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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
Title:Light Into the Darkness 4: The Promised Light
Text:Isaiah 9:1-7 (View)

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: 2 Chronicles 28

Text: Isaiah 9:1-7



  1. The Deep but Temporary Darkness

  2. The Overwhelming and Unbelievable Victory

  3. The New and Eternal King


  1. Psalm 50: 1-3

  2. Psalm 119: 16-18

  3. Hymn 19: 1-2

  4. Hymn 19:3-4

  5. Psalm 135: 1, 5, 10

  6. Hymn 15: 1-3


Words to Listen For: slavery, geography, unpuzzle, months, weaver’s


Questions For Understanding:

  1. What’s a “blue Christmas service” ?

  2. Who was King Ahaz?  What did he bring to Judah?

  3. What the problem of timing?  What’s the three word answer?

  4. What’s the double gladness?

  5. What is the word “shalom” like?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Jesus Christ,

For unto us a child is born, unto us, a Son is given

If you’re like me, it is hard, if not IMPOSSIBLE to read these words without the glorious strains of Handel’s Messiah echoing in my ears.

From the first opening notes of the strings, building anticipation, until the sopranos come in, quietly, eagerly, hopefully: For unto us a child is born, unto us, a Son is given.

We read these words in Isaiah 9, we hear them sung and we know…this is advent.  This is Christmas music.  This is hopeful, this is joyful.

These words are almost synonymous with crackling fires and kitchens full of amazing smells.  Maybe cookies, maybe pie, maybe speculaas.

These words are wonderful and comforting.


And you knew this was coming, didn’t you?  We know each other fairly well by now.  It can’t be THIS NICE or THIS SIMPLE.  At least…not yet.

And you’re right.  Because how did our text start?

It starts with a “But.”  BUT there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.

Gloom!  Anguish!

The “BUT” refers to a contrast.  So there JUST WAS gloom and anguish!  And if we look back just one verse, we see what this is all about.

Isaiah 8:22 - And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish.  And they will be thrust into thick darkness.

Well…now you’ve ruined it Pastor Segstro!  Doesn’t sound too much like a Christmas text anymore!

But this is exactly what we are given in the Word.  And this is exactly what it’s like in the world too.

There’s a type of worship service that acknowledges this reality, you know.  It’s called a Blue Christmas service.  Some churches have it every year - and I quite like the idea.

This is the concept: There are those who, due to loss, due to grief, due to any number of difficult things or circumstances, find it very difficult to celebrate Christmas the way that everyone else does.  The bright colours, the big smiles, the MERRY CHRISTMASes almost SHOUTED at them.  And so, there is an option for them.  Instead of a loud, joyful, and triumphant Christmas Day service, they can go to a quiet Christmas Eve service, where the brokenness of life is acknowledged.  Where they are told that it’s okay not to be okay.  Where people are not forced to pretend that they are joyful, but also not allowing them to wallow in their sadness.

There’s hope, but it’s quiet and understated.

There’s one thing I would change though…along with offering a Blue Christmas service, I would encourage all those who would attend, to also attend the joyous, festive Christmas Day service.  Because, no matter how deep your sadness is…no matter thick the darkness that surrounds you…THE LIGHT HAS COME!

There IS JOY!

There will be no gloom for her who was in anguish!  - Isaiah 9:1

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light - Isaiah 9:2

You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy - Isaiah 9:3

The darkness is real - for each and every one of us.  Maybe a little darkness, maybe a lot…but what is MORE REAL (because it is almighty, divine, and eternal), is the LIGHT!  The light has come into the darkness, and it will have the ultimate victory!

And so, congregation, on the cusp of Christmas, join me and stare in awe at the 


  1. The Deep but Temporary Darkness

  2. The Overwhelming and Unbelievable Victory, and finally

  3. The New and Eternal King


Deep darkness is not a pleasant place to start, but this is where we HAVE to start.

In order to truly understand the joy of the light…in order to properly praise God for our freedom and hope IN Christ, we MUST know about our slavery, oppression, and hopelessness APART from Him in the darkness.

So what exactly was happening?  What was bringing this deep darkness upon the people?

Well, first of all, we have to distinguish, as we did last week, between facts and feelings.

Last time  we did this with Psalm 27, and with singing songs in general.  Though we may FEEL as though God is not our light, our refuge, our salvation, we have to preach to our soul, we have to sing to our soul the actual truth that He is!

Here, unfortunately, the actual truth wasn’t quite so positive for God’s people.


You see, the people felt as though they were on the BRINK of disaster.  They felt as though they were on the BRINK of being overwhelmed.

The Assyrians were about to attack.  The darkness was coming.  This is what they felt.  That they were on the VERGE of darkness.

But that wasn’t exactly true, was it?


They were already in deep darkness.  It wasn’t the King of Assyria who would usher in the age of darkness, it was their own king!  King Ahaz!  Because spiritual darkness…the spiritual darkness of idolatry and evil that was already there…was FAR WORSE than the political and national darkness of being invaded.  Of being taken into exile.

Losing the LAND was devastating…

But losing the LORD…this was FAR WORSE.

We heard of the evil and corruption of Ahaz in our reading, how His actions, on behalf of God’s nation, were that of rejecting God.  They were that of turning away, and even more, spitting in God’s face!

Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem.  And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done, but he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel.  He even made metal images for the Baals and he made offerings in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom and burned his sons as an offering, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.  And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.

And then, later in his reign

In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the LORD - this same King Ahaz.  For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus…and Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and he shut the doors of the house of the LORD, and he made himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem.  In every city of Judah he made high places to make offerings to other gods, proving to anger the LORD, the God of his fathers.

Sometimes when we read passages like this in the Bible, our minds just glaze over.  We read to see if he was a good king or a bad king and the details get lost.  But let’s get into the details because they are…horrific.

  • He made metal images for the Baals

    • Not the regular ones of wood or stone, but only the best for Baal!  Expensive, long-lasting metal images.

  • He sacrificed and made offerings on the high places…AND on the hills…AND under every green tree

    • Everywhere he went, Ahaz engaged in idolatry.  Every hill he saw, every green tree - an opportunity to serve a false god.

  • He shut the doors of the house of the LORD

    • Not only did he worship false gods, he did not allow the worship of the one true God

  • He gathered together the vessels of the house of God and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God

    • He stripped the temple of the holy vessels - the golden lampstand, the golden table - and cut them into pieces.  Probably using them as tribute to other nations, or as ways to serve false gods


    • He burned his sons as an offering

      • HUMAN SACRIFICE!  The darkest, most evil, most vile thing you can imagine.  The greatest gift God gives - that of new life, your own children…burned alive as a sacrifice.  It doesn’t get worse than this.

This was darkness.  TRUE DARKNESS.  REAL DARKNESS.  It wasn’t just coming with the King of Assyria.  It was there already established by the wicked King of Judah.

And it is into this context that the wonderful promise of our text comes.

This darkness you see?  This darkness you live in…this darkness you walk in, day in and day out…darkness as far as the eye can see, as long as you can remember…it’s about to END.


But there will be NO GLOOM for her who was in anguish.

The anguish, the gloom, the thick deep darkness…it’s real…it’s BRUTAL…but this too will pass.  This too will pass.

There will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.

In the former time He - that is, God - brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time, He has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of nations.

There’s hope.  FINALLY.  After the blue Christmas of the 24th, acknowledging our hurts and our sorrows…there is a joyful Christmas on the 25th!

And where does this hope come from?  Did you catch it?

He has made GLORIOUS the way of the sea…

Okay, not sure yet…my geography isn’t that great…where’s the sea again?  Which sea?

The land beyond the Jordan…

Narrowing it down a little bit, the Jordan river cuts Israel in half, but which half is BEYOND the Jordan?

Galilee of the nations

DING DING DING!  I know Galilee!  Galilee was the region where Nazareth was.

Galilee of the nations - that place that was seen as so corrupt that the apostle Nathanael, upon hearing the the Christ came from Galilee, from NAZARETH, the worst part of Galilee, scornfully scoffed - Can ANYTHING GOOD come out of Nazareth?

And how wrong he was!  Not only something good…but THE GOOD ONE.  THE RIGHTEOUS ONE.  THE PROMISED ONE…came from Nazareth.

He has made glorious…Galilee of the nations.


The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

This is what we have been examining together this entire advent series.  LIGHT in the DARKNESS.  Light coming in.  Creation - first there was darkness and chaos.  Then light came on the scene.

There was darkness and death - literally - in Egypt.  The plague of darkness.  The plague of the death of the firstborn.  And what comes on the scene?  Light!  God Himself in the pillar of fire, leading them out in freedom and joy!

The Psalmist David was surrounded by fear and darkness, enemies who wished to take his life.  A family around him who abandoned him.  But the LORD was his light, his refuge, his salvation.  The LORD would take him in!

And here too - in the midst of deep darkness, a light has dawned!

Here we get a picture of something PIERCING THE DARKNESS.  It wasn’t like the sun rising, where you see the rays of the light, slowly lighting up the darkness of the sky, and then, gradually, the sun itself rises above the horizon.  NO!  This is creation all over again!  First, there is only darkness.  Then…BOOM!  Light appears!  Light EXPLODES onto the scene!  And when the light appears, the darkness flees.

When the people have wandered after false gods, when they have found themselves trapped in the darkness, first darkness of Assyria, then Babylon, then the darkness of the Greeks, then the darkness of the Romans…God intervenes, sending a dazzling light to split our darkness.

And we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that this prophecy of hope and light was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  Not only because He was the good and glorious one coming from Galilee…but because these very words are applied to Him.

Please turn with me briefly to Matthew chapter 4.

Immediately after Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, we read these words, Matthew 4, starting at verse 12

Now when He heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee.  And leaving Nazareth, He went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles - the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them, a light has dawned.”  From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Amazing!  Wonderful!  How all of this fits together so perfectly.  The light PROMISED, and the light having COME.

The deep darkness was only temporary.  It WOULD END.  And it would end in victory.  Our second point.

There was not only going to hope.  There was not only going to be a light that SHINES in the darkness.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…and…even more than that…the light has overcome the darkness!


There will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.

Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone!

And what does this mean?  What does this practically look like?  Well, this is spelled out in the next 3 verses of our text.  Let’s read them.

Isaiah 9, starting at verse 3

You have multiplied the nation;

You have increased its joy;

They rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest

as they are glad when they divide the spoil.

For the yoke of his burden,

and the staff for his shoulder

the rod of his oppressor

You have broken as on the day of Midian.

For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult

And every garment rolled in blood

Will be burned as fuel for the fire.

There’s a lot to notice here, a lot of aspects to this, but did you notice the main one?

You know me, I get into a lot of seemingly minor things here like grammar…and this IS one of those times.

This is in the past tense:

You HAVE multiplied the nation

You HAVE increased its joy

The rod of his oppressor you HAVE broken



So…what exactly is going on here?  What is happening?  Do we have our timing of this prophecy wrong?

That the people are not on the VERGE of the Assyrian attack, but this is after the victory?  How can we unpuzzle this problem?

Well, first of all, the timing is not wrong.  This is fore-telling prophecy.  God is giving hope to those who are living in the spiritual darkness, on the verge of national darkness.

God’s people were far from Him, the worst of their oppression was still coming.  Their numbers would be the smallest they had ever been, their joy would seem non-existent…light and hope - nothing but a mere memory.

So…then this is a REAL PROBLEM!  How can this be spoken of as though it had already happened?

Well, a friend of mine gave me a really good way of looking at it.  He gave me this wonderful illustration.

Have you ever heard the phrase “consider it done!” ?

The idea is, that even though you haven’t actually done it yet, you assure someone - I WILL get it done.  I will SO SURELY get it done that you can put it completely out of your mind.  Just forget about it - consider it as already done, and go ahead as though it’s already taken care of.

This is what our God is doing here, through His prophet.


Isaiah, in speaking to the people, was saying, “God has said He is going to do it, that’s certain enough for me!  It is SO CERTAIN that we can speak of it as though it ALREADY DONE.  Consider it done - God said it, we can take that promise to the bank.

We can, and, really it’s more than that, we MUST put all of our hopes in the promises of God!  There is no other foundation upon which we can build our life.  Only the promises of God.  Standing on the promise of God, I cannot fail, and I cannot fall.


This is how Isaiah’s original audience should have viewed the promises, but what exactly IS PROMISED?

You have multiplied the nation;

You have increased its joy

Well, as with so many prophecies, there is more than just one fulfillment.

There is the initial fulfillment when Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, comes to the throne.  Hezekiah, very likely not the oldest son of Ahaz, because, remember, Ahaz sacrificed his sons in the fire…but Hezekiah, A SON, was saved, and ascended to the throne.  Unlike Ahaz, Hezekiah was a righteous king.  Through his dependence upon God, through the reformation under his leadership, the Assyrian empire was kept at bay, God gave victory to his nation, and the nation increased.  It increased in wealth and splendor, it increased in its population, and it increased in the joy of serving the Lord.

But Judah would eventually be taken into exile.  Attacked by Assyria, overcome by Babylon.  And these wonderful promises seemed to have failed.

But there was the ultimate fulfillment in the true king, the promised king, which we will get to in our third point in a few minutes.

Under the reign of King Jesus, the nation would be multiplied.  Finally the promise given to Abraham - through you I will bless many nations - would be fulfilled.  Jesus Christ, the light, would shine in the darkness, and shine, not only to Israel, not only to the Jews, but to all the nations, and they would be brought in, grafted in, to the true spiritual Israel - the church.

And, though I say it often, it’s good to say again - we benefit from this promise God made to Israel.  We are Gentiles.  We are the ones grafted in.  As one of my profs loved to say - the covenant nation of Israel didn’t somehow magically transfer to the Netherlands, and then, in the 1950s, come across the ocean, and that somehow makes us Israel.  No!  We are Gentiles!  Gentiles welcomed in, reborn as children of the promise!

You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.

We see here the gladness of plenty and the gladness of victory.

Imagine the joy, the gladness of the harvest!  A huge feast is thrown, wagons, bearing all the produce of the fields come into the town, overflowing with fruit and grain, vegetables and wheat.  Finally, a chance to celebrate the hard work of the previous months.

But it’s a twofold celebration.  A two-fold gladness.

It’s not just wagons full of produce, but these wagons are followed by other wagons, loaded with plunder.  Gold, silver, gemstones.

Verse 3 - They rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.

This is the joy that the people will feel when the light shines upon them.

This is the joy that we are promised in Jesus Christ.

All the hard work of our sanctification, the hard work of our spiritual disciplines, resisting sin, fleeing to God, preaching to our own soul when we do not feel the joy, or even the presence and reality of God in our lives…a harvest of holiness has been reaped.

And the defeat of our enemies - the devil, the world, and our own flesh…the heavy burden of the guilt of our own sin, the hurt of the sin of others around us…the yoke has been lifted, the rod has been broken.

Verse 4 - For the yoke of his burden, the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

As on the day of Midian - remember this amazing victory?  This miraculous victory of Gideon and the 300, against the overwhelming thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Midianites.

And this is us too - the Israelites in Isaiah’s day, a small, confused, frightened, oppressed nation, against the Assyrians, against the evils of Baal and Asherah and Molech.

Us today, in a world that is increasingly hostile to Christians, with Satan breathing down our neck, tempting us, and then mocking us when we give in to his temptations.

But because of Jesus Christ…the job is as good as done - our battle is as good as won

And that is why we can receive the wonderful promise of verse 5 as well - For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult, and every garment rolled in blood, will be burned as fuel for the fire.

Your fighting?  Consider it done.

Your battle?  Consider it won!

Throw the items of war on the bonfire - you won’t need them again!  Get rid of your boots and your armour.  Beat your swords into plowshares and your spears into pruning hooks.

It’s been won!

Now, of course, we can apply this in the wrong way - we can say…oh!  The spiritual armour of God…don’t need that anymore!

Let’s get rid of the breastplate of righteousness, let’s use the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, for a different purpose.  Who needs the shield of faith…the enemy is already defeated!

Do not misunderstand me, or misunderstand the prophet.

You can begin to celebrate the victory, even as you fight, BECAUSE THE OUTCOME IS SECURE.

What Isaiah is saying here is that Israel can be MORE THAN CONQUERORS.

As people who are more than conquerors, we conquer even before we conquer.  While we are fighting, while we are using our spiritual weapons, our spiritual armour, fighting with temptation, fighting with the devil and his demons, we can look up and hear the voice of our Saviour over us proclaiming, as Paul says in Romans 8: NO CONDEMNATION.  NOT ONE CONDEMNATION.

Paul says no condemnation, and Isaiah says: the battle has been won.  The yoke of his burden, the rod of his oppressor YOU HAVE BROKEN.  IT’S DONE!  Good as done, good as won.

We conquer even before we conquer.  While fighting the battle we rejoice.  I know how it’s going to end.  It will be ok…and I will be so much more than okay!

And why?  Because God says “consider it done.”  Consider it done…consider it WON…because I’ve DONE SOMETHING.  I’ve done something, something amazing, something miraculous, something wonderful.  Do you want to see?

I’ve brought in my secret weapon.  I’ve called up my champion.  The champion already promised right from the fall into sin.  I’ve brought in…a baby.  Our final point.

That first Christmas, the arrival of the promised baby, the promised child…it wasn’t about warm fires and hot cocoa.  It wasn’t about stockings and candy canes.

Instead, it was a revolution.  The arrival of a new king!

It was an invasion!  Light piercing through the darkness.  Gloom turned into glory!

And all because of a baby.


For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.

And you may have noticed the repetition of that little word “for.”

Look back, you’ll see it introduce the last 3 verses.

Why is there hope?  What is the reason that those walking in darkness can have hope once again?

Verse 4 - FOR the yoke of His burned, the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

Verse 5 - FOR every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.

And now verse 6, the climax, the high point of the three “for’s” - FOR to us a child is born, to us a son is given.


We can have hope…FOR there is victory.

We can have hope…FOR there is peace.

We can have hope…FOR there is a Saviour!


And the Israelites in Isaiah’s day would have heard this and been utterly bewildered.  A BABY?  Really?  THIS is our great hope?

A baby, not a reformer like Martin Luther to nail theses to the door and debate the king and the priests?  A baby, not a warrior, will stop the onslaught of armies?

It seems like we need something bigger.  How about an army, God?  How about…oh I know…how about a GOLIATH?  9 feet tall, armour that weighed 121 pounds, with a spear the size of a weaver’s rod.

But…what happened to Goliath?  Remember?  He was defeated by a little shepherd boy.  But…really…he was defeated by GOD.

In a battle between Goliath and God…God always wins.  And so this is what God would provide to His people.


“Christmas isn’t REALLY about gifts” they say.  But they…whoever “they” are…they are exactly wrong.  Christmas is absolutely about gifts…or rather…ONE SPECIFIC GIFT.

Christmas EXISTS because God gave us a gift.  He gave us Himself.  Immanuel: God-with-us.

And our God came down, wrapped in human flesh, wrapped in swaddling cloths.

Consider it done, consider it WON…because Jesus Christ has entered the scene.

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.  Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over His kingdom to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Now, we could go through each and every one of His glorious titles at length.  Examining what exactly it means that He is the wonderful counselor - and if that is one title or two.  Is He “the wonderful, the counselor” as we will sing later?

But that’s not really the point here.

The point is that this child who will be born will start a new age.  He will usher in an age of peace and justice.  He will defeat sin and Satan, He will comfort His people.

Peace will be accomplished - peace, not just meaning “no war,” but so much more than that.

Though it isn’t a perfect analogy, there are a lot of similarities between the Hebrew word “shalom” and the Dutch word “gezellig.”  Both refer to peace, to welcome, to warmth, to joy, to something first shared with family members and then friends.  The idea that all is well with the world.  That sense of fullness in your heart.

This is what our Saviour came down to bring us.  But not the gezellig that is disrupted by an overcooked turkey or a debate about politics around the table.  But truly the shalom that is forever.

The shalom that the peaceful, expectant strains of Handel’s Messiah perfectly symbolize.

For unto us a child is born.

Unto us, a son is given,


This is the hope in the gloom.

The peace in the turmoil.

The light in the darkness.


The light would come in the person of God Himself.  Jesus Christ our Saviour.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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