In 1991 Metallica released their self-titled album, commonly known as ‘The Black Album’. On this album they released a song called “The God That Failed”. The central theme of this song being about faith and the human reliance on promises which are broken by the God of the universe. Lead singer, James Hetfield, wrote the lyrics soon after his mother’s death from cancer. She had such a strong faith she would be healed that James felt that had his mother not held to her beliefs she would not have lost her life. The lyrics read:
Pride you took
Pride you feel
Pride that you felt when you’d kneel
Not the word
Not the love
Not what you thought from above
It clouds all that you will know
Decide just what you believe
I see faith in your eyes
Never your hear the discouraging lies
I hear faith in your cries
Broken is the promise, betrayal
The healing hand held back by the deepened nail
Follow the god that failed
There are no doubt times in our own lives when we wonder, due to our personal situation or from observing what is happening in our society and around the world, whether God has failed.
This week alone we can think of the atrocities continuing in Aleppo, the attack in Berlin, and the assassination of a diplomat in Turkey. To have your mind blown check out the list of terror attacks that have occurred in December to date. Crazy times.
Yet despite all of this we can still have hope for the future.
This hope comes from knowing that God is faithful to his promises.
If we go back some 2700 years we come to a time where God’s people are dealing with a similar question – has God failed?
Through the prophet Isaiah we read of a time where God’s people were struggling for hope. Isaiah is called by God to speak to the people of Judah and Israel, bringing a message of warning and judgement with a sprinkle of hope. In one particular section, chapters 7-9, Isaiah is called to warn and encourage King Ahaz to trust in God despite what looks like very bleak circumstances.
King Ahaz rules over the Southern Kingdom of Judah and is a terrible king who is constantly disobeying God, worshipping other gods, and following his own devices. You can read of his reign in 2 Chronicles 28. And having been warned by Isaiah not to make allegiance with the Assyrians he decides it would be a good idea to do so. He is soon run over by them and then neglects the worship of God, making other gods for himself and his people.
So God’s people are in a bleak and dark situation. Their nation is being bombarded and they are wondering whether God is truly faithful to his people.
They wonder whether God has failed.
Yet in chapter 9:1-7 Isaiah brings a glimmer of hope. Like the sun poking through the clouds on an overcast day, Isaiah brings a brief message of hope in amongst the warnings and judgement to the people of God. This hope culminates in v6-7, which reads:
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.
Here we find that the hope for the people of God is a child-king, a person, who will be born, who will be named, and who will rule an eternal kingdom. This passage, and these two verses in particular, give the people of God great hope for what is to come.
For those who believe, who live 2700 years after Isaiah’s message and this side of the cross, recognise this child-king as Jesus.
Isaiah’s message is that there is a great king to be born. This king will not be like the current king, Ahaz. Rather he will be a king that surpasses all other kings. He will lead well and true and fair. His leadership will bring peace and his rule will be eternal.
God had not forgotten his people, nor had he left them. His promises come to fruition through this child-king. God himself will fulfil his own promises and come as a baby, making a way for everyone to know him and bring hope for the world.
In this Christmas season we can look back and see that Jesus was a gift of hope to people in the time of Isaiah, just as he continues to be the gift of hope for Christians around the world today. Through this child-king Jesus hope has gone viral.
God himself fulfils that which he has promised in Isaiah by sending his Son Jesus, who rules wisely with strength, power, and holiness. Isaiah calls Ahaz to turn from his disobedience and sin and put his trust in God. In the same way God calls us to do the same. This trust is made manifest through the life and death of Jesus, through this child-king, who came and lived, and died on a cross in order for us to know our God and King.
This Christmas, like last Christmas and the one before that, and the one before that, we celebrate our Lord’s birth; knowing that he came into this world as a baby. We also celebrate him because of what he has done for us. The gift of mercy, grace, and hope he provides us with.
Christmas reminds us that we worship a God who has not failed.
Christmas reminds us that we worship a God who will never fail.
Christmas reminds us that we worship a God who is faithful.
This post is in response to the WordPress Discover Challenge – Hope Gone Viral.