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 begins by addressing darkness. You and I don’t have to look around very far to see darkness in the world. A quick glance at the headlines reminds us of the darkness that exists in this world. Attacks on crowds, school shootings, family murders, and other atrocities make this darkness apparent. And it doesn’t take dramatic headlines to reveal the darkness. We experience darkness in our own lives as we face difficulties and in our own hearts as we hide things inside ourselves that we can’t even share with those closest to us.
In the midst of this darkness, Isaiah tells us there will be no more gloom. He tells us there will be a light. Darkness and light are one of several contrasts seen in Isaiah 9. Whether or not you are familiar with this chapter, you may recognize the words that bring the hopeful side of the contrasts:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
The Contrast of Light and Dark
There will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. Isaiah 9:1
In John 8:12 Jesus is described as “light of the world.” In our culture today, in many ways, we get used to the dark. Depressing news stories tend to have less impact as we get used to hearing a variation of the same story over and over. Isaiah offers incredible hope that the day is coming when the way things are, is not the way things will be. All the darkness in the world – the disease, sickness, death, betrayal – will not be the way they are today. Light is coming.
We tend to look at Isaiah 9:6 in isolation, but Isaiah 9:1 – 10:4 is actually addressing something about God’s anger. There is a repeated stanza throughout this passage in Isaiah, “Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.” In his commentary Isaiah: The NIV Application Commentary, John Oswald indicates we make three mistakes about God’s anger. We assume it’s an Old Testament concept not worthy of the New Testament God, but the New Testament God is quite capable of anger. We also assume that if God is angry with us, then we will suffer, so we falsely assume that all our suffering is tied to anger. It’s also a mistake to assume God’s anger is a metaphor for cause and effect. The anger of God is a righteous anger. God sees His people being compromised through their bad choices and it brings on His anger. The challenge for us is to walk in the light. We can be part of the light right here and now and not have to wait for ‘someday.’
The Contrast of Wisdom and Confusion: Wonderful Counselor
But the people have not returned to him who struck them, nor have they sought the Lord Almighty…. But the people have not returned to him who struck them, nor have they sought the Lord Almighty. Isaiah 9:13, 16
On one hand you have a Wonderful Counselor, but n the other you have people who won’t seek the Lord. There are those that allow the Wonderful Counselor to be their guide, and there are those who don’t need it and do what they want. The result of God’s anger is confusion as we wander about doing whatever we feel is good for us. James 1:5 advises, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” The way we know the wisdom of God is through knowing the Word of God. The precepts if the Bible should be more familiar to you than the lyrics of your favorite music or the reporting of news stories. If not, you are setting yourself on the side of confusion and darkness. Your real source of inspiration is what you consume day after day. You get your wisdom from anywhere instead of receiving wisdom from the Wonderful Counselor.
In her most recent book, author Rosaria Butterfield, a former professor of English at Syracuse University, discusses her journey to faith. As someone who previously found her primary identity in her sexuality, describes sin as a baby tiger that looks cute and is invited into the home, not realizing that one day it will grow to devour you. The wisdom of God seen through the Word of God will help you to walk in the light.
The Contrast of Power and Arrogance: Mighty God
All the people will know it… who say with pride and arrogance of heart, “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.” Isaiah 9:9-10
God was angry because the people were lifting themselves up as not needing anything. But the picture of “Mighty God” is one who is valiant or victorious. He will rule and use His power. The picture of Jesus is often meek and mild, but Jesus is presented as one who will conquer and set things right. Our own arrogance exists when we hold to our own plans and ways and hold God off at a distance. We take matters into our own hands. It’s actually more dangerous when we are successful, because we start to think we have no need. We will either become people who appreciate the power of God or we will end up being arrogant in our own self.
Isaiah 9:7 assures us, “Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,” In His rule, there will be a universal thriving of the ways things should be. This child will be the rightful ruler of the world and will establish it with justice and righteousness. God will make things the way that they ought to be. Those with power will share resources with those who don’t have them. Those who control opportunities won’t hoard then for themselves
The Contrast of Acceptance and Want: Everlasting Father
On the right they will devour, but still be hungry; on the left they will eat, but not be satisfied. Each will feed on the flesh of their own offspring: Manasseh will feed on Ephraim, and Ephraim on Manasseh; together they will turn against Judah.
Bestowing the title “Everlasting Father” to Jesus reflects the care of God. denotes the care of From time past, time future, and time without end, He will be a Father. He will continue to accept and love you as you are, but we are always seeking validation that we already have. The everlasting Father will always welcome us and always be strong enough. This poem by Jason Lehman sums up our constant longing:
It was spring, But it was summer I wanted,
The warm days, And the great outdoors.
It was summer, But it was fall I wanted,
The colorful leaves, And the cool, dry air.
It was fall, But it was winter I wanted,
The beautiful snow, And the joy of the holiday season.
It was winter, But it was spring I wanted,
The warmth, And the blossoming of nature.
I was a child, But it was adulthood I wanted,
The freedom, And the respect.
I was 20, But it was 30 I wanted,
To be mature, And sophisticated.
I was middle-aged, But it was 20 I wanted,
The youth, And the free spirit.
I was retired, But it was middle age I wanted,
The presence of mind, Without limitations.
My life was over.
But I never got what I wanted.
So many of us go from one thing to the next, always assuming that if we reach it, we will be satisfied to the depth of our soul, instead of being satisfied by the Everlasting Father. It’s the search for getting through school, landing a job, finding a spouse, having a child, buying a second house, selling the company, retiring work, or fill in your own blank. We think these things will satisfy. But we’re looking for satisfaction that doesn’t exist. You will never be satisfied by being, richer, thinner, prettier, or lovelier to the people of this earth if you are not lovely in the eyes of the Everlasting Father because you have failed to receive His acceptance.
The Contrast of Peace and Injustice: Prince of Peace
Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people… Isaiah 10:1-2
Jesus will one day make everything right. But we live in darkness when we make everything about us and using our personal resources for only our own ends. Jesus brings justice and peace. The people who walk in the light will not be disinterested in the plight of the less fortunate. Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke defines righteousness in the Old Testament means someone who is willing to disadvantage themselves for the sake of the community; the unrighteous is someone who’s willing to disadvantage the community for the sake of themselves. If we are going to walk in the light, we will be sure not to advantage ourselves at the cost if others.
What Can We Do with These Contrasts
There is an already and a not yet aspect to what God has done. We see this in Isaiah before the child is born. He describes that way it will one day be. We currently live in a place where there is something in place that is not yet fully realized. God has shoe a light into the world through Jesus. He has been revealed in part as The Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. There will be a day when He will be seen in entirety.
We become children of the light and walk in the light when we see the darkness in ourselves and receive Jesus as Savior. Then practically, we take steps to choose wisdom over confusion, God’s power over our arrogance, peace over injustice, and the acceptance of a loving Father over perpetual want. We will choose light over dark. This doesn’t mean that your life will be free from darkness. But as you walk in the light, you will help that light to shine in the world in which we live. The biggest change in this world comes not through programs, but through heart change. That’s what Jesus does by helping people to move form darkness to light.