Light Breaks (Isaiah 9:2-7)

December 24, 2021 | Brandon Cooper


The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.

If you want to go ahead, grab your Bibles open up to Isaiah chapter nine, we’ll be in verses two to seven, which the sinkewitz is read for us already, as you’re turning there to Isaiah chapter nine. Many of you know not all of you, though, that my wife and I, we lived in South America for seven years, down in Colombia, two of our kids were born there. And we spent a number of Christmases there as well. And Christmas in South America, living pretty much on the equator, it’s a different sort of experience. Because it’s sunny and 70 degrees. And the days are all the same. They’re they don’t really get shorter when you’re on the equator, you know, a little bit, but it’s not much of a difference or anything like that. So different experience, like I said, thankfully, probably because of the American influence American movies and things like that. They didn’t put up winter decorations, so you’d get the inflatable snowman, even though they’d never seen snow before. But it was there. And that was that was helpful for me because there’s something just unbearably right about Christmas being in winter time. The barren coldness the shortest days, it’s it’s dark, right? It’s 430. And it’s already dark outside here. That’s the point though, that that really is the point of Christmas, the baby, that one who comes to save comes to us in our darkness. So this evening, we’re gonna look at two of the most famous Christmas quotes. You can you know, bust out your George Friedrich handle in your head as we read through some of it because you’re gonna have the Handel’s Messiah going as you do that, but you might have noticed, even as the sinkewitz is rather a little cube versus in the middle there that a little less Christmassy, because we want the light. With the heavy part of the passage. We don’t want the darkness we don’t want to talk about the darkness. But we will only see the true wonder of Christmas if we look at both. And so that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Read Isaiah 9227. Again, we’ll look at the darkness first, and then we’ll look at the light. So here’s Isaiah two the people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. you enlarge the nation and increase their joy. They rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midians defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warriors boot used in battle, and every garment rolled in, blood will be destined for burning, we fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. And the government will be on his shoulders and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace of the greatness of His government and peace, there will be no end He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it the justice and righteousness. From that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. Right, let’s talk about the darkness. First, we walk in very real darkness. In the NIV, we’ve got this translation of the land of deep darkness, that’s just two words that are scrunched together in the Hebrew shadow death is actually what the two words are. And so that’s the the type of darkness that we’re talking about here. You probably are familiar with that term, actually, because it’s used and Psalm 23, quite famously, the walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the only other place it’s used in the Hebrew Bible. So that’s the type of darkness we’re talking about. It’s a reminder that death stock sauce, but there are some here tonight still grieving, mourning loss. Others of us here are perhaps not able to be here because they’re sick, or in pain. We’ve all experienced frustration and bitterness and discontent and depression and frankly, all those things go up in the wintertime and during the holidays. And we’re more aware of it than usual these days. Because we’ve got the cloud of this pandemic still hanging over us the pandemic itself brought suffering and whatever your opinion of the mitigation measures they brought additional suffering. We’ve all experienced isolation and loneliness and separation and all the rest it feels like we live in a land of deep deep darkness
that is a actually gives us two graphic images to depict not just the darkness he was experiencing the darkness that we experience as well. The first is that yoke or rod of oppression. The second is the garments of war blood stained garments. Isaiah is writing during the time the Assyrian conquest, when the Assyrians who were a vicious group of a conquering army had wiped out the northern kingdom of Israel and that conquest, it leads to captivity and oppression. Certainly blood was spilled on garments then. And certainly the rod was used to drive the captive slaves. Now, we live in very different circumstances, the Syrians are not currently a threat here. But are we short on oppression or violence today? No, we see it in spades. We see it throughout the world. You think about what’s happening, for example, in Ethiopia right now, or what’s happened to the Uighurs in China. So many geopolitical conflicts that were left crying out with a Psalm as How long, Lord. So it’s throughout the world, but it’s also just a year in our midst. I need to tell you this, I don’t need to convince only to give examples. What happened in Oak Brook yesterday or something like that it was cut through the news headlines in your heads. There’s a very real physical darkness in our world. But it goes much deeper than that, too. Because I worry that sometimes when we talk about darkness, we’re only thinking about circumstances. But it’s more than that the physical darkness that we see results from spiritual darkness. And that runs through the heart of every one of us. violence and oppression runs through the heart of every one of us, spiritually speaking. And I know some of you are sitting there going, Oh, no, I don’t do violence. I don’t do oppression, I vote the right way I tweet the right causes. I even put my shopping cart back in the right place, instead of just rolling it up onto a median or something like that. I’m one of the good guys. And I get that, like, I believe you that you do those things physically, but spiritually speaking, it is there. So you don’t have the power. I don’t think if you’re here in this room, right now, we’re an unimpressive church, you don’t have the power to oppress on a large scale. And maybe you really do work hard to fight injustice socially, in some way or other. But have you ever stepped on another person’s rights? Because it was inconvenient for you? To give them their due? To give them what you owe them, which is love and kindness, but you neglected your duty. Why? Because, well, frankly, you’re selfish, like the rest of us. You know what this looks like? Right? You know, when you’re in a rush, and what you have to do is more important, what everyone else has to do. We can agree on that. Yes. So when you’re driving, oh, like one of you not, and the rest of you are liars, that’s fine. So when you’re driving somewhere, and you come across the construction, and they’re closing the one lane down, and you see that line of cars, and you think but again, what I have to do is so important, I am justified and driving all the way into the end until those little orange barrels, scooped me to the side so that I can merge. And at that point, with everybody honking at me, I’ll wave and go, but you don’t know how important I am. You’ve done that before. So have I or maybe you withheld affirmation or gratitude from a colleague why because you don’t particularly like the person or because you’re worried if you gave it to them that would take something away from you. Or maybe when you came home from work that day, you just shaded the story with your family a little bit so that you’d come out in a better light, somebody else would come out a little bit different. And you’re looking at me like I got no blood on my garments. And I hope you don’t maybe saying to me, I’ve never raised my fist except to play we resort boxing. But have you ever done violence to a person’s reputation? If you’ve never used a knife as a weapon, you ever use your words to slice somebody, to pierce them to the heart, which in so many ways is worse. Give a Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said that those words are incipient murder. When we speak harshly to one another, he said it’s murder in the seed. And so all those times when that person goes all the way down to the orange barrels before merging right in front of you, and you’re laying on the horn and you’re flipping the bird. Jesus says that’s murder in your heart.
When you got gossip and slander about your colleagues at work that’s murder in your heart, or even just with your spouse when you go, I’m not going to say the words because I’ve learned over time that when I say the words, it means I gotta walk back a lot of things later on. So I’m not gonna say anything. I’ll do the cold shoulder instead. Do you see that that’s a difference of degree, but not of kind. But is there maybe a quantitative difference between that and actual violence but not a qualitative difference? The tree might not have grown quite as tall but it springs from the same poisoned root. And that’s the point. It’s so easy to look out there when thinking of the world’s problems, but the issue is right here. The overwhelming majority of human suffering and evil in this world is self-inflicted. Is humanity. How There’s a problem. And that problem is spiritual darkness. The Bible calls it sin. If you don’t like that word because it’s archaic, little too religious for you or something like that, that’s fine. Just call it love of self. Because that’s all it is when we’re bent in towards our self, serving our own needs and wants and desires instead of loving our neighbor, and loving the Lord, like we’re called to do. So you can see then where the prophecy goes and why it goes the way it goes. You were to look ahead to verse 17, Stone, Isaiah chapter nine, it says this, everyone is ungodly and wicked. Every mouth speaks folly. Anyone exempted from those verses? No, that’s all of us. Right? That’s God saying that spiritual darkness is right there in your heart. Again, I know we only quote certain parts of Isaiah nine at Christmas, we can’t make sense of the light. Without the darkness. The Bible is telling us it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The Dark is real, and it matters. And not only that, but the darkness that’s in us. You see, that leads to the deepest problem, the deepest darkness that we know, which is that because of our ungodliness and wickedness, we provoke a perfectly just God to perfectly just anger. This is where it goes next, if you’re looking at the NIV, by the way, the next section of the prophecy that begins in verse eight, the heading which is not inspired, this is just what the editor has put into the heading is the Lord’s anger against Israel. The Lord is angry, and rightly so. And here again, he’s not talking about, you know, ungodly heathens, he’s talking about his people, and he’s angry with them. And we read this in verse 12. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away. His hand is still upraised, it’s actually a refrain that runs throughout Isaiah chapters nine and 10. But here’s the key because that’s bad news. Or that the Lord is rightly angry with us. The key to the transition from dark to light is that God’s anger is to quote Jonathan Edwards his strange work because his ordinary work his bent is toward mercy. God allows affliction. So much of the pain and suffering we see in this world, the fact that we walk in that land of deep darkness, so that will run to the light. That’s the purpose. And look at verse 13. But the people have not returned to him who struck them, nor have they sought the Lord Almighty. That was his hope. That’s what he’s saying. I was hoping that when my people suffered like this, they would go, Oh, something’s wrong. Where’s Dad? I gotta find death. In other words, this punishment. It’s the punishment of a loving father. The father grounds his son. He’s not doing it. I hope punitively. Some of our fathers aren’t great. Okay, so maybe your dad did it that way. I don’t know. But hopefully the father is not doing it punitively, but in hopes that this will be what it takes for the sun to turn around. We’ve got that choice. This Christmas. We’ve got that choice. When we’re in the cold and the dark and the pain, we can let that prod us toward God. Or we can keep stubbornly stumbling in our own selfish way. The choice should be easy. The choice should be really easy to get turning to him is turning to the light is why there’s a star announcing Jesus’s birth. Here’s the light. Okay, do you see what you’re running towards? So let’s, let’s take a look at that. Now. Let’s turn the next section light, light. So people walking in darkness — that’s the bad news. Here’s the good news have seen a great light. And even in that valley of the shadow of death, a light has done you know what light does to shadows.
chases them away. This world is so often very dark. But here’s the good, very good news, light breaks. There is hope. And that hope brings joy as we read about in verse three. Those people who are stumbling in the darkness stumbling over themselves are now rejoicing with the same joy that you get in a village that whole livelihood comes from the harvest when the harvest comes in, and it’s a good one. And there’s a party in town like this was the original Oktoberfest I kid you not? Why? Why are they rejoicing? Isaiah tells us why he gives us three reasons. And they each build on the other it’s right there in the text even verse four verse five or six. You notice that in verse four begins with a word for because right here’s why. Verse five, it doesn’t say it in the NIV I promise you it’s there in the Hebrew, here’s why for and then verse six it’s there again for Okay, so they keep moving from one to the next three reasons. First, the oppression remember the oppression God has dealt with that. He’s shattered the yoke as comprehensively as when Gideon showed up with his 300 and marry men, and they wiped out the Midianite army just rolled through them so that every Midianite scattered. But more than that, as we move into verse five, right, more than that, he didn’t just remove the threat of violence temporarily. But you still need to guard it day and night. You understand what that’s like, when where it’s a tenuous piece. And so you’ve got a tenuous hope only where, like, you’re glad that the war is over. But you’re still digging a bomb shelter in your backyard? That’s not what we have here. No, look at verse five, says the combat boots and the bloodstained garments from the war, those are getting burned in the fire. What are we talking about here? This is an argument from the lesser to the greater, really, because what Isaiah is saying is all the paraphernalia of a war that all that all goes away, we don’t need it anymore. You read elsewhere in Isaiah, he talks about doing things like turning spears and swords into piles, because you don’t need a sword anymore because there’s no more threat of violence. And of course, even the clothing that happens to it, as well, we can melt the guns down and make them into bird baths. This is a great, great day. Do you notice by the way that Isaiah here is using the perfect tense, he keeps saying you have done this, you have shattered the yoke. You have done this, even though it’s predicting the future at this point. But God’s deliverance and his people’s joy is so certain that Isaiah can speak of it as if it’s already done. And I don’t know about you, but every now and again, when I look out at the world, I find statements like this a little bit presumptuous? Because it sure feels like violence and oppression are winning. I mean, even for Israel, this prophecy is from around 700 BC have the Jews suffered since 700? BC? Yeah, quite a bit. Under the Romans under the Nazis? I would say so. So how can I say a say this? How can he use this type of labored how we speak of a time like this with any certainty? Because we need to look at that final four and verse six, because that’s the ground of it all. This is the foundation of our hope and joy. This is light breaking for to us. A child is born is a problem with this verse. You know, the problem is, you’ve heard it too many times. So you missed what’s happening here, the end of all violence and oppression, injustice, the physical and spiritual darkness. That’s all because of a helpless baby. And I do mean helpless baby. His mother doesn’t feed him he starves to death. His eyes when he comes out, they’re not fully developed. He can’t make out shapes really at that point. And when his mother lays him down, she lays him. And what is almost certainly insect-riddled straw, and a feeding trough. He’s born to poverty-stricken parents, is an inauspicious beginning to the reign of peace and righteousness for which we long How can this be? Well, because we have to look at who this baby is. And as Isaiah tells us, he’s Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, these titles matter. So wonderful counselor. Now I know when we think of counselor, today, we think of that person you pay $75 an hour to listen your problems, not what we’re talking about. Your counselor is somebody who gives counsel
and this counselor, he’s literally a wonder, because he doesn’t give human wisdom which is so often faulty, the perfect Divine Wisdom, what sort of wisdom it’s the sort of wisdom that Paul talks about in First Corinthians 125, when he says, For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. It takes divine wisdom to realize that weakness can be strengthened, defeat can be victory. And that’s the counsel. This baby brings. He’s mighty God. Again, stop there for a moment. To us, a child is born, mighty God. We’re talking about the birth of God, that you blow our minds. That’s what is therefore that would take divine wisdom. Indeed, by the way, humans wouldn’t have gotten there on our own. But the God part as much as that stuns us it’s the mighty part that we need to pay attention to in this context, because it’s its power, what power the power to absorb all evil and darkness and yet rise again. The evil can’t hold him down. He’s Everlasting Father. Now I know for a lot of us as Christians, especially we hear this and we think Trinity, we have the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That’s not what we’re doing here. Because here we’re talking about a king, do you notice that this is a king, he’s gonna rain on David’s throne. And he gets all these awesome titles, and not one of them is king. You know why that is? Because the kings were lousy. We don’t want a king. If he’s going to look like all these other kings, we want somebody better. The thing is, most kings in the ancient Near East called themselves, Father, there are father to the people, you get that sort of language and totalitarian dictatorships, even today, but what’s the problem is usually that father is very happy to sacrifice his children, in order to enrich himself. That’s what happens when you get kings, but not this one, not this everlasting Father, who will be a true father to his people, he won’t sacrifice them, he will sacrifice himself for them. And then he’s the Prince of Peace. And maybe this one seems the least interesting to us. But this is actually the climax of these titles, the one who comes in and to bring peace. That’s what we’re looking for. And again, the wholeness of peace, the Hebrew shalom, which is not just the absence of conflict, but the presence of wholeness. That’s what he’s come to bring. It’s the rain that we’re talking about here. And that means that he’s a prince of peace means he’s not coming to crush his enemies, we might think of that the Pax Romana, right, the Romans kept the peace, they did it by killing anyone who threaten the peace, not this one, he does not come in to crush his enemies would be crushed by his enemies. You see how all of these titles then point to the work that this baby came to do point to what Jesus came to do. Because the reality is, there’s a much darker night yet to come the Syrian invasion. That’s nothing. Because at a certain point in time, the Christ candles snuffed out. That was a dark night, Good Friday, Holy Saturday. But then what happens on that third day light, breaks right back in. That’s what we’re pointing to here. All these titles point what the child would grow to becoming what he came to do infinite glory, wrapped in frail humanity and frail humanity ultimately wrapped in grave clothes. But like breaks, on the third day he rises again. So then this exceptional, extraordinary child will reign on David’s throne ruling with justice and righteousness forever.
That’s really good news. It obviously didn’t happen. At Christmas 2000 years ago. We’re still waiting for that moment, of course. So we got to look at this. How exactly does this happen? What does this have to do with our deliverance from physical and spiritual darkness. So
this king comes to rule in truth and grace, we just saying that right. But in order for there to be truth, and grace, in order for there to be justice, and righteousness, he’s going to need to conquer again, not his enemies, he’s going to need to conquer our hearts to put an end to injustice, because the problem is not out there. The problem is right here. So to set things right in the world, he needs to fix our hearts. We know that’s it, because history is just on repeat, lots of kings have come and gone. And what always happens left to our own devices, we will keep messing up and hurting each other. That’s how it always goes like, look at the end of World War Two, we’re finally putting out the darkness of Nazism. And even at the end of the war, like the bombing of Dresden, for example. Some of the allies are trying to show the Russians don’t, don’t try it. So the end of World War Two is literally the beginning of the Cold War was just our lives isn’t it is moved from one mess up to the next from one sin to the next, what will help us overcome this darkness what will help us overcome our selfishness we can straighten our twisted hearts, the gospel, the gospel, and that, by the way, is why Jesus comes twice, once as a baby in a manger. born to die, that’s the gospels that we have the gospel so that it can heal our hearts so that when He comes again he will have a people fit for heaven because when he comes again he will come to be that conquering King Who reigns forever injustice peace. So the good news what this baby has come to do what child is this we ask every year in our Carol’s and a little bit later on in the same song we hear which child is the one where nails and spear shall pierce who through? He was born to die to live the life We should have lived that life without violence without oppression without injustice or selfishness, that life of peace and wholeness to live the life we should have lived but he came then to die the death we deserved to die and he died at death in our place. So remember that perfectly just anger that God feels towards us because of our selfishness. Now that’s satisfied. That’s taken care of, so that we can be made right with God. When you hear that story when you see what we’ve been given and see that we didn’t deserve that. That’s all almost enough to make your heart grow three sizes, isn’t it? But to get there, to get there, we need to reckon with our darkness fully. Because otherwise you hear that story and you go, I didn’t need that because I’m okay. We need to reckon with our darkness before walking in His light. Dietrich Bonhoeffer talks about this now Bonhoeffer somebody who knew quite a bit about injustice and oppression and violence murdered as he was by the Nazis. But he writes this, he says, there are only two places where the powerful and great in this world the sorts of people who read violence and oppression only to places where the powerful and great in this world lose their courage tremble in the depths of their souls and become truly afraid. These are the manger and the cross of Christ, the manger and across the crosswalk for the simple reason that darkness cannot overcome that light they tried. The candle was snuffed out, but Jesus is like one of those trick birthday candles just goes again. That’s the good news, right? Are you gonna let that light flicker in you? Will you let that light break through your darkness. That’s the hope of Christmas. Bonhoeffer goes on. He says, we’ve become so accustomed to the idea of divine love, and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. What happened to shepherds. When the angels announced all this, they were sore afraid. Here they were terrified, we should be to why we’re indifferent to the message, he says, taken only the little taken away the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws nearer to the people of our little Earth and lays claim to us, who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly, whoever finally lays down all power, all on our all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism, beside the manger, Whoever remains lowly, and lets God alone behind whoever looks at the child and the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his lowliness
Yaga when, in his short little book, a very messy Christmas, shares a story of when he and his wife were given a very special Christmas present. It was given to them a little bit before Christmas, and the person who handed them the envelope said openness, you know, Friday at noon, and so Friday at noon, they opened the envelope of what was inside they were living in England at the time, and it was tickets on the Eurostar to get to Paris hotel in Paris guidebook, spending money, it was all there it was all taken care of like taxi to meet them, take them to the hotel, and absolutely everything all taken care of. I mentioned this just in case any of you haven’t had a good gift idea for me yet. No, I mentioned this because that’s Christmas. God has taken care of all of it to the life and death and resurrection of this precious child and it’s much better than weekend in Paris. It is in winds words pardon for the past, presents for the present and paradise for the future. And that paradise, by the way, is living eternally under the wise and loving rule of our prince of peace and a world without violence or oppression. Now, the good news is that like Iago and his wife, we don’t need to do much of anything. It’s all taken care of. What did they have to do just the one thing just the one thing open the envelope you imagine they get to Friday at noon and they go you know things are busy at work I don’t really have time for this and they just leave it sitting there. Then it all goes away. We have to open the gift we have to open the gift of Christmas this Christmas let Christ light break into your darkness and maybe you’ve been coming for many years maybe to this church maybe to some other church you’ve heard this story a lot. You’ve never let that light come in let tonight be the night. I’m gonna pray now. I’m gonna pray in the first person but if that’s you just pray along with me and make these words your own. Let’s pray. Father, thank You for this child born to us. Our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Thank you, Jesus, that your light is everywhere breaking into this dark world rescue Hang out from the darkness out there. And the darkness in here. I’m sorry for all the mess that I’ve made all the hurt that I’ve caused by living a selfish life focused on myself rather than on you and others. Please forgive me. Thank you, Jesus, that you died on the cross to pay the price for my mistakes. Thank you for conquering death and darkness when you rose from the grave, offering me the hope that I too can be raised to a new life. Thank you for the message of Christmas which truly is good news of great joy for all people, including me. Jesus, I open my heart to now. Let your light break in so that I might know your pardon for the past, your presence for the present and your paradise in the future.

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