Isaiah 9:1-7 - Seeing the Great Light of an Unlikely Savior (Rev. Erik Veerman)
The rally cry of the Protestant Reformation’s of was this Latin phrase Post Tenebrae Lux. “after darkness, light.” That’s because Europe, for centuries, had been covered in spiritual darkness that suppressed truth, that led to immorality and deep idolatry in the church. God used the reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin to bring into view His Scriptures… and to break through the spiritual oppression. What happened? The light of truth broke through. The Gospel hope of Christ began to shine forth. The supremacy and authority of the Word of God spread like fire. After darkness, light. They adopted this motto as a testimony of this great revival – it was like a spark that burst into a blazing fire of God’s glory and salvation.
The idea of light shining in darkness is not something they made up. No, it’s one of the most prevalent images in all of Scripture. Light and darkness help us see and grasp the mysteries of faith and life.
• Think of our affirmation of faith this morning, John chapter 1. It says Jesus’ life was the light of men.
• Or John chapter 8, Jesus said “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life”
• Or 2 Corinthians 4, “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ..”
• In Ephesians 1, the Holy Spirit enlightens our hearts, that we may know the hope to which we’ve been called.
• There’s many more, of course, but let me skip to the end of the book… Ok, Spoiler alert. You may want to cover your ears if you don’t want to know what happens in the last chapter of the Bible. In the end, the light of truth will overcome all the darkness. In Revelation 22, In heaven, there will be no more darkness. no more night, it says. For the Lord will be our light. There will be no more evil or sin… death will be no more. We’ll be basking in the light of God’s glory.
And right now, the light of God’s redemptive work is spreading all over the darkened world ... And one day, all the darkness will be exposed. It will be dealt with forever, through the light of Christ.
1.) Rejoicing in the great light (Isaiah 9:1-3) Living in deep darkness (9:1)
So, this idea of light and darkness in Isaiah 9... It’s not new. It’s tied in to all the illustrations of light and darkness in the Bible. It’s a picture of the state of darkness that the people were in… and the promise of the light of Christ.
Let’s step back for a moment…. And consider the darkness that the people here endured.
If you were here last week, remember in chapter 7… Judah had a wicked King… King Ahaz. And Ahaz is given a prophetic sign, the sign of the virgin and of Immanuel… but he’s also given a prophecy of judgment. If you remember, judgment at the hands of Assyria. The very nation with which he had aligned.
Well, leading up to chapter 9, here… Assyria has invaded the north. The northern kingdom of Israel, called Ephraim. Assyria decimated it. That happened in 722 BC. Many people were exiled. And Assyria’s own people took over the fertile land in the north. We’re talking about the Sea of Galilee area and to its west. This all used to be part of the United Kingdom under King David and his son Solomon. But now, Israel in the north is no more. There’s an intermixing of the remaining people of the northern tribes with the Assyrians… like the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. You’ll see references to those tribes in verse 1. These were the tribes who originally resided in the Galilee region.
So, the people and the land had been living in 2 kinds of darkness. 1) the darkness of oppressive Assyria. External darkness, the darkness of evil, of an evil regime. And then second, 2) the darkness of internal corruption and unbelief. Of sin. The northern kingdom had already rejected God.
So, to summarize, the northern region was in this deep darkness.
Now, fast forward 700 years to the time of Jesus. why do you think the people in and around Jerusalem had such contempt for the Samaritans and the Galileans? Well, it’s because they were from these regions. They weren’t pure, but intermixed with people from unholy nations. And the tribes in the north… they hadn’t only rejected God… they rejected the tribe of Judah. This is why the disciples themselves…. As Galileans, were outsiders. They were from this land of darkness and contempt.
Hopefully that context helps with verse 1. Look at it, with me, starting in the middle “In the former time he [that is, God],brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” In other words, something glorious was going to happen, going to come forth from this land of darkness. After darkness, light.
And let me say one more thing. Judah in the south was not immune to this darkness. Assyria didn’t just overthrow the northern kingdom… no, a few years later, Assyria turned its attention on Judah… and began overtaking its villages and people and land. Jerusalem alone remained…. But it was surrounded by Assyria.
So, the darkness was everywhere. But in the midst of the darkness, there’s not just a glimmer of light on the horizon… there’s an explosion of light. The light of Christ. The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 4, quotes these first 2 verses of Isaiah 9… declaring it fulfilled. Fulfilled in Jesus… who grew up in the region of Galilee.
A land of darkness, but from which came the one true light. The Messiah himself... That’s what Isaiah was prophesying about here. An explosion of light. Verse 2. The people who walked in darkness, who were in a land of deep darkness, as it say, God gave them a great light.
Kids, have you ever been in a really dark room? So dark, that you can’t even see your hand when you hold it out. Well, I want you to try something with your mom or dad. Find the darkest room in your house, one without any windows. Take your blanky and stuff it under the door. Maybe even drape a dark blanket over the whole door. Make sure there’s no light getting in. It should be so dark that your eyes can’t even adjust to the darkness. Well, this is kind of like the deep darkness of the land. It wasn’t dark without light, but it was spiritually dark. People didn’t know God.
Now, here’s what I want you to do next. While it’s totally dark in the room… with no light anywhere, have your mom or your dad light a match. What you’ll find out is that a small, tiny little flame will light up the whole room. Then turn on the lights in the room. It will feel so bright. Well, when Jesus came into the world, it was like turning on a thousand light bulbs in a completely dark room. The overwhelming light of Jesus. The land went from deep darkness to a great light. That’s what it says.
And the thing is, the people didn’t even know they were in darkness. When it comes to truth… those who don’t have the light of Christ, they won’t even know they are living in darkness until the light of the gospel shines on them. Ephesians 4:18 describes this reality… “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” But when God shines the light of the Gospel, 2 things happen. People see the light... that’s the obvious one. But they can also now see the darkness they were in. After darkness, the light of Christ.
- The joyful harvest of nations (9:3)
If you’ve been following the outline. We’ve been working through the first point “rejoicing in the great light” Living in deep darkness, the glorious light of truth, and now the joyful harvest of nations. We see this in verse 3
You see, this explosion of light that Isaiah 9 speaks of... this is the light of the world. This prophecy is about the light of Christ going forth to all nations.
And it’s God who sends the light forth. He has multiplied the nations. God is the “you” in verse 3. He is the one sending the light of his truth to all nations.
One of the other Scripture texts that comes to mind when I think of this… is Acts 26. The apostle Paul had been in prison, but the King gives him an opportunity to make a defense. And so, what does Paul do? Well, in front of King Agrippa in this huge hall with all of these prominent military and civil leader – all of them who were walking in darkness. Before all of them, Paul shared his testimony… How he was on the road to Damascus, and this bright light, brighter than the sun, literally blinded him. He tells the King and the tribunal about his conversion and how the Lord restored his sight. And then, he tells Agrippa and the people that God had called him to the nations, which included them. Paul says these words… “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins…” And in the presence of everyone, he said to the King, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe” What a tremendous testimony, not just Paul describing God’s call for him to bring light to the nations, but even demonstrating that call in his appeal to the King.
Beloved, what a great joy. “Joy” and “rejoicing” as Isaiah 9 prophesied. Joy for those who would believe, as God called them out of darkness into light. And joy and rejoicing for us. We are the recipients of the verse 3 prophecy… that this light would “multiply the nations.” And God brought it about through this explosion of light. Jesus, the Messiah, to the world
Rejoicing in the most unlikely savior (Isaiah 9:4-7)
- Midian: The Lord’s victory (9:4-5)
Ok, that brings us to point #2… Rejoicing in the most unlikely Savior.
The first 3 verses of Isaiah 9 are about the light in the darkness in a general way. And these next few verses, verses 4-7, are the specifics.
Notice that verses 4, 5 and 6, each begin with the word “for.” They answer the question, why should there be rejoicing? … well “for” this will happen, “for” that will happen, and “for” this will also happen.
Verses 4 and 5 hit home for them. That God would break the enemy. They were being oppressed by Assyria, all around them. And even though Assyria didn’t take over Jerusalem, they had taken over much of the rest of Judah. The people within the city are surrounded with no way out. But the promise in verses 4 and 5 is this: God will break the rod of the oppressor. Every enemy warrior will be defeated. The reference to Midian tells us that it’s God who will do it.
Some of you will know what happened in Midian. When God’s people were up against the Midianite army… God sent home almost all 32,000 Israelite soldiers… all except for 300 men. 300 versus tens of thousands. And without a single sword fighting in battle, God gave them victory.
That’s the promise here. God will be the one to break the darkness… the oppression of the enemies of faith, evil and sin. And so we can rejoice, we are no longer bound to sin, in the end, the enemy will not win... God in Christ has won the victory. It’s completely the Lord’s work. He will do it.
- A child, who is the Son, will save us (9:6)
That brings us to verse 6. This is probably the most well know prophecy of Christ’s birth in all the Bible. It’s amazing. Think about it. God will save in the most unlikely of ways. Verse 6, “For to us a child is Born, to us a son is given”
I mean, a child… delivering a people from oppression? Back in the days of Isaiah, child kings were generally not positive. When a child ascended to the throne, often it yielded chaos and war, not peace and victory.
But God’s ways are not our ways. He doesn’t use the conventional wisdom of earthly might to complete his work of redemption. No, he uses the outward weakness of a baby, a child, to bring light to the darkness.
Isaiah prophesied about the messiah... the Christ Child... He told them of the Baby who would be born… but Isaiah also told them that the son who would be given. Notice the difference, the baby is born…. God took on human flesh and was born, born of the virgin Mary. But the son of God did not begin to exist when Jesus was born. No, no, no. The son was given. God the son eternally existed with the Father. Jesus himself affirmed that in his prayer to His father in John 17. “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” Isaiah’s prophecy is that the eternal son of God would be given to them. God himself would become a person, born a child, born to us a son given.
“and the government will be upon his shoulder” I know you’re all humming Handel’s Messiah right now.
Who is this son? He’s like no other.
• He’s the great light and the glorious way of verses 1 and 2.
• He’s the light of the world that the apostle John spoke of.
• He’s the light of truth to the multitude of nations.
• He’s the one whose glory will be the light of eternity.
• He’s the one who has defeated the enemy, who has broken the staff of the oppressor. For it says, the government will be upon his shoulder. Jesus said to Pilate on the day he was crucified, “you would have no power, were it not given to you above”. All the governments, all the leaders, though they may not know it, they serve the will and purpose of Christ who works all things out for his purposes and glory...
And of the eternal government of Christ, as verse 7 says… there will be no end. There will be no end to the increase of his government. His Kingdom will have no end. For it is eternal. And this Kingdom, the Kingdom of our Lord, will NOT be established through Tyrrany and Oppression like the enemies of God and His people. Neither will his Kingdom be established through Darkness... but instead, Christ will establish His kingdom through Light... through justice and righteousness as verse 7 says.
When Isaiah prophesied, the people must have asked… who is this child? who can save them from darkness and establish this kingdom?
I believe these verses have an immediate fulfillment. You see, King Ahaz had a son. This son was next in line to the throne. And you would think, a wicked King would have a wicked son… That often seemed to be the pattern. But not this case… no, Ahaz’s son, Hezekiah, reigned as one of the most Godly, faithful leaders in Judah – he’s up there with king David and king Josiah. In fact, during Hezekiah’s reign, Assyria launched an attack on the city.
You can read all about it in the book of 2 Kings chapters 18 and 19. But unlike his father, Hezekiah didn’t fold under the threat. Didn’t align with the king of Assyria. No he went to the Lord in humility. He prayed for deliverance… He sought out the prophet Isaiah… and He listened to God’s word. And God answered.
Just like God had done before with Midian. God defeated Assyria without a single battle. 185,000 Assyrian soldiers were struck down by the hand of God. The Assyrian army was decimated and withdrew, and the Assyrian king himself was shortly after killed by one of his own sons.
In many ways, yes, Hezekiah does fulfill the immediate Isaiah 9 prophecy. But as faithful as he was, he was only a shadow of the true son. Hezekiah would have a descendant 19 generations later. A child who was born, a son who was given. This descendant, this baby would fulfill all the promises. All the governments would be on his shoulders… and he is the only one who could truly be called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” His name was Jesus.
And in these 4 names, we have a representation of the sovereign God who indwells in this child ...Notice how these names include a connection to God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit… the Spirit is the great counsellor, and the Father, of course, the everlasting Father.
• So when Jesus is called Wonderful Counsellor... we say, yes, Jesus is full of wisdom, the wisdom of the counsellor, the Holy Spirit, who gives comfort, and advises and strengthens.
• And we affirm that Jesus is indeed the everlasting Father. He’s intrinsically connected to the everlasting Father. Jesus reigns with the eternal Father
• And the Son is called the Mighty God because Christ knows all things, sees all things, can do all things. Nothing is impossible with him.
• He is the prince of peace, because he brings Peace, not a temporary peace, but an eternal peace. Peace with God. We are no longer walking in darkness in the futility of our minds, in the darkness of our sin, we walk in the light of his peace.
Christ is the fulfillment of verse 1... that there will be no more anguish in Galilee. He’s the great light of verse 2, shining in the darkness, the deep darkness. He’s the joy that verse 3 speaks of, increased joy. He’s the one who has defeated the enemies of verses 4 and 5. He’s the child born and the Son given of verse 6. And he’s the fulfillment of the verse 7 promise of an eternal kingdom in the line of David...
This is the prophecy of Isaiah 9. A promise that we can rejoice in because Jesus is the light shining in the darkness. We can rejoice because he was born and has been given to the nations. There is not a single person, in all the world, who does not need this light. We were the ones walking in darkness. We were the outsiders and outcasts, the enemies of God. Our land was the land of deep darkness... But after darkness, light. the light of Christ shone forth... and Joy came to the increase of the nations.
If you believe in Christ, you have his light – the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus. But if you don’t know Christ as the light, hear the wonderful prophecy of Isaiah. See this great light shining in the darkness of your heart…. believe in him, the only light of truth… and rejoice! Rejoice in the light of this good news… see your darkness and turn from it to Him. for a child was born, a son given. For his life is the only light that gives life.