Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan – The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:1-2 (NIV)
Read: Matthew 4
Consider: Moving on from the prophecies about Jesus’ birth and the role of John the Baptist we come to a prophecy in Matthew 4:13-16 that seems to place special importance upon a small geographical area in Israel. Matthew (quoting from Isaiah 9:2) tells us: Leaving Nazareth, he [Jesus] went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali – to fulfil what was said through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’
Zebulun and Naphtali were two areas of the northern kingdom of Israel, named after two of Jacob’s sons. As the northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern kingdom (Judah) were at odds with each other, it is surprising that Jesus chose to relocate to Capernaum. It cannot just be to fulfil the Isaiah prophecy, no matter how important this might be. Jesus seems to be signalling to his disciples and the religious leaders in Jerusalem that his message is for all the Jews. Perhaps he was also signalling that in God’s eyes it was time for reconciliation between the two kingdoms.
More important is the second half of the prophecy that says: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2). In the fulfilment of this prophecy Jesus, as light of the world, brings a great light to bear on the lives of those who are in deep darkness. The darkness represents both the state of those in exile, as well as all who are estranged from God.
As our Saviour, Jesus’ light shines into all the dark corners of our lives to reveal the true state of sinfulness that lurks there. It is only through God’s grace that we can be brought back into a right relationship with him, through Christ’s death on the cross.
Pray: Father, thank you for Jesus being the light of the world, bringing forgiveness to those in the deep darkness of sin. Only through your grace are we able to accept the free gift of forgiveness you offer us. Amen