Summary: The Messiah, the Light of the world, has come. This Light is Son of God who breaks the yoke of sin and darkness and frees us to respond with repentance, rejoicing, and sharing this light with others.
How many of you here have stubbed your toe while walking to the bathroom late at night? How many of you use night-lights since that happened?
We have night-lights in our house—these lights prevent me from tripping and stubbing my toes on Ella’s toys when going to the bathroom late at night! These little lights help dispel the darkness enough for me to see where I’m going.
So today, as we look at Isaiah 9, we’re going to talk about darkness and light. I want to spend most of my time talking about the light, but we have to understand both to understand either.
Have you ever had someone say to you, “I’ve got good news and bad news; which do you want first?” Well today we’ll look at the bad news first! Let’s see what the darkness is.
Walking in the Darkness
There’s an entire people walking in the darkness in our passage—“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” This is the people of Israel—now what sort of darkness are they walking in?
The context of this passage in Isaiah is the Assyrian invasion of northern Israel during the 7th century BC. The tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun, in the land of Galilee, suffered greatly under these invasions. God promises relief and redemption for His people through the birth of a descendant of David who will initiate a time of peace. The darkness for Israel is the darkness of an invading and occupying force.
The darkness here for Israel is also, I would suggest, the darkness of sin and oppression—basically, their oppression is the result of a failure to love God and love their neighbour. They have had their worship rejected by God because they do not practice mercy and justice. Isaiah, describing Israel’s sin, says they “turn aside the needy from justice.” This has led to judgment in the form of an invasion from Assyria.
Isn’t this what the darkness means for us also? 1 John 2: 9 says, “Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while still hating a brother or a sister, is still in the darkness.” 1 John 1: 5 says “God is light.” 1 John 1: 20, 21 says, “Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers and sisters are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”
Darkness is sin, particularly in the form of the failure to love God and our brothers and sisters. Have you ever been left in the dark about something? Well, thankfully, God doesn’t leave us in the dark in this case! Thankfully there is good news greater than this bad news.
As we continue looking at Isaiah 9, I want to look at how Scripture answers three questions for us about the light: Who is the Light? What does the Light accomplish? And what is our response to the Light?
Who is the Light?
This light is the hope God gives—hope of salvation, of restoration, of victory, of deliverance. This hope would come in the form of a person. It is the promised Messiah, God’s anointed one. Isaiah speaks of this promise elsewhere too:
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11: 1): This speaks of a Messiah that would come who would be in the line of David.
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me” (Isaiah 61: 1; cf. Luke 4: 18, 19): And here we see the Messiah as one upon whom the Spirit has rested, as whom the Lord has anointed—Messiah means “anointed one.” Christ means “anointed one.”
The Light is the promised Messiah.
Isaiah’s prophecy for the coming Messiah was for a ruler who would be more than human. We can see this in verse 6: “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us.” This speaks of the fulfillment of what Isaiah 7: 14 says: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman [virgin] is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel [which means “God is with us]” (cf. Matthew 1: 22, 23, where this prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus).
We also see this in verse 6 because of all the titles given to this child. As one scholar says, “The titles underscore the ultimate deity of this child-deliverer.” This is especially true of the titles Everlasting Father and Mighty God.
The Light is a Messiah who has both divine and human characteristics.
Many of these passages in Isaiah are used in the gospels to describe the coming of Jesus—Isaiah is pointing toward Jesus.