(The following is an excerpt from a message I preached several years ago at Lakeside Christian Ministries. The four-part series focused on the names the Prophet Isaiah gave to the coming Messiah. This is the third installment which examines Jesus as Everlasting Father).
What’s in a name? Quite a bit actually, especially when we consider the names the Prophet Isaiah gave to the coming Savior some 600 years before He was born! They are recorded in Isaiah 9:6: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (NIV)
Before we dive in, allow me to share a question I have been wrestling with to get us started: What, if anything, is different this Christmas season from last year’s? Or any other Christmas season, for that matter?
Where is the focus? If it is to get the many things done and to go to the many places we go simply because it is Christmas time again, may I kindly suggest that the focus is misdirected.
Because December 25th is approaching ought not put us into a frenzy to get the house decorated or the perfect gift purchased. Yet, like most, if I look back at this time last year, that pretty well describes the lives of many of us. We celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus by running ourselves ragged with what we think has to be done to make this season successful, happy, memorable, etc.
If you find you are caught up in any or all of the busyness going on around you, please take some time to consider Jesus Christ. Yes, this is the time of year we celebrate His birth, and rightly so! This is the Savior of the world, who came to the world because He so loved us. Take this time to re-set your focus. Place it solely on Jesus and watch if all the other ‘important’ stuff going on doesn’t fall into its rightful place.
As I said, we’ve been discussing some of the wonder of the birth of our Lord through the lens of the prophesy of His birth given us by the prophet Isaiah. I find it truly amazing that God’s word spoke to people in their context over 2000 years ago, and it is still speaking clearly to those who would listen today!
Remember, the ancient Israelites Isaiah wrote to were living in a dark period. They had weak leadership nationally and spiritually. They were in this condition because they had turned their backs on God. Despite this, God in His mercy and love gave them the encouragement of the awesome promise of a Savior. He still holds this promise out to all today. His light can/will still shine brightly into any area of darkness.
So far in this series we’ve considered how Jesus fulfilled the names Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God by which Isaiah said He would be called. All the wisdom and power of heaven was/is on display through the child born, this son given. His counsel is true, his power unlimited; we should seek Him out continuously as we walk this earth. He will guide us if we ask Him, his power will supply us if we allow it to.
To help us discover the light God wants to shine on all of our lives, let’s look at the third title Isaiah gave to the coming Messiah, Everlasting Father. Let me help with any confusion this title might cause at first: How can Jesus, the Son, be an everlasting Father? It’s an excellent question that comes with a straight-forward answer that the original language will help us to find.
In Hebrew, the phrase translated Everlasting Father is literally “the Father of Eternity.” This speaks of the purpose of his coming. Ray Pritchard of Keep Believing Ministries explains it this way: He (Jesus) is before, above, and beyond time. He is the possessor of eternity. He is eternally like a father to his people. This is not a statement about the Trinity but about the character of our Lord. All that a good father is, Jesus is to his people.
Jesus is this type of father, forever. My earthly dad, Ken, was a wonderful man who taught me life lessons by his words and deeds. He played a large part in making me who I am today. But, like all mortal fathers will, he has passed away. He was a great dad, but not an everlasting one. Only God possesses eternity.
Ray Pritchard again: Because he is like a father, he cares for his people. Because he owns eternity, he can give us eternal life. That’s important for those who live on this sin-cursed planet. No one lives forever. Sooner or later we will all find our own place in the graveyard. We are not immortal but transitory. We’re here today, gone tomorrow. A dead Christ will do us no good. Dying men need an undying Christ. Praise God, our Lord Jesus is eternal!
This had to seem like a bit of a stretch to those who first heard Isaiah utter this prediction. After all, he was proclaiming prophesy of a child not yet born in Isaiah 9:6. However, the text clearly says that this newborn Messiah is in fact to be an Everlasting Father! Go ahead, get your mind wrapped around that!
Helping us to do this will be the mind-set we bring to it. We talked last time about child-like wonder at the things of God; how God often challenges us to get past our logical thought process in order that we might see more clearly how He is at work around us. Remember, this is God Almighty coming to the world as an infant. God chose Bethlehem, not even big enough to make most maps back then, to be His birthplace. Given these facts, in all their heavenly contrast, let’s see how Jesus was/is indeed an Everlasting Father.
To do this, we do have to consider the term Father in the context that the Prophet Isaiah used it. In our day we have watered down the concept of father in many ways. Be it the bumbling portrayal of a Homer Simpson, to the real-life dad who works 2 full-time jobs, supplying materially but not emotionally to his family, to the no-account who fathers children and then disappears from their lives; part of each of these, plus many others, tend to make up today what we consider the title ‘Father’ to mean.
Being a father in Isaiah’s day carried with it much more than the above. To be a proper father then meant that you oversaw the entire process of family life. As one commentator put it, the father was the head who provided nutrition, education and protection for his household, including all those who might work for him. It was a title of respect that was earned through bringing compassionate care as well as proper discipline and correction. The Father was involved in all aspects of life in order that those under his care could live and grow in a loving and nurturing environment.
It will also help our understanding if we realize there was a tremendous stigma attached to those who didn’t have a father back then. Being fatherless as a child in Isaiah’s time was to be virtually an outcast in society. You had no advocate or anyone to look out for your best interest. This information ought to help us see all the more clearly that Jesus fulfilled/fulfills the title of Everlasting Father. God left clear instructions in the Old Testament that teaches about providing care and provision for those who were in need (For more on this, read Deuteronomy 24:17-21).
Throughout His earthly ministry the Lord Jesus displayed this type of loving, paternal heart as He met the needs of so many. Here are just a few examples found in John’s gospel:
- He turned water into wine at his mother’s request when they had run out at a wedding reception.
- Jesus took the time to explain to Nicodemus, a Pharisee, the necessity of being born again through salvation. He took the time to show a Samaritan woman at the well that he was Messiah. Jesus invested His time in others.
- He spoke a word and healed the royal official’s son; healed a lame man at the pool called Bethesda, gave sight to a man born blind and to a beggar on the road, miraculously fed thousands of people from a few fish and a loaf of bread and, let’s not forget that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. All evidence of a Father’s heart beating in His chest. In this case, the Everlasting Father who showed great love and compassion for people.
But Jesus went well beyond merely meeting needs. His love for all people, especially those who were lost in their sins, was abundantly clear. There is a poignant example of this recorded in Luke 13. As the Lord approaches Jerusalem, he receives a warning to not go there as King Herod is planning to have him killed. Rather than avoid the problem by not going or giving in to anger about this threat, Jesus instead reveals His loving parental heart:
“O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34)
On another occasion, as the Pharisees looked down at Jesus for dining with ‘tax collectors and sinners,’ the Lord told the parable of the Prodigal son. Of the many lessons that can be gleaned from that teaching, primary among them is the loving and patient heart of the Father who longed for the lost child to return:
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)
There are many more examples of the parental heart Jesus had for people. As it is my hope that our previous examinations of the Scriptures revealed Jesus to be the Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God Isaiah spoke of, so too my prayer is that this brief study sheds light on how Jesus clearly fulfilled the pronouncement that He would be the Everlasting Father as well.
As mind boggling as it can appear to be, our Lord Jesus, along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, is God. These three distinct persons, the Trinity, exist simultaneously together as God. Jesus was well aware of the confusion this was bringing to his original audience, as well to people still today.
Because of this fact, Jesus made many other statements that were meant to bring clarity that He was indeed the prophesied Everlasting Father in Isaiah 9:6. One can be seen as He spoke with Thomas:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7)
To bring this all into focus in our context this Christmas season, please remember that the Messiah promised in Isaiah Chapter 9 is indeed Emmanuel, God with us. Today we have concentrated on the eternal Father that Jesus is. That He is everlasting is more than a statement of time; or of His always having been there or that He will always be there. Though wonderfully true, the point of application is that He is always with us now! We can know that this promised Messiah, Emmanuel, is indeed with us each and every moment.
My hope and prayer for all of us in this particular season is that we can experience a deeper sense of God being with us. This is God; who made us and loves us. He’s not merely sitting somewhere above, watching and ready to pounce on our mistakes. Rather, He is always and everywhere around us, as our Everlasting Father, offering us His peace. The Messiah, Jesus Christ, stepped into this darkened world to bring forgiveness and salvation to all who would accept Him.
The miracle only began at His virgin birth because the miracle continues in the heart of each person who puts their faith in the Lord. Once you have done this, the everlasting care of God is available to you. He will guide and comfort you, He will direct your steps. You need only allow Him to and He will do so as your Everlasting Father. Amen.