Summary: Matt 4:12-17 Light in the darkness
Light in the darkness
There are lots of different places in the world where people live. Some are hot, some are cold. Some are mountainous, some are flat. Some are lush, some are barren. Some are beautiful, some are ugly. Some are in rich countries, some are in poor countries. Some are in countries experiencing peace, some are in countries experiencing war. Now if you could choose any place in the world to live, where wouldn’t you live? No I’m not asking where you would like to live, but where you wouldn’t like to live. Now I can tell you one place I wouldn’t want to live. Afghanistan. Why? Well, I probably don’t need to tell you why. Since the late 1970s - that is, for over 30 years - the country has been in a continual state of war. First the Soviet invasion. Then the Mujahadeen, then the Taliban, and then after 11/9, the War on Terror with America and the allied forces. And even today there is still much unrest the Taliban is on the rise in many areas in the country, and the future of the country is uncertain. Literacy rates are appalling. Life is especially hard for women. In 2009 I remember asking one Afghan woman this questions: “Is life better now or when you were under the Taliban.” Her answer: “Who am I to know?” What an answer. An answer of someone who had completely lost hope, an answer of someone who had even stopped thinking, stopped wondering if the present or the future could even be better than the past. The answer of someone living in darkness, a deep darkness. The answer of someone living in shadow, the shadow of death. And one could say that Afghanistan lies under the shadow of death. Not only is it a country racked by war, povery, corruption, drugs, disease and death, it is a country that is almost completely without knowledge of the one True God and His Son Jesus Christ. It is indeed a dark place, dark place in the shadow of death.
Today we are going to look at another place, that in it’s time was a bit like Afghanistan today. Living in darkness, under the shadow of death. The year is 730 BC. The location is Galilee and surrounds, in the north of Israel. In the lands that had been allotted to the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, right in the nothern extremities of Israelite territory. And being in the northern extremities, the parts of Israel most vulnerable to foreign invasion. It was the dying days of the northern kingdom of Israel, and its enemies pressed in upon it, threatening it. And the big superpower of that day was Assyria. And as often happens when a kingdom is in its dying days, the edges of the kingdom are lost and the kingdom becomes smaller and smaller until it is finally destroyed. Such was the case with the northern kingdom of Israel, and the edges of that kingdom were around Lake Galilee - the areas of Zebulun and Naphtali. These border lands were lost to the superpower of Assyria several years before the kingdom of Israel was finally destroyed, and we read about this in 2 Kings 15:29:
2 Kings 1529 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.
You can see on this map the areas that were taken by Assyria, and it seems the Assyrians were not pleasant to the inhabitants of this area. They even forcibly removed them from their land, and took them to a far off land – in Assyria. Today we are familiar with refugees fleeing oppressive regimes, fleeing the shadow of death. But these northern Israelites – Galileans - didn’t just flee - they were forcibly removed. Now why did this happen to these Galileeans? Well a few years later the whole of the northern kingdom of Israel fell to Assyria, and in 2 Kings 17: 7-23, the Bible tells us why such a disaster occurred. We’ll just read some of these verses:
2 Kings 177 And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God,
. 9 And the people of Israel did secretly against the LORD their God things that were not right. They built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city. 10 They set up for themselves pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, 11 and there they made offerings on all the high places, as the nations did whom the LORD carried away before them. And they did wicked things, provoking the LORD to anger, 12 and they served idols, of which the LORD had said to them, “You shall not do this.” 13 Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” 14 But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the LORD their God. 15 They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them.