Sunday, December 12, 2010

Isaiah 9:1-5 - A Great Light

Luke 2: Simeon blesses the Child in the Temple
Contextual Notes:
In Isaiah’s reality in the Middle East of the 8th century B.C., there were dangers all around. The year is 734 BC. Syria (Aram) and Israel (Ephraim, the ten northern tribes) had allied to attack and divide up Judah. Their motivation? For some time Syria and the breakaway 10 northern tribes of Israel have seen the danger of the growing menace to their northeast, Assyria, and they have been pushing Judah, the house of David, to join them in an anti-Assyrian coalition (2 Kings 15-16). Judah’s King Ahaz would not agree, but he and all Judah shook with fear.

The last verse of Isaiah 6 gives us an introduction to a Holy Seed who will be the hope left in the Land. Then begins the ‘book of Immanuel’ as some scholars have dubbed it, from Isaiah 7:1-12:6, focusing on the Messiah and his Messianic Age. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah is called and told that his hearers would not listen to him, and beginning in chapter 7 it starts with King Ahaz, the fearful refuser of a sign (7:10-12).

Isaiah then launches into a prophecy that pointing to the Immanuel promise that God will fulfill his covenant commitment to David through a virgin-born child (7:13-16).

Since Ahaz has chosen to refuse the Sign of Immanuel and trust Assyria rather than the Lord, God will give them what they want, another son named Swift to the Plunder and Spoil (8:1-4). That child would be a sign of darkness and ruin. By that sign Assyria would devastate the land of Judah (7:17-25), but northern Israel and Syria would be destroyed (chapter 8). In the midst of that coming devastation born of disbelief, though, Judah can remember that there is a sign of a Virgin-Born Child called Immanuel (8:8, 10). God would be with his people in the midst of their trouble, even the darkness of backsliding (8:22).

Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 9:1-5 to show Israel that the Messiah transforms life, bringing honor, light, joy, and peace.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about Jesus Christ the Light of the World.
Key Verse: Isaiah 9:2
Pray and Read:  Isaiah 9:1-5
Sermon Points: A Great Light has transformed . . .
1.   Gloom to honor (Isaiah 9:1)
2.   Darkness to light (Isaiah 9:2)
3.   Oppression to joy (Isaiah 9:3-4)
4.   War to peace (Isaiah 9:5)

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   Isaiah says to look to God’s law and testimony. If you hear teaching that does not agree with it, that teaching has no light of dawn (8:20). At the end of Isaiah 8, just as at the end of chapter 5 there is darkness and gloom. Isaiah paints a deep, dark picture of the future of northern Israel as the Assyrian horde will burst upon its land. But that is not the end of the story, Isaiah says, a Light is coming in the form of a Child. Even for those areas ravaged by Assyria, he has hope (9:1).
b.   Zebulon and Naphtali were among those hardest hit by the Assyrians in 733 BC (2 Kings 15:29) by Tiglath-Pileser.[1] They were first hit and last left by the brutal invaders, and their land was settled by the Assyrian government with immigrants from other regions of Assyria. The mix with the local population caused the spiritual and moral condition of the land to sink deeper and darker than its blighted external state.
c.   Matthew 4:13-16: 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: 15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”

d.   ILLUSTRATION: A.B. Simpson[2] tells a story of missionaries bringing the Light of the Gospel to the Saxons of Britain of whom many of us are descended. One night as they sat in the banqueting hall discussing whether to receive the Christian missionaries into their land or not, a little bird came fluttering in from the darkness and flew for a little through the lighted chamber, passing out at the other end into the darkness again. An old Saxon sage turned to the company and said, ‘Our life is like this picture that we have just seen. We come out of the darkness into existence and flutter a little in the light of life, and then we pass out of the light into the same darkness again. We know not whence we come or whither we go; surely we need someone to bring us the light.’ So dark, so desolate is this sad world without the knowledge of Jesus Christ. The gladness of our Christmas days and our gospel privileges only seem to bring into more vivid relief the fearful gloom of a Christless world. Over 6,400 culture groups are still sunk in just such darkness, while we are rejoicing in the light of Bethlehem, Calvary, and the blessed hope of His coming again.”[3]

e.   APPLICATION: What are you, what are we doing to win those who otherwise will never have an opportunity to hear? Are you giving of yourself? Are you involving yourself in Sunday School outreach? Are you involved with a community program that helps children? Are you giving of yourself for the unborn who have just as much a right to life as you do? Are you keeping abreast of what is happening in local, state, and national government? Are you calling your Congressmen and Senators, your legislators and asking them to represent Biblical views? Are you tithing (that means giving 10% of your income)? Are you inviting your family and friends to church? Or are you spoiling your witness on the telephone, running your mouth about the church? Are you talking to your friends and coworkers about your Lord and what He means to you? Are you the sort of worker who has a reputation for integrity and honesty? Are you one way at church and another way to your family, your children, and your grandchildren? How do you talk to your parents and grandparents? Are you focused on the darkness in the nations? Are you burdened by the plight of those who do not have an opportunity to hear the message of Christ? Are you committed to either go yourself or send others? I’m not talking about moralism. I’m talking about following Jesus Christ in a personal relationship with him.

a.   Edward J. Young (1907-1968) was professor of OT at Westminster Theo. Sem. in Philadelphia. He wrote a monumental commentary on Isaiah: “In place of the darkness of calamity the people saw the light of peace and blessedness; in place of the darkness of death, the light of life; in place of the darkness of ignorance, the light of knowledge; in place of the darkness of sin, the light of salvation. . . . The darkness was a shadow of death, for it was deep and of death, such as could be removed only by a light of life.”[4]
b.   Still so many today do not have that light. They are still trying to please dead idols, still mired in the corruption of bribes and extortion, still selling their children and trafficking them for labor and sex, still drowning in the darkness of their sin.

c.   ILLUSTRATION: Lottie Moon wrote from China in 1888: “Once more I urge upon the consciences of my Christian brethren and sisters the claims of these people among whom I dwell.  Here I am working alone in a city of many thousand inhabitants, with numberless villages clustered around or stretching away in the illuminated distance: how many can I reach?  It fills one with sorrow to see these people so earnest in their worship of false gods, seeking to work out their salvation by supposed works of merit with no one to tell them of a better way.  Then, to remember the wealth hoarded in Christian coffers!  The money lavished on fine dresses and costly living!  Is it not time for Christian men and women to return to the simplicity of earlier times?  Should we not press it home upon our consciences that the sole object of our conversion was not the salvation of our own souls, but that we might become co-workers with our Lord and Master in the conversion of the world?[5]  

d.   2 Timothy 1:10: 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,
e.   Colossians 1:12-13: 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His loves,

f.    APPLICATION:  Some say, why are we sending people to the ends of the earth when we haven’t reached everyone here? That question at first sounds logical and efficient, but it is a false dichotomy, a faulty logic. The people here have hundreds of opportunities each year to hear the message and receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Those among the over 6400 unreached and unengaged peoples do not have even one opportunity to hear the message of Christ. NOT ONE! No church, no radio, no witness, no missionary, no nothing. And what shall we say when He comes again, and we have spent our lives, our children, and our money on things that do not matter and will one day burn?

g.   Jesus is the Light. He has brought the Truth. He illumines the darkness of the meaning of life. He gives life meaning and purpose. Do you have meaning and purpose in your life? Perhaps you need to find the Light of Jesus Christ today. In a few minutes I will give you an opportunity to respond to this message. At that time I will invite you to make Jesus your Lord and Savior. Start thinking about it right now.

a.   Mighty is the victory, so much that Isaiah refers to Midian and the great victory by Gideon (Judges 6), a victory won by God alone.
b.   Their “oppressor was the Assyrian enemy, but in a far deeper sense it was the bondage which sin itself had brought on. . . . It was a spiritual battle, won because a Child would be born, and the victory consisted in the deliverance of God’s people from all that had oppressed them.”[6]

c.   Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

d.   ILLUSTRATION: Lottie Moon wrote from China in 1887: “"Is not the festive season when families and friends exchange gifts in memory of The Gift laid on the altar of the world for the redemption of the human race, the most appropriate time to consecrate a portion from abounding riches and scant poverty to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth?"[7]

e.   APPLICATION: Have you been trying to make it on your own? Sin is a cruel master. Would you turn your life over to Jesus? His yoke is easy and his burden is light. Your problems will not all magically disappear if you become a Christian, but suddenly in the midst of the problems and circumstances, Christ provides a peace. Submitting to him, taking on his yoke, will give you peace in the midst of all that assails you. Many of us have been battling hard all year to stay above water. How much of that battling have you done in the flesh and how much of the time has your blood pressure gone up unnecessarily? If you will rest in Christ’s yoke, if you will yield to him, that burden, he promises, will lighten. Will you accept his yoke?
a.   Weapons of war are no longer needed because a Child will be born, and His birth will bring peace to all people. This is a picture of the end-times, certainly, but also of the peace that comes to those who trust Jesus Christ.
b.   This ending with peace is paralleled in verse 7, by naming the Child with the title Prince of Peace.
c.   Luke 2:14: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace good will toward men.
d.   ILLUSTRATION: Peace does not mean that we are to sit still and do nothing for the Kingdom. Lottie Moon wrote from China in 1887, "How many there are ... who imagine that because Jesus paid it all, they need pay nothing, forgetting that the prime object of their salvation was that they should follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ in bringing back a lost world to God."[8]

e.   APPLICATION: No one, sometimes especially Christian believers, have it easy all the time. Do you have peace in the midst of your circumstances? There is a Prince of Peace. He can save you. He can give you peace. Will you receive him?

[1] John H. Walton, et. al., The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, (Downers Grove: Intervarsity), 2000, 596.
[2] Albert Benjamin Simpson (1843-1919) – was one of the leading evangelical statesmen of his generation, a prolific author, publisher, popular speaker, and founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. In 1900, Simpson was as well known as Andrew Murray, C.I. Scofield, and D.L. Moody, who once commented, “No man gets to my heart like Simpson.”
[3] A.B. Simpson, The Christ in the Bible Commentary, vol. 3, (Camp Hill: Christian Publications, 1993), 328.
[4] Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, Eerdmanns, 1965, reprinted 1997), 325.
[5] Lottie Moon, Foreign Mission Journal, January 1888.    
[6] Young, 327-8.
[7] Lottie Moon, Tungchow, China, Sept. 15, 1887.
[8] Lottie Moon, Tungchow, China, Sept. 15, 1887.