LIVE IN LIGHT, NOT DARKNESS

 

Week of November 12, 2006

 

Bible Passage:Isaiah 8:18-9:7.

 

Biblical Truth: When God gives a person an opportunity to lead, He also encourages and empowers the person to lead.

 

Turn to God and His Word: Isaiah 8 18-22.

 

[18] Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. [19] When they say to you, "Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter," should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? [20] To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. [21] They will pass through the land hard-pressed and famished, and it will turn out that when they are hungry, they will be enraged and curse their king and their God as they face upward. [22] Then they will look to the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be driven away into darkness.[NASU]

 

[18]Isaiah directs attention to the prophecy with an introductory, Behold. The speaker and his children are signs and wonders. As signs, they would be pledges of something that was to be accomplished. As wonders, they were special manifestations of the power of God or tokens or symbols of future events. They are thus set apart in Israel as manifestations of the power of God and pledges of the fact that God will be true to His promises. Hebrews 2:13 applies this verse to Christ and His disciples. From the Lord of hosts. It is from the Lord that Isaiah and his children are as signs and wonders. Since this comes from the Lord, they have no need to fear what the unbelieving nation may do to them. Who dwells on Mount Zion. The wicked majority of the nation appealed to the Temple. Outwardly they were worshipers of Yahweh. Isaiah now points out to them that their confidence is vain, for it is this very Yahweh who dwells in the Temple on Zion that has set forth Isaiah and his children for signs and wonders. Many there are who make an outward profession of orthodoxy, whose hearts are in reality far estranged from the Lord.

 

[19]The ever present temptation to idolatry was at hand. Unbelievers were tempting the believers by suggesting that they consult the spiritualistic media. It was a deceitful suggestion. When the temptation to such idolatry is presented to them, what should true believers do? Should not a people consult their God? Here is the response to be given to tempting suggestions. A nation should not seek spirits; rather, it should seek its God. The people of the true God should seek only Him. In times of calamity and personal sorrow, Godís people must not forget Him. The abominable practice of consulting the spirits is a forgetting of God; it is a denial of His very existence. If other nations consult their gods, gods which are not real, we who know the Lord should at all times consult Him. In Old Testament days this might be done through the prophets. When we wish to consult God, let us turn to the Bible, for its words are the words of God Himself.

 

[20]If any seeking is to be done, it should be to the law and the testimony. The law is the revelation of God expressing His will for manís obedience, and the testimony is His revelation expressing His will as a system to be believed. These are the standards by which all opinions and utterances are to be judged. Whoever speaks not in accordance with these standards is one that still abides in the darkness of sin and unbelief, and hence, one who cannot give light. Light is found in the law of God, the written revelation, the Scriptures. Those who speak contrary to Scripture have no dawn. They remain yet in the darkness of deep night. Upon them the morning light has not broken, nor will it break until they turn as little children to the law and submit all their thinking and their opinions in it. More than anything else today there is need that all our thinking be based upon and in conformity with the Holy Scriptures.

 

[21]There have been those who have not spoken in accordance with the law and testimony. They journey through the land but are faced with hunger and famine. Desperation has gripped the people, and they are willing to take leave of the true God, in wrath uttering curses against Him. Forsaking the Lord brings certain definite consequences. Having given counsel that is contrary to the law and the testimony, they will one day forsake the Lord Himself. In desperate need they will go through the devastated land, and there will be none to help. When one forsakes the Lord, he will become forsaken of the Lord.

 

[22]No matter where the wicked looks, he finds no hope. There is for them no sign, for the sign has already been given. Only light can dispel the gloom of despair and desperation, but that light is not to be seen. There is distress of soul and distress in physical circumstances, and this distress speaks out in darkness.

 

Look for God to Act: Isaiah 9:1-5.

 

[1] But there will be no moregloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. [2] The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. [3] You shall multiply the nation, you shall increase their gladness; they will be glad in Your presence as with the gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. [4] For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. [5] For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.†† [NASU]

[1] For the sinners of the people there is to be perpetual darkness, but for the people of God the all-encircling gloom will pass away. A blessed contrast explains why the darkness is not to be permanent. According to the former time, the extended period during which the degradation lasted, God degraded the land and brought darkness over it. The latter time, however, the period of glory, will occur but once and will endure forever. God will honor the land. The sin of Israel brought upon her as a nation the darkness of punishment. Nevertheless, inasmuch as the God of Israel is a God of light, and faithful to the words of His promise, the darkness which came upon the nation would one day be dispelled. We receive at the Lordís hand punishment and affliction but also honor and glory. The glory which we receive is the result of His own presence in our midst.

[2]The inhabitants of Galilee, those to whom reference has just been made, are walking in darkness. Their manner and course of life, their very existence, is one that is in the darkness. Darkness without and darkness within, ignorance, distress, misery and sin. To these people, walking in darkness, a great light appeared. 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. Salvation in its widest sense had shined upon these people; a complete reversal of their condition had occurred. 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. Only a Light which was able to bring life and immortality to light could dispel this deep darkness. The darkness of sin can only be dispelled by something that is its very opposite, namely, light. Light is a gift of God; it cannot be produced from a human heart which itself is in darkness. The whole work of Christ and all the blessings which He brings may be characterized by the one word ďlight.Ē

[3]When the Light came, God brought the Gentiles into the true Israel, the household of faith, in fulfillment of the promise which He had made to Abraham. The result of the mighty act of God in multiplying the nation is a true joy before God in the hearts of those who receive and who have received His blessings. It is a marvelous joy; one such as is found when men have harvested the grain and when as victors they divide the spoils of war. The salvation of sinners produces exultation in the hearts of Godís people, and such jubilation is a gift of God Himself. Israelís blessings were truly from God. To rejoice in God is the highest form of rejoicing, indeed, it is the only true rejoicing. Manís chief end is not only to glorify God, but also to enjoy Him forever. Only by means of a God-induced response to His own mighty work of salvation do men truly joy before Him as they should.

[4]For presents the reason for the great rejoicing. It is a word which introduces this and the following two verses. There is reason for the rejoicing, for God has wrought a mighty deliverance. Israel was under the heavy burden of sin and corruption, of departure from God, and of the evil consequences of such departure. Sin is a burdensome yoke, for it subjects man to a slavery in which, like the beasts of toil, he is under a taskmaster that beats him. There is only One who can set man free from the yoke in which he has been bound, and that One is God.

[5]Again the word for and with this word we are given a second reason for the great rejoicing. Following the victory which has just been mentioned, there is to be complete peace. This thought is expressed in a negative manner, in that the accoutrements of warfare are said to be utterly consumed. All these will be burned because they will no longer be needed. They are no longer needed, for a Child will be born, and His birth will bring peace to His people, for He will Himself be the Prince of Peace.

 

Live in Light of Godís Sovereignty: Isaiah 9:6-7.

 

[6] For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. [7] There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.†† [NASU]

 

[6]A third and climatic sentence introduced by for. There is great rejoicing among Godís people, because God has broken the yoke of burden and oppression. They are removed because the weapons and garments of the warrior are destroyed. The basic reason for these blessings is that a Child is born. A child. The word occurs first in the Hebrew indicating that the emphasis in the sentence falls on this word. The Child whose birth is here mentioned was also the One whose birth had been foretold in chapter 7. In that chapter His birth was a sign; here it brings salvation to His own. The deliverance which brings rejoicing to the people of God is brought about by a birth in history upon this earth at a definite time and at a definite place. The birth of this Child is a gift of God. He is a Child, but He is also a Son. He is a son of David, a legitimate heir to Davidís throne, for He is to bear the government with all its responsibilities, and this He will do upon Davidís throne. When Isaiah calls Him Son, it is with a larger reference in mind. It is the fact of sonship itself which here receives the emphasis. The Child to be born is a Son, a unique Son, a Son par excellence. And it is for us that He is to be born. The prophet here groups with himself all those who are to be the recipients of the blessings which the Sonís birth will bring. Isaiah had already pointed out [7:14] that the Messiah would be with us (Immanuel) to bring us blessing; here He is to be for us. Upon this Child the government with all its responsibilities lies. Like a burden it rests upon His shoulders. The entire responsibility for the good administration of the government is said to rest upon His shoulders. The Child is to be a King, a Ruler, a Sovereign. This government is the kingdom of grace, but also in widest extent the kingdom of nature and power. All the world is subject to the rule of the Child. Who is this Child? In chapter 7 the mother named Him Immanuel. Isaiah does not intend that we should understand that in actual life the Child would bear or be addressed by these names, anymore than in actual life He should bear the name Immanuel. The thought is that the Child is worthy to bear these names, and that they are accurate descriptions and designations of His being and character. In the Bible the name indicates the character, essence or nature of a person or object. When, therefore, it is stated that He shall be called, we are to understand that the following names are descriptive of the Child and deserve to be borne by Him. There are four names listed. Each name consists of two members. Wonderful Counselor. This is the first of those wondrous and precious names of the Messiah. They are a healing balm in which the Christian soul will find comfort and strength throughout time and eternity. The root of the word for wonderful occurs in Psalm 78:12, where we may obtain an idea of its force. The root is used to describe the miracles which God performed in Egypt, namely, the dividing of the sea, the safe crossing of the Red Sea, the leading by pillar of cloud and fire, the cleaving of the rocks in the desert and the providing of water. All these mighty miracles are characterized as wonders. The word refers to what God has done and not to the work of man. The Old Testament usage of this word compels us to the conclusion that it here designates the Messiah not merely as someone extraordinary, but as One who in His very person and being is a Wonder. He is that which surpasses human thought and power; He is God Himself. To designate the Child with the word wonderful is to make the clearest attestation of His deity. The position of this word as the first in the series is striking. We are brought head on, as it were, with God Himself as we hear the names of the Child. It is our first encounter with Him. All the following designations are influenced by or stand under the shadow of this first majestic name. This Child who is born for us is Wonderful. The second word of the first pair may be rendered, Counselor. To sit upon the throne of David as the Messianic King requires wisdom such as no mere man possesses. The Counselor Himself must for that reason be a Wonder in order that He may establish and administer His kingdom. In this King there will be hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, for He must be properly equipped to redeem His people. Upon Him the Spirit of wisdom is to rest. Wisdom and the ability to give counsel are necessary for a king, and hence the words ďcounselorĒ and ďkingĒ are used as synonyms in Micah 4:9. There is a certain uniqueness about the word, for it suggests that this One has no need of being surrounded with counselors and advisors as is the case with mere human kings; He is Himself Counselor. Such counseling is characteristic of God [see Isaiah 28:29]. In the manner in which He renders decisions the Messiah will remind of God, and the reason why He will so remind is that He Himself is of the same nature as the Lord: He is God. The Mighty God. Isaiah here brings out an important contrast. By means of the words child will be born he has called attention to the Messiahís humanity, but by the phrase Mighty God we are brought face to face with the Messiahís deity. Isaiah is now given a glimpse of the fact that in the fullness of the Godhead there is a plurality of Persons. Eternal Father. The word Father designates a quality of the Messiah with respect to His people. He acts toward them like a father. The quality of fatherhood is defined by the word eternal. The Messiah is an eternal Father. He is One who eternally is a Father to His people. Now and forever He guards His people and supplies their needs. What tenderness, love, and comfort are expressed in this term. Prince of Peace. Restoring peace to the world He reigns in peace. War and oppression were the factors which in the first instance directed the prophetís eyes to the Messiah. How climactic and emphatic, then, is this name. This One is a Prince, and He seeks the greatness of His kingdom and of Himself not in war, as do ordinary rulers, but in peace. He establishes peace; He seeks it and pursues it. In active vigor He is the true David and in love of peace the real Solomon. As under David, so His kingdom will increase, and as under Solomon so will it prosper. Inasmuch as the peace to be established is eternal, it is clear that this peace includes more than a temporary cessation of hostilities among nations. The cessation of warfare in itself does not bring about a desired condition of existence. There must also be removed the cause of war, namely, human sin. When this cause of war is removed, then, there can be true peace. For human sin to be removed, however, there must be a state of peace between God and man. Not only must man be at peace with God, but, what is more important, God must be at peace with man. The enmity which had existed between God and man must be removed. The Prince of Peace is One who is the very embodiment of peace. He is the Prince who has procured that peace. He procured it by removing the handwriting or ordinances that was against us and nailing it to His cross. He has satisfied the claims of absolute justice so that God in perfect justice can declare that the sinner stands in a right relationship with Himself. Being at peace with the sinner, God could pardon that sinner, and give to him the peace which is a divine gift. True peace comes to us because a Child was born. That Child, and He alone, is the Prince of Peace.

 

[7]Being established upon the double foundation of justice and righteousness, the Messiahís reign will be perpetual and progressive. These blessings of the increase of the government and of peace are connected with the One who sits upon the throne of David. He who sits upon this throne is a legitimate descendant of David. It had earlier been promised that Davidís throne would endure forever, and hence the description of Messiahís reign is identified with that of David. Peace and the government are mentioned together. This is striking, for most governments find their increase through war. Unlike other kingdoms, this one will grow through the means of peace, through the gracious working of the Spirit of God in the hearts of men and through the preaching of the gospel. Its prosperity and increase are neither temporal nor local, for the kingdom is itself eternal. To establish it and to uphold it. Upon the throne of David the government will increase and will thus be made sure by means of judgment and righteousness. Tyrants and dictators of the world make their kingdoms sure by oppression and tyranny; this King will establish and uphold His kingdom through righteousness in government and the people will joyfully obey such a righteous rule. There is justice because the King is Himself just. The blessings follow because of the Child who is to sit upon the throne and only because of Him. When the Son appears in life with the attributes here assigned to Him, then the kingdom will be founded and established. The kingdom of the Son continually progresses. Justice and righteousness are its foundation; oppression and injustice have no part in its progress and growth. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. Who will bring it about that the divine kingdom shall be founded? Nothing other than the zeal which Yahweh of hosts has for His own honor will bring about this result. In itself this zeal or energy designates the deep love which God has for His people and also His jealousy on their behalf, His profound desire to protect and guard them and their welfare. But even more the word signifies a jealously to protect the divine honor and to vindicate the divine purposes. Godís partiality to His people and His jealous disposition to vindicate His honor will accomplish the establishment of the kingdom over which the Child will reign. In this remarkable passage there is a foreshadowing of the later to be revealed doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The Child to be born is God and yet His birth and the establishment of the kingdom is the work of the Lord of hosts. Isaiah uses the verb will accomplish to show that the kingdom will be established and prosper.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.††† How does 8:18 apply to Christ and the Church [see Hebrews 1:11-15]? How does it apply to you? What do light and darkness symbolize in 8:19-22?

 

2.††† Read Isaiah 9:1-7 and Matthew 4:12-17. According to Matthew, how did Jesus begin to fulfill Isaiahís prophecy? How does this help you understand the true meaning of Isaiahís prophecy?

 

3.††† Explain the four titles Isaiah gives to the Child in 9:6. What do each of these titles tell us about who the Child will be and what will be His purpose?

 

References:

Isaiah, Edward Young, Eerdmans.

Commentary on Isaiah, Joseph Alexander, Kregel.