Have you ever been in a dark place?
Years ago, I was coming back to my car from taking pictures in the Great Sand Dunes of Colorado (55 square miles of sandy nothingness) and I forgot that after sunset it usually tends to get dark. I just assumed I could find the parking lot. It never occurred to me to pack a flashlight. So it was a race against the gathering gloom, and I realized all the park rangers were gone, all the campers and hikers. I was miles and miles from any town. I had no phone, and no one to call, anyway. It was just me and the trees … and some animals I heard rustling around, coming out for the night. No lights, no markers, no path. I kinda started freaking out.
Well, my little situation resolved itself soon enough and now I have an absolutely fascinating anecdote to tell.
But some dark moments don’t seem to end so neatly.
What do you do when life gets dark?
Maybe you feel like you’re in a tunnel and you can’t see the light at the end.
Maybe you’re in a situation that’s already gotten way worse than you anticipated.
That was Israel in Isaiah 9.
Beaten up and bloody, the northern tribes of Israel were at their wits’ end. The area we now know as Galilee was a well-worn path for every powerful, ruthless army in the middle east, and the Israelites were pawns in the game. Their predicament was partly their own fault - they had been rebelling against God for decades. But not all of them. Some of God’s people were just living in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Isaiah spoke into that darkness. He said he could see a brighter day, a moment in future time when “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” He used language we call the “prophetic perfect” - when the event hasn’t happened yet but it’s so crystal-clear that the prophet writes as if it had already happened. He was that sure.
Read Isaiah 9:1-7 as we walk into this advent season. (Maybe even read the last four verses of the previous chapter to see how many of the people were grasping for straws in all the wrong places.)
Isaiah speaks of a child who will be born, in whom dwells hope itself. For them he was still 700 years in their future; for us he was born 2000 years in our past.
But he’s alive today. And he is the way out of our darkness.
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”