LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS Trinity
Isaiah 8:16 – 9:7 26.11.23
October 7 was a dark day when 4,000 Hamas terrorists murdered, raped, and kidnapped Israeli men, women, children, and babies. All done with glee, recording their dark deeds on their GoPro cameras, and phoning reports home so that family members could celebrate with them.
October 9 was a dark day in Sydney when a crowd at the Sydney Opera House celebrated that savagery, chanting “gas the Jews”.
It has been dark in our nation, as our own politicians have either failed to condemn the Hamas attack or have made it sound as though there is a moral equivalence between what Hamas did, and what Israel is doing in response.
It is dark in the universities. One professor called the Hamas attack “awesome”, another “energising” and “exhilarating”. No wonder a pack of students at Princeton University chant “globalise the Intifada”, the removal of all Jews, everywhere.
Who is really surprised? It was the outworking of the current creed that says the powerful are bad, the powerless are good; white is bad and black is good; your racial identity is primary, and what you are as a human being, or in your character is secondary.
As one woman wrote about the loss of life in Israel on October 7 in yesterday’s The Australian newspaper: “That baby? He’s a coloniser first and a baby second. The woman raped to death. Shame it came to that, but she is a white oppressor.”
For some of us, there are such personal dark times they are suffocating. Just for now, the wider darkness is our concern.
2750 years ago, the darkness in Judah was oppressive. The people in the northern kingdom of Israel were being smashed by the much superior power of the King of Assyria. His armies were within 15 kilometres of the southern capital of Jerusalem, where Isaiah lived.
Worse still, the enemy were already inside the gate. In Isaiah chapters 1 to 8 we read of gross materialism, alcoholism, idolatry, arrogance, ungodly leadership, and in-your-face sexual immorality. We know that some people are actually killing their children thinking to a pagan god, thinking that’s a good thing to do.
How are they going to know what to do, in the dark? They know they need answers, a word that is bigger and better, from outside. That is why they are trying their Ouija boards and trying to contact the dead, but they only “chirp and mutter” (8:19), making no more sense than the crickets in the lawn after the rain.
When it’s black, where do you get answers? Who has something to say that gives real hope? Who has explanations for a world gone mad? Where is their voice strong enough to change our gross materialism, rampant sexual immorality, and identity politics?
Not from the politicians or the academics. Not from the pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury whose statements are as dark as the culture’s. They just add to what Isaiah calls “thick darkness” (8:22).
There is an answer, however. There is light – light that will change the gloom and contempt into something glorious. There is a “before” and an “after” for this voice, Isaiah says in 9:1.
There is a light coming into the darkness (9:2) which will mean you get to celebrate like you do when the harvest is in (v3) or you get rich from your enemy after their hold on you is smashed (v5).
When? When does that light come that changes gloom to joy? When are sense and sanity restored? When are enemies defeated? When are materialism and arrogance and idolatry exposed, and condemned?
When we pull ourselves together and recapture true Western values, as Jordan Peterson and others are advocating?
When we get some Christians into Parliament to turn the ship around?
When we get a restored Israeli state, and a new temple in Jerusalem, as many Christians are saying?
It is going to happen when light comes from the very northern parts of Israel, in “Zebulun and Naphtali … the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” (9:1b). When is that?
We know when. God has told us when this promised light will break into the gloom. Please turn to Matthew 4:12.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth. When it was time for his preaching ministry to begin, he relocated to the town of Capernaum and made that his base.
Where is Capernaum? In the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. Jesus went there to fulfil the promises of Isaiah 9, because he is the one who brings light into this dark world.
Read Matthew 4:15,16.
What did Jesus do to bring the light into a dark world? Verse 17: “Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand / here.’”
Have you got that? Light comes through preached words and people come into that light by repentance to God – by a changed mind about God, with changed lives that result.
The light doesn’t come from within a dark world.
• Not from the light in me or you.
• Not the light of academia.
• Not by organising a new movement like the Alliance of Responsible Citizenship held in London this month.
• Not by getting Israel set up with a new capital in Jerusalem.
Light doesn’t come from with the gloom. It comes from outside the darkness. It comes when, in Isaiah’s words “To us a child is born, a son is given … and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and he shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The light that makes sense of the dark, and overcomes the dark comes when Jesus comes preaching. Joy comes as we are joined to him by repentance. It is that uncomplicated, that clear.
We plan to come to each of those wonderful names of Jesus between now and Christmas.
For today, I want to say a few things about the kind of kingdom Jesus preaches, and into which he brings every child of God.
We need to be clear about it because it seems so insignificant in a dark world. Give us swords, not words. A mighty warrior, not a child. Someone important and powerful, not a nobody from Zebulun and Naphtali, Nowheresville.
The kingdom he brings is anything but insignificant.
1. IT IS INCLUSIVE
What was the big deal about Jesus coming from Zebulun and Naphtali? That was the part of Israel closest to Assyria, the part that was so much under Assyrian control and influence.
To water down any Israelite resistance there, Assyria had settled other people there. Like the Hittites who had the distinct nose which Jews often have, and from whom they got it, as they interbred with them. Zebulun-Naphtali was where the inter-racial Jews lived. To put it crudely, it was a mongrel part of the world.
Jesus comes from there. He is a son of the House of David, to be sure. But he is a mongrel of a Jew, really, coming as he does from what Isaiah calls “the Galilee of the nations” (v1b).
That explains why the Jewish establishment could never accept him. More than that, he has come from the nations as a preacher to the nations.
That is why there is room in his kingdom for the lady from Syrophoenicia … and the Roman centurion … and the immoral Samaritan woman. Children and nobodies … the lowly, the least and the lost. That is why Jesus sent his disciples into “All the world” to make disciples everywhere.
The kingdom Jesus brought was never a Jewish one – or one to be centred one day on Jerusalem. It was always about a world-wide movement, without a state or any political identity.
That’s okay, because you can’t compare the kingdom of Jesus with the kingdoms of this world.
2. IT IS INVINCIBLE
Is preaching the gospel going to really change the darkness and bring people into joy and freedom?
• Is there any guarantee that he will set people free who all their lives had been slaves to Satan?
• Is there any guarantee that those whom the Father gives him will in fact come to him for life, and into joy and liberty?
• Might people come to him and find he is a fraud, and does not answer deep questions and shine light into thick darkness?
These are words and promises of absolute certainty. It is not as though we are waiting for his enemy and ours to be “burned as fuel for the fire” (v5b). It happened when Jesus destroyed demons with a word and smashed the power of sin and hell by his death.
We aren’t waiting for Jesus to win in some new battle of Armageddon. He won back there, by his life-giving Word and his enemy-smashing death. His kingdom was won … and its future today and every day is absolutely assured.
Does it look now like his kingdom is invincible? Not always. Sometimes it looks like the cause of Jesus is going under.
That’s okay, because you can’t compare the kingdom of Jesus with the kingdoms of this world.
It is seemingly insignificant … but really it is inclusive / invincible …
3. IT IS INTERNAL
Are we waiting for a kingdom yet to come? We are. In the new heavens and the new earth there will be a life that is more wonderful than we might ever have imagined.
When you come to Jesus, you come into the kingdom here and now. That is why “repentance” is the message of the kingdom – changing your life now from the inside out.
In coming to Jesus, you are saying that you refuse to be run by the materialistic spirit of our age; you reject idolatry that says you can get life here, here or here. You stand firm against the sexual immorality that is embedded in our culture.
You don’t have a uniform or a badge to wear or a shiny sword to carry in this kingdom of light. A repentant life is the mark of people in this kingdom. A miserable life? No way. The rod of your enemy, Satan, has been broken. There is a deeper joy than this world can ever give. You are not a prisoner of sin in the way that you were before.
Do you get the rewards that the kingdoms of this world offer? No? That’s okay, because you can’t compare the kingdom of Jesus with the kingdoms of this world.
>>> It is a kingdom that is inclusive / invincible / internal.
What is in your hand and mouth when you pass the gospel that Jesus preached? It’s not nothing. It’s everything!
What are we doing as we make Jesus known at our Carnival and Carols, or at Summerfest? It’s not nothing. It’s everything.
When we are showing people something bigger and brighter than the kingdoms of this world when we are the church together, it’s not nothing. It’s everything.
What are you coming into when you embrace Jesus, not as a substitute for the symptoms of darkness, but as the cure for the cause of the darkness? It’s not nothing.
Two Sundays ago, someone here said to me, “We’ve been reorientated to Christ”, after some months of Sunday by Sunday listening and watching. That’s not nothing.
How could betting all you have on Jesus be anything but glorious? How could it be a mistake? How could it be a poorer choice than the chirpings and mutterings that are the best the big men of this world have to offer?
Not when the child from “the Galilee of nations” comes and says, “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)