An Even Greater Darkness

Epiphany 3 Sunday

Isaiah 9:1-3

“But it will not be the kind of darkness that frightens them, as happened in the former times when things were easy in the land Zebulun and the land Naphtali, or when things were hard by the way of the sea, on this side of the Jordan, in the Galilee of the Gentiles. Rather, the darkness will be one that the people walking in darkness see a great light, and that over those who dwell in the dark land, a light shines.”

The entire chapter is about the kingdom of the new-born Christ child, how he is to govern, and what is to follow from his governing, namely, that the people of Israel will be offended by him because he is preached as a Lord who rejects the righteousness of the law and receives the Gentiles without the law through faith. This irritates, blinds, and hardens the Jews to this day, so that they simply do not want to accept it. The entire chapter is about this, as also Simeon says in
Luke 2:34: “Look, this one has been established for the falling and rising of many in Israel and will be the sign that is contradicted.” And Isaiah himself says, Isaiah 8:14, that “the Lord will be a rock of offense and a stone of stumbling for both houses of Israel.” Peter and Paul quote this verse in their writings about the Jews, 1 Peter 2:8; Romans 9:33. The
sum of this chapter, therefore, is that the Jews will be offended and hardened in the face of the grace-filled word of the kingdom of Christ, since it is so highly praise while their works and law are to be worth nothing before God, which they cannot stand. For this must follow: Where God’s grace is praised, the work-saints must rage and rave against it. This meaning and sum follows from the words that directly precede in Isaiah 8. There the prophet says that the darkness that would overcome the Jews was not to be a natural or physical darkness, but a spiritual darkness. It would rise because the other people and the Gentiles see a great light, as he says in Isaiah 9:1-3. He means to say: “This people will be overcome by a different darkness and misfortune than the one that existed when the Assyrian king, Tiglath Pileser, first conquered the land Zebulun and Naphtali, 2 Kings 15:29, which was relatively light and insignificant compared to the misfortune of Shalmaneser’s conquest of the entire land by the sea and the exiling of the entire kingdom of Israel, 2 Kings 17:5-6, which was a much graver and greater misfortune and darkness. But beyond both of these misfortunes, the true misfortune and darkness will come in Christ’s times when this people will be offended and hardened because a great light and bright glow will rise in the people by which also many Gentiles are converted. The law of Moses and the whole way of life of the Jewish people should no longer be valid. Instead, only grace and mercy in Christ are preached.

St. Louis ed., 11:1972-1974.

This entry was posted in Daily Devotions From the Writings of Martin Luther. Bookmark the permalink.