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Salvation in Isaiah 9

The slogan of the 16th Century Reformation in Europe was this – AFTER DARKNESS LIGHT! Darkness had reigned supreme in the world during the dark ages of Roman Catholic domination. Common people were frightened by the dark threats of priests who told them that unless they worked hard and paid as much as they could into the coffers of the church they would spend miserable centuries in the place which they called purgatory. This was a device to keep people utterly dependent on the church and its priests. They held authority and there was no escape.

But then at the beginning of the 16th Century, in 1514, Martin Luther saw the light. It was only a little flicker at first as he studied the Letter to the Romans and found Paul’s quotation from Habakkuk 2 v 4

“The just shall live by faith.”

He had already become convinced that the teaching of the Bible was far more important than the teaching of the church and the church fathers.

Martin’s experience grew the more he studied and preached the scriptures until the darkness of Rome and its superstitious errors were shown up by the light of glorious truth of the genuine gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ – and the reformation was born.

AFTER DARKNESS LIGHT! And we reap the seeds of that light dawning those centuries ago.

But AFTER DARKNESS LIGHT may well describe the scene that is set before us in Isaiah 9 tonight. We focus now on Israel in the Northern part of Palestine.

Three elements make up Isaiah’s message of Chapter 9.

1. Israel was in a MISERABLE POSITION – darkness was what they had – there was No Increase of Joy – a phrase from verse 3. 2. Israel was guilty of a MIGHTY PROVOCATION – and the darkness of the anger of Almighty God was upon them – the Indignation of the wrath of God. 3. But God was gracious – and we see a MESSIAH PROMISED – and we have the wonderful words of the prophecy of the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Verse 1. Two specific areas of the Northern region of Israel are mentioned as a land of darkness – Naphtali and Zebulon were tribal districts allocated after the conquest by Joshua to these tribesmen. A look at a Bible map will show that these were the areas that bordered the shores of the Sea of Galilee – a significant fact.

During the reign of King Ahaz, (whom we thought about last week in chapter 8, the king presiding over Judah in the south and who refused to listen to Isaiah’s warnings from God;) in his days Isaiah had seen how this Northern region was the first to be invaded and devastated – first by the Syrians and then by the Assyrian hordes. Hunger, distress, and gloomy darkness were the result of these terrible oppressions. As Isaiah looked, with a sad and heavy heart for the salvation of the people who were afflicted in these regions by the ravages of war and invasion, the Lord God showed him the dawning of light – of a brighter day to come.

But before that, we have the details of miserable darkness.

There are many in our society today who dislike the darkness. Autumn, winter and early spring are not their best months. Short days and long nights bring a sense of misery and depression – and on the few days of winter sunshine there is a little relief and temporary brightness. Now that spring is almost here, and the evening are becoming lighter, and it is not too long to the change of the hour to Summer time, hearts and minds can be lifted and expectant.

The darkness that the people of Naphtali and Zebulon experienced consisted not only of the hopelessness of their physical condition, but also of the darkness of sin and ignorance. You see they had rejected Jehovah and were serving gods of wood and stone. This darkness was far worse than that of material loss or economic uncertainty; it had come upon Israel just as Isaiah later said that it would come upon ALL NATIONS. In Chapter 60 he says this –

2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people:

The parallels with our present age could not be more obvious. Rejection of God characterises not only our nation but also the majority of the nations of the world. What country could be called a Christian country today? We mean a truly God-fearing people who love His word and honour His Name and obey His laws? Is there such a nation? It seems to be like this – that the nation of God’s people who can truly say that they are His are scattered throughout every nation – in small pockets of truth – called local Bible believing churches.

But the majority of the peoples of the world reject and refuse the word of God or His ways. There was a time when the proportion of true believers in any nation, ours included, was greater than it is today. If we are to believe the publishers of Operation World then there is more to encourage than to discourage. God, they say, is doing a great thing in many countries. But they base their figures on professions of faith – those who have indicated somehow that they believe. But with the spurious evangelistic methodologies abroad today we find it hard to know what is a true figure for genuine Christians – who have the light! The Lord knoweth them that are His! So I ask you tonight if you know that you have been justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and that He has taken all your sins and nailed them to His cross? Is your profession of faith genuine my friend? Are you in darkness or in the light? Has the Lord Jesus switched on the light of His Holy presence yet in your soul? You can stay in miserable darkness – but that darkness will not merely be for the period of time that you live in your body – but it is a darkness that will continue on into eternity. It is a sinner’s darkness. Only in this life is there an opportunity to come to the light. Jesus said in John 8 v 12

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

2. Israel was guilty of a MIGHTY PROVOCATION.

We move forward in the chapter to verses 8 – 21 and beyond that to the first 4 verses of Chapter 10. There are 4 sections or stanzas of Judgement here.

1. v 8 – 12. 2. v 13 – 17 3. v 18 – 21 4. 10 v 1 – 4.

Each of the 4 is marked at the end with this solemn statement –

For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

Could Isaiah be any more plain in announcing God’s displeasure with Israel’s sin? The nation had to be reminded again and again that, such was its condition, that evil and consequent trouble and darkness, would reach a climax before any promised light and blessing could be given.

1. v 8 – 12.

The passage deals with the whole nation although Isaiah only uses the name Ephraim. Ephraim is the chief tribe and Samaria is the capital in the North – but whenever we see the name Jacob it is usually certain that the message is for Israel and Judah. Pride and arrogance of heart are the sins challenged in this first stanza. God always resists the proud in any age. The punishment will be Rezin and his Syrian hordes coming from the North, and the Philistines from the South. Sadly these attacks did nothing to move Ephraim or the rest of the people to repent.

For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

2. v 13 – 17.

The prophet uses two illustrations – one from the world of animals and the other from the realm of plants – 15 Heads and tails would be cut off. The leaders the heads and the false prophets the tails will be eliminated. The reason is given –

v 16 For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.

God will not tolerate corrupt leadership amongst His people – so he removes them to bring the people back into His ways.

No explanation is given with regard to the other illustration – the cutting down of palm branches and bulrushes. The people are left to draw their own conclusions. They were a stubborn nation – refusing to repent and turn to the Lord –

For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

3. 18 – 21.

The Devouring fire – wickedness and civil war. Just as a bush or heath fire begins small it grows bigger and bigger and out of man’s control. Verses 19 describes the betrayal of men between themselves – brothers betraying brothers. Snatching things from each other in a rush to be satisfied – hunger being intense. Did they learn from this and seek the Lord? No – and there is the refrain once more –

For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

4. 10 v 1 – 4.

The first 3 stanzas had been directed against the Northern tribes of Israel – but now the prophecy extends towards Judah and Jerusalem. The judges had issued oppressive laws and then put them wilfully into unjust writings. Injustice was the result towards the poor and needy. Did they repent when they heard that a day of visitation was coming? No they did not.

For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

Why did the people not repent and own up to their wickedness and sins? What was the matter with them? Why could they not see it?

God sent the Syrians and Philistines – but they would not see it as judgement.

God said that He would have no mercy and no joy in them – but still they continued in sin.

And even when Civil War arose they could not see God’s hand of judgment – they continued to go their own way.

How many people in our day are moved to seek God when a crisis occurs? Very few! How many will seek the Lord in the next few weeks if a war begins. Who knows how many – some will because God in His grace will use even these terrible circumstances to make people think. But many will become even more hardened against the Lord God. God is capable of coming down upon any nation in judgement. He can move one nation against another. Has He raised up USA to judge other nations? Don’t forget, when God raises up nations it is not because they are any better than the others – but are merely tools in His sovereign hands.

Certainly Israel and Judah had provoked The Almighty.

Oh my friend – if you are not saved tonight then you are in the same state as those Israelites – you are provoking the Lord God to do something about you!

For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

You are in deep trouble if you are not sheltering under the protection of the King of the universe the Lord Jesus Christ.

Israel was in a miserable condition and had been involved in a Mighty Provocation.

But now notice the grace of God in this.

3. A MESSIAH WAS PROMISED. – The Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Amidst the darkness and misery there was a glorious light. Back to verse 2. Instead of darkness and death, light and life appear. Through the Spirit of prophecy Isaiah sees that which is in the future as clearly as Matthew saw it when the prophecy was fulfilled. Matthew 4 v 12 – 16.

12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; 13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: 14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, 15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; 16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.

After the arrest of John the Baptist Jesus went to Galilee to begin his work in the region of Zebulon and Naphtali. Jesus is that

light of the world, the true light, even the light that lighteth every man that comes into the world (John 1 v 9).

This Galilee region is where the light first began to shine where the gloom had settled 7 centuries earlier. The people that once walked in darkness now had a great light burst on them.

v 6. Isaiah the prophet now brings his hearers to the real basis and cause for joy that they could have – if they would care to believe it! The same Immanuel spoken about in 7 v 14 is prophesied as coming as a child to be born and a son to be given. He was to be the sign given by the Lord – He would be a ruler who will bring salvation and deliverance to his people. But notice that Isaiah speaks as if these things have already happened – a child IS BORN; a son IS GIVEN. This is the certainty of the prophet – so sure is he that this will surely be fulfilled.

The government shall be upon his shoulder – this means that the seat of authority is often likened to a key. A key has the power to lock up or loosen, to open or shut. Later in the Prophecy we find Shebna the treasurer receiving a word from God –

Chapter 22 v 21 and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. 22 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.

The government and authority, symbolised by the key, now belong to the Child, the son – the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Isaiah then lists the names by which this messiah King will be called –

Wonderful – the child will be a marvel of the Ages, the full revelation of God the Father. The wonder of His person and work would startle many nations. He stimulates awe in the hearts of honest worshippers.

Is Jesus wonderful to you tonight?

Counsellor – if you want to find true counsel today go to a man who is able to solve all the problems of life and understand its principles – this Counsellor is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In Him are treasured up all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Speak to Him – He will listen. Listen to Him in His word – you will receive no better counsel than this!

The Mighty God. How amazing that this promised child is identified with the Godhead, both in deity and in power. He is equal with God. His throne is forever and He wields a sceptre of righteousness over His kingdom – Psalm 45. In His work He exerted the power of Almighty God.

The Everlasting Father – this name places the Lord Jesus Christ outside of the realm of created beings – as God, Christ is eternal.

John 1 v 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Colossians 1 v 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

As Father, He is the protector and sustainer of the new creation.

Prince of Peace. This child will conquer – but not with a sword – He will overcome the hearts of men by the message of peace. The Messiah will establish and maintain true peace, not the world’s peace, but peace that comes through spiritual fullness, companionship with God and a right relationship with other human beings. This peace can only come when sin has been removed, blotted out and forgiven.

My friends, Christ came and will come again. He came to show all these qualities in His person and life. And He comes to bring light to those still in the darkness of their sins and lifestyle of rejection.

Is He your saviour? Does He sit on the throne of your heart yet? Is He your king, or are you still in charge of your life? If you are not yet a Christian then it is true for you as it was for Israel –

For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

His hand is stretched out in judgment – but there was a time when both of his hands were stretched out on a cross as He died for sinners like you and me. The saviour remains angry with sin but the Bible says that he loves sinners. Do not be afraid to go to Him and confess your need of Him. Be ready to turn away from your sin that will bring His hand of judgement upon you. And may you know His perfect peace in your soul soon.

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