Grace Has a Name
James C. Denison
This past Thursday, the New York Post told the story of Joshua Persky, a man who was laid off by an investment bank in New York City a year ago. He has tried everything to get work, even handing out resumes to passers-by on Park Avenue. His wife and two of his five children were living with her parents in Nebraska to save money. Finally he posted a blog with his qualifications and began walking the streets of Manhattan wearing a sandwich board with the words, “MIT grad for hire.” And that did the trick. He has a new job, and his family will be together for Christmas.
You can’t hire someone you don’t know exists. That’s why, seven centuries before the Incarnation, God started telling the world about the Christ of Christmas. All so we could know enough to choose him as our Savior and Lord. He promised us that the Messiah would be a Wonderful Counselor, a Mighty God, an Everlasting Father, and a Prince of Peace.
The third title is our focus today, literally a “Father forever.” A God whose love is absolute, unconditional, and eternal. There’s a reason why you need God to love you today, and there’s a reason why you wonder if he does. Let’s explore both.
Know that God loves you
The people of Isaiah’s day were threatened with military defeat and annihilation. Assyria had destroyed the North and was now marching on the South. I know that the threat of a Canadian invasion is not frightening to most of us; imagine that you were in South Korea facing China coming from the north, and you’d have a sense of their dread.
They wanted a Messiah to be a military conqueror, a general who would overthrow their enemies and establish his Kingdom on earth. The Jewish people of the first century wanted the same thing. Both times, God promised a very different kind of deliverance. The Messiah would be a “Wonderful Counselor,” one who would guide their lives and give wisdom to their steps. He would be a “Mighty God” with power to heal their bodies and save their souls.
Now we learn that he would be an “Everlasting Father,” a “Father forever.” He would come with all the grace, unconditional love, and nurturing compassion a father should have for his children. How would he be such a Father?
He would come to “Galilee of the Gentiles,” to those “walking in darkness” and living in “the land of the shadow of death.” Despite their many sins, he would establish and uphold the throne of David “with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”
Did Jesus fulfill Isaiah’s promise?
As you know, he was the only baby to choose his parents and first attendants, and he chose Galilean peasants and despised field hands. Imagine that you could have Bill Gates or Warren Buffett as your father, and you choose a construction worker or day laborer. You could invite movie stars and politicians to the celebration, and you choose street peddlers and those men who accost you at intersections with “will work for food” signs to come to the maternity ward of your hospital.
He could have chosen to live anywhere, from the palaces of Jerusalem to the beauty of the Judean hillside, and he chose to live in Nazareth, a Galilean town so obscure it is not mentioned even once in the Old Testament. Imagine that you could grow up in Dallas but choose Dibble, Oklahoma, population 289. Never heard of it? Neither had people heard of Nazareth.
He could have called Judean rabbis or Hebrew scholars to be his disciples, as he had certainly impressed them in the Temple when he visited at the age of 12. Instead, he chose Galilean fishermen, people considered to be “unschooled and ordinary” by the elites living down in Judea (Acts 4:13). He later called tax-collectors, the most despised turncoats of their day, to join his movement. Imagine that you could hire Catholic cardinals and Baptist mega church pastors and Ivy League scholars, and you chose to hire migrant farmers and dishonorably discharged and disgraced Army privates.
He touched lepers, men who were unclean both physically and spiritually. He healed demoniacs, men who were rejected by everyone in their culture. Imagine that you could do your work with business executives, flying in private jets and meeting in top floor board rooms, and you chose instead to start a church in inner city slums.
Now God promises to be Everlasting Father to you and me just as much as Jesus was to the Galileans he first came to love. Even in hard times—especially in hard times, he loves his children.
He tells his people: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…You are precious and honored in my sight” (Isaiah 43:1-3, 4).
He assures us, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).
Scripture testifies, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).
No matter how many Assyrians are camping on your borders, God is your Everlasting Father. No matter how guilt-ridden your past, difficult your present, or bleak your future, God is your Everlasting Father. Nothing you can do can make him love you any more than he does right now, or any less. This is Isaiah’s promise, fulfilled by the Christ of Christmas.