When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:12-17
In Isaiah’s time, the people of Israel were not following God. The spiritual condition of the people of Israel generally paralleled the spiritual condition of their king. Under Pekah, the people of Israel reached an all time spiritual low.
“In the fifty-second year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekah son of Remaliah became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned twenty years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.
In the time of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maakah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria. Then Hoshea son of Elah conspired against Pekah son of Remaliah. He attacked and assassinated him, and then succeeded him as king in the twentieth year of Jotham son of Uzziah” (2 Kings 15:27-29).
But, God didn’t leave them there.
“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea [the district around the sea of Galilee], beyond the Jordan [the land belonging to Reuben, Gad and half-Manasseh]— The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:1-2). [Insights from Jamieson, Faussett and Brown Commentary on the Whole Bible]
Galilee was not a highly regarded region. The inhabitants were a mixed race of Jews and Gentiles from the bordering Phoenician race. This was not merely an ethnic issue, but was also a spiritual issue of religious syncretism. Galilee was an unlikely place to produce a Messiah. Jerusalem would have been far more appropriate.
Quoting from Isaiah 9:1-2, Jesus stood at the exact spot mentioned in Isaiah‘s prophecy. In Isaiah’s time, the people of Zebulun and Naphtali were deported under Tiglath-pileser just prior to the giving of this prophecy (2 Kings 15:29).
Jesus was the Great Light. Over 700 years later, Jesus, the Light had arrived.
Where has gloom crept into your life during this Christmas season? What are you frustrated about? What are you depressed about? Maybe you don’t even know. Ask Jesus to shine His light and bring clarity and peace to you this Christmas. The Light of Christ is not merely the fanciful tale of the ancient Nativity. The Light of Christ is a powerful force available to guide you today.
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