Summary: The region that Jesus began His ministry brings to us some great truth about the Kingdom of God.
A Light in the Darkness
Ill. Driving through Texas, a New Yorker collided with a truck carrying a horse. A few months later he tried to collect damages for his injuries. "How can you now claim to have all these injuries?" asked the insurance company's lawyer. "According to the police report, at the time you said you were not hurt." "Look," replied the New Yorker. "I was lying on the road in a lot of pain, and I heard someone say the horse had a broken leg. The net thing I know this Texas Ranger pulls out his gun and shoots the horse. Then he turns to me and asks, 'Are you okay?'"
There are seasons in our lives, some good, some harder to take. It’s interesting that when we are in a good season, we instinctively know it is temporary and will end. But when we are in a bad season, we feel like it will last forever. The same is true for nations as with us individually, and Churches.
There are things that we can do to shorten the seasons, and things that can lengthen the seasons. But the message of hope for us in the darkest times is that this, too, will pass.
In today’s passage, it helps if we understand the history of the peoples in the areas. When placed in the context of the historical setting, this passage comes a live with meaning.
Mat 4:12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee.
Mat 4:13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,
Mat 4:14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
Mat 4:15 "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
Mat 4:16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned."
Mat 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Today, we are talking about the region of land that was allotted to the Israeli tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali as Israel entered into the promise land. These were part of the Northern Kingdom after the nation was torn in two because the sons of Solomon. Jeroboam was the natural king, but Rehoboam, who had been in exile in Egypt, returned and led a rebellion. 10 of the tribes followed Rehoboam, the northern kingdom, or the Kingdom of Israel, and two remained under Jeroboam. The two southern tribes comprised the southern kingdom or the Kingdom of Judah. This happened about 975 BC.
So, now let’s jump to 730 BC, some 245 years later. The most northern region of the north kingdom was the area of Galilee, the land of Zebulon and Naphtali. Being on the outer edge of the territory, this land was the most vulnerable to attacks.
The prophecy of judgment was happening. The land was under attack. This time, the invading army is the new world super power, Assyria.
The Assyrian invasion doesn’t come quickly and powerfully, but grows like a slow cancer. And the cancer is sqeezing the life out of the northing kingdom, ending all hope. Slowly, Zebulon and Naphtali, fall.
Their fall is the foreshadowed death of the ten tribes of the northern Kingdom. Assyria is in no hurry. The fall is a foregone conclusion. It takes several years for the death that overshadowed Zebulon and Naphtali to strangle the life out of the northern Kingdom.
2Ki 15:29 In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and he carried the people captive to Assyria.
The people of the northern kingdom were ripped from their homes and relocated to live in servitude in Assyria. All of their property was given to Assyrians who moved into the area. So the land was colonized by Gentiles. That is why it is called Galilee of the Gentiles.
This was not only a dark time for the North Kingdom, it was their funeral. There was something Israel did to cause this dark season.
2Ki 17:7-18 And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods
2Ki 17:8 and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced.
2Ki 17:9 And the people of Israel did secretly against the LORD their God things that were not right. They built for themselves high places (of idol worship) in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city.