The Birth of Hope
The Christmas carols have begun. December is here. We are celebrating the birth of Christ.
We celebrate the births of people who did great things and changed the world. Christ changed the world in a way no other person could. Today’s passage helps us see the dramatic change that only Christ can bring. He brings it to the world and to us.
These words were written about 700 years before Christ comes. As amazing as the prophetic nature is They speak of God doing something that would bring great change, great hope, great joy to his people.
1 But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. 3 You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
4 For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:1-7 ESV)
God is doing something that will dramatically change the future of his people, it comes through a child, and this child will be their protector and savior. Let’s look at these three parts.
- Dramatic Change
A dramatic change is set forth in these verses. It is a change from darkness to light. Consider how dramatic the change is when you wake up in the morning and turn on the light. It blinds you. It’s a change from gloom to glory. Consider the change of a team that is in last place one year and they go to first the next year. Their standings were gloomy but then become glorious. Nations are multiplied and joy is increased.
The book of Isaiah is written in a dark time, a time of rebellion and judgment. The Israelites turned from God and refused to serve him. They were oppressing others, not trusting in God, looking after themselves, not doing the things God called them to do. God brought judgment on them.
Most notable is Isaiah 7 when king Ahaz is to trust God alone, but he doesn’t and makes alliance with the nation of Assyria, the great world power of the time. Ahaz was facing threat from Rezin king of Syria and Pekah king of Israel. He refuses to trust God, gives lip service of devotion, and goes out to make an alliance with Assyria. Because of his disobedience God promises a future judgement. They will be exiled to a foreign land, their nation conquered, the city ruined. This is what’s to come for Israel.
Think of the disgrace of this. Your king failed you. It cost you. The country in ruin. I mean think how hard it is when you football team gets embarrassed. Your gloomy and sad. Here your nation is ruined and conquered.
Contempt to glory v1. People who are defeated are treated with contempt. (smack lips) “your from that side of town!” That is contempt. Gloom, here and in 8:22, can be related to distress and fear. If you are gloomy you don’t go out. You don’t converse with others. Fear and distress keep you from that. This is what they people would have.
Light has dawned in Zebulun and Naphtali. These were northern regions of Israel and were some of the first lands to fall to Assyria. (Picture 1). They were the first to know defeat, first to know disgrace. But here Isaiah is saying their disgrace will be taken away. A light has shone for them! This is the same land (Galilee) Jesus went and lived in and where he began his ministry (Matt 4:13). He began preaching there “repent for the kingdom of God is near” and healing, casting out demons and doing other miracles. A change is coming for this place.
Rod of oppressor is broken v4. He talks about the victory, the defeat of Midian. This is brought about In judges 6. Gideon delivered the people of the lands of Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali from the hands of Midian. It was a great victory. It was to them what July 4 represents. July 4 is our day of independence; it celebrates the victory in the Revolutionary War. God says a change is coming that will be like this. Their oppression will be over.
Multiplied nations and increased its joy. “increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.” (Isa 9:3 ESV). Two great joys are when the harvest comes in. Hard work was done in planting, sowing, cultivating and now you reap the rewards. Or plunder when the enemy is defeated and you get all their stuff. It is a change from toil to reward.
We don’t live in the exact same time as Isaiah. We don’t have Assyrians coming after us but North Korea, Isis. And we all have our own personal alienating circumstances.
Do you ever wonder how things can be made right in the world? How can all the things that go wrong get fixed. What about the gloom and darkness you feel because of others. Who can take your shame away for wrong things you have done? Who can bring you to glory when life seems down in the dumps? Sin makes us blind and brings the darkness in our life. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift which opens our eyes and enlightens our path. What do you turn to? God provides a solution to us here. He shows us that great change is possible. It doesn’t come from more presents, more time off, a new computer.
This is a big question for people today. If you are from an older generation you may have wrestled with the question of how can I be saved? How can I be forgiven for my sin? Today the question is how can the world be made right? Not a sense of personal guilt, but a sense that things are not right in the world. This passage addresses that, and the change comes through a child...
- The Child Born
Without notice the passage turns to a child. This child is the crux of the whole passage. There are three explanatory clauses here that fill out the change, v4 rod of midian is broken, v 5 the tramping warrior, and finally v 6 “to us a child is born.” The best is saved for last! He is the hinge that their fate turns on. He rises above all their circumstances. Greater than warring nations, than recessed economies, plundered goods, devastated crops, or invading nations.
Look what is said of him.
Government is on his shoulders v6. He is a ruler, but not just any ruler. Government is on his shoulders. People will say they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. It’s never be more true than here. This child carries the rule of the world, a rule never before seen in Alexander the Great, Genghis Kahn, George Washington, etc. It says that of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” It is a limitless rule. That includes Assyria. It includes whatever or whoever might stand in our way. This child has infinite reign!
Wonderful counselor means something like wonder working advisor. He knows all things and knows how to direct people. King David had people in his courts like Ahithophel whose counsel was said to be like asking God (2 Sam 16:23). Decisions can make or break kings. Even more so this one. He is a supernatural counselor and that is exactly what is needed when your reign is as infinite as his.
He is called Everlasting (9:6).V7 limitless rule. no limit geographically, unlimited terms!
He is mighty God. The child is mighty God. He has power to affect deliverance. Power to overcome. Power to demolish strongholds.
With justice and righteousness.
Prince of Peace . Peace is well-being. Absence of conflict and strife. He brings in externally in the world plagued by war and strife, he brings it internally to hearts plagued by fears and wants. Peace is freedom from anxiety and possession of goodwill and harmony. Where his kingdom spreads his rule of peace reigns.
Christ is the child to come. He is the one who amazed people with his wisdom, silenced his critics. He is the one who has power over nations the one who brings peace.
He is the one who brings change. He is unique and should have a unique place in life...
Even more he is the one who can fix all things. This wonderful counselor mighty God prince of peace knows exactly how to bring peace, healing, and hope to whatever you are challenged by.
We have to give him is proper place: prince of peace, mighty God, everlasting. Christians celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas and often you can hardly find him in it. Christ gets pushed aside in the midst of the presents, the parties, movies, Santa Claus, etc. It like when you open presents on Christmas day and there is so much paper all around that you lose a present. You know it is somewhere but you are completely lost on where it is. That happens at Christmas and it is a reflection of how you live your life the rest of the year. How are you celebrating in such a way that Christ is exalted far above everything else? Where is Christ in your celebrations, where is he in your actions, where is he in your speech? Does he rise above all others, or is he lost in the shuffle of things.
This cute baby in a manger demands your life; not your leftovers and certainly not your lip service. Isaiah is calling people to trust in what God is doing in this child. We are to do the same. He offers you peace and joy but it comes at the expense of laying everything else down for him. If you are not ready to lose your life for him you are not his disciple (luke 9:24).
V7 the zeal of the Lord will accomplish this change. It is not accomplished because of your zeal for it, not because of your desire, your achievement. There is an old saying that if you want something done right then do it yourself. Have you ever said that. You ask the kids to clean up and it doesn’t get done the right way so you do it yourself.
- He is our Sanctuary
A sanctuary is a refuge, a safe place. In Isaiah 8 the prophet is warned not to give in to the ways and fears of the people. V12-14 say,
“..., and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary…
In a world that pushes us, pulls us, threatens us, calls us names we can have a refuge from it all. That refuge is not your basement, its not hiding under the pillow, it’s not a carton of ice cream. But that refuge is named Jesus. He is the one we go to. He is the one we fear. We follow his wisdom, his word. We obey his voice. He is the one that delivers us!
Notice the time of the change he brings. A child is born. Have seen a great light, multiplied nations and increased its joy. Have broken as on the day of Midian.
Isaiah is writing about something yet to come, and yet the certainty of that act is to change the way they live in the present. A new reality is on its way, a reality so deep, so profound, so all encompassing in its benefits that it alters life even before it comes. He speaks of future events in the past tense!
Think about when you know something is going to happen. I know I am getting that big tax return this year. When the roof gets damaged by a tree and you have not saved you are not shaken by it. When you know you are getting a new bike for Christmas you don’t get to upset when your old bike gets ruined. That future reality changes your present reality.
The eye of faith looks at all the hardship and affirms that real though it is, it is not the real reality. As always people of God must decide what reading of their experiences they will live by. Are they to look at the darkness, the hopelessness, the dreams shattered and conclude that God has forgotten them. Or are they to remember his past mercies, to remember his present promises ad to make great affirmations and acts of faith.
We constantly need to hear what God makes possible for us to be, rather than focus on who we are right now. This can change your marriage problems. Stop focusing on what they have done and both of you start looking at what God makes it possible for you to become. Stop holding your friends past mistakes against them. And perhaps, just perhaps you need to stop living your Christian life based on mistakes and mishaps of the past. Start thinking about your church, your friends, your co-laborers for the gospel according to who they can be. Step out in faith!
The fear of the Lord is a sanctuary. Sometimes fear of what others think about our situation is more harmful than the actual situation. We fear what our mother, or friend might say about our marriage. The fear of the Lord silences that. You can be who you are, you can state where you are, and that allows you to move forward. *Fear paralyzes. Faith sets you free.*
The Gospel of Jesus Christ comforts us with the hopes of in every cloudy and dark day, as we now are to comfort ourselves in time of trouble with the hopes of Christ’s second coming.
The child’s reign has come; it is not over the face of the earth, but it is in people’s heart. That’s how Christ reigns now-- in hearts. Does he have your heart’s devotion. Don’t get a Jesus ornament for the tree and feel like you are a good Christian. Don’t sing a few carols, feel good about what you have, and feel comfortable giving him your all.
These people had all kinds of clutter in their lives. We have clutter too. In order to change we have to remove the clutter and trust in the one that really matters. The one who reigns over it all. The one whose light can remove our darkness, the ones whose power will prevail, the one whose counsel leads us through all battles, the ones whose might secures us.
- How do people experience gloom, darkness, oppression today? What do they often look to for help?
- What name of God is most encouraging to you?
- In what parts of your life do you need to let go of past thoughts and move toward what God calls you to do and be? How can you help the church become what he calls it to be?