If this past election illustrated anything, it illustrated that humanity longs for a wise ruler. Unfortunately for the United States of America our two major political parties nominated candidates that most Americans judged as unwise. One was unwise in her actions and the other was unwise in his choice of words.
Things were not that much different in ancient Israel. Judah was cursed with an intelligent but foolish ruler named Ahaz. During Ahaz' reign the Northern Kingdom of Israel and Syria conspired against Judah and attacked it.
And the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field. And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, “Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,” thus says the Lord GOD: “ ‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.’ ”
You would think that Ahaz would have been comforted and encouraged by such a positive word from the Lord, but listen to what happened next.
Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz: “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Rather than trust in the Lord and his promises, Ahaz decides to trust in his own wisdom and this is what he does.
So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son. Come up and rescue me from the hand of the king of Syria and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” Ahaz also 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 a present to the king of Assyria. And the king of Assyria listened to him. The king of Assyria marched up against Damascus and took it, carrying its people captive to Kir, and he killed Rezin.
Spiritually and politically, Ahaz' alliance with Assyria was a disaster. Ahaz felt obligated to not offend the religious sensitivities of his new master, so the introduced the idolatrous practices of the Assyrians in the temple worship. Politically, Judah was never be truly independent again, but rather she would be a ping-pong ball in the game of world domination fought between Assyria, Egypt and Babylon.
It is against the backdrop of the foolishness of King Ahaz that God, through Isaiah reveals to us the promise of Immanuel--God with us. In chapter 9, God gives us more details about this coming King.
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. 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. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. 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. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. 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 Counselor, 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 forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
For the next four weeks we will examine in detail each of the four names Immanuel is given. The first of these names is Wonderful Counselor. The word "counselor" speaks of Immanuel being about to make wise decisions and plans. In the history of the world and of Israel, the ruler who most perfectly exemplifies the wisdom we long for is king Solomon.
With the exception of Jesus--Our Immanuel--no ruler has exceeded the wisdom of Solomon.
And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.
Notice that Solomon's wisdom is of divine origin. 2 Chronicles 9:23 makes the divine origin of Solomon's wisdom even more explicit.
And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind.
The divine character of Immanuel's wisdom will be even more evident because his counsel is called Wonderful. This word "wonderful" in the Hebrew speaks of something that is miraculous and beyond human comprehension. This word is typically used to describe God and his mighty acts. For example, we read in Exodus 15:11:
“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
Isaiah himself, praises God for his wondrous deed and plans.
O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
But even God-like wisdom is not enough to restrain the sinful human heart. In the end, Solomon's sinful lusts made him a fool and shortly after his death his kingdom was torn in two by civil war. Thomas Brooks makes this observation about Solomon:
“Solomon got more hurt by his wealth than he got good by his wisdom… Under all his royal robes, he had but a threadbare soul.”
This should be a warning to us all. No human ruler will bring our world into a golden age of wise and good governance. We need more than a ruler gifted by God--we need a ruler who is God! We need Immanuel--God with us! Jesus is that God-man our hearts long for.
In the gospels of Matthew and Luke we find these stunning words:
The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
Jesus is everything that Solomon's wisdom pointed to--a wisdom and counsel that go beyond our ability to comprehend! What the psalmist says of God the Father, can also be said of Jesus' wisdom:
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
Unlike Solomon (or any other politician for that matter) Jesus' knowledge and wisdom is not undermined by a sinful and lustful heart.
The kings and queens of the earth use to come to king Solomon to seek his wisdom, but now King Jesus invites us to come to him for wisdom. The apostle Paul writes this about his preaching:
but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
The Ruler and King every human heart longs for has already arrived! This is why we celebrate Advent!
All across American, election parties were held a few weeks ago. Advent is the world's biggest election party! Jesus has already ascended and reigns from His throne in heaven. By wisdom, Jesus is directing all things to God's glory and our everlasting joy.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
The rulers of this earth and the spiritual powers and authorities of the Unseen Realm are but pawns on Christ's chess board. He is carefully moving each piece to glorious conclusion of the game--the Second Advent!
What a comfort this is in light of the foolishness and wickedness of earthly rulers. Even the disastrous messes they make of the nations and kingdoms of this world, Jesus is turning to the glory of His! Ahaz was a fool to not trust in God and to rely on Assyria, but it was during his disastrous reign that God gave us some of his most glorious promises. The promise of Immanuel Our Wonderful Counselor!
Some of you like Ahaz are filled with fear and dread as you look at the political situation of our world. God is speaking the same Word to us that he spoke to Ahaz so many centuries ago.
And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah.
We know this Word is true, because God has already given us the sign of Immanuel, the babe born in a manger in Bethlehem! Don't be like Ahaz and the unbelieving generation of Jesus' day--trust you future to the wisdom of God.