Summary: If the patriarchs can be pointers of promise, then the words of the prophets such as Isaiah can paint pictures of hope.
Pictures of hope
Text Isaiah 9: 2- 7 (NIV)
Last week in our first Sunday of Advent, we looked at Noah and Abraham, two of the Patriarchs of whom the first candle of the advent wreath is said by some to signify. We looked at the promises God made to them and how those promises, in particular the one made in the covenant with Abraham were pointers of promise of the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Earlier in the service we lit the second candle on our advent wreath, this candle, based on the same school of thought that regards the first to signify the Patriarchs, is said to represent the prophets and if the patriarchs can be described as being pointers of promise, then I believe the words of the prophets, in particular Isaiah can paint pictures of hope. The first picture of hope is that of a...
Light to live by
Turn with me again to this morning’s main bible text, verse 2 & 3 reads
“2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.”
Of all the elements that form the basis of life on this planet, none are as important as light, nothing on earth can live without it. Apart from the fact that light is essential to life on earth it is also important in many other ways. We use it to find our way; we use it to warn of dangers, it gives heat and in its most concentrated form can cut through metal and be used to remove unwanted or life threatening growths within our own bodies. Light is also one of the most important factors in painting pictures.
God had a very special relationship with the people of Israel but that relationship was never meant to ignore everyone else. God knew that his chosen people- the people of the covenant, were in need of light. That was the purpose of the Torah, in Psalm 119: 105 we read “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” It became evident; however, that Israel needed an even greater light, because as they stumbled through history to live out God’s purposes for them as a nation, even the illumination of Moses’ law had grown dim. Despite the best efforts of the prophets and priests, the people of Israel constantly stumbled in their efforts to be the people of God.
Light was also a provision for the Gentiles, if the people of Israel were the people of the covenant then all peoples were the people of promise as we read last week in Genesis 22: 18 “18 and through your offspring[b] all nations on earth will be blessed,[c] because you have obeyed me.”
Isaiah, more than most prophets was the champion of what the theologian J. I. Packer describes as God’s “cosmic generosity”. Isaiah’s prophecy is a mark of God’s commitment not only to Israel, who lived by the lamp the lamp of the Torah but also to those who lived in outer darkness, a deep darkness that was the total unawareness that they were already the objects of God’s incessant love. God’s intention was clear: those who stood outside the covenant relationship, whether nation or individual were to be harmonised into his purposes. Eventually the great wall of separation was to be shattered and everyone in every nation and culture would have access to the great light, as we read in John 1: 3- 5 “3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.” As a result of this great light, nations would experience unrestrained joy, like that which farmer’s sense following a great harvest. This picture of hope is one of recognition that God is for everyone and is an important lesson for us in the church today, those of us who have truly received the living light of Christ have a responsibility to allow that light to shine outside of the walls of this building and into the lives of those walking in the darkness outside so that they too can gaze upon and receive this picture of hope.