經文﹕ < 以賽亞書 >9 ﹕ 1-7
題目﹕盼望的節期 : 盼望的緣由
現在你的感覺一定很不錯吧﹕樂隊﹐詩班和音樂真是太棒了﹐我們所唱的那些聖誕歌曲也能讓我們都提起精神來。每個人都能感受到四週的空氣中充滿著喜樂和希望。這就好像我們大家集體經歷了一次情感上的高潮。在接下來的 30 或 40 分鐘裡﹐我們要行在回家的路上﹔在之後的幾個小時裡﹐我們對這段情感經歷仍將意猶未竟。到了星期一﹐一切又回復正常。當下週的主日來臨時﹐這種情感上的高潮就會消失﹐甚至可能還會導致一些情感上的低潮。
今天早上﹐我要帶你們踏上一段歷史的旅程。時間是在耶穌基督誕生 700 年以前。那時候以色列國充滿內懮外患。大衛王和所羅門王的輝煌時代已經成為過去。以色列面臨著週邊國家的攻擊和威脅﹐失去了國家的尊嚴和驕傲。整個國家處在交戰和戰爭的謠傳中。整個社會動蕩不安﹐貧富差距日益擴大﹐窮人 、 寡婦 、 孤兒和無助者都被錯待。文化上﹐以色列也顯得紛雜。他們不是唯獨敬拜那位造物主和真神﹐還崇拜一些從週邊國家引進的偶像。他們喪失了道德上的公義感。宗教成了有名無實的擺設。那是塊被黑暗籠罩的大地﹐在這樣的情況下﹐來了一批先知包括以賽亞和其他一些人。他們的信息不僅有對以色列國的警告﹐也為以色列人帶來了希望。
我們聽上去都很熟悉﹐不是嗎﹖我們都處在恐怖主義威脅的陰影下﹐有交戰也有戰爭的謠傳。在我們這個富足的社會裡﹐窮人﹐弱者和一些年長的人越來越感到無助。我們的文化也是多元化的﹐多元化本身並不是什麼錯﹐但是﹐我們往往打著多元化的名義﹐喪失了道德上的是非觀念。萬事皆行﹐甚至當他們互相矛盾時也無所謂。所以﹐我們很適合在今天來聆聽先知以賽亞在 2700 年前對整個以色列國所宣佈的內容以及這對于我們現在有什麼意義。簡單地來說﹐在 < 以賽亞書 > 裡﹐先知以賽亞告訴神的子民關於那位君王 ---- 彌撒亞即將來臨的消息。在剛閱讀的經文裡﹐提到那位君王 ---- 彌撒亞來臨的時候將會發生一些什麼事。
1. The Messiah will bring hope to his people.
? 2 行在黑暗中的人民，看見了大光；住在死蔭之地的人，有光照耀他們。當那位君王來臨的時候﹐將有大光照耀那些行在黑暗中的人民 . ? 3 你使這國之民增多，又加添他們的歡樂；他們在你面前歡樂，好像收割時的歡樂一樣；又像人在均分戰利品時的快樂一般 ( 戰爭的結束 ). ?#36889;段經文告訴我們那位君王的子民將感受到如收割時的歡樂﹔他們歡樂也是因為神會終止戰爭。隨著彌撒亞的來臨他們就會看到大光﹐感到無比的喜樂。對處在悲痛中的那些神的子民來說﹐以賽亞的信息為他們帶去了希望 .
但是﹐如果以賽亞僅僅停留在第三節經文處﹐那就好像帶著人群去參加一場音樂優美和令人振奮的崇拜﹐然後把他們送回家。他們回家的時候會經歷感情上的高潮﹐並告訴自己希望就要來臨。或者像一位醫生送他的病人回家﹐告訴他不用擔心﹐疾病會得到治癒﹐可是卻不給他任何的藥物。以賽亞做得比這更進一步。他不僅告訴人們彌撒亞的到來會帶來的希望﹐而且﹐他也解釋了原因。從經文第 4 到第 7 節﹐有三個?#22240;為? 。這就道出了希望的原因。
? 4 因為他們所負的軛 ( 一個受苦的生命 ) 和肩頭上的杖 ( 別人造成的苦難 ) ，以及欺壓他們的人的棍 ( 被別人仇恨的體驗 ) ，你都折斷了，像在米甸的日子一樣。?#36889;是一個戰爭的比喻。那位君王 ---- 彌撒亞將把他的子民從困難中釋放出來﹐從痛苦中解脫出來。? 5 因為戰士在戰爭喧嚷中所穿的靴，和輥在血中的袍，都必燒毀，成了燒火的燃料。?#36889;裡提到了神的子民在戰爭勝利後進入戰場的情景。他們歡慶戰爭的勝利﹐將沾染了血跡的戰袍和物品統統燒燬。這就好比父母辛辛苦苦地工作為孩子提供一切所需﹐滿足孩子的一切要求﹐孩子們什麼都不用做﹐只需要盡情享受為他們預備的一切。又像士兵在前方戰鬥 , 好使國名在後方有和平與安全 . 彌撒亞來了 , 將祂的子民釋放出來 .
這難道不也是耶穌基督 ---- 彌撒亞 來到這個世界時所要做的嗎﹖在他的生命裡﹐我們看到一場他和魔鬼撒旦之間的戰鬥﹐有時﹐撒旦看上去好像占了上風。當耶穌被釘上十字架時﹐他擔負了他的子民的罪。如果耶穌的生命就此終結在十字架上﹐那麼他就不是神﹐不是彌撒亞﹐僅僅是個凡人。但是三天以後﹐他從死裡復活。聖經告訴我們這就代表他已經戰勝了死亡﹐戰勝了他的敵人撒旦。他與撒旦戰鬥並取得了勝利。
因為他贏得了戰鬥﹐他能夠邀請我們一起分享他的勝利。 < 馬太福音 >11 ﹕ 28 ?#20320;們所有勞苦擔重擔的人哪，到我這裡來吧！我必使你們得安息。?#20182;將我們從罪的捆綁中釋放出來﹐並賜給我們平安。他要我們來到他的面前﹐好叫我們得到安歇。
你我都充滿了希望﹐因為有彌撒亞 ---- 耶穌基督已經來臨並把我們從罪的捆綁中釋放出來 。
III. 彌撒亞的特性是我們有盼望的緣由 .
經文 6-7 節或許是聖經中最著名的章節﹐特別是在這樣一個時節。? 6 因為有一個嬰孩為我們而生，有一個兒子賜給我們；政權必擔在他的肩頭上；他的名必稱為?#22855;妙的策士、全能的 神、永恆的父、和平的君'? 。 ?7 他的政權與平安必無窮無盡地增加，他在大衛的寶座上治理他的國，以公平和公義使國堅立穩固，從現在直到永遠。萬軍之耶和華的熱心必成全這事 . ?另一個希望的原因是有一個兒子要賜給神的子民。這個孩子具有肉身﹐卻是神的恩賜。在以色列的歷史上沒有一個小孩是被賦予這樣的稱謂﹕奇妙的策士、全能的神、永恆的父、和平的君。這個孩子是彌撒亞﹐那位要來的君王。請注意﹐神的子民的希望不在於彌撒亞要做什麼﹐而在於彌撒亞是誰。讓我們更進一步地來看這個問題。
就好像我在這個禮拜收到的一封電子郵件一樣。郵件的題目是﹕非常糟糕的一天。這封郵件裡有一些照片﹐一輛汽車翻落掉入水中﹐有一臺起重機來把它拖出水面﹐但是起重機卻反被拉入水裡。這樣﹐起重機和汽車都淹在水裡。第二輛起重機被派來了﹐它拉起了那輛汽車並把它放在拖車上。然後它嘗試著拉起第一輛起重機﹐但是在進行到一半的時候﹐第二輛起重機因失去平衡也墜入水裡。現在一輛汽車﹐兩輛起重機都泡在水裡了。你是不是也感覺生活有時好像就是這樣﹖沒有比這更糟糕的了。當別人告訴我們﹐這件事沒有問題﹐不用擔心時﹐這樣的話顯得非常空虛。但是我們要記住﹐這位彌撒亞是全能的神。在人看來不可為的事﹐在神就凡事可行。我們說這件事 OK ﹐不是因為我們人類的能力﹐而是因為我們的神是位全能的神。他可以改變我們的環境﹐但是他總是更經常地改變我們自己﹐給我們所需的力量來解決所處的困境。當我聽見你們有些人與我分享生命的故事時 , 我時常會感覺到很驚奇神在你生命中的工作 , 帶你到今日所在之光境 . 在神萬事都能。
前兩個稱謂是關於彌撒亞是誰的問題﹕奇妙的策士﹐全能的神。後兩個稱謂是關於他將要帶來的情形。首先﹐他是永恆的父。聖經對父親的理解是要愛並照顧他的子女。彌撒亞君王將為我們提供一切所需。他將為我們提供物質的供應和精神的滿足。很多時候﹐我們期望自己的配偶或者朋友能滿足自己的感情需要。我們要他們滿足內心深處那種渴望被人關懷和被人愛的需求。當我們意識到他們無法滿足這份渴求時﹐是多麼的失望啊 ! 只有天父才能完全地滿足我們的需要。他不僅提供我們的所需﹐更是管教我們的父親。他管教我們好使我們能更剛強 , 成熟和象基督 . 他是永恆的父親﹐他永遠地滿足我們的需要。彌撒亞君王為我們帶來了所需要永恆的安全感。
在這一年中 , 有親人與朋友先後從國內領養了孩子 . 我總是很好奇地在猜想這些孩子們會想什麼 . 當他們在孤兒院成長時 , 遲早會感受到他們將來的終點是在乎那些訪客中的其中一位 . 當然有些人會鼓勵說 , 你不要擔心 , 一切都會有好轉 . 但是真正算數的是有一天 , 有一對夫婦出現 , 付了錢之後將你帶回家 . 當他們出現時 , 你的盼望才得到保證 .
這豈不就是聖誕節的故事嗎 ? 那等待很久的彌撒亞終於來臨 . 不然的話 , 所有的喜樂 , 盼望的預言 , 祗不過是空談而已 . 因為祂的來到 , 我們有了保證 . 祂親自的揀選了我們 . 使我們開始經歷祂國度裡一切的好處 . 有光 , 喜樂 , 與神 , 自己與別人的和睦 . 在生命中有方向 , 有指引 , 如光照在黑暗中一樣 . 並且我們也期望有一天 , 祂在完全的榮耀中再次來臨 , 使我們經歷到完整的康復和健全 . 這一切都與我們的功德無關 , 因為我們實在是一無好處 . 祂賜給 , 我們領受 . 我們的盼望不是建立在我們是誰﹐我們能做什麼 . 因為我們甚麼也不能 . 我們的盼望是建立在神是誰和他能為我們做什麼 .
現在你大概已注意到這位彌撒亞不是騎著一匹駿馬來到我們當中 . 相反 , 祂是以一個嬰孩 , 降生在馬槽裡 . 你知道嗎 , 如果你我要與這位以嬰孩樣式來臨的彌撒亞連接 , 你我也必須要象小孩 , 以簡單而單純的信心 , 將我們的手放在祂的手中 , 讓祂將牧人一般來帶領我們 .
Text: Isaiah 9:1-7
Title: Reasons of Hope in a Season of Hope
Theme: The Messiah's attributes form the basis of our Hope.
By now you may feel pretty good. The orchestra, the choir and the music were great. The Christmas songs certainly lifted our spirits. There is joy and hope in the air. It is as if we have just collectively experienced an emotional high. In another 30 or 40 minutes, we will be heading home. And in a few hours, what is left is the after taste of a positive experience. When Monday comes around, everything will be back to normal. Or in this year's calendar, by the time next Sunday comes around, this high is gone and may have even led to an emotionally down experience.
Yes, the songs we sang, the music we heard do bring us a sense of joy and hope. This is the reason this time of the year is known as the season of hope and joy. However, it is also of paramount importance that we understand the reasons for such a hope.
This morning I want to take you on a trip back into history. The time was about 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. The nation of Israel was externally and internally weak. The glorious days of King David and Solomon were now history. She was facing attacks and threats from neighboring countries and had lost her national pride and dignity. She lived in the midst of wars and rumors of wars. Socially, there was great unrest; with the increasing gap between the poor and rich. The poor, the widows, the orphans and the helpless were mistreated. Culturally they had become pluralistic. Instead of worshipping the one true Creator God, they were also worshipping gods imported from neighboring countries. They had lost the sense of moral rightness. There was the form of religion but lacking content. It was a land covered by darkness and into such a scene, entered the prophet Isaiah and other prophets. Their messages were full of warnings but also of hope.
This sounds familiar to us, right? We live under the shadow of terrorist threats and wars and rumors of wars. In our affluent society, the poor, the weak and many of the elderly are feeling increasingly helpless. Our culture is pluralistic. There is nothing wrong with being pluralistic and diverse. But in the name of pluralism, we have lost the sense of the moral right and wrong. Everything is ok, even if they contradict each other. Therefore, it behooves us to listen to the message the prophet Isaiah proclaimed to the nation of Israel 2700 years ago and understand what it means to us today. In a nutshell, in this book of Isaiah, Isaiah was telling God's people about the coming of a Messiah, a King. In the passage we just read, it speaks of what will happen to God's people with the coming of this King, the Messiah.
1. The Messiah comes to bring hope to his people.
Vs.2, ¡§ 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.¡¨ With the coming of the king, there is great light upon those who live in darkness. Vs.3, ¡§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 (end of wars).¡¨ It tells us the king's people would rejoice because of harvest; they'd rejoice because God would bring an end to the wars. With the coming of a Messiah, they will see light and rejoice greatly. Isaiah's message to God's people in distress was one of hope.
However, if Isaiah would stop at vs. 3, it would be like taking the people to a service with good and uplifting music and then take them home. They would go home with an emotional high, telling themselves about the hope to come. Or like the doctor sending his patients home , telling them that they will be ok without giving them any medicine. But Isaiah did more than this. He not only told them about the hope that would come because of the Messiah, he also explained to them why. From verses 4 through 7, there are 3 ¡¥for's. This gives the reasons for the hope.
II. The reason for hope is because of the Messiah's liberating work.
Vs.4, ¡§For the yoke of his burden (suffering as a way of life), and the staff for his shoulder (suffering inflicted by others), the rod of his oppressor (personal hostility experienced), you have broken as on the day of Midian.¡¨ This is an imagery of war. The Messiah King would liberate his people from suffering, relieve them from the pain of oppression. Vs.5, ¡§For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.¡¨ This is about God's people entering the battlefield after the battle is won. They took part in the victory celebration, burning clothes and instruments that were tainted by blood. It ' s like parents working hard to provide for the children and making ends meet. The children do not have to do anything except to enjoy what is done for them. Or like soldiers fighting in the front line so the citizens can enjoy freedom and safety. The Messiah will come to deliver and liberate his people from burden and suffering.
Isn't this what Jesus Christ, the Messiah , did when he came into the world? Throughout his life, we see a warfare going on between him and the devil, Satan. At times Satan seemed to have the upper hand. When Jesus was on that cross, he bore the sins of his people. If his life ended with death on the cross, then he really was no God, no Messiah; just another human being. But 3 days later he rose from the dead. The scripture tells us that this is his victory over death, victory over his arch enemy, Satan. He fought the battle with Satan and he won.
Because he won the war, he was able to invite us to join us in his victory. Matthew 11:28, ¡§Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.¡¨ He liberated us from the bondage of sin and offers us his peace. He wants us to come to him so we can be restful.
Moreover, because of his victory over sin, over Satan, he is able to reconcile us with God; that we can be at peace with God. We are no longer under his wrath, for he had placed his righteousness over us and God considers us as righteous and holy.
You and I can have hope because, Jesus Christ , the Messiah, has come and enable d us to have peace with God and with ourselves.
III. The reason for hope is built upon who the Messiah is.
We have hope because of what the Messiah did to his people. The other reason for hope is built upon the truth of who he is.
vs.6-7 is probably one of the best known verses in the Bible; especially during this time of the year, ¡§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.¡¨ The other reason for hope is that a child will be given to God's people. This child is of human parentage, but given by God. No child in the history of Israel is given such titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. This child is the Messiah, the King that is to come. Let's take a closer look at this.
Wonderful means the most wise, or the supernatural one. He is the one that can give the most wise advice in life. He provides direction when we are confused. Give instructions so we can distinguish the right from wrong.
Mighty God. It is about his power. When we look at our situations, often we feel so hopeless. We don't see the light at all. It's like an email I received this week. The title is: a really bad day. In it there are several pictures. A car fell into the water. So a tow truck with crane was dispatched to pull it out, but half way up, the truck tilted and ended in water. So both the truck and the car were now in the water. A second tow truck was brought forth. It lifted the car and placed it on its deck. It then began to lift the first truck out of water. Half way through, this second truck also tilted, lost its balance and felt into the water. Now, 1 car and 2 trucks are in the water. Don't you sometimes feel life is like this? It can't be any worse than this. When people tell us, its going to be ok, don't worry, these words can sound so empty. But we need to remember, this Messiah is the mighty God. With man it is impossible, but with God, everything is possible. We say it is going to be ok; not because of our human strength, it is because our God is the mighty God. He can cho o se to change our circumstances, but more often than not, he chose to change us, give us the strength we need to over come those difficult situations we may find ourselves in. As I hear some of you share with me your stories, I am often amazed to see how God worked in our lives, bringing you to where you are today. From a person of bitterness and resentment, changed to a loving and forgiving person. With God, all things are possible. The last sentence in vs.7, ¡§The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.¡¨
The first two titles have to do with who this Messiah is: Wonderful counselor, mighty God. The next two titles have to do with the condition he will bring. First, he is the everlasting Father. The biblical understanding of a father is one who loves and cares for his children. The Messiah king is the one who will provide us with what we need. He will provide us with our material needs and emotional needs as well . Very often , we expect our spouses or friends to meet some of our emotional needs. We want them to meet our deep est needs of being cared for and loved. How disappointed we can be when we realize they cannot satisf y such deep yearnings. Only God the Father can completely satisfy us. Not only providing us with what we need, but the father is also the one who disciplines us. He disciplines us so we can be strong, mature and be like him. He is the everlasting father; he can always meet our needs. The Messiah king brings to us the eternal security that we need
The fourth title: Prince of Peace. The Messiah is a ruler, head of his government. When he rules, there is this total well being. There will be no wars. When he rules in his people's lives, there will be complete personal wellness, including personal fulfillment, freedom from anxiety, goodwill and harmony with others, perfect integrity and rounded, healthy personality.
The Messiah, the Jesus Christ , who came is the wonderful Counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.
This past year a family member and friend had both adopted children from China . I am always curious as to what goes on in the child's mind. As they grow in the orphanage, sooner or later they w ill notice that their future destiny depends on one of those visitors. There must be well meaning visitors telling them not to worry, they would be ok. But what really counts is one day, when one couple shows up, pays the fees in cash, and take s him/her home. Hope is guaranteed only when the couple shows up.
Isn't this what Christmas is all about? The long a waited Messiah had come. Or else, all the promise of joy, light and hope will be just empty talks. But with his coming, it is guaranteed. It's like the Chronicles of the Narnia. The moment Aslan landed, hope began to materialize, and winter slowly turned into spring. The Messiah has come and hand picked us. As he takes us with him, we begin to experience all the good in his Kingdom and family. There is light and joy, peace with God, with self and with others. There is direction and instruction in life, as if a light shines in the darkness. And we also look forward to the day when he will come in his full glory, when we will experience full restoration and total wholeness and well being. All these have nothing to do with our merits, for we have none. He gives and we receive. Our hope is not built upon who we are and what we can do. To be honest, there is nothing we can do. However, it has everything to do with who God is and what he does for us.
By now, you probably noticed that this Messiah did not come on a white horse with a sword and checked into the Jerusalem Hilton . Instead he came as an infant child, born in a lowly stable with smelly animals . And you know what, for us to connect to this Messiah who came as an infant child, you and I also need to be like a child. With child-like simple faith, in humility, we must put our hands into his and let him lead us like a shepherd leading his sheep.