Isaiah 9:1 But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. 3 You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. 4 For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 6 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.
Isaiah is writing at the time when the kingdom of Assyria was conquering the northern kingdom of Israel. You may recall at that point in history there was also a southern kingdom of Judah – both kingdoms comprised of God’s people who were divided. This division, and the weakness it created, was a major factor in both kingdoms ultimately being overrun by foreign nations. It was a dark time in Israel’s history for sure.
V.6 then describes a leader given by God to liberate his people “For a child has been born for us…”. Through Christian lenses we interpret this reference to Jesus Christ who was born hundreds of years after this writing from Isaiah. V.7 then describes a kingdom akin to that of former King David, which explains why so many Jewish people refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus was nothing like David. His kingdom was not only for the Jews, but for all people everywhere who called on Jesus as Lord. That’s still true today.
God did a new thing in Jesus who didn’t rule from a throne, but instead died on a cross then rose from the dead.
Like the Jews of Jesus’ day, I risk missing what God is up to in the present because I’m looking for what has happened in the past. This is particularly true now when the church I lead, like most churches, is trying to figure out how to be the church in a world that has substantially changed over the last 15 months or so. It’s hard not to import my mental maps from the past and try to reproduce them. It’s what I know. It’s what’s familiar. But in my heart I know that what’s needed is something different, even if I don’t yet know what that means.
All I know is I don’t want to miss what God is doing now because I’m busy looking for what used to be. Lord let it be so. Amen.