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Watching and Waiting for the Light


The Promise of Defense

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

Ahaz was an evil king of Judah, one of the worst. He was being threatened by two neighboring nations who sought to bring Judah under their control and remove Ahaz from the throne. To protect himself against that threat, Ahaz made an alliance with Assyria, the very nation who would come against Ahaz and his allies in a few short years. As bad as Ahaz was in regard to his gross idolatry, his biggest problem was that he sought protection from almost anyone except the God of Israel. Now, he was alone against formidable enemies.

At this time Isaiah comes with a promise that is humanly impossible to fulfill. Isaiah says that a virgin will conceive a child, and by the time he grows to maturity, the two belligerent enemies will be no more. God Himself will defend His people, and the birth of a child from a virgin will be definitive proof. God is that committed to His covenant promises and His people.

Isaiah prophesied that the coming child would be “Immanuel,” God Himself. He would be the ultimate defender of His covenant people. He would destroy not only their visible enemies, but also the greatest enemy of them all—death. In this season, we remember the coming of the One who is our great defense. In this child born of a virgin, we are protected from all of our enemies.

The Promise of a King

“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.” Isaiah 9:6

In 1 Samuel 8, Israel asked Samuel to give them a king like the nations around them. They were tired of life without a strong savior king. Samuel warned that what they wanted was going to present serious problems, but they insisted. Instead of resting in the rule of the LORD, they put their hope in a man they thought would provide the “good life.” What they got instead was a line of broken men serving as king; some were better than others, but most were disappointing at best. Because those kings were corrupted with sin and inadequate for the task, the “shalom” Israel sought was far from a reality. Things have not changed much since then.

Isaiah promised another kind of King. He would be wise in executing His reign. He would be powerful, able to defeat all enemies. He would be gentle and kind, as a Father to His children. He would also make things right—he would bring shalom. This King would come with the humility of a child, but a child who held the worlds in His hands and before whom all earthly kings would eventually bow. The Israelites of Isaiah’s time desperately longed for the day that King would come. We look back with worshipful delight on the day He arrived, and we look forward to the day when the true King will rule over all things.

The Promise of Justice

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse…And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him…with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth… Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.” Isaiah 11:1-5

It is hard being poor. Yes, it is tough not being able to buy things, especially basic essentials. Even worse is that the poor are without power or influence and are therefore easily taken advantage of. They have no voice, no one with “cred” to plead their cause. Therefore, the “have not’s” suffer at the hands of the “have’s” who use their power and position to their own advantage. Things are the same now as then. Money talks, in Hebrew and in English.

Into this darkness of injustice Isaiah promised that the family of Jesse, King David’s father, would put forth another King who would govern differently. Instead of being powerless, the poor would have an advocate at the highest level of government. This seed of Jesse would bring righteousness, or “right-ness,” which would reach far beyond the realm of human relations. Even the wolf and the lamb would be reconciled and dwell together in peace. All this would come through a child born in the lineage of Jesse. We know Him as Jesus. Now reigning in Heaven, Jesus has promised that “I am making all things new!” With the birth of Jesus, a new day arrived for the poor and helpless. In this season, we celebrate the dawning of a new and just world.

The Promise of Glory

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” Isaiah 60:1–3

When I look into the mirror, I don’t often see glory. Modern psychology tells me I am special, and that I need to accentuate the positive. At the same time, I cannot help but see the ugliness, not just the sagging and wrinkles, but something worse—the defensive self-righteousness, the self-gratifying pursuit of pleasure, and the self-exalting pride. The enemy regularly accuses me, saying that I am a hopeless wreck, and I have to agree, if all I see is the image in the mirror. That is a terribly dark place to dwell. I painfully long to be different. I want to hold my head up high with dignity and beauty. I hunger for glory.

Glory is coming, not the imaginary glory I try to create, but the light of the glory of God. That glory came in an extravagant display to some simple shepherds on a cold December night celebrating the birth of the True Light. Hebrews says Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God.” That glory will also overwhelm me. It is not mine, but I will reflect it. I will be beautified by the glory of the King of Glory who was born of the virgin. That is the glory I was made for. I was created to be like Him and to enjoy Him, never to be the source of light, but to reflect it in every aspect of my being. For that to be possible, the Glorious One had to come into the darkness of human sin and bear that sin as His own, so that I could join Him in His glory. Christmas is all about the coming of the Hope of Glory. “Glory to the new born King!”