The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 9:1-4 which provides an important link in a chain of texts concerning the “child.” Beginning in Isaiah 7:14 we hear of a promised child, born of a virgin—Immanuel—God with us! Chapter 8 invokes this and reminds us by using “Immanuel” twice more (vs. 8, 10). Now chapter 9 prophecies what the birth of this child will mean. Our pericope precedes those famous words of 9:6-7: “for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…” What all of this tells us is the “CHILD” is the sign given to Isaiah. We preach, teach and confess the virgin birth, and rightly so, but the actual sign is not the Virgin giving birth, it is the Child who is born.
The motif of Light and Darkness in these verses provide great opportunity for preaching. It certainly brings to mind the language of John 1:1-13 as Jesus is identified as the Light which pierces the darkness, and points to the darkness seeking to destroy the Light. Yet, even though the darkness seeks to destroy the Light, the text tells us this Light is for those who are in the darkness. In fact, the Light has come for all people, Jew and Gentile alike.
As one reads the text, we need to pay attention to the One who is doing the action. It is all done by and comes from the LORD God. But who deserves the action? No one! Yet, God is doing this thing anyway. Unfaithfulness, judgement, enemies destroying… on and on we hear this terrible scenario. Yet, God remains faithful to the Covenant even when man is unfaithful.
A final note should be made concerning the “Day of Midian” in verse 4. This is most likely a reference to Gideon in Judges 6-8, and is used as a comparison to what was going on at this point in Israel’s history. It is 733 BC and the far reaches of the Northern Kingdom (Zebulun and Naphtali) are being conquered and destroyed by the Assyrians, the first area to be under attack. So, the people of those regions are looking to the prophets for a word, a word of hope! The people in the greatest darkness, upon them Light will shine. Thus, we are taken back to verse 1 of this chapter and the term, “Galilee of the nations/Galilee of the Gentiles.” The term is used this way in the Old Testament and is a reference to the Christ who would carry out a great deal of His ministry around the Sea of Galilee. Isaiah, by using the darkness of the Assyrian assault as an example, provides a beautiful message of the Light of Christ coming into this darkness. Christ and the Gospel are for all people.
9:1 (Hebrew 8:23)
מוּעָף (mu-Af) “gloom”
מוּצָק (mu-Tzak) “distress; anguish”
הֵקַל (he-Kal) root: קלל (kaw-lal) Hiphil: “to treat with contempt; to belittle; to dishonor”
עֵבֶרe (E-ver) “bank; edge; other side; area beyond”
9:2 (Hebrew: 9:1)
הַהֹלְכִים (ha-ho-le-Chim) root: הלך (haw-lak) Qal, participle: “the one’s walking”
בַּחֹשֶׁךְ (ba-Cho-shech) “darkness”
רָאוּ (ra-U) root: ראה (raw-aw) Qal: “to see” “they have seen”
יֹשְׁבֵי (yo-she-Vei) root: ישׁב (yaw-shab) Qal, participle: “the one’s dwelling”
צַלְמָוֶת (tzal-Ma-vet) “deep darkness; deep shadow; gloom”
נָגַהּ (na-Gah) Qal: “to shine; to gleam”
9:3 (Hebrew 9:2)
הִרְבִּיתָ (hir-Bi-ta) root: רבה (raw-baw) Hiphil: “to increase; to cause to increase, to cause to multiply”
הִגְדַּלְתָּ (hig-Dal-ta) root: גדל (gaw-dal) Hiphil: “to enlarge; to increase”
הַשִּׂמְחָה; (has-sim-Chah) “gladness; jubilation; joy”
בַּקָּצִיר (bak-ka-Tzir) “harvest; harvest time”
יָגִילוּ (ya-Gi-lu) root: גיל (gheel) Qal: “to rejoice; to shout in exultation”
בְּחַלְּקָם (be-chal-le-Kam) root: חלק (khaw-lak) Piel, infinitive construct: “to divide; to
שָׁלָל (sha-Lal) “spoil”
9:4 (Hebrew 9:3)
עֹלo (ol) “yoke”
סֻבֳּלוֹ (sub-bo-Lo) “burden”
שִׁכְמוֹ (which-Mo) “shoulder”
הַנֹּגֵשׂ (han-no-Ges) root: נגשׂ (naw-gas) Qal, participle (used as a noun with a definite article) “to oppress (oppressor); to force to work (tyrant)”
הַחִתֹּתָ (ha-chit-To-ta) root: חתת (khaw-thath) Hiphil: “to shatter; to break”
Concorida Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 9:1-4.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 9:1-4.