Commentary on Isaiah 9:1-7
After admitting that the community was deeply complicit in injustice and idolatry, the prophet acknowledges the consequences. The community enters a prolonged period of regional gloom. Where once they experienced pride and safety, now their lands are conquered. People walk in darkness and they live in the shadow of death. This is the reality. But it is not the end.
For those in the gloomy shadows of despair after a communal tragedy and the death of so many dreams, Isaiah promises a light. A leader will come to dispense justice, peace and hope for those beaten down by failure and loss.
Isaiah is probably referring to Hezekiah here, who led a campaign of religious, economic, and cultural reform. Christian preachers may want to skip straight to Jesus, but I would like for us to sit with one of the great reformers of the Bible to consider the communal impacts of national restoration. Understanding Hezekiah better helps us see Jesus more clearly. God’s anointed leader was raised up specifically to show the people the ways of righteousness and to incorporate those who had been cut off and misled, particularly and specifically those in Galilee. In a time when wars raged around them, God’s anointed practiced righteousness peacefully. The light that dawned in the gloom was peace, righteousness, and inclusion of those who had been separated (or separated themselves) from the community. Seeing Hezekiah’s ministry in his day should put Jesus’ work in a clearer focus.
The preacher may wish to reference Jesus’ frequent assertion in John’s Gospel that he is the light of the world. God did not wait over seven-hundred years to shine a light in Galilee, however. Jesus should be seen as the most important part of God’s ongoing salvific work, not an anomaly unconnected to God’s enduring mission.
[This is Week 2 of a 4-week Preaching series on Isaiah.]