Isaiah was a prophet to the southern kingdom during the reign of Uzziah. Uzziah was a king who led Judah to several great military victories. He reigned during a time of prosperity for Judah. But with the prosperity came a demise in the spiritual nature of the people. Their wealth as a nation led to a decline in their faith. They kept the rituals, but began to deny their meaning. Because of their movement from trusting in God, He began to exert his discipline on them, attempting to bring them back in fellowship. They would not return. Ultimately, near the end of Isaiah’s ministry, Judah would be taken captive by Babylon, Jerusalem would be destroyed, the temple leveled.
But even before that tragic event, darkness was beginning to spread across the nation. The hopelessness of their cause was growing evident. They were blinded by the god of this world, living in the shadow of death the burden of their sin was growing heavy.
In the midst of this pervading darkness, God issued a promise.
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
a light has dawned
on those living in the land of darkness.
In verses 2-4 Isaiah uses verbs that assume the action to be completed and to have lasting consequences. He says the people “have seen” a great light and a light “has dawned.” He “has enlarged” and “has increased” the nation and the joy. He “has shattered” the yoke. Each of these verb phrases states as completed a state of being that does not exist.
That is the nature of the promises of God. He sees as complete what we have only just learned about. It is our privilege to begin to live in the world that God has already seen as complete around us.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased its joy.
The people have rejoiced before you
as they rejoice at harvest time
and as they rejoice when dividing spoils.
God promises great joy to those who are walking in darkness and in the shadow of death. We rejoice over the shattering of the yoke of the burden of slavery and oppression. Without Christ we are slaves to sin, but when we yield our lives to God and accept his promise in our lives the burden of sin is lifted and we are made free. As a believer, you are no longer held down by the oppressor, but you are made free to worship God and to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
We also rejoice because in Christ the final victory in the battle against Satan has been won. We are the spoils of that victory. It was a battle commenced in the halls of heaven before the creation of the world and a victory promised in the garden of Eden. When Jesus came to earth the angels sang a song of victory. They could sing of peace on earth and good will toward men because the mighty warrior Jesus was come to earth to win the final victory. Again, this promise made in Isaiah is seen as already fulfilled before Jesus ever comes to earth. God is sure of the victory then. And the angels sing at his birth because the victory is won in heaven, it only needed be played out here on earth.
Imagine this: if the victory song was so great at the birth of Jesus in anticipation of the victory, what will the cry from the angels and all creation be when Jesus comes again to finalize that victory. And yet, the rejoicing at the prophecy and at the birth are just as great for the victory is just as sure then as it will be one day.
So for this promise, there is joy, great joy and rejoicing. The work of God among his people is complete in God’s eyes. So even now we rejoice, for he has shattered the burden and win the battle. While we may still sense the burden and be aware of the battle, God has won victory. Be sure of it.