Tag Archives: Isaiah

The Gloom and the Glory


Christmas is meant to be a joyous time. It’s hard to get away from people without them saying something like, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” But what about those who can find no reason to be merry or no motivation to be happy? Solomon wrote, “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda,” (Proverbs 25.20, ESV). In other words, pressing a person to be happy, whether through song or through words, can be cruel like stripping them of their coat when it’s freezing outside, or even irritating and explosive.

It isn’t that people don’t want to be happy during the holidays; it is that there is so much going on in their hearts and minds that it makes Christmas a time of darkness rather than of light. Real life isn’t like the Hallmark Christmas movies. Things don’t always work themselves out by Christmas morning. Peter doesn’t always make it home early to make some Folgers coffee that wakes up the family.

Widows and widowers have lost their life-long spouse. Parents have lost their children. Children have parents who are oversees fighting wars. Families are homeless. Families are watching loved ones fighting cancer or some other disease, hoping for one last Christmas. Fathers and mothers are without a job and cannot afford even the meagerest of Christmas gifts for their children. Families are torn apart because of harsh words spoken years ago or even just yesterday. Many are dreading visiting family knowing that someone they love will be passed out drunk before Christmas dinner is even served.

If we were to stop and think for a moment, we’d realize that these are the people are the people who can really understand Christmas the best. Who better to understand the marvel and beauty of light than those who are in a dark place?

Today is the first Sunday of Advent; it is a time when we remember what it was like to expectantly wait for the coming of the Messiah, not knowing when it may be. Today we have a date in mind when expectation will cease and celebration will begin: December 25. There was no such date for the Jews. Their date was simply known as “someday.” From the time of Adam and Eve, it was “someday.” Through the time of Abraham, Moses, and David, it was always “someday.” Someday never came though. Solomon took the thrown. After Solomon, Rehoboam split the kingdom because of his hubris. Jeroboam immediately led the northern tribes into idolatry, while the southern two tribes we less idolatrous. The northern tribes fell further and further into disarray as king after king lost control of the country. It was to these people that Isaiah wrote in the ninth chapter.

This morning we are only looking at the first two verses in this chapter. The first reality that we look at is the gloom of the people. As we get into more of the history of those to whom Isaiah wrote, we will see that they indeed lived in great darkness. The second reality is the glory that was promised to come to those who lived in gloom. Finally, we will see the gospel of hope. The gloom, the glory, and the gospel.

Act Like a King

No one actually knows who King Lemuel was.  Some say that he was King of Massa, a northern Arabian nation, but no one knows for sure.  However, what we do know is that his mother (the Queen Mother?) gave him some interesting and good advice.  It is advice that we all can take to heart, especially if we live in a democratic republic, as I do here in the U.S.A.

When people think of Proverbs 31, they tend to think of the “Proverbs 31 woman”.  Not me.  That’s an afterthought.  My thoughts go straight to verses 8 and 9.

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy,” (ESV).

There are many in our nation–many in the world–who fit this description and we could absolutely exhaust ourselves on causes which often leads to virtue signaling (hey! look at me; I care about this and that and want the entire world to know even though in reality I’m not doing much).  This post isn’t about that at all.  It is however about making sure that we are not ignoring the plight of those who are poor, destitute, or without a voice.

There are more people out there like this than we may realize.  Often I will go on a tangent about something I believe to be an injustice. Abortion is one of those topics, but another is when a parent’s rights over their child, like Alfie Evans, are stripped away. These precious children have no voice, and the voices of Evans’s parents were being ignored. Why not speak up for their rights? I have the ability. I have a voice. I have a Twitter account and Facebook page; why not speak up?

But going beyond this, why not speak up when injustice is based upon race? When racism is known and seen, why would anyone keep their mouths closed? You see, we may not be king, but in the U.S.A. one does not need to be a king, but simply a citizen. Our rule is not based upon a monarchy, but upon the Constitution. That Constitution gives all an equal right to freedom of speech and to keep our statesmen and politicians accountable.  Our voice may be ignored, but that doesn’t dissolve us of the responsibility of speaking up.

It is no secret that the poor and needy are easily trampled upon. People take advantage of them constantly. As Christians we ought to speak up and defend their rights. One usually does not see a city or county declaring eminent domain upon the rich (I’m not saying it never happens, but it’s rare). It tends to happen upon the poor. And it is claimed that it is for the greater good, but it is not for the greater good of the person losing their home.  Casinos do not seem to ever be taken by the government, but little old widows’ home of 50 years are. Should a Christian ignore such a plight? Who’s going to listen to a little old widow? Not very many; but if Christians who believe in justice band together, their voices could and would be heard.

I have been studying Isaiah lately.  And I try to be careful not to equate the nation of Israel with the U.S., however, I do see a connection with the Church. Sadly, we can find that the way of Israel is followed by Christians.  Read carefully the scathing words of God to Israel in the first chapter of Isaiah.  God has just told the people that he abhors their sacrifices and their festivals and will not listen to their prayers.  Why? Because of their lack of care for justice.

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause.
Isaiah 1:16-17, ESV

Your princes are rebels
    and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
    and runs after gifts.
They do not bring justice to the fatherless,
    and the widow’s cause does not come to them.
Isaiah 1:23, ESV

This was the condition of the city of Jerusalem–Zion!  The people ignored the plight of the poor, the destitute, the orphan, and the widow.  They said nothing and they did nothing.  And God saw their silence as complacency and complicity. Is the Church guilty of the same? I’d say it often is. We tend to “mind our own business,” rather than open our mouths for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute, and judge righteously, defending the rights of the poor and needy.

The Queen Mother wanted to make her son Lemuel a good king–a just king.  She tells him not to get distracted with promiscuous women, not to give himself to drinking and drunkenness, and to act with justice, sticking up for those who cannot stick up for themselves.  Imagine what kind of county and what kind of world we’d live in if Christians would act like this king.