Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Isaiah 9:1-3

Birth and Reign of the Prince of Peace

1 But there will be no more gloom 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.

Chapter 8 left us with a picture of "distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish." (8:22) Thankfully, Isaiah's words continued directly into Chapter 9--and the news is brighter, literally!

To get through verse 1, we need to address some place names. Zebulun and Naphtali were two of the territories--part of the 12 tribal lands of Israel--on the border of Galilee (see map below), and those areas among the first to be invaded by Tiglath-pileser of Assyria.

"In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon and Abel-beth-maacah and Janoah and Kedesh and Hazor and Gilead and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried them captive to Assyria."
--II Kings 15:29
As God would bring this warring nation to Judah, He first brought it to destroy Israel. The nation would not be a nation as it knew itself after its captivity. The people would be scattered. Times were truly dark. But what Isaiah's message says is that the gloom of this situation would not last; that God would, again, "make it glorious." The ultimate fulfillment of that prophecy has yet to be seen, as it will come with Christ's second coming. The foreshadowing of that fulfillment came with His first Advent.

"Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles
The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light,
And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death,
Upon them a Light dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
--Matthew 4: 12-17

One of the great blessings of studying Isaiah is seeing the direct relationship and fulfillment of so many of his prophecies--both in Old Testament and New Testament times. Matthew records the very Scripture we read today out of Isaiah 9, and Jesus lived out these recorded words in his ministry. This "great light" would be the Messiah, "the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." (John 1:9) The word of prophecy should have been a word of hope to a people in the darkness of captivity.

"In the worst of times God’s people have a nevertheless to comfort themselves with, something to allay and balance their troubles; they are persecuted, but not forsaken, sorrowful yet always rejoicing. And it is matter of comfort to us, when things are at the darkest, that he who forms the light and creates the darkness has appointed to both their bounds and set the one over against the other...."
 --Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible
"You shall multiply the nation," says verse 3. This would have had significant meaning to Israel, as God was reaffirming the covenant that He made with Abraham: "...Indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies." (Genesis 22:17) For a scattered people to not only see itself again as a nation but as a nation blessed by God should have been a comfort. There was hope for the exiled children, that this "seed" would "possess the gate of their enemies."

"We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own."
--We Gather Together, lyrics by Adrianus Valerius
There is an interesting section of verse 3. This is how it reads in the King James Version: "Thou has multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy...." (emphasis mine) At first, this would seem a little odd, especially in the context of what the rest of the passage is saying. If there's no more gloom, wouldn't joy be on the rise? It would be if it were the proper kind of joy.

"Yet it follows, Thou hast not increased the joy—the carnal joy and mirth, and those things that are commonly the matter and occasion thereof. But, notwithstanding that, they joy before thee; there is a great deal of serious spiritual joy among them, joy in the presence of God, with an eye to him."
--Matthew Henry

Isaiah does make comparisons to earthly gladness associated with this joy. It will be like the celebration over the gathering of the harvest or sharing the spoil of a victorious battle. The celebration will not be over the goodness of that gathered or gained, but, rather, in the One who enables the gathering and the victory; the One who brings forth and is true goodness! 

"Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves."
--Bringing in the Sheaves, lyrics by Knowles Shaw

In this season of Thanksgiving, let us remember that while we have much to be thankful for, we celebrate not that which we have, but give all glory, laud and honor to the One who has given beyond measure, by His grace unto us. And we shall come to Him, rejoicing!

"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations."
--Psalm 100, King James Version

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!
"For a child will be born to us".... 'Til next Wednesday!

Photo: faithandworship.com; keyway.ca

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Next week: Isaiah 9: 4-7

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

1 comment:

Carmen said...

Hi Sue! Wonderful post full of hope and promise. Who has known the beginning from the end but the Lord? It is amazing how He is threaded throughout Scripture. It is all about Him!