Hope Against Hope
This was the second sermon in a series titled "A Perfect Christmas." Rev. Singleton is preaching, this December, on the book of Isaiah; specifically his prophesies about the coming of the Messiah. The first, "Promises Made, Promises Kept", was based on the seventh chapter of Isaiah. This week, she focused on Isaiah 8:21-9:7.
This passage begins by describing the desolate state of the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali. This area had previously fallen to Assyria, with the result that most of the Jewish people were deported and the area was settled by gentiles. If you look at the map, you will see that right in the center of the region of Zebulun sits the city of Nazareth, the home of Jesus Christ. How amazing that Isaiah would have prophesied light dawning in this dark land! How amazing that God would have his Savior come from a land that had been so devastated!
Rev. Singleton showed us that Christmas did not start with the birth of Jesus Christ around the year of 4 B.C., but 700 years before that in the prophesies of Isaiah. Centuries before Jesus walked on this earth, God had a plan, and revealed it to a prophet. Isaiah wasn't particularly special, but he allowed himself to be used of God, and to be his mouthpiece. In Isaiah 6:8, Isaiah tells of God's call and his answer: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” From that time on, Isaiah told the people whatever God told him to say, even though he was putting himself in danger by doing it.
The book of Isaiah is sometimes called "The Fifth Gospel" because it has so many passages that relate to the coming of the Messiah. Some of these passages are amazingly detailed, and have been proven in the New Testament, like the prophecy about Nazareth that was already mentioned. I imagine that the people of the day were a little confused, and probably skeptical, about what Isaiah was saying. When it took 700 years for the prophesies to be realized, you can see that people might have given up. However, Isaiah is quoted 55 times in the New Testament, making it the second-most quoted Old Testament book. The early Christians remembered the prophesies, and when Jesus came claiming to be the Messiah, they checked the scriptures to see if he was right. Two thousand years later, we can compare what was said by and about Jesus with what was prophesied about him, and there is a startling correlation!
Isaiah 9:2-7 reads:
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. 5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. 6 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. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty did accomplish this! Jesus is the fulfillment. He is the light that came into the darkness, the child who will reign forever. He breaks the yoke of oppression and takes the yoke of government on his own shoulders! This Christmas, as the daylight gets shorter and weaker, we can focus on the light in the darkness. There are so many Christmas traditions that point to Jesus, even though many of them have been horribly commercialized. This week, when you look at all of the Christmas lights, use them to remember that "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light!" and use this time to let people know the real reason for the season!