“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered  the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood  will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

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. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the  Lord  Almighty will accomplish this.”

It always feels like Christmas when I read this passage, and yet it was not originally written as a Christmas text.  In fact, it was written over 700 years before there even was a Christmas.  And it was written as an encouragement in the midst of fear.  The Assyrians to the North were a vast and growing empire and kept eyeing God’s people as their next conquest.  And as Isaiah keeps saying, they are to be God’s weapon aimed at the unfaithful, in this case Israel herself.  And sure enough, the Assyrians did conquer Israel, the first of the two exiles of the prophets.

The bible is not always a book that makes us feel better.  Sometimes its truth makes us afraid, or calls us to account.  So far, Isaiah has ticked back and forth like a metronome, first warnings of the impending disaster and then ticking over to encouragement for the future, and then back again.  Tick tock.  Tick tock.

This is life with God.  If we are courageous enough, and righteous enough, to listen to His voice, then we will hear both warnings of disaster brought on by our own sin and encouragement for the future.  For God is always honest, and always true.  But with an eternal perspective, He can also be always encouraging in the long run.

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