For Unto Us A Child is Born

Going to be in Luke Chapter 2, but before going to Bethlehem, we are going to step even farther back to a time 7 centuries earlier, to a time as far removed from the coming of Christ as we are from the Middle Ages.  We are going to hear the words of a poet, a poet known a prophet, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz.  What does this poet prophet have to say?

“And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.” Isaiah 8:22 ESV  “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.” Isaiah 9:1-3 ESV.   This is essential to setting the scene for Luke Chapter 2, the coming of our Lord.  But poets, especially poets from 27 centuries ago, can be obscure and hard to understand.

What Isaiah is doing is describing a time and place held in darkness and gloom. He’s describing a place held in contempt.  But out of this place something good is going to come.  In this place of darkness will be seen a great light.  He’s describing the  land of the Hebrew tribes Zebulon and Naphtali.  He’s describing what we know in the New Testament as Galilee of the Gentiles.  Also called the Via Maris – the way of the sea.  This is a famous ancient road, also known as the way of war.  It was the road the armies of the world would march up and down to do battle.

Israel a unique place.  It is a place where 3 continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe come together.   Armies might stream from Africa to make war their enemies,  or Asia, or Europe.  They would always come through the land of Zebulon and Naphtali, Galilee if the Gentiles, the way of war.

April 16, 1457 BC…the first recorded battle in human history.  There had been many before, but this is first one to written down with the  particulars recorded for human history.  Pharaoh Tuthmosis III marched 12,000 soldiers up the Via Maris, and marched upon Canaanite city of Megiddo.  He wanted to control the spice trade, it would be good for his economy (of course).   He marches upon the city-state of Megiddo.  The battle was waged in the valley below, Har-Megiddo.  We know it as Armageddon.  We think it’s where the last battle will be waged, but it’s also where the first battle occurred, and many more since.   It is a land held in contempt.  War after war after war has been waged on this site.  Archaeological digs find layer after layer of ruins as the city gets destroyed in war, gets rebuilt, destroyed, rebuilt.  I’ve heard it’s been destroyed and rebuilt as many as 26 specific times in history?   Even the last battle of WWI occurred right here at Har-Megiddo, or as it’s known in Greek, Armageddon.

One particular time, Pharaoh Neco was marching his armies through, and good King Josiah just got tired of it.  He had had enough of the armies marching through his land, eating all their sheep, drinking their wine, making off with their women.  So he goes out, declares to Pharaoh that he’s not coming through here.  Pharaoh says “Yes I am!”   Josiah says “no you’re not!”   And good King Josiah died right there, along with the armies of Judah, at the hand of Pharaoh, who marched on to war with the Assyrians.  Dies right there, read about in 2 kings 23, even better in 2 chronicles 35, right there at Megiddo, in the land of contempt.   War after war comes through, Armageddon is right in center of the land.

What is Armageddon?  Armageddon is nothing but a battlefield.  Armageddon is never inevitable, it’s never unavoidable unless we do as in Revelation 16.  “And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.”

Revelation 16:13-16 ESV. If we listen to the wrong voices, demonic voices like those three frogs, if we listen to that dragon, the beast of empire, and the false prophets.  If we listen to the Satan, the empire, if we listen to the propaganda of the false prophet we are always on our way to the next Armageddon.   Or as we might say, on our way to Waterloo.  On our way to Gettysburg, Flanders Field, on our way to Omaha beach…

Armageddon never unavoidable, there is another way.  That’s what the prophet wants to tell us about.  We sing the Christmas carols, we know the words, we know the story.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.  The prophet is imagining a time in the future.  He’s in a land of darkness, in the land of war, in the land of galilee.  He’s in the land of Armageddon. But out of that darkness a light will shine.

You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.   Imagine living in this land.  This land of war.  All the centuries, all the soldiers boots marching across it, through it, on their way to the next conquest.  All these boots, all those bloodied garments are about to be thrown in the fire, they are about to be unnecessary, unneeded, because out of the darkness is coming a great light.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. 

So that’s where that comes from!   This verse just always just appears to come from nowhere, out of context.  But it’s out of the boots of the tramping warriors , out of all those uniforms bloodstained by war which will be fuel for fire, out of centuries of endless war, for unto us a child is born. 

For unto us a child is born, a child who will stop the tramping of soldiers boots, end the endless string of bloodied uniforms.

For unto us a child is born, he will be called…Prince of peace. So said the prophet seven centuries before Luke Chapter 2.

“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

Isaiah 9:1-7 ESV

http://bible.com/59/isa.9.1-7.esv

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