I’ve been thinking about why Jesus came. And, as I’ve been pairing my favorite Advent passages with answers to this question, I’ve returned to the Hallelujah Chorus of the Old Testament:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light/Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone … For to us a child is born/ to us a son has been given/And the government shall be upon his shoulder/And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace … (Is 9.2 … 6, ESV)
And, as such, Jesus came to be a light to all peoples!
In context, we find the passage at a time of great darkness for Israel. King Ahaz is on the throne of Judah (734 B.C.). The Israel/Syrian alliance approaches Judah from the northeast. Philistia and Moab press in from the southwest and southeast. God promises to deliver Judah and prompts Isaiah to urge Ahaz to ask God for a sign of this coming deliverance. Even though God is often stingy with His signs and this is special, Ahaz doesn’t want any part of God’s deliverance, but would rather appeal to Assyria.
The LORD responds with His sign anyway. Assyria will play its role in the discipline of both Israel and Judah (7.18), and Israel and Syria will not overcome (7.7-9), but the LORD will visit His people through the birth of a son; and, this to preserve the Nation of Israel and transform the nations.
The Sign of Immanuel is a far-reaching promise that gathers speed throughout the Book of Isaiah and the rest of the Old Testament, finally culminating in the birth of Christ.
All this took place to fulfill what the LORD has spoken by the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Matt 1.22-23; Is 7.14)
Isaiah 9, then, simply tells us about the Person and rule of Jesus. At His return Israel’s time of darkness is over (:1-2), the battle with darkness is over (:3), the oppression of darkness is over (:4-5), and God will be with His people in the Person of Immanuel (:6-7).
There’s a sense in which the Sign of Immanuel isn’t fulfilled yet. The full reality—when Jesus brings in peace and darkness has been transformed to light—awaits the return of Christ. Even so, those who have trusted Christ have moved from darkness to light:
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4.6)
How about you? Where has Jesus met you in your darkness this year? The spiritual darkness of unbelief, the mental darkness of depression, the material darkness of broken things, the physical darkness of bodies that don’t work, the financial darkness of income not matching bills, the social darkness of relationships grown cold?
Then … Where in your life are you trusting Jesus, Light to all Peoples, to be light to you in your darkness in this coming year?
Isaiah 9 describes Immanuel, Light to the Nation in darkness, fulfilled once at Jesus’ birth, completed at His return. And, even as this is God’s work among the nations, God’s solution to my darkness is to enter my world in the Person of Jesus and transform me, by faith, to share in His light.
May God bless you each richly this Advent Season as you join me in thinking about why Jesus came!