“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” — Isaiah 9:2
- In 1992, Manila experienced massive power outages. I still remember the days and nights we lived without power. Life was difficult. Darkness reigned, making it difficult for the people to live their lives in freedom and joy. There was no peace but rather all sorts of economic and political trouble.
- Living himself in a time of political, economic, & spiritual uncertainties, Isaiah hoped for a better future for Israel when he prophesied about a great light dawning on those living in darkness. Israel’s rejection of God and His kingship plunged them into darkness. This darkness was Isaiah’s metaphor for God’s inactivity, if not God’s absence, as Israel’s king. Through disobedience, Israel had lost not only their kings but God Himself as their real king, resulting in all kinds of suffering. Into that darkness, Isaiah prophesied about the renewal of God’s activity among His people in and through the birth of a new king who would bring peace, justice & righteousness to the nation and nations (9:6-7).
- While some better kings and some better days came to Israel after Isaiah’s prophecy, darkness mostly reigned for centuries. Matthew recognized that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (Matthew 4:12-17).
- Why does the coming of this king bring light in darkness? Why is He a joy to Israel & the nations? The famous words of Isaiah 9:6-7 poetically summarise it.
- The joy of the great light is anchored in the kind of kingdom He would establish: a kingdom of peace through a reign that reconciles people to God as well as people and nations to each other; a kingdom of justice through a reign that assures that oppressors, swindlers, corrupt leaders, and all evil shall have no place and a kingdom of righteousness through a reign under which all things shall be put to rights so that all may live lives of flourishing! And this kingdom, Isaiah says, shall last forever (Isaiah 9:7).
- For Matthew, Jesus is that promised king through whom the kingdom of God would come. Christmas is indeed the dawn of the kingdom of God promised and prophesied in the Old Testament. When Jesus was born, the light shone among the people (Luke 2:1-21). It continues to give light to the world today. And to those who have seen the light, joy does indeed fill their hearts.
- Looking at the world today, Isaiah’s words appear to be far from reality. So, where do we find the truth of Isaiah’s words? In the church, the new people of God. The church is the enlarged nation where Jesus is king and where the kingdom of God is advancing through its mission in the world. We who obey the call of King Jesus to repent and follow Him (Matthew 4:17, 19) experience the joy of the great light and the first fruits of the kind of kingdom prophesied by Isaiah. King Jesus is our light in darkness.
- This Langham Partnership Advent devotional is by Jason Valeriano Hallig of the Philippines. https://langham.org/advent-2023/