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.
by Kelly Russell, Encouragement Expert
We have the idea that life should happen the way we want, when we want. Our expectations often exceed reality. A perfect scenario is created in our minds and when life takes a different turn, we lose heart. Jesus said not to be troubled but be at peace (Matthew 16:23). Only God can arrange things in such a way that we benefit best and He is glorified most. As Jeremiah wrote, “Who is the clay to say to the Potter, why are you doing it that way?” God sees us as a finished product, not a work in progress.
Our rough places must be made smooth to shape us into the image of Christ. Our primary calling isn’t to “do” or “go”, but to become. God is more concerned about pure hearts than polished lives.
We can only ever know what God is willing to reveal. He knows the beginning from the end, and He works all things together for good to those who love Him. Knowing God is knowing enough. In Christ all wisdom is found (Colossians 2:3). Why are we not content with this alone? Our human desire is to know more; God’s desire is for us to know HIM more. If we knew what God knows, we would choose His will every time. We doubt what we can’t see and believe what we do see. Jesus said those who believe without seeing are blessed (John 20:29).
God’s Truth is not to be found in our feelings, but always in His unfailing Word. God’s promises are unlimited but we limit them with our doubt and unbelief. Numbers 23:19 says, God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Let these words deflate doubt and undo unbelief. Read it and believe it! We kick out the doubt with faith, which comes through God’s Word.
The solution to unbelief is to ask God for help (Mark 9:23-24). Doubt derails and discourages us. Saturating ourselves in Scripture slams the door on doubt and discouragement. God’s presence eclipses every one of our struggles.
Christ followers are called to the same purpose every day—to take up the cross and lay down their lives. In denying ourselves, we can truly rely on Christ and His resurrection power. If my life is in my hands then the cross cannot be (Mark 8:34). Our goal is eternity, therefore our focus should be the same. It’s not our circumstances we need to be in touch with, but the Savior Himself. On our journey with the Lord, may He become greater while we become less.
Read: Isaiah 45:9; John 3:30; 2 Corinthians 4:18; 1 Timothy 6:6-7
Kelly Russell was raised in a military family, traveling around the world. She now lives in Melbourne Fla., where she and her husband serve in the leadership of their church. Kelly's heart is to encourage people with passion and conviction through the gift of words.
by Debra Neybert, Training Specialist
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:11
This scripture is a beautiful expression of the nurturing heart of God. The Lord gathers us in His arms, He carries us close to His heart, and He gently leads us.
When God created us, He gave us amazing revelation into His nature. He first made man in His image, and then caused the man to fall into a deep sleep and took one of the man’s ribs to make woman. (Genesis 2:21-22).
Both male and female were created in God’s image and likeness; Eve’s female identity contained attributes that reflected the female/mothering image of God. We often emphasize the heart of the Father, but do not always perceive the Lord as one who expresses Himself through the nurturing heart of a woman.
We all need the love of a mother and a father. But in a fallen world, that need is not always satisfied. The scripture above is a precious word picture of the tender and gentle love the Lord wants us to experience in intimacy with Him. It is a healing love that brings us to life in our inner most being!
Jesus used a nurturing image of Himself when He compared His deep concern for His people with that of a mother hen for her chicks. He said, in reference to Jerusalem: “How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks together…” Luke 13:34
The Lord celebrates and cherishes women. He carefully crafts each one to reveal His mothering heart, a heart that fills all the voids, that nourishes, satisfies, delights in, comforts, and provides peace.
In this season may you experience His arms around you, carrying you close to His heart.
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