But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone. - Isaiah 9:1-2, ESV
Light Dawning in Darkness
Last month, we had the privilege of being able to visit Israel. For three nights, we stayed on the Sea of Galilee in Caesarea. Our hotel room had a wonderful view of the Sea of Galilee, and each morning we watched the sun rise over the sea. Israel is a beautiful and fascinating land. The sun rises and sets very quickly there, and each sunrise in Caesarea was dramatic. It went from night to day seemingly in the blink of an eye with a brilliant sunrise.
As I watched the sunrise, I thought of Isaiah 9:1-2 and the powerful promises of God. This land around the Sea of Galilee has seen more than its share of conflict, chaos and oppression. As the largest body of fresh water in the region, the Sea of Galilee has long been prized for its rich fishing and as a source of water for irrigation. The Syrians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans had all occupied this land by the time Jesus was growing up in Nazareth and then ministering in Capernaum and around the Galilee.
The centuries of foreign occupation and the idolatry of the Israelites themselves had made this "a land of deep darkness" indeed! It shows the surprising nature of God's grace that Jesus chose this area as the main center of His earthly ministry, but this gracious choice was foretold hundreds of years in advance by Isaiah.
The dawning of light in darkness speaks of the coming of truth and righteousness into a world of lies and sin. The light can come in different ways - through the preaching of the Word, the establishment of a godly king, reformation among the people, etc. However, this light that Isaiah foresees is nothing less than the coming of the Light of the World.
As we'll see tomorrow, Isaiah 9 is clearly and unmistakably messianic. Thus, the dawning of this light can be due to nothing less than the coming of Messiah. Yet Galilee had such a bad reputation in Jesus' day that the religious leaders refused to associate the Messiah with such an infamous region, despite Isaiah 9. Thankfully, God does not choose to move and save based on reputation. He chooses the lowly and the least, to show the world how upside-down its values and priorities truly are.
Today's Advent lesson calls us to reject the moral and spiritual compromise of the world. In doing so, we are called to reject the world's value systems and the qualities the world prizes as the basis for a good reputation. The light penetrates and drives out the darkness. We must have the Light of the World drive out the world's lies and corruption from our hearts and lives.
Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son as the Light of the World. Thank You that He was willing to come to a people who were despised and rejected by the world. Thank You that You have come into our hearts and lives, though we struggle with the darkness or ignorance, deception and sin. Drive out the darkness and bring Your light to bear on our lives more and more. We pray this in Jesus' name, Amen.