Imagine not hearing from God for 400 years. He said he was going to act. He said a Promised One would come, but year after year, generation after generation there is nothing but seemingly stony silence. No prophets, no voice from heaven.
“But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall.You will trample the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day I am preparing,” says the Lord of Armies. (Malachi 4:2–3)
Among the last prophetic words given to Israel, these radiate hope, but where is this healing? Where is this sun of righteousness? Has He forgotten His promises?
Sometimes the world seems to hold nothing but injustice, oppression, and gloom. Many have turned away; it is they who have forgotten the promises. But a remnant remains waiting eagerly, or perhaps in anguish, as they long for Messiah. Generations come and go; still, in darkness, they sit and wait. Gloom settles in, a dense blanket of fog.
Gloom. It’s a state of partial or total darkness, of despondency or depression.
Two thousand years later, our world today is much the same. Wars and rumors of wars, corruption, violence, school shootings, human trafficking, refugees displaced from their countries, abortions by the millions, natural disasters. Sometimes it’s just too much.
There’s a handsome, smiling face, a man surrounded by his wife and three children—the photo is all joy. But in heartbreaking, devastating contrast the words paired with it are ones no one ever wants to write, “My Michael has gone to Jesus.”
Sometimes darkness crushes.
What hope is there when gloom overtakes? What hope is there when darkness is a heavy blanket or heaven seems silent?
Oh, my friends, there is indeed hope, for one magnificent word turns the world on end—But.
“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish” (Isa. 9:1 esv, emphasis added).
No more gloom! Let that sink in for a minute. No more gloom.
Rather, light has dawned. Joy has come.
This imperishable, unfathomable, confident and sure expectation has a name. He is King Jesus who eradicates the gloom!
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
a light has dawned
on those living in the land of darkness.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased its joy.
The people have rejoiced before you
as they rejoice at harvest time. (Isaiah 9:2–3)
Like fissures spreading in cracked glass, so the Light of the World penetrates the darkness.
Like fissures spreading in cracked glass, so the Light of the World penetrates the darkness. The astonishing, glorious Sun of Righteousness has arrived. A Son was given. He multiplies our joy! He ends anguish and distress.
“That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
Light always overcomes darkness. Jesus, the Light of the World, penetrates to the depth of our souls, pushing back despondency and despair. Gloom gives way to hope.
Sally Lloyd Jones wrote,
In the little town, in a little shed, in a little window a candle flickered in the dark. And a tiny cry rang out in the cold night air. And high above a single star set in the highest heavens shone out brighter than all the others and poured down silver onto the little shed . . . A Light to light up the whole world! (Sally Lloyd Jones, Song of the Stars).1
That first Advent long ago may have begun as a candle flickering in the dark, but Light burst through, lighting the whole world.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
’Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!2
But wait, the news gets exponentially better.
The Light 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 Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. (Isaiah 9:1 esv)
Now compare Isaiah 9:1 to Matthew 4:12–16:
When he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
along the road by the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles.
The people who live in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those living in the land of the shadow of death,
a light has dawned.
Do you see it?
A seemingly insignificant detail: the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but it is a laser beam of precise care. God redeems with the skill of a surgeon and the craftsmanship of a master artisan. Way back in Israel’s history, the people of Zebulun and Naphtali were among the first taken captive by the Assyrians, among the first to “sit in darkness.”
BUT when Jesus began his public ministry, He went to them first! The Light of the World 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. Jesus could have started anywhere. How easily such a small detail could have been overlooked. Not so with God. Jesus not only fulfilled prophecy, He did it with exquisite precision. He couldn’t wait to rescue the ones who sat in darkness first!
God’s sovereignty is not an indifferent wave of the hand, a vague maybe. Instead, “I will” is the persistent drumbeat of His plans.
Is His care for you not also precise? Is He not thoroughly committed to His promises?
Oh, friends, how deeply He cares for you. He knows your needs and fears far better than you do. He knows the hurts you never voice. He sees you when no one else sees.
We can rest in his precise, intimate care.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!
What’s more, God became man at an exact moment in history. As a fully human, yet fully divine embryo formed in Mary’s womb, God hurtled His redemptive plan forward. Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose from the grave. Redemption reached its pinnacle on the cross, and Christ’s resurrection sealed it for eternity.
The Light Reverses
When the Light dawned and shattered the darkness, He began the work of reversing the curse. Isaiah 9 radiates with shocking contrasts. God reverses.
Gloom No gloom
Sorrow Increased joy
Captives Liberated, delivered
This is what He does for His own! It’s astonishing.
I’m reminded of the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. Even the architecture tells a story. When you first walk in, the rooms are gloomy, cramped, and chaotic. Folks shuffle through the exhibits in reverential quiet. No one laughs, tears trail down cheeks. 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 seems 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 breathe again.
So much greater than mere architecture is God’s reversal. This is redemption. He makes the world right side up. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise His Holy name!
The Light Reigns
For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
The dominion will be vast,
and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David
and over his kingdom,
to establish and sustain it
with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6–7)
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.”3 The divine, second Person of the Trinity reigns with infinite wisdom.
He is the Mighty God, the mighty warrior. His power is divine, and nothing is too hard. The Lord of Hosts fights battles for us.
He is the Everlasting Father. Literally the title means, “My father is eternal.” He never begins, He never ends. He is the ideal protector. By eternally 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. “He will limitlessly expand His influence and create peace without end.” The world is certainly not at peace, but one day it will be. Even now, our hearts can know peace that passes understanding as we’re guarded by Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7).
This is our King.
But you say, “There is still gloom in the world. Still horrific things. Still death and sorrow. Where is this King?”
Oh, friend, He is coming again. Like Israel of old we long for his Advent. Let us hold fast to our confident expectation. Remember the promises. And the next time, not only will light dispel the darkness, it will utterly eradicate it.
The Light Pursues
The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:7)
It’s His zeal and passion that initiated redemption. We turned from Him, but “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Jesus pursues even to the point of the cross. He pursues even those who seem beyond hope.
“With unassailable zeal, determination, and passion,” says one commentator, “God will concentrate His efforts to accomplish this marvelous deed . . . His people can be absolutely sure that an omnipotent, sovereign God will stand behind the fulfillment of this wonderful plan.”4
When darkness threatens to crush, when holding fast to promises seems impossible, when our faith is weak, when we are the faintly burning wick—He holds us. And he spares no omnipotent effort to keep His promises.
The blessing of His people is guaranteed. Victory is won. The Light has dawned. Heaven isn’t silent anymore.
So we rest and we worship.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5)
The Light breaks through the darkness! That’s why we love to celebrate the Christmas season here at Revive Our Hearts. And as a ministry, we have so much to celebrate this year. Want to celebrate God’s goodness with us? Check out our 2022 Annual Praise Report. It’s a dynamic good news review!
1 Sally Lloyd-Jones and Alison Jay, Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).
2 Hymn lyrics in this post by Placide Cappeau, “Oh, Holy Night,” Hymnary.org, accessed December 16, 2022, https://hymnary.org/text/o_holy_night_the_stars_are_brightly_shin.
3 Gary V. Smith, New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39 (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2007), 240.
4 Smith, New American Commentary, 240.
(This version of the post No More Gloom also appeared at Revive Our Hearts)