In Isaiah 9, the Holy Spirit describes God’s people as living in desperate times. Israel is experiencing the gloom of anguish and distress. God’s people are walking in darkness and dwell in a land of deep darkness. The word translated in Isaiah 9:2 as “deep darkness” is the same word translated in Psalm 23:4 as the “shadow of death.” We know from Psalm 23 that it is a terrible thing to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But the people described in Isaiah 9 are not merely passing through that awful place. These people have made the shadow of death their home (v. 1).
Maybe you currently feel as if you have taken up residence in the shadow of death. I certainly do. I am writing these words on the day my sister died. This month, she would have celebrated her forty-fourth birthday. Our family is certainly experiencing the awfulness of the shadow of death. Although we have faith that the Lord will see us safely through this deep darkness, it is hard for us not to feel as if we have made this awful place of anguish our new home. But we also live in hope. Christ our Light will one day come to relieve our anguish and brighten our darkness, just as Isaiah foretold.
Isaiah 9:1–5 describes a coming Light that will do three things for the people of God. First, this Light will turn shame into glory. All the locations described in Isaiah 9:1 are really just one region, the despised region of Galilee. We know from the New Testament that most of Israel looked down on Galilee and on the people who lived there. But when Jesus came, He transformed Galilee’s shame into glory. Jesus first began to preach the good news of the kingdom in Galilee (Matt. 4:15–16), fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1.
Second, this coming Light will transform sorrow into joy. Isaiah prophesies that a great reversal of circumstances will take place. The people suffering anguish and loss due to death will instead begin to multiply, both in numbers and consequently in rejoicing (Isa. 9:3).
Finally, the coming Light will transform their constant warfare into permanent peace. The coming Light will put an end to the power of His people’s oppressors. The Light brings such a complete victory over enemies that warfare becomes a permanent thing of the past. And so, their implements of war become obsolete (Isa. 9:4–5).
Jesus is the Light that Isaiah foretold. He fulfilled these promises by His perfect life, His sacrificial death, and His glorious resurrection. Jesus turned His disciples’ sorrow into joy when He rose from the dead (John 16:20–22). He brought an end to our constant warfare against the powers of this world, triumphing over them by His cross (Col. 2:13–15).
When Christ comes again in glory, He will transform all our earthly shame into eternal glory, all our momentary sorrows into perpetual joy, and all our constant warfare into a permanent peace. Therefore, God’s promises in Christ are enough to brighten even our darkest and gloomiest days here below.