No More Gloom
Pastor Steve Ellison
A sad fact of the Christian existence is that we often live out the same experiences of our Old Testament ancestors. The prophet Isaiah saw the devastating effects of the sin of his people but he also was able to look into the future and see the remedy. Isaiah 9 is a familiar passage to many of us. We know about Christ being Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and Prince of Peace. However, that which immediately precedes it is not as familiar. At the end of chapter 8 and the beginning of chapter 9, Isaiah gives the background for the arrival of the promised Messiah. Isaiah speaks of the impact not on the birthplace of Christ, but on the place where He spent his childhood. At the time of the Incarnation, the northern kingdom of Israel (represented by the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali) had been under several centuries of discipline at the hand of God because of their disobedience and rebellion.
Isaiah 8:20-9:3ff predicted the lifting of the discipline but more than that; it predicted a return of God’s blessing, “If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. 21 They will pass through the land hard-pressed and famished, and it will turn out that when they are hungry, they will be enraged and curse their king and their God as they face upward. 22 Then they will look to the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be driven away into darkness. 9:1 But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. 2 The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. 3 You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence.” NASU (emphasis mine) Matthew 4 explicitly tells us that this passage applies to Jesus of Nazareth. As Micah 5 predicts the birthplace of the Messiah to be Bethlehem, Isaiah 9 predicts that the Messiah will bring a great light to Galilee. Christ spent His childhood in Galilee and much of His ministry took place there.
Increasingly every Christmas season seems to create a greater contrast between those who trust in Christ and those who do not. The darkness hates the Light because He dispels it, makes it flee. Just yesterday, I read a news report of a family that received a hateful, anonymous letter that claimed to be from a “neighbor”. The letter demanded that the recipient stop adorning the outside of their home with Christmas decorations because it offended the writer of the letter. According to the news report, the letter asked the recipient how he would feel driving by a home with an “anti-Christian display”.
At first glance, I thought that Anonymous had overstepped his argument but I soon decided that Anonymous was exactly correct. He had described the issue precisely. At first I thought that putting up a Christmas display was not comparable to putting up an anti-Christian display, but really it is. While I vehemently disagree that the homeowner should stop decorating his home, I do believe that Anonymous has correctly discerned that a Christmas display is an “anti-worldliness display”. Received in faith, it becomes a marvelous light which drives away gloom. Received in a spirit of rebellion, it deepens the gloom, driving one away into darkness. ..……..…..firstname.lastname@example.org