life of God’s people, Ahaz was a weak and vacillating monarch; and he led his people into increasingly depraved idolatrous practices.
Under this man Ahaz, images of Baalim, molten images of the false god, were circulated among the people. Under this man Ahaz, the vile and abominable worship of Molech was re-instigated, reestablished, in the valley of Hinnom. You remember how they worshipped Molech: built a great fire under the molten image of the god, and when it was red with heat, throw their own children into the arms of the god, which was an abomination to Jehovah in heaven. Yet this man Ahaz reestablished that idolatrous, murderous worship in the valley of Hinnom. The Books of the Chronicles tell us that this man Ahaz caused his own children to be burned in the fire.
Now, it is a critical time in the history of God’s people, for they are being pressed on every side and threatened with destructive war. Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the king of the northern ten tribes have made a confederacy to destroy Judah and Jerusalem. At that time, when Judah should have had a great and wonderful leader, they had this man Ahaz instead. And when this confederacy was made and when they came against Judah and Jerusalem, this king Ahaz privately, secretly, sent word to Tiglath-Pileser, the terrible and bitter king of Assyria, that he come and help him. Now when that happened, and it says here, describes the people here, as "trembling in their hearts and moved as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind," they were frightened and terrified by the coming of Rezin and Pekah, confederates leading Syria and Israel. And in their fright, they were willing to turn to anybody, anywhere, to find help and deliverance. When Ahaz therefore sought to make a secret alliance with Tiglath-Pileser, the people were very happy to go along with it; anything to deliver them, just so they had peace and prosperity now: future will look out after itself. Apparently, the only man in Jerusalem who was unperturbed and unafraid was God’s man Isaiah. And Isaiah set himself, apparently, single-handed, alone, to turn the king away from an alliance with that bitter and hasty monarch, Tiglath-Pileser, and those fearful and merciless Assyrians.
So Isaiah, at the command of the Lord, went forth to meet Ahaz for the purpose of making an appeal to the king that he not make an alliance with Assyria; but that rather he trust in the strong arm of the delivering Jehovah. So, Isaiah goes to meet Ahaz at the end of the conduit of the upper pool [Isaiah 7:3]. Always the weakness of Jerusalem has been its paucity, its scarcity of water. So, facing a terrible siege from Syria and Samaria, Ahaz is inspecting the water supplies of the city. And as he comes to look upon the conduit and the pool, Isaiah stands in the presence of the king to speak to him the word of the Lord:
And the Lord said to Isaiah, Say unto Ahaz, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, do not be afraid, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, the fag end of these burned out logs, these two charred sticks, the fierce anger of Rezin of Syria, and the son of Remaliah, Pekah of Samaria. Do not you be moved in your heart, do not you be afraid, says the Lord God; For these two smoking charred sticks have burned themselves out already. There is no strength in them to smite or to flame or to destroy. Thus saith the Lord God, What they say shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. The head of Syria is Damascus, the head of Damascus Rezin the king; within threescore and five years Ephraim shall be broken. If you will not believe, ye shall not be established. Do not be afraid, do not fear.
But Ahaz had already sent to Tiglath-Pileser, already made an alliance with him; and he wasn’t about to change. To Ahaz, to trust in God was to lean on the wind. How could an invisible God that you can’t see and you can’t touch, how could He help you? But Tiglath-Pileser was the lord monarch of all the East; even great Babylon lay as a suppliant and a sycophant at his feet. So Ahaz added them up: here’s God on one side, can’t see Him, don’t know what He might do, he didn’t trust Him; and on the other hand is Tiglath-Pileser with a great army. So Ahaz chose to trust Tiglath; and he placed Judah under the iron heel of a heathen and blaspheming king [2 Kings 16:7-8].
Well, that was the first interview of Isaiah and Ahaz. And after it was over and Isaiah saw what Ahaz had set his heart to, the brooding prophet carried through, in his mind’s heart’s feeling, intuition and revelation of God, what that meant to the people of the Lord. An alliance between little Judah and the great power of Assyria ultimately meant to Isaiah the swallowing up, the overwhelming of the little kingdom of the Lord, for colossal Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was the greatest city the world had ever seen. Tiglath-Pileser was, as he described himself, "the king of kings"; and to him, the little kinglets down there in Samaria and Judah were as insects in his sight. The power and the might of the Assyrian army is beyond most any that we could realize. They numbered myriads in their chariots and in their soldiers. They swarmed over the earth like locusts. And their onrush was like an overflowing ocean. There never was a conquering horde like Assyria. You read of one Julius Caesar, one Alexander the Great, one Napoleon Bonaparte; they had a series of them for centuries, Tiglath-Pileser, Sennacherib, Ashurbanipal, Sargon, on and on, those tremendous military leaders. And wherever the Assyrian army went, it was an irresistible, undefeatable, unstoppable foe! And when Isaiah thought of linking God’s people with that fierce and merciless and cruel empire, the man-headed winged bull of Asshur, signifying, emblematic of strength and intelligence and swiftness, as the prophet brooded upon it, in it lay every disaster heart could imagine.
So the second time Isaiah appears before Ahaz the king, and this time he appears with the offer of a sign from the Lord: "Ask thee," says Isaiah to Ahaz, "Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it, anything, either in heaven above, or in the depths beneath, that you might know God confirms His promise to deliver His people. Ask it, ask it." But Ahaz hypocritically replies, "I will not ask, lest I tempt the Lord" [Isaiah 7:10-12]. Over here in 2 Kings 16, you’ll understand why he made that pious and hypocritical reply: he had already said to Tiglath-Pileser, I quote him, "I am thy servant, thy slave. And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king’s house, and sent it for a tribute to the king of Assyria." Already, "I am thy slave," already taking God’s money, silver and the gold and the vessels from God’s house, paying tribute to that merciless monarch [2 Kings 16:7-8]. He doesn’t mention it to Isaiah, "I’ll not tempt the Lord."
Then it was that Isaiah made two great prophecies. The first one was bitter and dark and ominous and filled with terrible foreboding. The first prophecy:
The Lord shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father’s house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria! In that day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, the king of Assyria, the hair of the head and the feet; and it shall consume the beard. With arrows and with bows shall men come thither: because all the land shall become briers and thorns. They shall look unto the earth, and behold, trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish! They shall be driven to darkness.
[Isaiah 7:17, 20, 24; 8:22]
Oh, what a prophecy for a man who loved God, and loved his country, and loved his people! Four times in the lifetime of Isaiah did that awful enemy come to waste the land. And it was this enemy that carried away the northern ten tribes into captivity that you call "the lost tribes," and wasted Samaria so that it was never rebuilt, and the kingdom perished forever: this enemy, Assyria.
Then Isaiah uttered another prophecy. As he stood in the presence of the weak and vacillating son of David, Judah’s king, refusing to trust the hand of the Lord, making a secret alliance by which he delivered Judah and Jerusalem into the hand of the bitter Assyrian, in his despondency and in his despair and in the darkness of that terrible prophecy, he lifted up his eyes and looked beyond that king, and beyond that dark, dark day, to another King, to another day. And this is what he said:
The dimness shall not be such as in her vexation, when at the first He afflicted the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, and afterward did He more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people, the people that walked in darkness shall see a great light: and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them shall the light shine…For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder.
[Isaiah 9:1-2, 6]
Can’t you see that? Looking into the face of Ahaz, who refused to trust the arm of the Lord, having uttered the dark and terrible prophecy of the waste of the land under the bitter and merciless Assyrian, living in the day of disaster and death, he lifts up his eyes and sees another King and another Ruler:
And the government shall rest upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth and forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform it.
Spurgeon has one of the most magnificent illustrations of this thing that I’ve ever read anywhere in my life. In commenting upon the passage, the dark, dark, and tragic hour in which Isaiah lived, and the lifting up of his voice and his eyes to the great, glorious vision beyond, Spurgeon said that it was like an experience he had had at sea. On a dark, dark, terribly dark night, the ship was tossed and buffeted and thrown with a terrible storm. The winds were high, and the waves were mountainous, and the skies were black like ink. And he said, "In the midst of the violence of the waves, and the howling of the winds, and the tossing of the ship, and the flash of the lightning, and the roar of the thunder," he said, "Beyond, far, far, beyond, on the far distant horizon, there burst a gleam of light on the edge of the storm. The clouds had parted, and the rays of the moon were shining through." And Spurgeon said, "The prophets are like that: around them the storm of war, and fury, and death, and darkness, but beyond they could see the promise of the glorious light that was yet to come."
"The people that walked in darkness shall see a great light. And they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined" [Isaiah 9:2]. The prophet never saw with his natural eye, aught but terror, and visitation, and famine, and war, and bloodshed, and death; that was his lot, that was his life, that’s what he saw all around him. But lifting up his face in the vision and promise and glory of God, there did the light break through on the far, far horizon, in the dark, dark night.
So we have borne in that heartache, in that disappointment, in that tragedy, we have this incomparable prophecy. Now, in the moment that remains, you’ll see why it is that a preacher would like to take years on Isaiah. In just a little moment that remains, may I speak of the prophecy?
"Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel, with us God [Isaiah 7:14]…Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace" [Isaiah 9:6]. Is that so? Do I take it literally? Actually, really? "And His name shall be the Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, Immanuel, with us God." Shall I? Shall I? "No," says the liberal; "No, no, no. That," he says, "is poetic fancy, and that’s Oriental hyperbole." "No, no, no. No," says the humanitarian, and the cynic, and the critic, and the materialist, and the secularist, "No, no, no. He was a wonderful man, but He was not the Mighty God. He was a great teacher, but he was not the Everlasting Father; a magnificent humanitarian, but He was not God with us. No, no, no." That’s what they say. That’s not what we say. To us, to us, He is as Matthew says, "All of this came to pass that the prophecy might be fulfilled, Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son; and His name shall be called Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" [Matthew 1:22-23]. John said, "And the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" [John 1:1, 14]. And Paul said, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation: By Him were all things made, visible and invisible, in heaven and in earth. He is before all things, and in Him all things consist, hold together" [Colossians 1:15-17].
"And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." The life that He lived is the life of God. The work that He did is the work of God. The words that He spake are the words of God. The death that He died is the atonement of God. His resurrection is the declaration and demonstration of the mighty saving power of God. And His coming again is the appearance, visible, personal, of Almighty God. The Babe born in the manger on that first Christmas night is the Child of God, God Himself in the flesh, begotten of the Father, born of a virgin, our Lord and our Savior.
O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
Come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and adore Him, born the King of angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the King.
["O Come, All Ye Faithful"; John F. Wade]
Now while we sing our hymn, somebody you, to bow in His presence, to worship at His feet, to accept Him as Savior, into the aisle and down to the front, would you come? "Pastor, I give you my hand; I give my heart to God." A family you, to come into the church, down these stairwells, at the front or the back, in this balcony round; the great throng of people on this lower floor, into that aisle and down to the front, "Here I come, and here I am." And out of a multitude of people who listen on this radio, kneel by your chair and give your heart to Jesus, or pull to the edge of the road and bow your head, and give your life to Christ. Now is a good time to do it, this season of the year, when the world makes cheap merry. This is a great time for us to bow at the feet of Christ and worship the Lord our Savior. Do it now, do it now. And in this great auditorium here, giving your heart to the Lord, putting your life with us in the ministry of this precious church, would you come, would you make it now? Would you stand by me? while all of us stand and sing together.