Read His Words Before Ours!
As the lights went out, and the house plunged into darkness, I was unprepared for the fear that gripped me. I was used to the city where “darkness” wasn’t really dark, but now, out in the country, in an unfamiliar house, this was a darkness deeper than I’d ever experienced. I began desperately searching for even a tiny glimmer of light.
As our study of Advent continues, we travel backwards to learn how the ministry of the prophet Isaiah foreshadowed Christ’s eventual arrival. In today’s reading from Isaiah, the Israelites also found themselves stumbling along in deep darkness, though theirs wasn’t a physical darkness, but a spiritual one.
Isaiah 9 is a common reading in Christmas services, and its promise of a great light is well-known, but to really understand the impact and significance of that Great Light, we must first consider the darkness in which the Israelites found themselves.
Isaiah was a prophet to the nation of Judah around 700 years before Jesus’ birth. The nation was far from God and under constant threat from the brutal Assyrians. In 2 Kings 15:29, we read that some Israelites had already been deported to Assyria, and Isaiah warns the worst is still to come. Assyria is poised to sweep into Israel and Judah like a flood and overwhelm it (Isaiah 8:6-8) because of the people’s rejection of God.
Isaiah vividly describes the darkness of rebelling against God as turning to one place then to another, always seeking satisfaction but never finding it. Israel felt alone, abandoned, and in despair. (Isaiah 8:18-22)
A time of humbling and hardship is coming for the people of Judah, but God gives Isaiah eyes to look beyond the chaos of the immediate future to bring a message of hope.
The darkness and despair will not last forever; a light is coming.
The Great Light will bring restoration and rejoicing, freedom and peace; a victory so decisive there will be no need for boots of battle and garments of war. These will become so unnecessary, they will be burned as fuel for the fire. (Isaiah 9:5)
Not only is this Hope and Light on the horizon, but it’s coming is utterly independent of the people’s action or lack thereof. The Great Light is all down to God. Just as the Midianites were defeated by God without Gideon and his men fighting the initial battle (Judges 7:19-22), so this victory will be won by God, and it will happen in an unexpected way.
“For a child will be born for us [. . .]” (Isaiah 9:6)
Isaiah speaks of One who will rule and bring peace, One who will reign on the throne of His ancestor David forever, but this was not, as the Israelites expected, simply a human king.
He would be human. Hebrews 2:14-15 makes it clear the Savior must be human in order to defeat the power of death. Paul’s description of Jesus’ willingness to humble Himself to be born as a human (Philippians 2:5-8) shows the amazing love He has for us. He willingly chose to enter the mess of human existence that He might redeem us from it!
But He would not be just a human king.
Over the years, the people of Israel and Judah had been ruled by a series of human kings, many of them appalling. Even the few godly kings such as David, Joash, and Amaziah had ruled imperfectly.
He was not to be merely another human king, but a Messianic King.
“[. . .] a son will be given to us.” (Isaiah 9:6)
He would be “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6) come to live among His people to bring salvation, and this was something only He could do.
For hundreds of years, priests had represented the Israelites before God, bringing sacrifices to atone for their sins, but both the sacrifices and the priests themselves were imperfect. The repetition of sacrifice was necessary; their sacrifices could only provide temporary relief.
Hebrews 7:23-28 outlines why Jesus was different, pointing to His eternal nature and His perfect sinlessness. He never needed to make sacrifices for His own sins. Because of this, His sacrifice on the cross could atone for our sins forever, once for all time.
I don’t know what darkness you’re facing now, but I do know we live in a broken world where all of us experience darkness and despair.
Just as the promise of the Great Light Mighty God dwelling on earth brought hope to the Israelites, so it can bring hope to us in our darkness.
Jesus has come!
He has done all that is necessary for our salvation, and, by His Spirit, He is with us in whatever darkness we face when we surrender ourselves to Him!
That’s a present reality we can embrace now.
We also have great hope for the future, as we hold to His promise that He will come again to set all things right. Those who trust in Him will be welcomed into an eternity devoid of pain or darkness.
The Light has come,
and the Light is coming.
His promise is certain because it does not depend on us.
“The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:7)
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!