There is nothing in God’s creation that more fully reflects the glory of God more than mankind’s intelligence and creativity, something far beyond any other creature’s. We have been able to make advances in technology that boggle our minds, engineer skyscrapers and airplanes and spaceships, fight disease, map DNA, and solve many of this world’s mysteries. We look with wonder at the next 20 years, or 50 years, and imagine what might be possible. But no matter what breakthroughs there are in medicine, in technology, or in any other field of human endeavor, one thing we know, the human mind will never be able to fully grasp the glory of God’s existence and character. He has revealed himself to us in his word, and we can believe what he has made plain, but the essence of his existence, the Trinity, will always be beyond our understanding. We are meant to put our faith in a God we can never fully grasp intellectually.
Our one God exists eternally as three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – each a distinct person who is fully God. Yet we have only one God, not three. Every human explanation of that ever devised is a heresy – generally some form of what is called modalism. It is a truth that defies human logic. Three cannot be one, but God’s word says they are. We must believe it though we cannot understand it or explain it.
When we come to Isaiah 9:6 and read the four names given to the child, one of those names has caused some consternation to Trinitarians through the years. He is called the Wonderful Counselor and that makes sense – he was sent to earth to be God with us. He is the Mighty God who conquers all who stand against him and fights for his people, those of us who believe in him. We will see in the next message that Jesus is the Prince of peace – the one who brings peace by taking full authority on earth. But one name is odd, an anomaly among all the names of Jesus in the Bible. Jesus is called “Everlasting Father.” We know Jesus as the Son of God the Father and hearing him called a father registers odd to our ears. Today we will examine that word and see what it means.
Progression and Contrast
This verse is filled with a series of contrasts and reveals an interesting progression in the names. At the beginning, a child is born and a son is given. But the child was the Mighty Warrior God who defeats the foes of righteousness and establishes his eternal reign on earth. The son who was given to us is also our everlasting father. God’s solution to this world’s problems was a baby, but no ordinary baby. The baby in that manger who we worship this week is awesome, glorious, powerful, fierce, loving, and wonderful. Never forget that. When God sends a baby he is like no other baby.
Let us examine what the Scripture says about our everlasting father.
The Son is Our Father
The third name of the baby in Isaiah 9:6 has troubled some who believe in the Trinity and has been used by some who deny the Trinity. If Jesus is identified with the Father here, there must be no real distinction between the persons of the Godhead. Scripture, however, must be interpreted within its proper context. As we read Old Testament texts with New Testament eyes, we can often see truths that even authors did not see. But we must show due respect to the understanding of the author. Here, the author was using a common idiom and was not intending to speak to the nature of the Godhead or describe the persons of the Trinity. He is simply saying that Jesus behaves toward his people as a good father does toward his children.
The Old Testament shows hints of the diversity of person in the Godhead, but no developed doctrine of the Trinity. Many prophecies lay a foundation for the New Testament revelation for the existence of the Trinity and for the dual nature of Christ, but it is only with a New Testament understanding that we see them clearly. Describing Jesus as our “everlasting father” is meant as an idiom, not as statement about the nature of God. It refers to the work of the Messiah among his people, his relationship to time, not to the interrelationships among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Referring to God as Father is not as common in the Hebrew Old Testament as it is in New Testament times. There are a few references to God as Israel’s father but it is rare. A father is meant to be a faithful protector and provider, a wise guardian, one who gives himself for the good of his children. This verse describes Jesus as our father in that he provides for us, guides us, protects us, and gave himself for our good. He did for us what a good father does for his children.
Jesus is one in essence with the heavenly father. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one,” and said that if you had seen him you had seen the Father. He came to reveal the Father to the world. Jesus came to earth to reveal to us who the eternal Father was and to provide everything the Father wishes to give us. I am often called a “chip off the old block” by people who know my dad.” I have even seen pictures of myself recently and thought, “Wow, I’m starting to look a little like the old guy.” I am a reflection of my father in some ways. But Jesus is a full and perfect reflection of Heavenly Father here on earth.
It is an amazing truth. In this world, powerful and important people often use those under them for their own purposes. They chew them up and spit them out to accomplish their purposes and achieve their ends. But our everlasting father, Jesus, came to earth to demonstrate the love of the Heavenly Father and seek and save what was lost. He doesn’t chew us up and spit us out, but he redeems us, renews us, and rebuilds us. He uses his sovereign power as the Mighty God to protect and provide for us. On earth, the people exist for the good of the powerful, but our king loves us, saves us, and blesses us. Yes, we exist for his glory, but when we glorify him, his glory also elevates us and shines through us. He doesn’t use us cruelly, but he blesses us bountifully. That is what a father does.
Let us look more specifically at what a good father does.
What Does a Father Do?
A good father has several key roles in the life of his children. First of all, the Father provides a home for his children. Jesus is our father who has prepared a place for us. We often think of Jesus as going to heaven with a tool belt around his waist to build a mansion for each of us to live in eternally. But remember, when Jesus said he was going to prepare a place for us, he was headed to the Cross, not to heaven. He is seated at the right hand of God, having completed work on your place in heaven the moment he said, “It is finished” and breathed his last. Jesus was your everlasting father in that he provided a place for you to spend eternity other than hell.
A good father protects his children from their enemies. He may allow them to go through hard times to build their character and to strengthen them, but a good father will stand and protect his children when someone tries to destroy them. Jesus did everything necessary to free us from the power of sin, from the hold of death over us, and from the deception of Satan. Jesus is our everlasting Father who stands strong, protecting us against our enemies.
A good father provides for his children. No, this is not where I tell you that God always wants you healthy and wealthy – that is the lie of the televangelists. But the Bible does say he will give us everything we need for life and godliness. Jesus is our everlasting father who has promised to provide all our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
A good father is present in the lives of his children. Nothing you give to your kids replaces the thing they need the most – your presence in their lives. Jesus is not off in heaven disinterested or just observing your life. When he ascended to heaven he gave his Holy Spirit to those who believe. The Spirit is God’s presence in our lives. Jesus is with us day by day through the Other Counselor, an ever-present reality in our lives. Jesus is our everlasting father because he is there, day by day, year by year, forevermore.
Jesus is not just like a father to us, but he is an everlasting father.
The Son Is an Eternal Father
Though eternity was another concept not fully developed in Old Testament days, we can look at this passage with New Testament eyes and see that calling Jesus our Everlasting Father is another clear indication of his divinity. According to Revelation 1:18, Jesus is alive and reigns forever and that is a quality that was ascribed to no other king, no other ruler, no other man in the Hebrew Old Testament. David’s throne was described as eternal, not because David would live forever but because his line would never be wiped out. But here, the Messiah is described as eternal, everlasting.
Jesus is our father who provides for us, who protects us, who made a home in heaven for us, and who is ever-present in our lives, and this is a never-ending, permanent, eternal relationship. He never gives up on us, even when we fail. He never quits. We may fail the Son of God but he remains our everlasting father! There is much we do not know about what is going to happen in the year to come, but whatever happens in this world, we are safe and secure because Jesus is our everlasting father and what he has done for us he will do. He will satisfy our souls now and for all eternity.
The bond between a father and son is permanent and cannot be broken by anything. Our relationship with Jesus Christ, based on our new birth in Christ, is eternal and cannot be broken. Though we sin and fail, Jesus is our everlasting father who never gives up.
A Closing Thought
In a fallen world, fathers often fail their children. On TV, dads are presented as morons and idiots, beer-swilling, porn-loving jerks who are incapable of raising children or providing leadership to a home. For many people, the word father is a source of pain, not of blessing, because fathers have failed – they have abused and neglected and demeaned their children instead of being what a real father, a good father should be.
I read an interesting couple of articles this week about mass shooters in the US. There are many factors that drive a young man to do such an awful thing, but there is one thing that almost every one of them has in common – no dad. All our lives are filled with sadness and pain, that cannot be avoided in a sinful and fallen world. But if you have a father, a protector, and guide, a provider, one who loves you unconditionally, it makes all the difference in the world.
We have just such a heavenly father, who is the model for earthly fathers. No matter what your earthly father was or is, your heavenly father is amazing, and he sent his son to reveal his love to us, to be our everlasting father on earth. He did everything necessary to provide a home for you for all eternity, he protects you from your enemies, provides all your needs, and is an ever-present help in times of trouble.
Jesus came to this earth to redeem a people for himself, to make the enemies of God into friends, to gather a people from among the rebellious and bring them into the company of the redeemed. He is our everlasting father who came at Christmas to this world broken by revealing all the goodness and love of God and guide us into the experience of all of God’s grace. His role as our everlasting father lasts forever!