3rd Sunday of Epiphany
For January 27, 2008
Gloom may seem to come easily today with the stock market engaging the January temperature in a power dive of red. If you are reading this in the southern hemisphere… well… you probably aren’t.
Yet our gloom is nothing compared to the gloom being felt by Israel in Isaiah chapter 9. The reference in v. 1 to Zebulun and Naphtali looks back on when these lands of the northern kingdom of Israel were the first to fall to the Assyrians in 733/732 B.C. For these lost lands Isaiah has some good news: the first lands to fall will be the first ones to see someone called the Prince of Peace. In other words, things may seem bad, but God has not forgotten you.
What Isaiah prophesied actually came true. Zebulun and Naphtali were part of a region called Galilee. This is precisely where Jesus began his ministry. Thus the gospel writer Matthew quotes Isaiah 9:1,2 in Matt. 4:15,16. He connected the dots: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee was the fulfillment of Isaiah chapter 9.
Despite the fact that as believers we too have seen a great light we continue to walk in a land marred by the darkness of sin. Yet already the light we have seen has had a profoundly transforming effect on our own lives, our churches, and even our countries.
Isaiah makes one more historical reference in v. 4 which serves as a profound challenge for us to move forward in hope and faith: “For as in the days of Midian you have shattered the yoke that burdened them.” The person who defeated Midian was a man named Gideon, who did it with only 300 men. Think about the potential significance of each of our own circles of influence to accomplish God’s kingdom purpose today. In this season of Epiphany, may this be an epiphany for each of us.