Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Christmas: From The Darkness into the Light!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas: From The Darkness into the Light!

“16 Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. 17 And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion. 19 And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? 20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. 21 And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward. 22 And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness. 1 Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. 2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. 3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. 4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. 5 For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. 6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 8:16-9:7).

So many people suffer under the false notion that somehow the world would be so much better if Jesus had not been crucified. Perhaps that is why so many professing Christians are so enamored with the baby Jesus in the manger. The manger scene is intended to depict the humility to which God was willing to stoop to become the Saviour of “whosoever will.” He could never become our Saviour if He did not die a sinner’s death. The majority of the OT prophecies regarding the birth of Messiah involve details of His death. He was born to die on Calvary.

Out of the darkness of God’s pending judgment upon the backslidden nation of Israel comes the glorious light of God’s promise of the birth of Messiah. Within this backslidden, chosen people of God there was a remnant of “disciples” (8:16). The word “disciples” in Isaiah 8:16 is from the Hebrew word limmuwd (lim-mood') referring to a group of people who were instructed in the things of God (meaning they were living translations of God’s truth).

The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament (R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Moody Press) says the word “has the idea of training as well as educating.” The idea is that through education these people became servants of the Lord who used their tongues to proclaim God’s Word regardless of what it might cost them personally and whose ears were opened, ready to hear God’s message. The promise of Messiah as the ultimate suffering Servant is always at the forefront of the mind of the “learned” or the “disciple.”

“4 The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. 5 The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. 6 I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (Isaiah 50:4-6).

Obviously, the “learned,” the true “disciples” of the Lord, were not ignorant of the fact that Messiah would come as a suffering servant. Isaiah spoke of this more than any other prophet of God. The “disciples” of the Lord who lived at the time of Isaiah were fully instructed regarding the coming of Messiah as the suffering Servant of YAHWEH.

“1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:1-12).

Isaiah was not the first to reveal the suffering Servant of YAHWEH. David wrote of it in Psalm 22.

“1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? 2 O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. 3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. 4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. 5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. 6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. 7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. 9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. 10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly. 11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. 12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. 13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. 16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. 18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture” (Psalm 22:1-18).

The message of the suffering Servant of YAHWEH looks forward in time to the first advent of Messiah in Jesus Christ. Both the first and second advents of Jesus Christ happen in times of history when the people of God are living in the greatest darkness. The darkness in the world is not due to the wickedness of the world, but the wickedness, apathy and carelessness of professing believers.

In the first advent, the Cross of Jesus Christ was a place where this darkness was the most evident. Jesus came to those people who had been looking for His coming for thousands of years and they rejected Him.

“11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:11-14).

Jesus came to these people who had almost memorized the Law of God, but yet the darkness still overwhelmed their souls because the Truths of God’s Word never got beyond their dead externalism to bring light and life into them. Out of the darkness that encompassed the Crucifixion we hear the thundering voice of Jesus probably using the last few ounces of strength left in His body:

“45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Matthew 27:45-46)?

We wonder at these words. Why would Jesus ask such a question as this? Surely He must have known why God had forsaken Him? Oh friends, this question is not for Him. It was a reminder to Israel of David’s words in Psalm 22. It was a reminder to Israel of the holiness of God for that was the Psalmist’s answer to the question in Psalm 22.

“1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? 2 O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. 3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:1-3).

Why does God not hear the cries and pleas of the forsaken? He does not hear because God is holy and because the forsaken are the forsaken because of sin, because of apathy, because of worldliness and because of carelessness. The world is in darkness because all these things exist in the lives of professing believers. God has already heard and answered the plea of the forsaken.

“1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

“27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. 28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:27-28).

The Cross of Jesus Christ was both a place of utter, stifling darkness and glorious, blinding light. For those lost in the darkness of sin and ignorance, the darkness must have been overwhelming. To the “disciples” of Jesus who understood the many Scripture references to the suffering Servant of YAHWEH, the light of that truth must have shown so brightly that they could do nothing more but to stand in awe as they looked upon their dying Saviour.

“2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined . . . 6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:2 & 6).

Like the remnant of Israel at Christ’s first advent, we may be a people who walk in the darkness of a God hating, truth rejecting world, but we do not have to be a part of that darkness. We can be contributors to the light rather than contributors to the darkness if we will cast off our apathy, worldliness and carelessness and give our lives to be servants of YAHWEH.

“In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

If your life is filled with the darkness of despair and hopelessness, perhaps your need is “the life” that is “light of men.” You can have that “life” by simple faith in Jesus Christ. Turn away from your worldly pursuits and selfish motives in life. Come to the Light. It is shining in the darkness for you to find your way home. The Light of the world is Jesus!

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