Sunrise On The Land Of The Shadow Of Death
(READ Isa 9:2)
How many of us have ever seen a sunrise? I have been blessed to see a good many sunrises in many parts of the country. In the mountains, in the deserts, by the ocean; and even here in northern Appalachia. But each sunrise is a unique experience. If you have never witnessed a sunrise, then I recommend that you take the time to do so. It is an experience all its own. I want to take a few moments to describe a sunrise.
Imagine with me for a moment, a quiet, secluded place on top of a wooded mountain, far away from the city lights, and away from the roaring and clanging of machines. It is very early in the morning, and you can just feel the darkness around you. You can not see even the least shape or form, but only dark shadows on the black backdrop of night. After some time, you begin to hear rusting sounds of wild creatures that do their business in the night. You sit still and watch, and listen intently to the sounds of the night. You think you see a shadow of something moving. You hear sounds, but you can’t make out the form.
Then you look up and see the stars of heaven, shining like a multitude of brilliant lights suspended from an infinite canopy of space. As the sunrise draws near, it is given away by a soft breeze, that begins to gently blow in the leaves above.
You begin to smell the morning dew on the breeze, mixed with the fragrance of the trees and the morning flora. The breeze picks up and the leaves begin to clap their hands as the first rays of the sun appear upon the morning clouds, high in the first heaven.
The night creatures are heard for the last time as they scurry off to their hiding places in the dens and caves of the earth.
And as the sun ascends from his chamber, his rays shine before him in brilliant colors of pink, and yellow, and orange, and red, and purple, as they are diffused down to earth.
The glory of the stars slowly fades as the glory of the sun intensifies. The darkness around you is slowly expelled and the night shadows flee away one by one. Now, in the place of shadows, you rejoice to see the many pleasant things of God’s creation as they begin to appear. The night shades of gray, gradually turn into colors. All the colors of the rainbow begin to appear before your eyes! The dark and mysterious night shades, are miraculously transformed into the beautiful colors of the day.
At long last that glorious ball of fire we call the sun, emerges in the heaven “…as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber…” (Ps 19:5). Like a king he rules the day on his throne above. And with his light he gives all the power, and energy, and warmth that the earth needs for life, and to work the works of God. And so there you have a description of a sunrise.
This morning we want to observe three aspects of the sunrise referred to in our text. First, who are the people that walk in darkness, who dwell in the land of the shadow of death? Secondly, what is the nature of the darkness of this land? And thirdly we want to see, the glorious sunrise on the land of the shadow of death?
1. First we want to consider; who are the people who walk in darkness, who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, waiting, as it were, for the sun to rise?
In the context of this verse, the Jews of the northern tribal areas of Naphtali and Zebulun are specifically referred to here. The Jews at the time of Isaiah’s writing, walked and lived in darkness. Not only the Jews of this northern region, but all Israel at that time walked and lived in gross darkness.
Also in the context of this verse, Galilee of the nations, or of the Gentiles, walked and lived in darkness. The region of Galilee was largely occupied by the original Canaanite inhabitants, that were never expelled from the land during the conquest of Canaan. As a result, they cohabited the land with the northern Jewish tribes, even until the time of Christ. And therefore Isaiah, that mighty prophet of the Gospel, included the Gentiles in his anticipation of the coming sunrise.
Thus we can see in our text, that Isaiah concludes both Jews and Gentiles in darkness. Now, I believe that we can safely expand this to mean that all men by nature, without distinction and without exception, walk and live in darkness. Every child born, is born into darkness. There are no exceptions or exemptions. There are none who can escape it. There is no place in all the world where darkness does not rule the lives of natural men.
I am not a universalist, but honest theology will admit that some things in the Bible are universal. And one of these is, the universal darkness of the depraved human nature.
Paul said in Col. 1:13: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:”
Paul said “us”, meaning that both Jews and Gentiles were under the power of darkness.
Paul said in Eph. 5:8: “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:”
In this verse, Paul tells us that we were darkness. Not only are we in darkness, but we are darkness by nature. Darkness is not only around us, but darkness is in us, even deep down in the depths of our souls.
And so all men, Jews and Gentiles alike, are in darkness when we come into this world, and in darkness we will continue to walk and to live, unless the Son should rise upon us.
2. Secondly we want to notice, what is the nature of the darkness of this land?
The darkness of our text may have several implications.
First, darkness implies spiritual ignorance. By nature we are ignorant of the only true and living God of Heaven. By nature we are blind and ignorant of the truth about our Creator God. Men are ignorant of history. They know not where they came from nor how they got here, nor how this world got here. Men are ignorant of God’s special creation. And men are ignorant of the future. They know not what will become of this world, nor what will become of their souls. They are ignorant of God’s eternal plan and purpose for His creation, and above all, they are ignorant of God’s plan of salvation. And sad to say, men are ignorant of their lost and dark condition. They don’t even know they are in darkness! Likewise, Israel also had become ignorant of their God, and had forgotten that it was He who created them and made them His people, and that blessed them.
Secondly, darkness implies a state of sin. All men, beloved, are born sinners. Not one is exempt, except the blessed Lord Jesus Christ. We all go away from the womb speaking lies. We all were conceived in sin, and therefore our very nature is sinful. Beloved, sin is dark and black, and men hate the light because their deeds are evil. By nature we are lawless rebels. By nature we willfully break every law of God. By nature we revolt and rebel against our Lord and Maker. By nature we all say of Christ, “away with Him, we will not have this man to rule over us!” By nature we all turn His glory into shame by making and worshipping every imaginable idol. This was one of God’s great accusations against Israel in the context of Isaiah’s prophecy. This in part, is what made Israel so dark at that time.
There is also the darkness of God’s wrath. Israel didn’t know, nor did they believe that God’s judgment was coming upon them because of their sins. But it did. In the context of Isaiah’s prophecy, God was preparing Assyria to invade Israel from the north, to destroy and to take them captive. And beloved, that is exactly what happened!
God is sending His warning judgments upon America today. The “natural catastrophes” as they are called, are sent from God as warnings. The plagues of diseases such as aides and hepatitis, I believe are warnings from the Lord upon our land today. Terrorism and violence in the land, as in the days of Noah, are warning signs of the darkness of God’s ensuing wrath upon this world. But who is listening to God’s warnings?
And beloved, the very wrath of God abides immanently upon all sinners, who are lost in the darkness of their sins, who are just waiting as it were, to fall into everlasting torments. And beloved, God’s wrath will come upon sinners. It is not a question of if, but of when!
Yes, beloved, the world is a desperately dark place. All people come into this world in the darkness of sin, and of ignorance, and of God’s wrath. They continue to live darkness, and follow after the course of darkness, and are led by the prince of darkness. Their only hope is that one day, the Son should rise upon them!
3. And thirdly and finally, the glorious sunrise on the valley of the shadow of death?
Isa 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
This was literally fulfilled in Matthew 4 as we will see. The Son that would rise, was the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. He was to rise through the circuit of His virgin birth in Bethlehem of Judaea, and through His childhood in Nazareth of Galilee. And as the Son rise approached the winds began to blow, proclaiming that the time of Christ was near. Simeon and Anna in the temple made their proclamations concerning Jesus. Simeon said:
Luke 2:30-32 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
Again, Simeon confirmed that the Son of God would rise upon Jews and Gentiles alike.
The winds blew even stronger and stronger, as the rays of light could be seen shining forth their glorious colors, as John the Baptist begin to preach in the wilderness of Jordan:
“And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Matt. 3:2-3
The darkness and shadows began to flee away when Jesus began His Galilean ministry:
Matthew 4:13-17 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: 14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, 15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; 16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
And so literally, the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, rose upon Zebulun and Nephtali, and Galilee of the Gentiles, and thus was the prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled.
And as the ministry of Jesus progressed, the darkness of ignorance was dispelled with the light of truth, which shone forth from His mighty teachings. And many foul and evil creatures of the night were cast out of those possessed of demons. And many souls were forgiven of their sins, and the darkness of wrath and judgment was removed from them, as the light of eternal life rose upon them through faith in the Son of God.
And Jesus proclaimed to all that He was that light:
John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
And again in John 12:46 Jesus said:
“I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.”
And finally, the Son of God was crucified on Golgotha’s Hill. There, in the final hours of His suffering for our sins, darkness fell upon the face of all the land, eclipsing the glory of the Son of God, when the Father turned His back upon Him, and in those final dark hours Jesus suffered the very torments of the blackness of hell for all the sins of all His people.
And when it was over Jesus cried, “It is finished”, and He died. He was then buried in a borrowed tomb, because He would not need it for long, and in three days He rose again from the dead, just like He said He would. And by His resurrection He proved that He indeed was the Son of God, and that God His Father accepted His sacrifice as payment for the sins of His people, and thereby He justified all who believe in His death, burial, and resurrection for their sins, and gives unto them eternal life.
Thus the Son rose, and His light was proclaimed and manifested, and men believed in the light, and were saved from the darkness of their sins.
In conclusion, it has been many, many years since the Son of God rose upon this world. Soon after Jesus rose from the dead, He ascended back into glory form whence He came and thus He completed His Gospel circuit, and the glory of that Son rise finally set.
But beloved, spiritually the Son of God rises every day. Every day the Son of God rises upon some elect sinners through the power of the Gospel light.
In 2 Co 4, verses 3, 4, & 6 we Read: “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Has the Son of God risen upon you this morning? Have you ever seen the light of the Son of God? Have you ever believed in Jesus as you Lord and Saviour, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day for you?
Has the gentile breeze of God’s Holy Spirit will begin to blow upon your soul? Have you heard the sound of God’s grace in the Gospel message? Has the darkness of sin, and of ignorance, and of God’s wrath been dispelled through repentance and faith in Jesus? Has your heart been illuminated to believe the glorious Gospel of Jesus? We pray that is has. If not, we beseech you in Christ’s stead to repent, and believe in Jesus and be saved.
Beloved, one day there is going to be another Son rise, when Jesus comes again:
Isa 60:1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.
Here, God is speaking of Israel, when one day Jesus is going to rise upon them, and redeem Israel, and give them new birth as a nation, and then establish His millennial kingdom on the earth, where He shall rule and reign upon the throne of David in Jerusalem.
May we who are saved, be ready and prepared for that day when Jesus shall rise upon us in the rapture of the saints. May we who are His people be watching and anticipating that Son rise, when Jesus will come again for us.