No More Gloom
Most great Christmas movies, or any movie or story, features a person who has a problem and possibly a personal flaw or character shortage and he needs to go deeper in finding him or herself in order to overcome. Kevin McCallister doesn’t appreciate his family, always feels slighted and is a little jerk. He is relegated to the attic by himself to do a little soul searching. He then gets left Home Alone and through a process of overcoming a couple crooks and facing a gloomy situation, he also begins to see his need for family and appreciation for who they are.
One of the things Christmas is about is that we can come out of darkness. We can overcome gloom. Many people come into bad situations and think, I can’t go to church. Well, that is exactly why you should be at church. Church should be a place you can be reminded of hope. Jesus came to those in darkness. He came so there might be no more gloom. He came so that we can be changed.
We see this again in today’s passages. The Israelites have been relegated to the attic because of their disobedience. The Assyrian crooks have come to plunder them. And all this is God’s purpose to wake up his people to be faithful to him and that there might be a reunion of God and his children.
The gospel is the greatest redemption story ever told, and movies like Home Alone, Grinch, and A Wonderful Life paint a dim picture of what the gospel presents to us.
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 Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan– 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4 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. 5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. 6 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. 7 Of the increase 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. (Isaiah 9:1-7 NIV)
- Times of Darkness and Gloom
The people of Isaiah’s time were in a time of deep humiliation. They had been conquered. Another nation has overtaken them. Just think about that. You are called God’s people. But your land is devastated, relatives have been deported to other cities and nations, temple is torn down. That’s like the other team coming and jumping on your logo at midfield.
This was not the only time in history. It also happened in the past when they were conquered by Midian.
The people chose not to follow God and he gave them into the hand of another nation. A ruthless and barbaric nation.
“Of some, I cut off their feet and hands; of others I cut off their ears, noses and lips; of the young men’s ears I made a heap; of the old men’s heads I made a (tower). . . . The male children and female children I burned in the flames of the city.”
Sometimes you end up in a bad place. It may be because we live in a fallen world, it is a good and beautiful world but we also know this world is under judgment. There is death, pain, hardship and all the things God said would come if Adam and Eve rejected him. There is also the pain that comes from our own poor decisions. Our problem is not just what Adam and Eve did, it is what you and I have chosen to do and not do. We turned from God. You make your bed and then you have to lay in it.
Gloom. Distress-fear. Darkness. This is a fact of where they are at.
Humiliation/contempt: When you have been humbled people look down on you. When I was in corporate sales I remember the number one sales rep in the department, a professing Christian, was walked out the door with all her belongings in hand, because she had been manipulating orders. Her bold cocky attitude was completely gone. It was humbling. People looked on her with contempt.
We all like to be number 1. People look up to us. When you get humbled people snicker at you. Laugh. Don’t envy you, they have contempt. They say, Man, I don’t want to be like that person. When you failed out of college, when your marriage is not where it should be, when you get put on PIP plan, when your business or church is on verge of closing.
Darkness is scary because we cannot make out where we are going. Sometimes we don’t even know where we are. Maybe that is where you find yourself. Maybe life has taken you on a turn you cannot understand. You have tucked this away but it gnaws at you. Success in a lot of areas but these dark spots are hard to get out of.
And as hard as those times are, they are often the times we begin to look for help from outside ourselves. We see there are things we cannot do.
For this people in humiliating circumstances a …
- Light Has Dawned
While the darkness for these people was very real, very dark, God also brings hope to them.
One of the great themes of the Bible is that God is bringing salvation. He is saving his people from all the things that go wrong in the world. And it may seem harsh that God brings punishment, but what is amazing is that every time God speaks of punishing his people there are also promises that if they turn to him then he will restore them. It’s like a parent with a child that is doing things they should not be doing. The parent punishes the child not to harm the child, but in order to get the child he loves to do what he should be doing. God does that with his people. In the midst of a terrible situation God is promising a change.
Directed to people in Zebulon and Naphtali. This is the part of Israel that is in the north and closest to Assyria. They would be the first to fall and last to be restored. God humbled this land, but there is a promise that in the latter days it will be made glorious. Zebulon on the coast will be made glorious. Galilee will be restored.
God is bringing restoration and deliverance just like he did in past, like when they were oppressed by the Midianites.
Those who are walking in darkness have seen a great light. In darkness you cannot see. When our kids learned how to read we would get them their first real Bible and we would make it a special time and do something fun. The boys all wanted to go camping and fishing so I would take them. We would do some swimming, fishing. There’s something about killing an animal, skinning it, cooking it on an open fire! I would also make a big deal about having a really special present for them. I would give them the Bible and they were always so excited. We would spend some time reading through it. I remember with one of them we read how God’s word is light to our path, and shortly after that he needed to go to the bathroom, so we walked to the bathhouse. About halfway there I turned off the flashlight and we stood still. We couldn’t see anything. We couldn’t see the way to the bathhouse or the way back to the camp. We couldn’t see what was around us, or in the woods. Darkness can be scary. You don’t know where to go. You don’t know what to do. He started asking me, “Dad will you turn the light on. Dad, please. Dad where is the light??” You turn the light on and all of a sudden you have a way to go. It saves you. Shows you the way. He is telling this people in darkness a light has dawned. This connects to our hope in Christ. That one day we will be with him in glory. People are created in the image of God. They are created to glorify God and display his glory. But the bumps, and bruises, hurts and discouragements chip away at and dull who we are created to be. But God promises to restore us in Jesus. He promises to restore the entire world.
We will be raised in glory.
Also notice something else about this restoration. It is future, but the reality it brings has already started. Those in darkness a light has dawned. Not will dawn. It has dawned. It is already being tasted. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy. It is a present reality though it’s fulfillment is future.
When God promises something in the future the certainty of it is felt immediately.
Isaiah is bringing hope to those who are hopeless. This is similar to what we have in Christ. Our salvation is past, present and future. You have been saved. You are being saved. You will be saved. It has already started. God is working and that should give you hope!
Their gloom, their distress, their darkness will end. Christians should be the first to go to those in difficult and dark situations and tell them there is hope. We should go to those with addictions and say God can bring you out of this. We should say that to those with relational breaks and baggage. One of the demographics moving away from church today is single moms. I’m so glad we have been able to help Beacon of Hope, a pregnancy center for people experiencing unplanned pregnancy. Let’s share there is hope in Christ. We want to speak about marriage and the importance of marriage, but when people go through a divorce let’s point them to the hope in Jesus. He can restore.
He can always bring light to dispel the power of deep darkness. Jesus was born in a time of darkness. Political oppression. Parents will flee to Egypt fearing King Herod’s attempt to kill the messiah.
We as Christians ought to be the first and quickest to encourage people that there is hope. We also ought to be the first to see it in our own lives. But we also need to see it doesn’t always mean we get what we want. It means we need to have our hopes and dreams realigned with what God is doing.
But in this they look to something else. Real though their situation is, they look to another reality that is transforming the present circumstances. There is another reality coming that they choose to live by. God has spoken and promised to change their situation.
I promise to bring you the money I owe you. Lottery winners lives are changed immediately by an announcement of numbers.
A promise changes their circumstances.
A promise brings a new reality.
A promise pushes away the darkness.
A promise takes away their gloom.
A promises breaks the power of the oppressor.
What is more real to you, your suffering or God’s hand to help?
What is more certain, your doom, or your redemption?
What is more on your lips, hardships or God’s promise?
What are you living in, darkness or light?
Do you see the light or the darkness.
Do you see the death or the life.
Do you see the hope or the destruction.
God’s promise gives you a different attitude to the future. This is what God’s people should have.
For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness”– He has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ. (2Co 4:6)
Salvation is there, but it might not be what you are looking for.
- The Solution
6 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. 7 Of the increase 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.
A child!!?? Not just any child.
The source of this change and hope is the center of verses 6-9. For to us a child is born. Last week we saw Isaiah speak prophetically to Ahaz about a sign of a child being born and his name being Immanuel, God with us. It was an incredible promise of hope and victory. Once again, a theme of waiting for a child is introduced. This theme of a child begins to take on a trajectory that is simply amazing. This one, will have a government, and there will be no end to his government.
Government will be on his shoulders. He will be a political leader. God promised that king David would have a descendent on the throne of Israel. This is in line with that. But the names for this one seem to surpass what any might have hoped for.
Wonderful Counselor. Counselor is one who advises. Business isn’t doing well so let’s get an outside consultant to come in and share what they see. I have done that and the counsel allowed us to turn a corner. I have done it and thought what a waste! No regrets with this counselor. He will be called wonderful. Alec Motyer said a better translation is “Wonder working counselor.” He is able to work wonders. Counseling often fails because counselors are powerless to make people do the things they need to do or because there are things the counselor could not see. Not with this counselor. He works all things for the good of those who love him.
It also reminds us of the awe and wonder that go with following God. It’s amazing. We are reading a book 2700 years old! It’s still relevant. Sure there are things hard to understand. God designed it that you would have to expel effort in knowing and serving him. But this book speaks of the coming of a Savior 700 years before it happened. It’s got names and themes and promises of restoration. God speaks to us through this word, but when it comes time to read it we are like I’m too busy. I’ll just watch some more stuff on tik tok! I’ll just watch some Netflix. What is going on when God’s people would rather sleep in than hear how he has worked to draw people out of death and darkness.
Mighty God, el gibor. Mighty warriors were people who went out and conquered in battle. God is mighty, greater than others, but his qualification is not simply as a warrior but as God. He is God Almighty. There are no other God’s. He is the one and only.
God is a mighty warrior. Don’t oppose him. Don’t go against him.
Don’t spit into the wind. Don’t tug on superman’s cape. Don’t take the mask of the lone ranger and don’t mess around with Jim.
Everlasting/Eternal Father.This description of God recalls the books opening description of God as one who brought up children and had to watch them run away. It also recalls God’s commitment to David’s line as a father… forever.
Everlasting. God is omnipresent, meaning present everywhere. What omnipresence is to space, eternal is to time. No beginning and no end. He is.
Father. One you can go to. Who cares. Who is wiser than you.
Prince of Peace. Shalom. No anxiety. No relational turmoil. At peace with yourself. But this peace is not just the absence of negativity. It is the presence of all that is positive. It is wholeness.
Opposite of a reign of terror. period of the French Revolution from September 5, 1793, to July 27, 1794 During the Terror, Maximilien de Robespierre exercised virtual dictatorial control over the French government. During the Reign of Terror, at least 300,000 suspects were arrested; 17,000 were officially executed, and perhaps 10,000 died in prison or without trial. Not just what happened but the fear of what could happen in this time. Fear is real. Fear is powerful.
That is not peace. That is destruction. Peace, shalom is the blessing of God. Life giving. Life producing.
You can be delivered from external threats, but not have peace in your heart. I see this all the time. Bible study with addicts. Big job, lots of success, no financial cares, but falling apart. Not at peace with who they are.
This should give the people much hope. It may not have been exactly what they were looking for, but it is the greatest thing ever. A deliverer who will come, will rule in perfect peace, who will conquer, who will bring peace. One day. They may have said but I just want my house now. But I want these problems to go away. But I want my spouse fixed. They had to align their hopes and dreams with what God was doing. They had to see this promise is what they truly need. He is addressing the root problems in the world.
This Savior comes because of the zeal of the Lord. It is love. The love of a husband causes him to pursue his wife who has been taken captive. God does this for his people. John 3:16, “For God so love the world that he sent his only begotten son into the world…”
If you ever ask yourself, “God why don’t you care about me.” He does care about you. You may need to open your eyes and heart to see what he has done. He may not have the thing you most want, but he has done the thing you most need. He has provided a Savior.
The names connected to this Savior also cause you to run into a real problem here. What person could ever do this? How can king David have a son that will be eternal father, mighty God, prince of peace? The child has to be of the line of David, but he cannot possibly be of the line of David. Jesus uniquely fills this role.
Jesus read this passage of Scripture when he began his ministry.
“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles– 16 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.” 17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:15-17 NIV)
He said at the end repent. Turn from going astray. God’s kingdom is at hand. You are either for him or against him. There is no straddling the fence. Either you are actively fighting for his kingdom or you are actively opposing it. There is no in between.
Salvation in Jesus has dawned. And we will never be the same.
God’s plan is wiser than ours. They didn’t necessarily get what they wanted immediately. Country restored. Brought back home. Political security: peace! God promises to bring it but not through the typical earthly means. You have to trust him. You may want certain things restored right now. Take it to the Lord. But also hear what he has done. Know why you can call him mighty God, wonderful Counselor.
You have to come to peace with him. You have to accept him on his terms. Stop resisting him. That may be what got you into mess in the first place.