The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. Isaiah 9:2
In 2018, twelve Thai boys and their soccer coach descended into a mazelike cave, intending to enjoy an afternoon adventure. Due to unexpected rising water that forced them deeper and deeper into the cavern, it was two-and-a-half weeks before rescuers led them out. Dive teams, thwarted by rising water, attempted the rescue as the boys sat on a small rock shelf with only six flickering flashlights. They spent hours in darkness, hoping that somehow light—and help—would break through.
The prophet Isaiah described a world of brooding darkness, one overrun by violence and greed, shattered by rebellion and anguish (Isaiah 8:22). Nothing but ruin; hope’s candle flickering and fading, sputtering before succumbing to dark nothingness. And yet, Isaiah insisted, this dim despair was not the end. Because of God’s mercy, soon “there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress” (9:1). God would never abandon His people in shadowy ruin. The prophet announced hope for his people then and pointed to the time when Jesus would come to dispel the darkness sin has caused.
Jesus has come. And now we hear Isaiah’s words with renewed meaning: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light,” Isaiah says. “On those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (v. 2).
No matter how dark the night, no matter how despairing our circumstances, we’re never forsaken in the dark. Jesus is here. A great Light shines.
How are you prone to experience darkness and despair? Consider this image of Jesus as the great light—how does this light renew you with hope?
God, there’s so much darkness. I fear sometimes that the darkness will overwhelm me. Be my great light. Shine on me with radiant love.
King Ahaz of Judah, threatened by the armies of Israel and Syria (Isaiah 7:1–6), turned to Assyria for help instead of trusting in God (2 Kings 16:7–9). Because Ahaz didn’t turn to God, Isaiah warned that He’d instead use Assyria to punish Judah (Isaiah 7:17–25; 10:5–19). Of their unrepentant unfaithfulness, Isaiah warned that the people of Judah would “have no light of dawn” and be “thrust into utter darkness” (8:20, 22). But God loved them too much to leave them there. He’d bring them “a great light,” starting from Zebulun and Naphtali, lands in Israel’s far north ravaged by the Assyrians (9:1–3). Isaiah prophesied of a future time when “Galilee of the nations” (v. 1) (or “of the Gentiles”) would be honored. Seven hundred years later, Matthew tells us that this was fulfilled when Jesus, the light of the world, came into Galilee and did much of His public ministry there (Matthew 4:12–17).