Someone recently said to our family, “Jesus is not the reason for this Christmas season – He’s the solution. The reason is the darkness.” And as I’ve been reading through Isaiah, I’ve seen that it’s true.
For the first 39 chapters, there is judgment for sin and woe for the disobedient nations and pride in the hearts of men and destruction to their cities and punishment for their iniquity and sorrow in the world. Even in the nation God has chosen, Israel, where He makes His name to dwell, even in her there is darkness.
“Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy.”
“Be shattered, O you peoples, and be broken in pieces! Give ear, all you from far countries. Gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces. Gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces.”
“They will pass through it hard pressed and hungry; and it shall happen, when they are hungry, that they will be enraged and curse their king and their God, and look upward. Then they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness, gloom of anguish; and they will be driven into darkness.”
“Wail, for the day of the Lord is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will be limp, and everyone’s heart will melt, and they will be afraid.”
“Gladness is taken away, and joy from the plentiful field; in the vineyards there will be no singing; nor will there be any shouting.”
“And in that day the Lord God of hosts called for weeping and mourning.”
“The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away; the haughty people of the earth languish.”
“Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate.”
“Fear and the pit and the snare are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth.”
So much hopelessness. You can almost feel the blanket of thick darkness that covers the world and sense the oppression and the sadness.
But right in the middle of all these shadows, we also have rays of hope.
“I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and her penitents with righteousness.”
“Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.”
“In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious.”
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
“There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”
“And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.”
“Lord, You will establish peace for us.”
“In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness. The humble also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”
Promises that talk of a day to come. Prophecies of the day when they will be delivered.
Glimpses of the Messiah.
And so we end up with this sense of waiting. Deep darkness and sorrow – a light will dawn. Judgment for sin, captivity – God will establish peace. Discipline and sadness – a day of rejoicing will come. The Messiah will come.
And so they hold on to the snatches of hope and wait with longing for the Promise.
And they wait.
And they long.
And they hope.
Enter stage right — Isaiah chapter 40.
And God says, “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” He says to Zion, “Lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”
Here, at long last, is the Messiah!
In Luke 2, after Jesus is born, Mary and Joseph take Him to Jerusalem and into the temple. As soon as they come in, a man named Simeon takes the baby. He’s waited his whole life for this. He has longed for this day and kept in his heart the hope of God’s promise to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Anointed. He holds the baby in his arms and says, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel.”
Here at long last, here is the consolation of Israel! After years of darkness, the light has shined. After years of waiting, the Messiah has arrived. After years of longing, the Savior has come.
The Hope of Israel is here.
Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David,
as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began,
that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us,
to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant,
the oath which He swore to our father Abraham: to grant us that we,
being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.”