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Behold The Everlasting Light!

December 9, 2018 Speaker: Brian Wilbur Series: Advent 2018

Topic: Advent Passage: Isaiah 8:20– 9:7


An Exposition of Isaiah 8:20–9:7

By Pastor Brian Wilbur

Date:   December 9, 2018 (Second Sunday of Advent)

Series: Advent 2018

Note:   Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotation marked NIV is fro the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®   Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights   reserved worldwide.



The season of Advent affords us the opportunity to look back and remember that the Lord has come and brought His gracious salvation to our sin-sick world. But not only do we look back, we also look forward and remember the promise: He has promised to come again and bring the Father’s eternal purpose to completion. Whether we are pondering the Lord’s first advent (His first coming) or whether we are anticipating the Lord’s second advent (His second coming), the fundamental posture of the Advent-shaped heart is to put all our hope and confidence in the Lord – and to do so warmly and gladly.

It is always fitting that the Lord’s hope-filled and joy-filled people express their hope and joy in tangible words and deeds. In other words, if we are full of hope and joy, then we ought to live like it! It ought to show! This time of year, one way to express our hope and joy is to partake of holiday festivities and get-togethers and Christmas cookies and gift-giving and carol-singing – and to do so full of faith and love.

Even so, as Christians we know that seasonal merry-making is not the source of our hope and joy. We would truly be glad without all the trappings! For the Lord is our hope and joy! The Lord takes away our gloom and clothes us with gladness! The Lord rescues us from the darkness and sets our feet on the solid rock, and on that rock of truth we behold the everlasting light, cascading down from the heavens and shining all around and in our hearts. We are the beneficiaries of liberating grace that sets us free from the power of sin and welcomes us into the presence of God, and there in the presence of God is eternal life and joy forevermore.

No one here this morning can be faulted for being too mindful of God’s transformational grace. None of you are guilty of being too ambitious to walk in the light. It is possible to be too consumed with good books or favorite hobbies, if they keep you from your God-appointed duties. It is possible to be too concerned about external appearances of holiness – like whether the fourth cookie took him over the line into gluttony. But it is not possible to be too consumed with grace itself, it is not possible to be too preoccupied with the holiness of God, it is not possible to be too devoted to the light of God’s Word. And when God’s generous grace cascades like water over our soul, it changes everything. It makes us glad and gives us joy. It generates peace within and love for others. It fills us with hope for the wonderful eternal future that God has promised to the people that He has redeemed. Although the world around us is always getting carried away with earthly fears and false hopes, we honor the Lord as holy and trustworthy and good. In the words of Isaiah, each believer says, “I will wait for the LORD…, and I will hope in him” (Isaiah 8:17).

Thus we remember that the spring of our hope and joy is not in the stuff or the people we share it with, but in the Lord who has done and has promised to do mighty things on our behalf. The Lord – the fountain of living waters – fills us up, and then as filled-up people we become conduits of His generosity and goodness to others. This is the reality that we ought to live during Advent and Christmastime, and indeed throughout the entire year. As we do this, we stand forth as symbols of God’s hope-giving light in a dark and unhoping world.


In last week’s sermon I preached Isaiah 8:4-20a. This Lord’s Day we continue our journey in Isaiah by looking at Isaiah 8:20–9:7. Let us listen attentively to God’s holy Word:

20 To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. 21 They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. 22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.

1 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.
You have multiplied the nation;
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
    and the staff for his shoulder,
    the rod of his oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
    and every garment rolled in blood
    will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 8:20–9:7)


How important is God’s Word? It is so important that without it, darkness reigns.


The passage begins with an encouragement to faithfulness: “To the teaching and the testimony!” (v. 20) Unlike those who look for guidance and counsel in all the wrong places, we ought to be a people who “inquire of [our] God” (Isaiah 8:19). Whatever the situation, whatever the difficulty, whatever the issue – and whether we face it personally or as a family or as a congregation – we must be a people who consult with God and seek to understand and obey His Word. To the law and the prophets! To the instruction and the promises! To the wisdom of God and all His words! “To the teaching and the testimony!” Here is a call for each and every one of us to be humble learners who eagerly receive sound teaching and become biblically-saturated people who put what we learn into practice. Jesus said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:21) In other words, Jesus’ spiritual family is characterized by prizing and practicing God’s Word. As we do so, we shine the light of heaven into the cities and towns of earth. But if you take away the Word, then darkness envelops the world.     

This brings us to the rest of Isaiah 8:20-22, where we encounter a description of what it looks like to live in spiritual darkness. It is not a flattering picture.


Throughout Chapters 1-8, the prophet Isaiah describes people who are unfaithful to the Lord. They are a people who “do not understand” (Isaiah 1:3). “They have forsaken the LORD” (Isaiah 1:4) and “they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 5:24). Consequently, “their speech and their deeds are against the LORD” (Isaiah 3:8).

People cared about adding to their own personal fortune (Isaiah 5:8) and didn’t give a rip about orphans and widows (Isaiah 1:17, 23). Violence shot through the land (Isaiah 1:15, 21). Political leaders were in it for themselves, to enrich their own pockets (Isaiah 1:23). Justice was for sale, and the rich could purchase a verdict in their favor (Isaiah 5:23) – and when the guilty buy acquittal, the innocent ones are deprived of justice (Isaiah 5:23). Some people had a penchant for intoxicating drink and the partying that went with it (Isaiah 5:11-12, 22). They were impressed by their own wisdom (Isaiah 5:21) and liked to appear on your favorite news channel’s expert panel of shrewd commentators. Finally, they liked to turn everything upside down: most people don’t like to admit that they love evil, so they “[called] evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20); most people don’t like to admit that they love darkness, so they “put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20). And so it is in our own day that cultural powerbrokers claim that the enlightened ones are those who are redefining gender, sexuality, and marriage, whereas those who adhere to a biblical worldview are seen as anathema. The devil “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14 NIV), and his agents follow suit and make darkness look good (2 Corinthians 11:15).

The more than 17,000 murder victims in the United States in 2017[1], suicides that accounted for over 47,000 deaths in the United States in 2017[2], drug overdoses that resulted in over 70,000 deaths in the United States in 2017[3], the tragic frequency with which abuse occurs, the combination of crimes or unjust sentences that has two-plus-million people in the United States behind bars[4], the sixty-million image bearers of God that have been murdered by abortion in the United States since 1973[5] – all of this is the toxic fruit that results from the toxic root of rejecting God and His ways. No wonder there is cultural madness, social breakdown, and widespread confusion. The pundit will speak about these things with smooth speech, but the Christian must speak otherwise. No light equals depravity in the heart, deceptiveness in conversation, and darkness in society at large.

In Isaiah 8, the majority of the people were living in the fear and the hope of earthly circumstances, instead of fearing and trusting the Lord (Isaiah 8:11-15). “[The] steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him” (Psalm 103:17). But as we look at Isaiah 8:19, we see a people who are looking for instruction and guidance in all the wrong places: they would rather have a word from the dead, than a word from the Lord! They would rather hear assurances from a false prophet, than to hear the truth from a faithful God.

When people walk away from the Lord and refuse to be taught by Him, they fall under His judgment. And a society that exists under the judgment of God is a society that will be characterized by all kinds of dysfunction and distress. They will look for enlightenment, but they will remain in the darkness. They will look for solutions, but they will never find salvation.


The evidence that a group of people is in the darkness is that God’s Word is absent from that people’s deliberations, conversations, and decisions. Isaiah writes, “If they will not speak according to this word [that is, “the teaching” and “the testimony,” which is the word and promise of God], it is because they have no dawn.” (v. 20) No dawn equals no light, no sight, no insight and understanding. If the light of truth isn’t shining in our heart and thereby shaping our words and deeds, then we are in darkness.

Where the Word of God goes, there goes spiritual light and life. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130) “[The] commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” (Psalm 19:8) Life is good in the light: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” (1 John 1:7) – we share life together in the light of His love. “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:11) Where the Word of God does not go or is not received, spiritual light and life remains afar off, and what you have is darkness, spiritual cluelessness, and a lot of stumbling around and falling down. However interesting the deliberations, however meaningful the conversations, however well-intended the decisions, the Word is absent from them and the absence of the Word is the evidence that this is the darkness, this is the shadow of death, this is the wasteland.


And life isn’t good in a wasteland. Isaiah writes, “They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry.” (v. 21) The symptoms of spiritual disease are painful and plenteous, but the wicked do not take it to heart.

“Being greatly distressed and hungry” is indicative of oppression and poverty. Such oppression and hunger could be felt in physical and political terms, as when one nation loses a war and is now subjugated to the victorious power, or when a tribal warlord gathers all power and wealth to himself and leaves the masses to suffer. Such oppression and hunger could also be felt in financial and social terms, as when an economy falters and jobs are lost, or when the societal fabric is so torn that it becomes violent and unsafe. Ultimately, however, we must understand the spiritual component of oppression and hunger that befalls an ungodly people. The very people that Jesus ministered to “were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). To be a sinner is not only to be under the sway of Satan, but also to be under the sway of sin: sin is master, and the sinner is slave to it (John 8:34, Romans 6:15-23). When Jesus said that the Holy Spirit was empowering Him to bring the gospel to “the poor” and “the captives” and “the blind” and “the oppressed” (Luke 4:18), He wasn’t introducing an ‘economic prosperity for all’ program. It is true, of course, that there is economic fruit that grows on the tree of godly wisdom: learning to be wise stewards of what we have, sharing what we have with others, caring for widows and orphans, equipping others to stand on their own two feet, and so on. But we do not want to be like the pseudo-reformers who heal the disease of the people lightly by attempting to medicate the symptoms. What people actually need is to be convicted of their sin and then to behold “the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6) shining down on them from a blood-stained cross (1 Peter 2:24). Get rooted there, in Christ, and beautiful fruit will grow on the tree. But outside of Christ, the only fruit you will get is rotten, while the distresses and hungers multiply.


And as the distresses and hungers multiply, so does the anger of those who are in the darkness. Verse 21 continues, “And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward.” (v. 21) They look upward not in humble repentance, but rather in anger and arrogance. So it is with the sinful mindset: ‘I should be able to disregard God, do my own thing, and deserve blessing just the same’. Really? You mean to tell me that you are going to get true and lasting blessing by rejecting the Author of every blessing? And then when the blessings don’t show up, you’re going to get mad at God for not endorsing your ungodly manner of life? You think ‘He owed me, and He didn’t pay!’ After facing distress and difficulties, our prior disinterest in God becomes disdain for Him and for the king that He has appointed. One of Scripture’s proverbs says, “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD” (Proverbs 19:3).

How are things between you and God? You’ve probably heard of the saying “you can’t have it both ways.” You can’t go on sinning in the darkness and expect the blessings of light, life, and liberty to land on you. You can’t go on living foolishly and expect the fruits of wisdom to grow on the tree of your life. You can’t go on ignoring God and expect Him to come through for you when the trials come. All people, believers as well as unbelievers, experience difficulties and discomforts in life. But by this you may distinguish between the faithful and the unfaithful: when the faithful experience difficulties and discomforts, they humbly turn to their heavenly Father and lean upon His gracious care; but when the unfaithful experience difficulties and discomforts, their heart becomes a little bit colder and a little bit harder toward God. In your present challenges, are you growing warmer in your dependence on God or are you growing more distant from Him? Are you walking in the light or are you self-destructing in the darkness? How are things between you and God?       


When you walk in the darkness, trouble attends your path and eventually leads to the final terror of “thick darkness.” Isaiah 8 concludes, “And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.” (v. 22) Those who do not receive the light will, in the end, be cut off from all that is good. In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus said that “the worthless servant” would be “cast… into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:30) Twenty-first century American cultural sensitivities make people allergic to the doctrine of the final judgment. But the problem lies with the person who is allergic, not with the doctrine. The doctrine is true, regardless of how people feel about it. Jesus taught us very clearly that the unrighteous “will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46) The bountiful light of God’s eternal city awaits those who belong to Christ, but the unrepentant are destined for inescapable darkness.      


By God’s grace, though, not everyone is “thrust into thick darkness” forever. There are some who were once stumbling in the darkness but then, to their surprise, the light of heaven dawned on the horizon – and that breakthrough of light changed everything. Because whenever and wherever God’s light shines, everything changes: mourning turns to comfort, ashes turn to beauty, weariness turns to gladness and praise, the devastated wasteland turns into the well-watered garden of the Lord (see Isaiah 61:2-4, 58:11-12).

Chapter 9 begins,

“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)

There are two interesting perspectives on the beginning of Isaiah 9.[6]

The first perspective is that there is an unexpected reversal taking place in Isaiah 8-9. In Isaiah 8, “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (v. 14) and the citizens of “both houses of Israel” (v. 14) are, by and large, the ones who are plunged into darkness. To be sure, there is a faithful remnant among them as represented by Isaiah and his disciples (Isaiah 8:16), but on the whole Israel and Israel’s capital Samaria (Isaiah 7:9, 8:4) and Judah and Judah’s capital Jerusalem (Isaiah 1:1; 3:1, 8) are cast into darkness on account of their sin. Now when we begin reading Chapter 9, the light is shining – but where? In the heart of Israel? No. In the heart of Judah? No. The light is shining on the outskirts of the country, in the distant tribal lands of Zebulun and Naphtali, which are so far out there that these lands are understood to belong not so much to Israel but to the nations: hence the phrase “Galilee of the nations.” That place, far from the center of national life and political power, and once enveloped in spiritual darkness, is now receiving the dawn of everlasting light.

The second perspective I learned from the commentaries.[7] As it happened, Zebulun and Naphtali were the first tribes of Israel to suffer under the onslaught of the Assyrians (see 2 Kings 15:29). It started there, but it didn’t stay there: Israel fell under the Assyrians, and in due course Judah fell under the Babylonians. Isaiah 9:1-2 tells us that in the same place where the onslaught began, there the restoration will begin. It would start here, but it wouldn’t stay there: salvation would spread to Israel and Judah and all the nations of the earth.


What happens when the light of heaven shows up in some darkened corner of earth? Joy happens! And people are delivered from oppression and brought into peace:

“You have multiplied the nation;

you have increased its joy;

they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest,

as they are glad when they divide the spoil.

For the yoke of his burden,

and the staff for his shoulder,

the rod of his oppressor,

you have broken as on the day of Midian

[this refers to one of the victories that the Lord gave to His people Israel in the past].

For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult

and every garment rolled in blood

will be burned as fuel for the fire.” (Isaiah 9:3-5)

No more distress under the tyranny of evil powers, but deliverance and freedom. Sin is forgiven! Guilt is taken away! The devil and his demons are cast out! Now there is peace – peace with God and peace with one another! Freed from oppression, now we can live peaceably and justly and righteously as faithful servants of our Lord (Luke 1:74-75)! And all this, with great joy!


God’s oppression-destroying, peace-making, and joy-giving light is the most precious reality in the universe. But we must understand and understand well that this light isn’t a thing, it’s a Person. God’s light is most fundamentally a Person. Our Lord stood amid the murky mayhem of an oppressed world and said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:13) The only escape route out of the darkness-to-thick-darkness doom of Isaiah 8:22 is the glorious light of Isaiah 9:1-2 – and His name is Jesus.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-5, 14)

Light and glory, grace and truth. Jesus is the living Word of God, the embodiment of God’s truth, the fulfillment of God’s promise. And as the Word gives spiritual light, so it is that Jesus is the light of the world, bringing joy and peace wherever He goes and bestowing God’s grace on everyone who believes.

When Jesus began His public ministry, as recounted in Matthew 4, where did He go?

“Now when he [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:” (Matthew 4:12-14)

And then Matthew quotes from Isaiah 9:1-2. Jesus is the “great light” shining into “the region and shadow of death” (Matthew 4:16), so that sinful people might become saints of God who live in the goodness of God’s forever kingdom.

The message is clear: the light of heaven comes to our darkened world because King Jesus comes to our darkened world, and He brings salvation (“the light of life”!) to all who receive Him. Then in verses 6-7 Isaiah tells us more about this King of light:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

to establish it and to uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

It is under the gracious and sovereign rule of King Jesus – and only under His rule – that we find everlasting life and everlasting peace and everlasting righteousness in an everlasting kingdom that goes on forever.

History provides ample testimony to what happens when ungodly men shoulder the burden of government. They attempt to manage the symptoms of darkness and in many cases make the disease worse, and they are utterly unable to deliver us from the distresses of a cursed world. The nursery rhyme speaks truth:

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,

Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

We need a better King than the kings and rulers of this present age. We need a King who is able to put together the broken pieces of a sinful world. We need a King who can rescue us from the fall and bring us into His banquet hall. Thanks be to God, He has gifted us with the holy child born in Bethlehem, the faithful Son who brings the bounty of heaven to our barren lives.


We are, by nature, fools stumbling around in the dark. He is the “Wonderful Counselor” whose lips bear the gracious words of truth. He is the “Wisdom from on high” who is able to “order all things, far and nigh.”[8] That which is disordered is re-ordered in Christ.


We are, by nature, weak. The fact of our sin doesn’t change the fact that we are creatures who are made by God – and not only that, but made in God’s image. Though we are engulfed in sin, we have within our hearts a longing for the better things – the better things of love and kindness, justice and compassion, peace and unity, healing and restoration, beauty and excellence. But since we are dead in our sin, we are utterly unable to bring about the better things that we long for: we cannot bring them about in others, and we cannot bring them about in ourselves. We cannot atone for our iniquities, we cannot un-do the wounds that result from sin, we cannot give ourselves a new heart, we cannot conquer the devil’s army, we cannot re-make our world. Nor should we make the attempt! We are weak and unable, but He is not. He is the “Mighty God” who goes forth to war like a mighty warrior to do what we are unable to do. Salvation belongs to Christ our Lord! He has done it! Praise His name forever!


We are, by nature, alienated from the comfort and love of God. We have gone to the “far country” (Luke 15:13) and chased after comfort in all the wrong places, and in the process we lost comfort altogether. We are spiritual orphans and, to make matters worse, we are complicit in our orphan status. We are poor and unprofitable residents of the devil’s oppressive orphanage house, which specializes in trapping people in distress and hunger, and in guilt, shame, and fear. All hope had been lost, until the day when “He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope”[9] dawned on the horizon, and at mid-day He came to you and said, My son, my daughter, your sins are forgiven. Now come follow Me! Such is the grace of the “Everlasting Father.”


We are, by nature, at war – with God and with one another. When we are in bondage to sin, we are self-enclosed creatures who want to live life on our own terms. When each person wants to live life on his or her own terms, we just don’t get along very well. But the even more fundamental problem is that when we want to live life on our own terms, we don’t get along with God at all – and this is a huge problem. If you think it would be a problem if the Special Prosecutor’s office was against you and was preparing to prosecute you in a court of law for several crimes that you allegedly committed, how much more of a problem is it to have the all-knowing Holy God against you because of innumerable offenses against His holiness and honor? We “[are] by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), and deserving of judgment. The good news of the gospel is that God Almighty sent His Son into this war-torn world, and in the heat of the battle He offered up His life as a sacrifice for sin.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Through the ministry of the “Prince of Peace,” we who believe have peace with God and also with one another. Instead of each one going his or her own way, now we believers live life on God’s terms of peace, justice, and righteousness ­– and the result is a beautiful community of light that flourishes under the holy government of the High King. This kingdom of Christ is an everlasting kingdom that will expand and flourish forever. This expansion and flourishing of Christ’s government is already begun in the church, and the church continues to grow throughout the world, and one day – in a new heaven a new earth – “the knowledge of the glory of the LORD” will cover the earth “as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). We look forward to a future world that is inundated with divine glory.


I conclude with a brief word to two kinds of people.

First, a word to the unsaved. If you are unsaved, then you came to service this morning stuck, spiritually speaking, in the “distress and darkness” of Isaiah 8:22. Whether you are sensibly aware of your condition is another question, because the trick of the darkness is to keep you in the dark about your true condition. But when the Holy Spirit goes to work in a person’s life, the lost sinner awakens to the troubling reality that he or she is indeed lost and outside of God’s kingdom. Then, as you begin to grasp the problem, the Holy Spirit begins to show you Christ. Is this happening to you right now? Are you starting to see Christ’s glory and grace, Christ’s light and love, Christ’s sacrificial peace-making work on the cross? John Oswalt writes, “… the good news is that the God who is with us is a God who wants to turn our darkness into light, our conflict into shalom, our loss into abundance, our despair into joy” (p. 161). Friend, put your weak soul into the care of Christ, and let Him put you back together again.

Second, a word to the congregation of the faithful. Now and always, we ought to rejoice in our Lord Jesus Christ and the wonderful salvation He has brought to us. Now what I want to emphasize in this final moment is that the vision of Isaiah 9:6-7 is an actual kingdom – this means people, a kingdom of people, the citizens who are governed by the King – an actual kingdom that is characterized by the rule of Christ and by the peace, justice, and righteousness that He loves. So here’s my question: Are you walking in His light? Are you living under His rule, under the direction that He gives in His Word? Are you being a good steward of His peace, which includes bringing others into His peace (evangelism) and cultivating peace in your marriage, family, congregation, workplace and neighborhood? Are you known as a man or woman of peace? Are you practicing justice and righteousness in your relationships with other people? Isaiah 9:6-7 shouldn’t be disconnected from Isaiah 1:16-17. In fact, Isaiah 9:6-7 tells us how Isaiah 1:16-17 becomes a reality in our lives. Isaiah 1:16-17 says,

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;

remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;

cease to do evil, learn to do good;

seek justice, correct oppression;

bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:16-17)

It is through the grace and power of the King that we become a community that honors the King by treating others justly and kindly. This is not something that we accomplish in our own strength, but we must understand that Christ our Lord intends to produce this good fruit in our lives. Therefore, with an eagerness that overflows from gift of His grace, our mindset ought to be: “… come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.” (Isaiah 2:5) For the light is given not only that we might see by it, but also that we might live by it.

Therefore let us do justly and delight to show mercy as we walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). And when it comes to the seasonal festivities and get-togethers and Christmas cookies and gift-giving that I mentioned at the outset, do it right: open up your heart and share the wealth of Christ with those around you, and invite others into the peace and joy of His salvation.

“Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Let us pray.



[1] See “Number of reported murder and nonnegligent manslaughter cases in the United States from 1990 to 2017,” published by Statista. Available online:

[2] See Meilan Solly, “U.S. Life Expectancy Drops for Third Year in a Row, Reflecting Rising Drug Overdoses, Suicides,” published by, December 3, 2018. Available online:

[3] Ibid.

[4] See “Incarceration in the United States,” published by Wikipedia. Available online:

[5] See David Sivak, “Fact Check: Have There Been 60 Million Abortions Since Roe v. Wade?,” published by, July 3, 2018. Available online:

[6] The first perspective (which emphasizes Zebulun and Naphtali as constituting the outskirts) is drawn from the literary context; the second perspective (which emphasizes Zebulun and Naphtali as constituting the first part of Israel to suffer under Assyrian aggression) is drawn from the historical context. I do not know whether Isaiah intended one or both perspectives, or neither. But both perspectives seem like valid observations of the reality that is being set forth. That said, neither perspective is critical to the main point of Isaiah 9:1-7.  

[7] See John N. Oswalt, Isaiah (The NIV Application Commentary). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003: Kindle Version, Page 160 of 704. For related information also see Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments: Volume Two. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997 (orig. 1866): p. 592-593.    

[8] From the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

[9] From the hymn “O Holy Night!” by John S. Dwight.

[10] John N. Oswalt, Isaiah (The NIV Application Commentary). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003: Kindle Version, Page 161 of 704.

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