He Shall Be Called Everlasting Father
David gave this talk at Woodside Church (Bedford) in 2012, as part of their "He Shall Be Called..." Christmas series. Click here to download it.
In Advent, we celebrate Jesus first coming at Christmas – we also look forward to when he comes again to set up his kingdom in all its fullness.
- “Jesus has come” – Christmas introduced His Kingdom.
- “Jesus is continuing to come” – lives with us by His Spirit. Living out His Kingdom through us.
- “Jesus will come” – to establish His Kingdom forever in a new heaven and new earth. Our final destiny.
Isaiah 9 prophesies about all three:
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this”. Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV).
A child was born. A kingdom was introduced. And is increasing. It will be forever. Remember all this when you do your Advent Calendar!
The Jewish people celebrated at the time of the birth of Jesus (and still do) all of their story – their history. They celebrate Abraham and the promises, Passover and the founding of the nation, David, the founder of the monarchy. Our culture does not do that in the same way – but the Jews told stories about their history, like many nations do. The Jewish history was special because it was not celebrating their own victories – like 1066 or Agincourt, or Spanish Armada, or VE Day – but God’s special grace to them.
- God chose and raised up Abraham.
- God set us free from Egypt and made us a nation.
- God gave us a great king David – whose kingdom will last forever.
About 700 years before Jesus, King Ahaz was king of Judah. He was afraid because of power of nations around. Israel was already divided into 2 nations, Israel (Ephraim) and Judah – the Assyrians had already taken the northern kingdom into captivity and in particular had devastated the lands around Galilee, Zebulun and Naphtali. Isaiah said – ask for a sign – to show God will deliver you. I won’t do that said Ahaz. That’s putting God to the test - sounded spiritual but actually was unbelief and fear.
So Isaiah said God himself will give you a sign – not for Ahaz to be ok - he stayed in unbelief and fear - but that one day God will give a sign that He would put everything right. The sign was Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”. Isaiah 7:14 – led to poem of Immanuel and Immanuel’s land. It will be devastated, because people still in idolatry, consulting mediums.
Those places particularly ruined: “In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. (Isaiah 7:1)
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.” Isaiah 9:1-3
One of the titles given right afterwards was “Everlasting Father” – what does that mean? It’s still part of the long story – the people of that day and today thought story not primarily concepts. In the history of Israel, their leaders were to be like fathers to the nation. However they had been very inconsistent.
First judges – came and went – nation prospered when a good judge (like Gideon – referred to in this chapter v4 “then Midian”). Then kings – they surely would be more permanent – a dynasty of fathers. Didn’t work out like that even though descended from David – most were not like David who ruled after God’s own heart – God was a father to His people – David was a father after God’s own heart – he cared. This is what leadership was called to do. David was promised a king on his throne who would rule for ever – an “everlasting father”.
But did not happen – from Ahaz a few kings ruled who were really under domination of other powers, then for about 500 years died out altogether – no king, no father. A few good leaders, a few prophets – then 400 years silence. Israel dominated by : Assyria -> Babylon -> Greece -> Romans -> Pretend political kings -> Herod – not from line of David at all. There was no father to come and lead.
But one day: Immanuel. A child is born. A son is given.
He will rule – government on his shoulders. He will be a Father forever – the Everlasting Father – the true Son of David – to rule on behalf of God, in God’s character a genuine fatherly leader forever.
THE STORY CONTINUES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Now the lands of Galilee ruined by Assyria – “Galilee of the nations” (i.e. laid waste by the nations) – became “Galilee of the nations” – a place of hope for many nations.
“And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.” Matt 4:13-16
Matthew had already continued the Bible story in hope – he starts “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Matt 1:1. The Everlasting Father has arrived – the one Son of David who will rule forever. He started to care like a father:
- He healed the untouchables (lepers)
- He took children in his arms
- He cared for his disciples – not just taught them
- He loved them through everything
- He eventually died for them.
So He said in astonishment when asked a question by one of his disciples:
“Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” John 14:8-9
TEACHING ABOUT EVERLASTING FATHER
It is difficult to understand because in the Trinity, the Father is the Father, the Son is the Son. How do we not confuse the persons?
We worship one God in trinity, and trinity in unity; Neither confusing the persons: nor dividing the substance, For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son and another of the Holy Spirit.” - Athanasian Creed.
Explanation by Charles Spurgeon – great preacher of nineteenth century: “How complex is the person of our Lord Jesus Christ! Almost in the same breath the prophet calls him a "child," and a "counsellor," a "son," and "the everlasting Father." This is no contradiction, and to us scarcely a paradox, but it is a mighty marvel that he who was an infant should at the same time be infinite, he who was the Man of Sorrows should also be God over all, blessed for ever; and that he who is in the Divine Trinity always called the Son, should nevertheless be correctly called "the everlasting Father." How forcibly this should remind us of the necessity of carefully studying and rightly understanding the person of our Lord Jesus Christ! We must not suppose that we shall understand him at a glance. A look will save the soul, but patient meditation alone can fill the mind with the knowledge of the Saviour”. Metropolitan Pulpit Vol. 12 p. 8
It does not justify “oneness” or “Jesus only” teaching. “Father” often used in Eastern thought for someone who demonstrates a quality “father of wisdom” – a wise old man, “father of folly” – a stupid old man. Jesus is “father of all that is good” – his life displayed that. He's the father in the sense of a “federal head” or “representative”. So we were “in Adam” – he was the father of the human race, the old creation, the representative man. If we believe we are now “in Christ”, the representative, the federal head of the new creation. We are born again into Christ – the father of the new creation.
He is father of a new faith:
- Socrates – father of philosophy
- Darwin – father of evolutionary theory
- Freud – father of psychoanalysis
- Those who wrote the US constitution – founding fathers of a nation
Jesus Christ is the father of a whole new way of life. He's the father of the new age of the Kingdom.
This is what He is like to us. He is father – caring, overseeing, birthing, giving life but He is everlasting – the Psalms celebrate the future Messiah (Psalm 72:17, Psalm 68:5-6, Psalm 103:13). This is what Jesus, born in Bethlehem was like, is like as he comes to us now by His Spirit and will be like in the future Kingdom.