Summary: A light was going to illuminate those living in darkness, in the land Naphatli and Zebulun. Why did God only mention those two fairly insignificant tribes in this prophecy? And what was this light to accomplish in our our lives?
OPEN: How many of you have ever been in a cave?
How many of you have ever been to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky? My family and I have been there several times ourselves and I’ve always been impressed by the beauty and grandeur of that cave and others we’ve visited.
I once read about a tour of Mammoth Cave where the guide stopped and addressed the crowd. "Do you want to see what a real cave looks like?" he asked.
Thinking he was going to take them on a side trip that was different than the usual tour, every eagerly agreed.
So, without another word… the guide reached over and shut off all the lights.
That’s what a REAL cave looks like.
APPLY: Caves can be really scary places especially when all the lights are out. I’m told that – in the total darkness of those moments - many people begin to get a little edgy. In fact, the if the lights remain off for any length of time, some people can even begin to panic.
Most people don’t like sitting around in darkness.
ILLUS: One preacher noted: We learn from an early age to be fearful of darkness. That’s why nightlights are so popular in little children’s bedrooms: that little 4-watt bulb is able to chase away just some of the darkness and bring a huge measure of comfort to a little one afraid of the dark.
Even as we grow up, there is still an inborn fear of the dark. If you hear a strange noise in your house while it is the middle of the afternoon you might think, “that’s a little odd,” and not even give it a second thought.
But if you hear a strange sound in your totally darkened house at 3:00 in the morning, your wife will begin to nudge you and tell you to go find out what’s going on. In the middle of the night darkness breeds fear.
Darkness is uncomfortable.
Darkness can be confusing.
And at time darkness can be terrifying.
(from a Peter Schmidt, sermoncentral.com: "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night...")
Here in Isaiah 9, God talks about people sitting around in darkness.
They’re more than just a little confused.
And they are seriously afraid for their future.
Last week we looked at a prophecy in Isaiah 7.
Isaiah promised that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son.
As those of you who were here last week may remember, there are heretics who reject the virgin birth. Even some preachers and theologians refuse to believe God could or would do such a thing. Their god has no power and no desire to intercede in the lives of men.
Some of them not only reject the idea of a virgin birth but they even reject the idea that that prophecy had anything to do with the Jesus. But the Jews had long considered this section of Isaiah to be Messianic.
More than 500 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Jews returned to Judea from their long time of captivity Babylon. About that time, Jewish religious leaders began to write commentaries on various Bible books that they called “Targums”. One of these Targums dealt with the prophecies out of Isaiah. And that Targum (written more than 500 years before Christ was born) commented on Isaiah 9:6.
“And there was called His name from of old, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, He who lives for ever, the Messiah, in whose days peace shall increase upon us.” Targum of Isaiah.
So for over 500 yrs, the Jewish people KNEW this section of Isaiah spoke of the coming Christ. And thus, Isaiah chapter 7 told Israel that the coming Messiah would be born of a virgin, but now 2 chapters later, Isaiah continues that prophecy.
* He tells them where the child of that virgin would minister.
* And he tells us what the child of that virgin would accomplish.
First Isaiah told Israel where the child would minister.
“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan” Isaiah 9:1
Notice Isaiah says “the land of Zebulun and Naphtali”.
Years before this prophecy (shortly after the death of King Solomon), ten of the tribes of Israel rebelled against their King and split off to form the new nation that was called Israel in the north, while the remaining two tribes in the south became known as the land of Judah.
Zebulun and Naphtali were two of those 10 tribes in the new northern nation of Israel… but they were relatively insignificant tribes. They were rarely mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament and were never spoken of as having any important role in anything. That is until God mentioned them here in Isaiah 9. Remember – these are the ONLY tribes in the northern Israel that God included in connection with the coming Messiah.