Summary: In the book of Isaiah, God has been prophesying judgement and destruction upon the nation of Israel. Then all of a sudden, this wonderful prophecy is given - a prophecy about a child who will deliver them from the darkness. As Christians we know this pr

Isaiah 9:1-7 (8:23-6 Hebrew and Czech Bibles)

(This message was preached shortly before Christmas, 2003, in a church in the Czech Republic, my wife Marcela’s native country. The message was translated into Czech.)

In a week and a half’s time it will be Christmas. What does Christmas mean to you? Hopefully, if you are a follower of Christ, it means a celebration of Jesus Christ being born. Jesus who was not just man, but God. Jesus, who after growing up and ministering for three years, died on a cross – for us. Jesus, whose death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead, brought eternal life for those who believe in Him. But what do people outside this church think of during this Christmas season? What does Christmas mean to them? The Catholics, like us, celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus. But do they really believe in Him as the one who has died for our sins? Others also believe in Jesus, but not in the Jesus we know. They believe in a Jesus who comes and gives gifts on Christmas – but this is not the Jesus of the Bible. For others, Christmas is a family time. For others, it is a time for parties and exchanging gifts. Christmas is also becoming increasingly commercialised. It is hard to see the real Jesus in Christmas for most people. This problem is not just at Christmas. In fact, most people in the world don’t pay much attention to Jesus at all.

Since we were last here in Oldrichovice in early 2001, many things in the world have changed. Later in 2001, the world was shocked as hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Centre in New York. In retaliation, the Americans invaded Afghanistan, and then Iraq. Many people in the world today feel a lot more insecure that they did a few years ago. There is talk of terrorist attacks and weapons of mass destruction and Al-Qaida has become a household term. The world certainly appears to be in the shadow of darkness. Now of course, people in countries racked by war and destruction know that darkness more than we do. But still, in places like the Czech Republic and Australia, people do feel that the world is a worse place that it was a few years ago. The world is a dark place. We live under the shadow of potential destruction. Yet where do people turn to in these times? Do they turn to God? A few do, but most don’t. Some turn to the false gods of other religions. Some turn to the occult, seeking mediums and tarot cards for answers. Others turn to inner enlightenment and human self-help methods. But is there any true light in these dark times?

Today we are going to look at a passage of the Bible which describes a similar situation. Well, actually, a situation that was a lot worse than what we live in, but perhaps something similar to the situation in many of the war zones of our world. Would you please turn in your Bibles with me to Isaiah. We are going to read from chapter 8 verse 23 through to chapter 9 verse 6. Marcela will read now from Isaiah chapter 8 verse 23.

[Is 8:23-9:6 (Czech & Hebrew), 9:1-7 (English & Greek)]

As you heard this passage being read out, I expect that many of you immediately thought of the birth of Christ. Yes, it is very true that this passage is one of hope, prophesying the coming of Jesus the Messiah. But to truly understand the hope of this passage, we need to understand the context it was set in. This passage is surrounded by other passages predicting God’s judgement on Israel. At the time of this prophecy, the northern part of Israel was about to fall to the invading Assyrian armies. In fact, the Assyrians were so close that the edges of the kingdom, that is, the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali around the sea of Galilee, had already been taken over by the Assyrians. This was a disaster for the Israelites. The takeover of the Galilee area by the Assyrians was only the beginning – for very soon the whole of the northern kingdom of Israel would be overtaken by the Assyrians. Things were hopeless. As verse 1 says, the people walked in darkness.

Our passage is placed in the middle of judgements against Israel – judgement which Israel had brought upon herself because of her sin. In chapter 8, God’s judgement is prophesied against Israel. The Israelites, in all their trouble, were not calling out to the Lord. In verse 19 of chapter 8, we read that the people were seeking spiritists and spirits of death instead of God. Little has changed. Today, most people are also seeking after spiritists and spirits of death – and all sorts of other things – when they should be seeking after God. The passage after the one we are looking at also speaks of judgement. In the last half of chapter 9, Israel is again judged for her arrogance and for not seeking the Lord. This is what makes our passage so significant – in the middle of all these prophecies of judgement – in the middle of all this doom and gloom – light appears. And what a light it is! Despite Israel’s turning from God – despite their wickedness – despite their ignoring Isaiah’s calls to repent – God promises to send a great light.

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