Title: The People who walked in Darkness Have Seen a Great Light!
Text: Isaiah 9.2-7
Introduction: Thank you Jason Hall for reading our text today; however, without context, it might not make a whole lot of sense. To be sure, you’ve probably heard this before.
Sing Handel’s Messiah.
You and I know this passage is of the Messiah. You and I know this is the passage about Jesus. But today, I’d like to give you the context for this passage. I’d like you to see and feel and hear what the people of Judah went through with Isaiah.
Our story takes place around 734 BC, when Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, cut off the Egyptians supply line to Israel and Syria (Israel, the Northern Kingdom and Syria, the country just to their north). In 734 BC, Israel is divided into two separate countries: the Southern kingdom of Judah and the Northern Kingdom called Israel. The Southern Kingdom consisted of two tribes: Judah and Benjamin. The Northern Kingdom was the other 10 tribes. By 733 BC Israel would lose much of her land (Megiddo, Galilee, the Transjordan). Their King would wise up and become a puppet king – but it only saved her for another decade. Syria would fall to Assyria the next year. For the next 10 years Israel (i.e.: northern kingdom) would go back and forth on their commitment to Assyria and in 722 BC – they would be annihilated. Assyria would send in people to settle the land and inter-marry with the Jews there. This land would be known as Samaria.
What you and I find truly sad, is that Isaiah gave them fair warning, but they wouldn’t listen. He will do the same for Judah, but they will not listen either. In another 100 years, Judah will begin its time in exile.
I wonder if people will look back at us in the decades to come and think similar thoughts that you’re having about the Northern and Southern Kingdoms? Why didn’t they listen? Why didn’t they listen?
Behold, Distress and Darkness
Ill.: At this time of year the sun goes down earlier and the night gets longer. When there is no moon out, it gets really dark. My brother-in-law was hunting out on the ranch this past week and shot a deer. It was wounded and so he had to track it. He called us up at the ranch house and asked for help. We went down to where he was to help track this wounded deer. I’m telling you, that when I pulled up and turned off the lights to the jeep – I was enveloped in a sea of darkness. My eyes adjusted to the stars, but all around me was pure darkness. And guess what? I didn’t bring a flashlight! I couldn’t even take a step without the light. It was just too dark. And with all the cacti and thorny mesquite, I didn’t want to take a step without some light.
This is where we find the people of Jerusalem and Judah in our text: 8.22 – 22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.
How did they get here? We have to go back to chapter 7.1 and read through chapter 8 to get the context. Here’s how I’ve outlined it:
- A decision to be made.
- A sign to be offered.
- Ahaz rejects God. He chooses the King of Assyria over the King of Kings.
- God rejects Israel and Judah; but, a remnant will return
- The Promise of a Remnant
Transition: let’s begin with #1.
I. A decision needs to be made as pressure mounts from outside forces (7.1-9)
exp.: rd 7.1-2; the story begins with these two countries to the north of Judah needing Judah to join forces with them to withstand Assyria’s aggression. They could all come together – but it would be of no use. Ahaz rejects Syria and Israel’s invitation and so they decided to attack him, defeat him and put another king on his throne – one who would be sympathetic to their cause.
exp.: in v3-9 Isaiah is sent to Ahaz to encourage him. God is on his side!
V7 says: These two kings’ plans will not stand!
8-9a say who these two kings are – they’re sons of kings. However, There is this idea that Ahaz is someone’s son, too. He’s the son of David – and as his heir, he’s been promised by God the protection he needs. Ahaz only needs to be faithful. He must believe God’s word and follow. That’s it – other wise; rd 9b. Their plans will not stand – but neither will you if you don’t stand in your faith.
t.s.: now, that is the 1st word of encouragement from Isaiah to Ahaz. But God is good. He’s really good. So, he sends Isaiah again with another word – a promise he wants to make. And that’s point #2
II. A sign is offered to demonstrate God’s great mercy and to strengthen Ahaz’s faith (7.10-12)
exp.: rd v 10-11;
7.10-11: Ask for a sign – I’ll go to any lengths to help and encourage you. There is no valley to deep or no mountain to high that I won’t scale for you. So how does the king respond? Rd v 12; But, Ahaz rejects God’s offer;
III. Ahaz Rejects God (7.13-8.7)
exp.: and so God himself will give them a sign. Rd v 13; and here’s the sign: rd v 14-17; that probably sounds familiar; if you have a footnote in your text, you can look up what Immanuel means: God with us.
App.: Ahaz’s rejection of God results in God’s rejection of him. His poor attempt to veil his lack of belief in his piety results in the very thing Ahaz wants to prevent: full collapse, being conquered and going into exile. God says: These two kings will amount to nothing and your land and people will be decimated – just like theirs.
And that’s point # 4
IV. God will reject Ahaz, Israel and Judah (7.13-8.7)
exp.: In 7.13-17: God, through Isaiah informs Ahaz that Judah will fall and nearly be destroyed, but God offers Judah some hope in v 18-25.
To save some time, I’m going to just tell you about 7.18-25: In that day…; Judah – land, people, people, land. Then, in 8.1-7 God, through Isaiah, informs Israel that she will be utterly destroyed. No hope is offered for them; however, in v 8, God turns back to Judah and offers them hope. In v 5-8, God tells Israel that a flood called Assyria is going to annihilate them. rd v 8a; so this flood of annihilation is coming to Judah, too. Rd 8b; so it will almost drown Judah, but it will stop at the neck.
Now, at this point, we’ve identified a couple of Characteristics about this promised sign:
- He will be special and like no one else. He will be born of a virgin (conceived and born). He must be divine. Today’s technology makes this possible and I wouldn’t be surprised if the anti-christ makes such a claim.
- He must be king. This is ‘his land’ in v 8;
Note: some folks argue that this one, Immanuel, mention in 7.14 and again here is really the son born to Isaiah in 8.1-4; but, Isaiah’s wife isn’t a virgin – remember 7.3? She already has had children. Chapter 8.1-7 is for Israel – who will disappear from the face of the earth for her sins and rebellion. This sign is for Judah. Rd v 9-10; Isaiah is saying that even though the floods will rise up to the neck – Judah and Jerusalem will survive because…our God is with us. If you look at your Hebrew Bible, that is translated Immanuel. Here is our 3rd Characteristic:
- He will be the one who will protect them and bring them through.
So, even with disaster coming – God will still protect them.
t.s.: And this brings me to point #5…
V. The Promise of a Remnant
exp.: Chapter 8.8-10 inform us that a remnant will survive; however, 11-22 tells Judah what is coming. rd v 11-15; Here we learn about this remnant:
- The Remnant will experience God’s presence. (8-10; 14) Ahaz and the rest of the people will not know the presence of God. 2ndly,
- The Remnant will fear God and not any other king or ruler or country. (8.11-15); Ahaz and the rest of the people fear Tiglath-Pilesar.
Here we also learn our 4th Characteristic of Immanuel, God with us:
- The Messiah will cause many to stumble. (Cf.: Luke 20.9-18; Mt 21.44)
- The Remnant will experience true hope. (8.16-22); and though they are few, it will be what sustains them. As for the others, they will remain in the night – no dawn will come. They will be in utter darkness. But for those who hope in God – they will experience victory.
- The Remnant will experience a light at the end of the darkness. (9.1-7) Only utter darkness remains for Ahaz and the rest of the people. And that light – is the Messiah of God.
Rd 9.1-2; notice Isaiah is using past tense. It is as if he has been transported into the future and he can see back over time so very clearly. Rd v 3; their joy is intense and great! Rd v 4; he has broken their chains and set them free from their captors; rd v 5; the war is past – peace has come. Rd v 6-7; A messiah is coming! He is promised and the zeal of Yahweh will accomplish this!
app.: They will know and experience all of this because of Immanuel, God with us.
t.s.: well, ladies and gentlemen, we really are in the future. We can look back through time and see that Isaiah did see it right.
Conclusion: God did prove himself faithful to His Word.
- A Virgin did conceive and she did bear a son. And his name is called God with us.
- He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
- He has continued to protect and care for his own.
- He is the rock that causes many to stumble and others to be crushed.
Oh yes, there is more to come. But let’s stop here. Let us, for this moment, celebrate the faithfulness of God. Let it wash over you and encourage you as you look to the future. In this moment, celebrate. Celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. May this holiday season be the most wonderful season ever!
- As you go out to buy gifts, be buoyed by the faithfulness of God.
- Sing the old carols with more gusto than you have as of late.
- Go to the office party or whatever Christmas party you go to with more cheer. You can be cheerful, because God is good. And God is faithful. He has given us the real reason for the season – he has given us Jesus – just as he promised he would!