The Savior brings light to those in darkness. Isaiah 8:9-14

January 29, 2023

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We Have The Light Of Dawn

How do you deal with the gloom? We are in a strange part of the year. For a number of days we have had cold temperatures and fog. And it’s been this strange sort of gloom. It comes and it stays. It’s frustrating to look out and not see very far. It’s even more frustrating to have to drive through that gloom and fog in the morning. But, my dear friends in Christ, that gloom and darkness goes away. And you know as well as I do how that happens. The gloom and darkness stays for a while but then the blazing light of dawn comes and burns away all the gloom and darkness. Today, in God’s word, that is the picture God uses to describe our lives as Christians. For, on the one hand, there are times in our lives when it’s pretty easy to understand what we are supposed to do. But, there are other times in our lives when it’s like we are in the gloomy darkness, feeling our way blindly in the dark. We don’t know what we are supposed to do. And that is the problem that God’s word addresses this morning. In Isaiah 8, the Lord says this to his people through the prophet, Isaiah: “When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19 NIV11-GKE)

This is a strange part of the bible to walk through. So we need some context. Put yourselves in the shoes of an Old Testament believer. You are in a situation in your life when you don’t know what to do. So when you don’t know what to do, where do you go? You go to those older than you who are wiser than you are. But here in these words we see where that goes down a bad path. What if that person you would speak to and rely on for advice dies? What can you do? Where can you go? Well, sadly, there was a built-in solution. You could go to a medium and a spiritist. And here’s what would happen. First, the medium would speak in tongues you have never heard before. It would be creepy and scary. And it would not be in line with anything you had every seen or heard before. Second, the medium would tell you that they are speaking to your loved one who died. You don’t know for sure. The medium could be lying. But that is what the medium says she is doing. She is speaking to your loved one so that you can get some way out of the gloom that you are in the midst of in your life.

At first glance, it might seem as if what happened so long ago is so strange and so long ago that it does not affect the Christian church today. But sadly, it still does. There are Christian churches were the pastors speak in tongues. And when I say, ‘speak in tongues,’ I don’t mean speaking in tongues as there was at Pentecost, where they spoke in real, human languages and real dialects. No, they speak in languages that, seemingly, no one knows. And there are churches that seek, ask, and pray to the dead on behalf of the living. And there are many who are drawn into this because they are in the gloom in their lives and they need help.

I mention this as a warning for us today. But, for us, in our congregation, there is a slightly different temptation. We might not speak in strange tongues. And we might not seek and pray to those who have gone before us. But there is a temptation towards that same behavior in one specific area: tradition. We may not speak in weird tongues. We may not specifically ask our grandma or grandpa what advice she can give about a gloomy time in our lives when we need answers. But we are more than willing to tell ourselves and others what grandma or grandpa would have done. And it usually comes out like this: “My grandpa would never have approved of…” And there are real problems with this. First, the decisions that have to be made now are not grandpa’s decisions because he is not here. Second, there are many problems in our lives that grandpa could not give any advice about because he never walked through those problems in his own life.

And my dear friends in Christ, I get it. I understand why it is so easy and so compelling to go back to what mom or dad, grandma and grandpa would have done. For, in your own lives, for many years, when you were in some difficult times in your lifes, they were there with you and for you. But I need to share with you what God’s word says will happen to you if you go down that path of making tradition have too much of a voice for moving into the future. Isaiah writes: 20 Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. 21 Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. 22 Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.” (Isaiah 8:20–22 NIV11-GKE)

If we rely on tradition to get us out of the gloomy darkness, where will it lead? It will lead to anger at God above because he’s not telling us what to do through our grandma or grandpa. And it will fill us with despair in our lives on earth below. For, since we have no answers, we then move into greater gloom and deeper darkness. So, my friends in Christ, what will get you through the gloom? What will get you through the times in your lives that are not clearcut? It will not be by seeking those who speak in tongues or those who speak to the dead. It will not even be by remembering what those who were here with us did back in the day. What is the only light that pierces through the darkness? Isaiah tells us: “Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” (Isaiah 8:20 NIV11-GKE)

Isaiah says, “why?” Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? Instead, he urges us to go to the teaching. Go to the testimony. We cannot go to grandpa anymore. But we don’t need to. We have something better. We have the teaching and testimony handed down to us in God’s word. Now, there are going to be times in our lives where the truth and the path forward is clear cut: Do not murder; Do not envy; Do not lust: Do not lie. So often the commands are clear in God’s word. But then there are these times in our lives that God willingly, deliberately places us in the gloomy darkness. And his light is the only thing that pierces through it.

But, my dear friends in Christ, all of us, each of us wants a short cut. We just want to be told what to do. Instead, God doesn’t tell us what to do. Instead, he tries to teach us how to think. Instead he tried to teach us. He wants us to read his word again and again to study it and sift it for all it is worth. And as we do this we begin to figure out that, yes, there are sometimes where there are clear-cut commands. But there are other times where, in our lives, we are in the midst of gloomy darkness. And we don’t know what to do or even where we are. So, what does the Lord do? He gives us a context. For what good would it be if we even know what were supposed to do if we didn’t know why we were doing this or how to do this? And what does this context look like? First, he provides the greater truth. We might be in the midst of darkness in our lives, wanting to know how to get out. But, as we glean, gather, and grasp what is here in God’s word he asks you, “have you thought of this?” And we realize there was more to consider. Second, he promises forgiveness. In our final words, that is what Isaiah reveals to his people of his time and to ours still today: 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6 NIV11-GKE)

Forgiveness there promised to us in that Son and Savior Jesus for all the times we sought the voice of grandpa long after he was dead instead of seeking the voice of Jesus in his word. He promises that forgiveness to us. And Third, he partners together with us. He gives us a context to work with so that we could and would make a decision. And it might be that we have six or a dozen choices to make. We then make one. And partners together with us and leads us out of the gloom.

My dear friends in Christ, if Isaiah asks us still today, “why would you do that—why would you consult the dead on behalf of the living,” Then let us say, “O Lord, lead me to your teaching and your testimony. For only there in your word do you give a context out of the darkness and into your light.” Amen.

Pastor at Immanuel, Steve Bauer

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