by Jay Hobbs, Communications and Marketing Director
You’d be hard-pressed to wordsmith a more hopeless turn of phrase than what we find in Isaiah 8:20—especially if you’ve ever endured a sleepless night, searching the horizon for the first sign of sunlight.
In his indictment of the self-righteous Southern Kingdom of Israel, the prophet Isaiah charges that, rather than hearing the word of God and listening to it, the nation’s leaders and teachers had shrunk back in embarrassment from God’s truth.
“To the teaching and to the testimony!” calls Isaiah, with the fervor of a battle-tested general. “If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.”
And there’s the hammer: “They have no dawn.”
What could be more hopeless than an endless night, with no hope that the sun will ever shed its glorious rays? Like nothing else on earth, sunlight dispels the gloom of night, giving life and vitality to what was—just moments before—cloaked in mystery and doubt.
And at that moment in history, Israel’s dawnless night was about to get far worse. Soon, all of the Northern Kingdom would be occupied by Assyria while the Southern Kingdom would be led off into 70 years of Babylonian captivity, only to return to a land laid bare in their two generations of expulsion.
Called and beloved as the people of God—His own vessel for shedding the light of His glory to the surrounding nations—Israel was plunged into “distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish,” Isaiah says to conclude chapter 8.
A darkness with no dawn. Sounds almost too bad to be true, until you realize that it’s not just a people in some far off land who walked through this night. It’s all of us, wandering hopelessly through the darkness.
It’s a darkness written all over the faces of the women we serve every day. A darkness that’s often intensified by a lifetime of broken promises and emotional abandonment has now come to another point of darkness.
To her, it’s a darkness without any hope of a dawn.
Kind of makes you want to light that first Advent candle—the “Hope” candle—and sing a Christmas carol, doesn’t it?
Amazingly, that’s just what Isaiah does. In the very next verse, he delivers a message from the Lord that, against this grim backdrop: “There will be no gloom for her who was in anguish” (Isaiah 9:1).
Instead of gloom, shame and devastation, God would bring about a glorious change that wouldn’t just heal Israel, but would extend God’s love and favor to those of “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev. 7:9).
Against the deepest darkness of a dawnless night, and into “a land of deep darkness,” God was going to one day bring light: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2).
Of course, looking ahead 700 years from Isaiah’s word, Jesus himself—“The true light, which gives light to everyone.” (John 1:9)—would fulfill this prophecy. Against all odds and amid the wreckage of abandoned hope, God shed His light onto a darkened world.
This Christmas season, we remember that the hope of light has come into our darkened world. And that light’s name is Jesus.
May our hearts be enlightened by His Advent, and may God shine His light on every woman, every man and every child we seek to serve this season.