“But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish.” Isaiah 9:1
For me it’s been a year of “no more gloom.” Rather, 2016 has been mostly light and overflowing joy! How thankful I am for such a happy season, a beauty out of ashes sort of year. It’s been awhile since sweet didn’t mingle with bitter; I’m enjoying the stark contrast. I delight to be married to the second love of my life, my new best friend. And I stand in awe of the God who reverses, who brings light out of darkness. It’s been a pretty great year, I’d say.
Of course there’s been some sorrow. I didn’t expect my dad to die this year. His death has felt so different, though. At 79, he was completely ready to be with Christ, to leave the decay of old age. I dearly love him and miss him, but for me it hasn’t been “hit by a freight train, life altering grief.” I suppose, in this occasion joy has eclipsed sorrow. I guess after the death of a spouse, it’s easier to process the death of a parent.
But I also know it’s been a difficult year for many. The world is full of gloom. Wars and rumors of wars, corruption, violence, racial tension, an endless election cycle, civilians caught in the middle of a firestorm, refugees displaced from their countries—I’ve heard it called it the “worst year ever.”
For some I love dearly, 2016 has been thoroughly devastating. I clapped my hands and wept for joy when my friends found out they were expecting twins after a long journey with infertility. Then I sobbed with them as they cradled two perfectly formed, precious babies who were just too small to survive. I have family facing chronic illness. And I’ve wept with those whose marriages have collapsed. I’ve seen them reel with the pain of betrayal. These are the sorrows so deep they feel physical.
If I could, I would jump in front of the crushing blows so my loved ones would never experience them.
The world is still broken, and sorrow comes.
Gloom. It is “total or partial darkness, a state of melancholy or depression.”¹ As 2016 draws to an end, people clamor for the new year, grasping for the hope of something better. We’re a people constantly searching for something better. What hope is there when gloom overtakes? What hope is there when darkness is a heavy blanket?
Oh my friends, there is an imperishable, unfathomable, confident and sure expectation. His name is Jesus! He’s the King who eradicates the gloom. He is something better.
“There will be no more gloom!”
For, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness on them has light shined. You have multiplied the nations, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest…” Isaiah 9:2-3
As a smoldering wick grows to blazing flame, so the Light of the World penetrated the darkness. The astonishing, glorious rays of sunshine arrived. A Son was given. He multiplies our joy! He ends anguish and distress.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
Light will always overcome darkness.
But wait there’s more! Have you ever had the moment when a familiar passage leaps from the page, and the words are fresh and new as if you’ve never truly seen them? Hang on to your socks kids, there’s some serious truth ahead.
Our God is precise. He reverses, He reigns, and He pursues.
The God who is Precise
“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. in the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time, he has made glorious the was of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.” Isaiah 9:1
Now compare Isaiah 9:1 to Matthew 4:12-16
“Now when he [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death
on them a light has dawned.’
Do you see it?
I’ve read these verses a thousand times, and never before noticed the seemingly insignificant detail: Zebulun and Naphtali. This is the God who is precise. He brings redemption with the skill of a surgeon and the craftsmanship of a master artisan. Way back in Israel’s history, Zebulun and Naphtali were among the first taken captive by the Assyrians, among the first to “sit in darkness.”
BUT Jesus went to them first. The Great Light dawned first on the ones who were captives first. I don’t know about you, but that pierces my soul, and makes me sing with joy. Even now it makes me a little teary. God not only fulfilled prophecy, but He did it with exquisite precision.
His sovereignty is not consumed by vague maybes. Instead, “I will” is the persistent drumbeat of HIs plans. Is He not then precise in His care for you? Is He not thoroughly committed to His promises?
God perfectly orders my life. In His unequivocal concern for my good and His glory, I walked through the valley of death and made it to the other side. In His explicit care, He brought me a second great love.
More than these, God became man at a precise moment in history. The Father propelled His redemptive plan forward, and brought it to its pinnacle at the cross. He didn’t send the Savior His people wanted, but the One we drastically and desperately need.
The God who Reverses
Isaiah 8 ends with gloom and anguish, but Isaiah 9 is light and joy, radiating with stark contrasts. God reverses.
- Gloom No gloom
- Darkness Light
- Remnant Multiplied
- Sorrow Increased joy
- Captives Liberated, delivered
- Oppressed Free
This is what He does for His own.
I’m reminded of the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. Even the architecture tells a story. At first the rooms are gloomy, cramped, and chaotic. Folks shuffle through the exhibits in reverential quiet. No one laughs, and more than one tear is shed. It’s a scene of horror, a history of genocide, and a sober indictment that we never let it happen again.
Finally, just as despair permeates, and hope is a vapor, patrons wind their way to “Liberation,” the end of the war! The lighting and design of the museum shifts noticeably as allied forces liberate captives, righting what was wrong. There is light. Dissonant, crossing beams give way to clean, straight lines. Normal conversation resumes, and the claustrophobic soul can breath again.
So much greater is God’s reversal. He makes the world right side up. He has taken this hopeless captive and set her free, trading my sinfulness for His righteousness.
And He is also the God who Reigns.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.”
Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. This royal title combines the idea of “doing something wonderful, extraordinary, and miraculous with the skill of giving wise advice or making wise plans.”² He reigns in infinite wisdom.
He is the Mighty God. A mighty warrior, His power is divine, knowing no limitations. Nothing is too hard. The Lord of Hosts fights battles for me.
He is the Everlasting Father. Literally it means, “My father is eternal.” He never begins, He never ends. He is the ideal, good protector. By exercising perfect wisdom and perfect power, He accomplishes intimate, fatherly care of His people.
And He is the Prince of Peace. Jesus comes to make an end of war: spiritually and physically. “He will limitlessly expand His influence and create peace without end.”² The world is certainly not at peace right now, but one day it will be. And even now, my heart can know peace that passes understanding. (Philippians 4:6-8)
This is our King.
Finally, He is the God who Pursues.
“The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.” Isaiah 1:9
It’s His zeal and passion that initiated redemption. We turned from Him, but “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
From eternity past, God planned to bring His people home.
He is the subject, the main character, the author, the narrator. Jesus pursues even to the point of the cross. He pursues even those who seem beyond hope.
With unassailable zeal, determination, and passion, God will concentrate His efforts to accomplish this marvelous deeds….[His people] can be absolutely sure that an omnipotent, sovereign God will stand behind the fulfillment of this wonderful plan.”²
The blessing of His people is guaranteed. Victory is won.
Does He not pursue you even now?
Therefore, whether 2016 was devastating or delightful, there is bright hope for tomorrow. My soul rests in the God who overcomes darkness, who shepherds me with precise care, who reverses, who reigns, and who pursues.
I’ve got a sneaky feeling 2017 is going to be a great year; Jesus already defeated the gloom.
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¹ Webster’s Dictionary, ²The New American Commentary