Guest Article: Rod MacArthur On Isaiah 9f

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In earlier installments,our friend Rod MacArthur has shared some wonderful thoughts on Isaiah. (Here is the beginning of his series on Isaiah) He continues that study now, as he marches through the marvelous “Messianic Prophet” of Isaiah. We appreciate Rod’s great insights, and are sure you will as well!

Isaiah 9–10: Assyria—the Darkness Falls

Isaiah chapter eight closed on a gloomy note. Isaiah was told to seal up the testimony with his disciples and weather the storm, as it were. Later in the book these disciples become “My servants.” Isaiah puts forth a fascinating contrast: “My servants” and “you.” Within Isaiah’s society was a people who had a heart for God—the remnant. But the majority of them did not. Jesus found the same dichotomy. The people either reacted or responded in two different ways to what they heard. Isaiah and his disciples were sealing up the testimony among themselves, while the others were looking skyward and shaking an angry fist at God. They cursed their king and cursed their God. Then they looked “to the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish and they will be driven away into darkness” (821).

As we noted, this was the onset of Israel’s extended national dankness. It started with Assyria; and then came wave after wave, nation after nation—with a few respites followed by more darkness, “Morning comes but also night” (2112)—until the New Day dawned.

The Promise of Coming Light

So, let’s turn our attention to the gloom at hand, chapters nine and ten. Interestingly, Isaiah began this dreary section with a ray of hope: that Light would shine in Zebulun and Naphthali “later on.”

Isaiah 91–2—No more Darkness– The Day Shall Come!

There’ll be no gloom for her who it was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make glorious by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.
The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light.
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.

The gloom of national darkness was to continue until the people who walk in darkness saw a great light. This was Yahweh’s contempt against a people who were “not My children” (Deut. 325; Hos. 19).

Zacharias cited this passage, assuring the onlookers to John’s naming that with the birth of John God had begun to shine a light in Israel (Luke 179). Matthew also cited it, commenting on the beginning of Jesus’ ministry: those who were in Zebulun and Naphtali saw the great light (Matt. 415–16). The light of Israel was Jesus.

Isa. 96—prominence of the light

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us.
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

When the new day dawned, this “Child” was to sit on David’s throne, increasing His kingdom and His peace without end. This was not just a temporary break in the darkness (as 2112 pointed to); this was the real, forever-dawn that was to break forth “later on” (v. 1); and did break upon Israel’s horizon with the birth of Jesus. Even more fascinating: At the end of the Bible, in Revelation 22, as the Spirit and bride say come, they invite people into the city, New Jerusalem. God and the Lamb provide all the light Jerusalem needs (Rev. 2123). But outside the city the same darkness continues to envelop the world.

God promised to break man’s darkness by inviting His people out of national Israel into spiritual Israel. But, those at that time who refused to follow Jesus into spiritual Israel were to be cast into the outer darkness. (Just like those who refused to follow Noah into the ark were left in the outer wetness!) This did not refer to some end-of-time eternal torment; it referred to their relationship to the city where God was the light. Either they would be inside the city with God’s light, or outside the city where there was no light. The invitation was extended to all, Jew or Gentile; and the results of our choices remain the same today: enter the city of light, or stay out in the dark (the outer darkness).

Even so, Isaiah’s people, on whom gloom was beginning to settle, were about to be driven away into dar
kness. They were physically alive, living on the land, but were about to be separated from the light of God as they were driven from the land. That is the point. They had to wait for the better day when His Light dawned on them to be alive and on the “land” again.

This is a beautiful passage, a beautiful promise of the dawning of a new day. Everybody’s looking for a new day. It reminds of that song from Les Misérables: “When Tomorrow Comes.” It was a driving motif in Victor Hugo’s depiction of the French Revolution. They were looking for a better day; but the true Better Day had already dawned when Hugo wrote, with the coming and work of Jesus.

Notice some of the benefits associated with the great light dawning:

·         The people would see a great light (2)

·         They would increase their gladness (3)

·         Their burden would be lifted when the yoke was broken (4) (we’ll revisit this later)

·         The enemy would be completely removed and destroyed from among them (5)

·         All this because a Child would be born (6)

We now share this light of Israel; we have this gladness and we have these burdens lifted. The enemy has been removed and rendered powerless: because a Son was born and given to them (to us as well, through them). The government is now on His shoulders. He is “Wonderful Counselor,” He is “Mighty God,” He is “Eternal Father,” He is “Prince of peace.” These are powerful names: savor the content of each of them. We will continue.