I was reading old journals a few weeks ago and found two whole weeks of old Christmas-time lessons. Four years old and largely forgotten, I dusted one off to share at a Christmas Party. Maybe some of you will find encouragement here.....
Just as a note, ALL the quotes are taken from the Study Notes in my ESV Study Bible. When I first studied this, my Bible was new and I was mildly obsessed with the notes - I'm still quite attached. If you don't have an ESV Study Bible, add it to your Christmas list....it's not too late....there's still one week before Christmas!
Read Isaiah 9:1-7
What I learned as I studied is that God's people are approaching a very VERY dark time. When we read this chapter it's usually in the context of Christmas pageants or family readings and we miss the context. The people are living through or seeing on the horizon a terrifying inescapable darkness. So when Isaiah starts jacking with the time frame, we don't notice because it's ALL history to us, but they would've heard. Think about your most difficult dark place right now. Now imagine sharing that with someone who then says, "Well, way back when you went through that..." Absurd? I guess it depends on what else they say. That's what Isaiah does here:
“In the former time” – “Isaiah’s vision projects his thoughts out of the tragic present as if it were already past.” (ESV Study Bible) “In the latter time He has made glorious” – “a past-tense verb, because the prophetic eye sees the future…”(ESV Study Bible)
Our present reality is already the past in God's view. And the future we fear is "latter time" to Him. He's bigger and stronger than the clock ticking in our ears. Can you trust God who sees beyond your tragic present?
Here is my journal entry from December 14, 2009.
“How often do I believe God’s promise when my present is dark? He calls the present a “former time.” All the more reason to rest and TRUST even today!
Moving on in Isaiah 9. "On them the light has shined…” I learned that this is “not subjective wishful thinking but an objective, surprising joy breaking upon sinners through the grace of Christ.” (ESV Study Bible)
When was the last time that something struck you as both objective and surprising? The best thing about an objective surprise is that you can see and measure and believe it! Here are some more treasures about Light.
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles.”
He says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”
After reading all of that, here's my journal entry for December 15, 2009:
“What joy – that you would shine your light across this world to bring the nations to salvation. I love that this is not wishful thinking but an objective, surprising joy breaking out over us! This is Christmas, that the God who graces us with light out of darkness gives us the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus – in Him, Sweet Baby Boy.”
And then we see that there isOverflowing Joy in Three “Fors"
FOR - He breaks human oppression (4).
FOR - He ends war (5) - See Psalm 46:9 and Isaiah 2:4.
FOR - He gives Jesus (6-7).
Remember that amazing way God speaks outside of time? How He calls things that aren't yet as if they already are? In those days through Isaiah He spoke about Jesus Messiah with an already true certainty that ushers in complete and total assurance. As you read the list below, can you stamp these things over your dark places? Can you let the Truth of these names and the character they can barely contain drip down into your "Not Yets"?
He IS Wonderful Counselor
- Isaiah 11:2
He IS Everlasting Father (also ideal King who takes care of His people)
- Isaiah 63:16
- Isaiah 64:8
- Psalm 103:13
He IS Prince of Peace
- Ephesians 2:14
- Psalm 72:7
And peace means = health, security, tranquility, a satisfied condition, an unconcerned state of peacefulness, completeness, harmony, fulfillment.
Here's my final journal entry for Isaiah 9; December 16, 2009:
“You are a miracle - able to advise and direct. You are mighty God Himself. You are forever and forever faithful and protective. You are our Redeemer and my Father. You are royal yet full of peace; peace that brings health, security, wholeness, and satisfaction. You are all of these things, and you shine them into the darkness of my life and bring me joy - full and amazing."
For additional study on your own this season:
- Isaiah 8:11-22, study the context and reason behind the “gloom” of 9:1.
- Look up and study all the cross-references for the names of Jesus listed above.
- Study John 1, and learn about Immanuel – God WITH US.
All notes for this handout came from the Study Notes in the ESV Study Bible.