Into the darkness

Posted on December 24, 2012 by Jeff

Some of my favorite verses in the Bible are read most often during the Christmas season. One such passage is Isaiah 9. You probably know verse 6 the best:

For unto 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.

But my favorite is verse 2 of that same chapter:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

I love every part of Christmas – the lights, the gifts, the music. I love time with family. But my favorite part of Christmas is what Isaiah refers to in that verse.

Light has come into the darkness.

When the prophet Isaiah wrote those words, he was prophesying about the coming Messiah. He would have written this around 700 BC (700 years before Jesus was born)

The history of Israel (a very brief version) goes like this: After escaping from Egypt, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. They crossed the Jordan River into the promised land where God established them as a great nation. Their first king was Saul, then David, then Solomon. After that, the Kingdom of Israel split into two, and both nations (Israel and Judah), each of whom were ruled mostly by evil kings who disobeyed God and led the people further into idolatry. The book of Isaiah was written during the reign of a few of these kings.

Eventually, God grew tired of the Israelite’s disobedience and in order to turn the hearts of the people back to Him, allowed them to be conquered and sent into exile for a period of 70 years. If you’ve ever read the story of Daniel in the lion’s den, or the story of Shadrach Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, those events took place while the Israelites were in exile in Babylon.

Following the 70 years of exile, the people are allowed to return to Jerusalem to reestablish their nation. You can read about this in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

After the events recorded in Nehemiah, which would have taken place around 400 BC, the Old Testament storyline of the Israelites comes to a somewhat abrupt ending. Following that, there is 400 years of nothing. Silence. No word from God. No revelations. No prophecies.

I imagine that the few first few years of “heavenly silence” were very confusing. God had just re established them as a nation after exile, there had been prophecies about a coming Messiah, but yet God was apparently not communicating any more.

So after 400 years without anything from God, i’m figure most people simply thought God was done with them – that this whole “being God’s people” thing was a thing of the past – that this promised Messiah would probably never come.

This would have been a long, 400 year stretch of total spiritual darkness – a dark silence that lasted from the events recorded in the book of Nehemiah, all the way to that night in Bethlehem when an Angel appeared to a teenaged girl declaring that she would give birth to a son, she would name him Jesus and He would be Emmanuel – God with us.

God had spoken. The promised Messiah had come. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”

Christmas is all about Emmanuel – God is with us. Even in the midst of what appears to be a long dark stretch, we know that The Light of The World has come and is WITH us.

Perhaps you in need of a reminder this Christmas. “People walking in darkness” certainly applies to the world in which we live. You may be in the midst of a dark stretch. You may be holding on to promises from God that feel like they were given generations ago. You may be struggling to hold on to your faith in what seems to be a period of “heavenly silence.”

But God is with us. God fulfilled the promise He spoke to the prophet Isaiah – The Messiah came, and that is why we celebrate Christmas.

And the same God has given promises to you – that He will never leave you. He will provide for you. He will be everything you need until that day when Jesus returns, he’ll wipe away every tear, and we’ll spend eternity with Him.

So let Christmas be a reminder that God is true to His promises. May your Christmas season be full of the knowledge that Emmanuel has come. God is with us. Into this dark world, a light has dawned.

Merry Christmas.