Tuesday of Epiphany 3 – Isaiah 9:1-4

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he 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 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.
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.

Zebulon and Naphtali are not names you run into much anymore. Zebulon Pike was an early explorer of the American west. There is a mountain named after him Colorado: Pike’s Peak. In the Bible, Zebulon and Naphtali were minor characters. They were lesser-known sons of Israel who fathered small tribes of their own, but tribes which occupied the extreme northern border of Israel. We do not hear very much about them. They have few famous sons. No David or Samuel or Jeremiah or even a Malachi or Micah from their midst. To our ears, they are little more than place names on a map.

By the time of Isaiah, they had been lost the enemies of Israel, distant places which were strange and held by enemies. Yet, God has not forgotten them. He has a way of remembering what we have forgotten. Zebulon and Naphtali had been allotted a portion of land in the days of Joshua near the sea of Galilee. In the days after the exile, when the remnant of Judah returned to the promised land, some of them took up residence in these long-deserted places. That is where Mary and Joseph lived along with their son Jesus.

Our Lord’s ministry, in fulfillment of this prophecy of Isaiah many years before His birth, started here. This is the place where the lame walked, the blind saw, and the lepers were cleansed. The bonds of satanic possession were broken and a light dawned upon this whole world. God has multiplied the nation. That’s you, probably, since the majority of Christians today are gentiles. Isaiah even saw you and wove you into this story. The light of Christ shines every time a man or woman comes to believe. It shines when sins are forgiven and a child is given a cup of cold water in his name. Jesus continues to shine in congregations, schools, homeless shelters, and nursing homes. How is God increasing your joy today? How is He shining through to increase another person’s joy? Isaiah saw that too. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.

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