Who Knows What to Do, When He Does not Know Anything?

Epiphany 3 Monday

Isaiah 9:2

“The people that walks in darkness sees a great light; and on those who dwell in the dark land, a light shines.”

As I said, Isaiah here speaks of spiritual darkness, which is the greatest misfortune and disfavor, and of the spiritual light, which is the greatest fortune and grace. For what more dreadful can there be than blindness of the heart and ignorance of divine things? What more lovely and noble can there be than an enlightened heart and knowledge of God? In the first instance, nothing but pure evil exists, so that even what is good is not good, even if it were there. In the second, nothing but pure good exists, so that even what is evil is not evil, even if it were there. For what can hurt him who knows and has God himself? What can benefit him who lacks God and has the devil? Thus, this great bright light is the holy gospel or the word of God’s grace, which is a spiritual light that shows us the nature of God, what he does and gives us, what he wants from us. And it also teaches the nature of sin, death, devil, world, and all things, showing us where they harm and benefit us to salvation. Do you not think that this is an unspeakable light that allows us to see the heart of God and the abyss of the Godhead? This light also allows us to see the thoughts of the devil; also the nature of sin and how we are to get rid of it; also the nature of death and how we are to come out of it; also the nature of man and world and how we are to beware of it. Without the gospel, no one knew what God is, whether devils exist, what sin and death are. And certainly no one knew how to become free from devil, sin, and death without the gospel. Without it, people also did not know the nature of man and world. For people thought that there is much integrity, reason, and good virtue in it. No one thought that the world’s highest wisdom is utter foolishness, that its noblest virtue is utter evil. Isaiah here calls such ignorance and blindness “darkness” and “dark land” where the people dwells, meaning the Jewish people thereby. This, then, is the cause of quarrel and offense regarding this light. For although this light has risen over the entire people by preaching, the majority of the people did not want to receive it. For they did not at all want to be blind and dark, but considered their deeds to be light, as we also read in Isaiah 60:1-2. But consider here how the people have earned it that they see such light–no work, no free will is indicated here, but rather a captive will. For who can do anything about darkness? Who knows what to do when he does not know anything? Does not Christ say in John 12:35: “He who walks in darkness, does not know where he is going”? Therefore, it is pure grace that a light begins to shine in the darkness and sheds its brightness on the people…God has mercy on the people sitting in darkness and greatly needing the light and lets a great light shine on them. He was not moved to do this by their merit, but by his mercy he preempts their requests and seeking, as St. Luke interprets this very nicely, Luke 1:78-79: “By the sincere mercy, by which the rising from on high has visited us to enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, and to direct our feet to the path of peace.” By these words, Luke, as with a finger, points to Isaiah’s words here. John does the same when he, in John 1:4-10, also talks much about the light. From this we can learn that Isaiah here chiefly talks about the Jews but also about the Gentiles. For if the Jews, God’s people, sit in darkness, how much more sit the Gentiles in it?

St. Louis ed., 11:1974-1976.

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