Sunday, December 16, 2012

Isaiah 9:6 - The Mighty God

For Week 2 of this series, we're going to look at the second phrase from Isaiah 9:6 -- the Mighty God.

The imagery is easy, even common. The language used, on the other hand, might be a little odd. The second word is what you might expect -- el. It is the classic Hebrew word for "God". You'll find it throughout the Old Testament. Interestingly, though, the word is first translated "strength". For this reason it is translated in some places as "the Almighty". Over in the Psalms we read (God speaking), "I said, 'You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you'" (Psa 82:6). Wait! We are gods? This from the one who said "I am the Lord; there is no other"? Yes, if you understand that el means "mighty" or "mighty ones". And, as "sons of the Most High", there is certainly a sense of power without actually attaining to what we think of as godhood. So the second word leaves us with "God" including an inherent sense of "the mighty".

The first word is gibbor. Strong's says it is literally "powerful" and, by implication, "a valiant warrior" or even "tyrant". That's a little odd, isn't it? But let's just stick with "powerful". Or, as you would expect, "mighty". Putting the two together, then, you end up with "the mighty Mighty One" or "the mighty Almighty". There is, then, built into this biblical description of Christ, a two-term single-meaning concept. What's that all about? Well, in Hebrew there is a fairly common literary technique that uses repetition for emphasis. Use the word once, and it stands by itself. Use it a second time and it is emphasized. Use it a third time and it's being shouted, so to speak. It's like us with our use of italics and bold print. So when the seraphim in Isaiah 6, for instance, cry, "Holy, holy, holy", they aren't being merely dramatic or poetic. They are announcing that God's holiness is taken to the utmost level. Jesus used this technique sometimes when He spoke. He always spoke truth, but sometimes He would say, "Verily I say unto you ...", in essence prefacing his remark with "truth, truth". On rare occasion He would say, "Verily, verily I say unto you ..." Now that would be the professor stamping his foot on the ground to warn you, "This is important; it will likely be on the final exam." It's big truth. Here, then, in Hebraic idiom, is more than just "mighty God". It is a reference to the Almighty, the Omnipotent, the One who holds all power.

Isn't it remarkable that "Unto us a child is born" who is called "the Mighty God"? What might does a child have? Well, He demonstrated Himself mighty when He came on the scene. He drew in shepherd and king alike. He was saved from catastrophe (Matt 2:13-18) and confounded the wise at age 12 (Luke 2:42-47). He started out His ministry after baptism with a trip to the desert to take every attack Satan could give Him and defeated him (Luke 4:1-14). He started out His ministry of signs by changing water to wine (John 2:1-11). He ended His earthly ministry by surrendering to death, rising from the grave, and ascending into heaven. Yeah ... that's Mighty. Despite the subsequent attempts throughout history to annihilate this religion, the Church has survived, grown, and thrived under Christ, the Mighty God, to this day.

We must, in fact, live as if He is this Mighty God. When faced with problems or temptations or trials, it is His power that sustains. When we are weak, He is strong. When we are troubled, His omnipotence provides comfort. When we don't know what to do, His might makes perfectly right. He is without parallel -- the Mighty God.

But, look, it's all well and good that you or I might see that He is the Mighty God and it certainly might be helpful that you or I have a life lived on the basis of this Mighty God, but what about others? What about the "Christian" that denies such a God, either overtly or by action or attitude? Wouldn't it be better just to extend the right hand of fellowship to these rather than the left boot? "Grace" and "humility" would seem to require it. The problem, unfortunately, is that affirming a belief in "Christ" while denying this Mighty God is not merely "an honest mistake". There is a clear biblical term for it. Any time we take something that is not God and apply it as God, the Bible calls it "idolatry", and there is no question what God's view on that topic (both Old and New Testaments included) is. It's not "warm and affirming".

Christ is indeed the ultimate "Mighty God". He demonstrated it during His lifetime. He demonstrated it at the Cross. He demonstrated it by rising from the grave. He continues to demonstrate it in history. To the one who believes it, there is clear direction and great comfort. To the one who doesn't there is great peril. Hopefully you will find yourself in the former position and, recognizing your imperfect grasp of the reality of our Mighty God, strive for a greater confidence in Jesus.

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