Light in the Dark

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With Thanksgiving over, all eyes look forward to Christmas. In the next four weeks, let’s look forward to Christmas - not in a new way we haven’t seen before - but in a very old way. Seeing how ancient Israel would have looked forward to Christmas can be an enriching way for us to anticipate Christmas, and praising God in a whole new way this season. This series is called “Who Will Save Us?” because Israel needed a Savior, as do we. Let’s look at Isaiah 9 to get a better understanding of this coming Savior…

First, to best understand why Israel needed a Savior, we should understand who Israel is. Yes, they are a nation, country, people group just like we are in the United States, but they are so much more. Almost the entirety of the Old Testament deals with this people group, but they weren’t around from the very beginning. After Adam and Eve unleashed sin and death into this world, things got progressively worse. God chose Abraham to build a great nation through him (Israel), launching a long-term plan to bring people back into right relationship with Himself. God communicated in special ways to the Israelites, either directly or through prophets. He gave the Jewish people a set of laws, not just for random do’s and don’ts, but so that they could righteously set themselves apart from the wicked world. God chose Israel to reveal His love to the world, and promised that through Abraham, He would bless the entire world. (Genesis 12:1-3)

That’s a small picture of Israel… So why did they need to be saved? Like you and me, they messed up a lot. When they were close to God and following His instruction, they were blessed and all was well. But when things got comfortable, they would drift. They chose their own wicked, worldly ways. They pursued wealth, rich got richer poor got poorer. Israel would ally with evil nations for protection and security. In Isaiah’s time, things were bad. Isaiah called them to repent, to turn from their evil wickedness, and to turn to God — and if not, judgement would surely come. Their pride was too great, and judgement was imminent — Babylon was coming, and it was going to be painful captivity. And exactly what Isaiah said would happen, happened. But in Isaiah’s prophesy of harsh judgement, also came a message of hope. We find a piece of that message of hope in Isaiah 9:1-6

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan —  The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.   For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

This is what Israel could hold onto when it seemed hope was lost. As the hungry rejoices in harvest, as the warrior finds relief at the end of battle - so Israel would find after their judgement and exile. Situations were sure to change, God promised hope in the form of a baby that would come and take care of them. This was their Savior. A child would be born, but this isn’t just any child - He is the mighty God! In their darkness, looking forward to this Savior would have been everything - someone save us!! What about for us? Can we relate to the darkness of their world? I think so… It doesn’t take much searching in the news to see how brutal this world is - from terrorism, racism, sexism, shootings, bullying, natural disasters, hunger, homeless, child slavery — unfortunately, I could keep going… 

What does Israel’s darkness and hope for a Savior in this story mean for us today? I’d suggest three things: First, let us rejoice Jesus is here! What Isaiah said would happen actually happened. Jesus came and brought salvation with Him - He offers relationship and restoration with God. Let’s rejoice knowing that God cares about us, pursues us, and wants to save us. He provided hope and saving for ancient Israel, and does the same for us in our personal sin and darkness. Second, let’s take this story as a reminder to take God’s commands seriously. We have confidence that if we follow this Savior, our lives are restored with God and we can have confidence in that blessing. But God takes sin seriously, justice is important to Him - let us be reminded of Israel’s mistakes and learn from them, and take righteousness seriously. Lastly, this story encourages us to remain hopeful when Jesus comes back. We know that he has arrived to save us personally, but now we are in a state of in-between. Our world is a very dark place and it needs to be saved. When Jesus will return again, to finally make all things new, all the terrible things of this earth will be a thing of the past. Let’s remain hopeful in the times when all things are made new.