The light that shines in darkness

Photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash

❖ Video
❖ Audio

The light that shines in darkness

Isaiah 9:1-7
Mari Ikeda

We have entered the Christmas season, but this year’s Christmas has become very unusual (compared to other Christmases). How are we going to receive Christmas in this darkness called Corona? Today, during the first week of advent, we will be looking at Isaiah chapter 9 in the old testament. First, we will read the whole passage. 

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

You have enlarged the nation and increased 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 Midian’s defeat, 
you have shattered the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.

Every warrior’s boot used in battle 
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning, will be 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 with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

A. Isaiah was certain of the light that shines in darkness

1. A specific enemy called Assyria

This prophecy of Isaiah was given in the specific crisis that the people of Israel were placed in around the 8th century BC. At the time, the Kingdom of Israel was divided into the North and South, was attacked by a strong country Assyria and the Northern kingdom was in the verge of extinction. The regions of Zebulun, Naphtali, Galilee and others that appear in 9:1 were part of the Northern kingdom and had already been conquered by Assyria. Also, Assyrian language and not the Hebrew language is used to describe the phrase “worrier’s boot” which appears in verse 5 (Verse 4 in the Japanese Bible). It depicts the threat of Assyrian soldiers. Many people (at the time) died or were taken prisoners. It was a dark period for the people of Israel.

2. Speaking of the future hope as if it is already realized

But Isaiah here talks of hope. He foretells of the end of the dark days, the departure of the enemy, and the return of peace. Verse 6 (vs 5 in Japanese) says “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” This tells of the birth of a new king. Isaiah foretells of the new king taking the throne and the dark days coming to an end. In reality, the threat of Assyria was approaching from the North, a powerful country called Egypt was in the South and a difficult situation continued for Israel. However, Isaiah’s hope for the future remained intact. Past tense is used (in the passage) as if the war was already over and peace had returned. Isaiah proclaims that “light has already shone in the darkness, the fighting has ended, people have been freed, and there is joy”. Isaiah teaches us that though the situation in front is gloomy, if there is a conviction of future hope in us, then it’s the same as that hope having already been realized. 

3. Foretelling of God Himself becoming the King

And Isaiah’s prophecy has become a prophecy of hope that goes beyond generations, perhaps more than he himself thought. Isaiah probably spoke this prophecy with hope of a king, who would bring peace, coming during his time. But as we continue reading verses 6-7 (5-6 in the Japanese Bible), we realize that this particular king would not be a human king. The second half of verse 6 (verse 5 in Japanese) says, “…And he will be called   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This clearly portrays God Himself.

Again, verse 7 (Verse 6 in the Japanese Bible) continues to say that there will be no end to the King’s kingdom. Thus, Isaiah prophesied that God Himself would ascend the throne and his kingdom would be everlasting. No one had imagined of God Himself coming to this world and becoming a king until the coming of Jesus. Isaiah was a person who lived 700 years before Jesus’s time. We cannot tell how much understanding Isaiah himself had of his prophecy. But because giving one person the same treatment as God is considered blasphemy, we can tell that, for sure this was not Isaiah’s intention. I believe Isaiah managed to make this prophecy with the guidance of the spirit of God because he hoped for a righteous king to lead the people. Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus came to this world. He was not able to witness that time but was able to continuously seek God with hope during the time of darkness.  

Unlike Isaiah, we know Jesus. We should therefore be able to have a strong conviction that light shines in the darkness, more than Isaiah. 

B. We should be able to be certain of the light that shines in darkness, more than Isaiah

1. Who is our (specific) enemy?

As the people of Israel during Isaiah’s time had Assyria as their clear enemy, we can say that we also have corona virus as a common world enemy now. When Corona had just started, it was said that the real enemy was not the virus but something inside of our hearts. That is, to be ruled by the fear of uncertainties of the visible conditions before us. Our weak hearts are the enemy. Isaiah said that the hope had already been fulfilled during the dark times in order to remind people of where to put their trust. We ought to put trust in the fact that God is a good God (or just “God is good”). In all circumstances, the fact that God is a good God does not change. Our hearts that doubt this fact are our true enemies.   

This does not only apply to corona the common world suffering, but it’s also applicable to our individual sufferings. The illnesses or persons that inflict suffering on us are not our enemies. The real enemy is the uncertainties and fear that rule our hearts, the darkness in our hearts that make us lose hope is the real enemy. 

This does not only apply to corona the common world suffering, but it’s also applicable to our individual sufferings. The illnesses or persons that inflict suffering on us are not our enemies. The real enemy is the uncertainties and fear that rule our hearts, the darkness in our hearts that make us lose hope is the real enemy. 

2. We speak of the hope that has already been realized

We live in the times when the hope that Isaiah had envisioned from far has been realized. We can also say that in whatever circumstances, there is evidence that God is a good God. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. These words of Isaiah were rephrased by the angel 2000 years ago.  

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:11-12)

2000 years ago, God became a man and came to this world. Jesus’s birth was a sign of the love that God, the creator of the universe, had for us and this world. By receiving this love of Jesus, we will not lose hope irrespective of the situation. Jesus will suffer with us and will guide us even when we find ourselves in darkness, unable to find answers to why certain things occur. There is no one else who will always be with us and love us as the way Jesus does. Jesus wants to be with us not only while we live in this world, but also after we die. Therefore our hope will not be shaken by the conditions of this world even by death. 

3. The kingdom of God has started inside us

So how can we, strongly convey the hope of Christ to the people without being ruled by the darkness in our hearts like Isaiah? The answer is found in the whole of this prophecy of Isaiah. That is, to make God our King; To welcome Christ to our hearts; And to become servants of Jesus, the King. Becoming servants seems connected with oppression but Jesus is a king who is good beyond human imagination. He is a king who became a servant and is willing to die for the servants. To become a servant of Jesus means to sacrifice ourselves for the love of the people just as Jesus did. We are not perfect and cannot completely erase the darkness in our hearts. But when we love God more than anyone else and live a life of love for the people as Jesus did, we extend hope to ourselves and other people.
Finally, let’s focus on Isaiah’s final words

The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

God, for his zealous love for us, became man and came to this world. That Lord’s zeal changes our hearts, and moves us. Please welcome Jesus to your heart and receive his deep love this Christmas. And let us be the light that shines in the darkness of this world.

Dear God, we welcome you in our hearts. We are going into an unusual lonely Christmas, but the light of your hope never changes. The joy of being with you does not even slightly alter. Please help us to strongly convey your hope even at this time when we cannot meet members of the church family.  Enable us renew feelings for you this Christmas. Our amazing leader, Powerful God, everlasting Father and prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, we pray this in your mighty name. Amen 


Though we welcome Christmas in this Corona darkness, Jesus gave us the light of hope that shines in whatever kind of darkness. God came to this world as man and died for us so that love would rule over our hearts and this world. Let Jesus’s light of love shine over the darkness in our hearts. Let us continue to seek Jesus’s love to spread to the world around us.

For Discussion

  1. Who is our (your) enemy?
  2. How will Jesus shine light on our (this world’s) darkness?

For kids

In this Corona (Covid-19) time, there are many things that we must give up on and many things to both children and adults will not go as expected. Even in church, we will not gather to celebrate this year’s Christmas as we’ve always done. The joy of Christmas will however not be affected by the Corona virus. The truth of God’s presence and love for us will not change. Prepare to receive Jesus in your heart at home this Christmas. Instead of directly talking about Christmas, discuss about the sad and painful moments you faced and Jesus’s presence in such moments.