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Christmas answers Hopelessness
Gloom to Glory via a Great Light
Christmas is past and the New Year has begun, however we still have one more answer from our Christmas mini-series to explore. The truth that Christmas answers hopelessness, there is no greater passage in the whole of the Bible to dig into to gain the answer we are looking for.
At the start of the Protestant Reformation, many Reformers took on a Latin saying to capture what was happening. Post Tenebras Lux, meaning “After darkness, light”. The glorious light of the gospel which had been suppressed and hidden by empty traditions was now breaking out.
These verses from Isaiah 9 this morning we see this prophesy signalling an even greater moment where there was a seismic shift. This prophesy foretold of a time there was greatdarkness, hopelessness and gloom through to a moment when the light dawned, there was hope and we see great glory. So let’s look back in the last couple of chapters to see a little bit of historical context into why the nation of Israel is in gloom and darkness.
Chapter 7 tells us of King Ahaz and how his kingdom is threatened by an alliance that is formed between Syria and Ephraim, “so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.” This was a fearful alliance that caused the king to strategically make his own move, so what does the King of Israel do? Go to the Lord God, right? Wrong! He turns to a previous enemy in Assyria for help and to form his own alliance. This was in complete disregard of God’s testimonies and promises and Israel would eventually be destroyed and enslaved by Assyria who they turned to.
The end of chapter 8 shows us the depths to which Israel is plunged when it says “Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.”
The situation is desperate, imagine living with such distress and fear and only seeing darkness. I can’t image what it would feel like being a prisoner on death row who has been sentenced and they are just waiting for the end but I wonder if this is how Israel felt here.
Despite all their disobedience, ignorance, pride and self reliance, their God was still in control, he was working and he himself brought about their downfall, darkness and gloom so he could shine his light and bring his great glory into this desperately hopeless situation.
Does your situation feel hopeless and desperate right now? Maybe you wonder if the gloom will ever lift. Are you depressed and you feel darkness has overcome you and the only place you can turn is to the wrong influences who you feel won’t judge you. Are you grieving the loss of a loved one who will be dearly missed after many years together? Are you lonelyand really yearn for others to spend time with you and your quiet house is gloomy? Are you striving with a desperate family situation which is beyond your control or a job that you just don’t enjoy bringing so much distress in your life?
Don’t turn away from God in these times, he is with you and he will shine his light and bring his great glory into your darkness.Listen to our verses which come immediately after the end of chapter 8, the build up to this great glory begins, but how to get there, let’s see:
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 honour Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—The people walking in darknesshave seen a great light;on those living in the land of deep darknessa light has dawned.
God never leaves his people in distress for too long, the prophesy speaks of no more gloomfor these territories of Israel, Zebulun and Naphtali and in the future honouring Galilee a place we hear about often in the New Testament, a place where Jesus lived, a place where the ministry of that great light, Jesus, the Messiah, the Light of the World took place.
Jesus Begins to Preach
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
It is starting to become clearer that although God will restore Israel, he is thinking about a greater restoration, one which bring about a greater kingdom.
I love seeing the little video clips of a hearing aid been given to a young baby or toddler who has been death since birth, the immense joy and revelation of them hearing their mother’s voice for the first time is so heart warming. The smile, the little laugh or giggle and the tears that run down their eyes. It is just such an incredible moment. I wonder if that helps us to see the wonderful transformation that is being prophesied here.
The people walking in darkness, that fearful gloom, deep despair and terribledevastation, have seen a great light.
So what does that great light signal:
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.
These are the results or the effects of this great light coming, deliverance from military opposition, freedom from the yolk of slavery, every one of their oppressors and enemies have been destroyed.
God has to bring us down sometimes, just like he did with Israel, dealing with us and our sinfulness, our pride, arrogance, self reliance and unfaithfulness, is the only way that he can raise us up!
How does this speak into your situation, who do you press into when times are hard, the darkness of depression is drawing in, the sadness of losing a dear loved one is crushing you, loneliness is bringing about great gloom, your family or work situation is desperate. Whatever situation you are in, we must not act in a sinful way or by turning to the enemy. Let us press into God and his promises, he will comfort us and deliver us, he will give us peace and he will bring light to our deepest, darkest and most desperate of situations. He’s also given us a lovely church family, who can help, so don’t hide away when you get that lunch invite or when someone asks if you are ok. If you feel you need to talk, we will listen. He uses this church family to bring about his purposes. What about us as a church family, what should we be looking to do? We need to create an environment of grace, so people can admit their need, do you see someone in need who you can spend time with, invite for a coffee, make a phone call, go for a walk, write them a letter or commit to praying for them and tell them you are doing so?
God never simply wants to destroy, that may be the final result in some cases but not because he wishes it to be so. God wants light, joy, abundance, liberty, ending of hostility, not only for his own people, but for all people.
So what’s the answer, who is this great light, who is going to end all the deep darkness and fearful gloom and bring glory to God, where is this mighty warrior?
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 Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.
The LORD’s Anger Against Israel
Wait, a child? A baby to be precise, a helpless little baby, cradled in his mothers arms, born in a out house and laid in a manger. Just one second, let me just get this right, a child?
Yes, absolutely a child! That’s what makes it brilliant, God’s answer to the oppression and hostility of this proud and cruel world is not to come as a suited and booted warrior ready to smash the opposition but as one who is meek and mild. However, we do know that this child will shatter “the yolk that burdens” his people without oppressing like the enemy did. That child that is spoken of is Jesus Christ.
He alone can shatter that burden that you are facing today, darkness, depression, gloom, despair. Lay it all at the foot of his cross because he is the Wonderful Councillor, he can be trusted and he knows what you are going through and he can sympathise with our weaknesses and struggles.
We are told some wonderful things here in these verses about the Messiah. He will be a son, although not who’s son he is. He will be the Mighty God, the title which belongs to Yahweh, God the Father also belongs to this child.
Everlasting Father he is the King who will reign from David’s throne, theperfect fulfilment of any previous king on earth and unlike many of the Davidic kings (especially Ahaz), he would rule “with justice and righteousness”. Caring for and providing for and protecting his people foever.
Prince of Peaceno more conflict, anguish, distress, darkness or gloom, everything is whole and complete in the Messiah whois and will be the source of peace, now and forever.
The greatest hopelessness in this world, whether you realise it or not, is not truly knowing the Messiah. You might think you have it all together and think I’m talking rubbish about gloom, darkness and despair but the truth is, the greatest tragedy will be if you leave this world and you don’t know Jesus. Like I said before, God does not want to destroy, he wants light, joy, abundance, liberty, ending of hostility, but for those who do not trust in Jesus as their Saviour, they will experience the ultimate darkness, gloom and despair, for all eternity, separate from the presence of of kind God in hell. So brothers and sisters, speak about Jesus to your friends and family, invite them to church to hear the good news, tell them of the hope of heaven that is to come because it is brilliant to know Jesus and it is going to be incredible when we get to spend eternity with him in heaven.
I just long for the Kingdom Heaven, to be bodily with my Lord and Saviour, I desire to see what that everlasting home has in store for us, it is exciting and I want to know what those mansions are like, I want to see the beauty of a garden greater than Eden, I want to feel what it is like to know no sin and I want to walk with Jesus and talk with him and just rest in my Saviour’s embrace. I know he will call me home when the time is right and when my work here is done, as he has done with so many of our faithful brothers and sisters. Until that day I will rest in his great light whichshatters away all the darkness and the hopelessness of this world.
One of those reformers who would have used the phrase Post Tenebras Lux, meaning “After darkness, light”, which I spoke about at the start, would have been Martin Luther. He was a monk in the Catholic church who read about “the righteousness of God” in Romans 1:17 and“hated the righteous God who punished sinners and he raged with a troubled conscience about the righteousness he felt he needed to achieve”. He knew that no amount of good works or striving would achieve a level of righteousness that would satisfy a holy God. All this left him in utter despair. Nevertheless, Luther kept on reading and pondering God’s word and eventually God revealed to him that righteousness is not something that we actively achieve, Luther wrote, “There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely, by faith. And this is the meaning. The righteousness of God is revealed by the Gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which the merciful God justifies us by faith. Here, I felt that I was altogether born again and the very gates of paradise opened up before me.”
This is referred to as the breakthrough in Luther’s life, his conversion story. Gone was the darkness and despair, and now was the light and the glory of God and heaven to come.
Let me pray.
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