Monday, January 10, 2011

What Child is This (Part 1) - Introduction

Do you think that the world is a better place today? If you do, you might belong to a minority. Powerful governments are unable to act against the leak of secret documents. The world leaders at times seem like toothless tigers unable to solve political and economic crises. The Korean peninsula seems to be a ticking bomb. If war breaks out there, is Singapore safe? After all, we are not out of reach of North Korean missiles carrying nuclear bombs. Do you leave your house door unlocked all the time? If you do, you probably belong to a small minority. Or maybe you have a few fierce dogs prowling outside your front door.

The news tells us that there is a sense of confusion and helplessness as we look at the world situation. In fact, many governments don’t seem to be able to cope with the changing political and economic landscape. Many people look for peace inside and around them, but cannot find it. Who can such people turn to in this confused and insecure world to give them peace?

In Isaiah 9:1-7, the setting was also that of political instability and confusion. Assyrians raiders were invading from across the border. Ahaz, king of the southern kingdom of Judah, had shown a lack of faith in God. When an alliance of Northern Israel and Syria invaded his territory, he did not turn to God for deliverance. It was a time of political insecurity and spiritual darkness much like the world situation today. Isaiah 8:22 describes it “Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.”

Darkness is also a description of sin. People who are lost think they are enlightened but do not realise their minds are filled with darkness. Like King Ahaz, they want to depend on their own efforts rather than trust in God. For King Ahaz and the people of Judah, judgment was coming soon in the form of the Assyrian invaders. For sinners, judgment comes on the day they have to stand before God. But against this gloomy background of judgment and unbelief, we see the light of God breaking through. Chapter 9 has a beautiful picture of salvation being painted by God through Isaiah’s prophecy in v1&2, “nevertheless there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress… The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”

That is a wonderful promise isn’t it? And this promise came true literally at the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, and the child of this promise. The Gospel of Luke tells us about the angels who brought the news of the birth of Jesus to the shepherd. The light of their glory shone brilliantly and literally pushed away the darkness. Henceforth, there was to be no more living in the darkness of sin. There was to be no more being burdened by the weight of sin. Instead God’s people would live in joy (v3), “they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest” as God has given them victory over darkness and sin. God’s people will live in victory (v4) and peace (v5). How will God achieve all this for us? What Child is this who can bring such blessing to God’s people? The four-fold names given to the child of promise will show us what Child is this.

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