“Emmanuel’s Theme” – Matthew 4:12-17 (Isaiah 8 & 9)

October 19th, 2014

Matthew 4:12-17 (Isa 8 & 9)

“Emmanuel’s Theme”

 

Meditation/Preparation: Jesus is the Light of the World.  In this world there is darkness, depression and/or discouragement; NEVERTHELESS, He brings, hope, joy, peace, courage and love.   As painful as it might be we need to come into the Light.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

 

Background Information:

  • (Between Mt 4:11 & 4:12) Before returning to Galilee (which John records in 4:43), Jesus met and called the first of his disciples, turned the water to wine at Cana, resided for a short while in Capernaum, returned to Jerusalem for an early Passover, drove the money changers from the temple, talked to Nicodemus, conducted an early teaching ministry in the Judean countryside, and had his encounter with the woman of Samaria on his way north again (see Jn 1:19-4:42).  It is at this point that Matthew seems to pick up the story (Mt 4:12-25).  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 62)
  • What makes this emphasis especially striking is that verses 13-16, the heart of the section, are unique to Matthew. They do not occur in Mark, Luke, or John.  This seems strange at first, since Matthew is the most Jewish of the Gospels.  Yet we may remember that Matthew also links the coming of the Gentile wise men to his account of Jesus’ birth and that the book ends with Christ’s command to take the gospel to “all nations” (Mt 28:19).

Matthew does not want us to forget, at the start of the Gospel, at the end, or anywhere in between, that his message about this Jewish King and Savior is not only for Jews but for everyone.  He is insisting, as much as did the author of the fourth Gospel, that Jesus Christ is “The Savior of the world” (Jn 4:42).  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 62-63)

  • (v. 12) The natural characteristics of the Galileans, and the preparation of history had made Galilee the one place in all Palestine where a new teacher with a new message had any real chance of being heard, and it was there that Jesus began his mission and first announced his message. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 74)
  • (v. 12) For several reasons it was appropriate for Jesus to begin his public ministry in Galilee. It was a densely populated and exceptionally fertile district in Palestine.  Josephus notes that it contained a great number of villages, the smallest of which had a population of at least fifteen thousand (War 3.42).  Galilee was not a remote back country, but a bustling and productive region  through which ran two of the favorite highways of antiquity.  Its population was mixed, partly because of colonists imported during the Maccabean conquest.  As its name suggests (Galilee means a “ring” or “circuit”), it was surrounded by Gentiles (Phoenicians to the west, Syrians on the north and east, and Samaritans to the south).  Judea was mountainous and isolated, but Galilee lay open to all sorts of contacts with the wider world.  It was there in northern Palestine that Jesus began his public ministry.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 32)
  • (v. 13) It is evident that a detachment of soldiers was garrisoned at Capernaum. The story about the royal officer whose son Jesus healed (Jn 4:46-54) may indicate that Capernaum was also a center of political administration.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 242)
  • (v. 13) Capernaum becomes the base for Jesus’ Galilean ministry. In chapter 9 Matthew refers to Capernaum as Jesus’ “own town” (v. 1).  It was located in the district originally assigned to the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali.  In this move to Capernaum Matthew sees the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy of Isaiah.  In its OT setting the promise of restoration under a new and messianic king (Isa 9:1-7) follows the devastation of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians in 733-32-B.C. (cf. Isa 8:1-10).  Matthew interprets the promise in terms of Jesus’ proclamation of a spiritually redemptive message to the inhabitants of Galilee.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 32)
  • (v. 13) Jesus’ relocation (the combination of kataleipō and katoikeō indicates a decisive move away to a new home) took him from the rather remote hill village in which he had been brought up to a busy lakeside town set among other thriving villages which depended largely on the productive fishing industry of the Lake of Galilee. He thus gained a more public platform for his proclamation, as well as escaping the suspicion attaching to a local boy who becomes a celebrity.  Matthew records only one return to Nazareth, whereas Capernaum and the neighboring lakeshore communities will be the setting for most of the Galilean ministry.  It is sobering to note, however, that even Capernaum, favored with so much of Jesus’ presence, will be denounced as unresponsive in 11:23-24.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 140)
  • (v. 15) Isaiah called Galilee “Galilee of the Gentiles” because there was a heavy population of Gentiles there in the north, and they should not have been there. The book of Judges tells us that God was angry because His people had failed to drive out the pagans from that land.  God predicted that, because of this, the pagans with their deities would be a snare to His people, as the whole history of the OT exhibits.  Two of the tribes that failed to carry out this divine mandate were Zebulun and Naphtali.  Jesus goes to that very region, which by this time was simply called “Galilee of the Gentiles.”  The region was densely populated.  Virtually every village there had at least fifteen thousand inhabitants.  It was a center of commerce and trade with other nations.  Earlier, before Herod became king, Aristobulus had invaded Galilee and forced the Gentile residents to be circumcised.  Their hearts were not circumcised.  They still despised the things of the God of Israel and continued in their pagan practices, but here we see that Jesus goes to this pagan region in and around the Sea of Galilee.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 62)
  • (v. 15) When the Assyrians invaded and captured the northern kingdom of Israel, these tribes to the north were among the first to fall. “In the time of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maacah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor.  He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria” (2 Kgs 15:29).  After conquering a nation, usually Assyria would deport all the people living there and then repopulate the area with others.  All who resettled the area were pagans, Gentiles–thus Isaiah called the area Galilee of the Gentiles.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 66)
  • (v. 15) Zebulun and Naphtali were two of the original twelve tribes of Israel. They had been allotted this territory and had settled it during the conquest of Canaan under Joshua (see Josh 19:10-16, 32-39).  “By the lake” refers to the area around the Sea of Galilee (also called Sea of Tiberias or Lake of Gennesaret).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 65)
  • (v. 15) The Way of the Sea led from Damascus through Galilee right down to Egypt and to Africa. The Road to the East led through Galilee away out to the frontiers.  The traffic of the world passed through Galilee.  Away in the south Judea is tucked into a corner, isolated and secluded.  As it has been well said, “Judea is on the way to nowhere: Galilee is on the way to everywhere.”  Judea could erect a fence and keep all foreign influence and all new ideas out; Galilee could never do that.  Into Galilee the new ideas were bound to come.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 73)
  • Perhaps Jesus chose His disciples from that area because they would be less bound to Jewish tradition and more open to the newness of the gospel. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 106)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What is the big deal about Jesus going into the Galilee of the Gentiles to be a light?

 

Answer:  Galilee of the Gentiles was one of the most adventurous places for Jesus to set up his ministry home base.  For Jesus to be a Light here means that Jesus is a Light for the entire world.  But one can only “see the light” through brokenness and repentance.

 

The antonym of darkness is light, which, accordingly, refers to genuine learning (the true knowledge of God, Ps 36:9), life to the glory of God (Eph 4:15, 24; 5:14), and laughter (gladness, Ps 97:11).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 244)

 

It was nighttime.  The giant candelabras still stood in the Court of the Women illuminating the night sky all around Jerusalem.  Jesus used this dramatic backdrop to counter one of the statements made against Him–that the Messiah would not come from Galilee.  He made a second astounding claim: “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (Jn 8:12 NASB).  (David Brickner, Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles, 100)

 

Whereas the light from those candelabra would come and go, Jesus claimed to be the Light of the World.  His invitation was, if you follow Me, you’ll never walk in darkness.  No need to wait another year to see the glorious light from the Tabernacles’ celebration.  Jesus invited people to come to Him, to step into the Light even as He spoke.

When Jesus claimed to be the Light, He wasn’t simply claiming to be an outstanding teacher.  He wasn’t merely offering to point out the correct way.  Remember, the illumination ceremony was a symbol of an ever-present God who, during the wilderness wanderings, graced the Israelites with His provision and presence through the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.  The Light stood for the Shekinah Glory of God.  Remember how the Shekinah glory filled Solomon’s Temple, and the desire the Jewish people had to see the Temple once again filled with light?

When Jesus stood in the Temple claiming to be the Light of the World, He was making a radical statement.  Those who say that Jesus never claimed to be God have not dealt with this statement.  To stand in the middle of the Temple in conjunction with the Feast of Tabernacles and say, “I am the Light” was like saying, “I am the Shekinah, I am the pillar of fire.”  It’s hard to imagine a more graphic claim to deity.  (David Brickner, Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles, 102-03)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Light

 

What does Matthew encourage us to see in Matthew 4:12-17?:

 

 

I-  Jesus intentionally goes to dark Galilee of the Gentiles to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah.  (Mt 4:12-16; see also: Ps 44:19; 105:28; Isa 8:20-22; 9:1-2; 42:6; 49:6; 29:18; Lk 2:32; Acts 13:47; 26:23; Eph 4:18)

 

Just as Isaiah had predicted eight centuries earlier, the despised, sin-darkened, and rebellious Galileans were the first to glimpse the Messiah, the first to see the dawning of God’s New Covenant!  Not mighty and beautiful Jerusalem, the queen city of the Jews, but Galilee of the Gentiles would first hear Messiah’s message.  Not the learned, proud, and pure Jews of Jerusalem, but the mongrel, downcast, nontraditional mixed multitude of Samaria and Galilee had that great honor.  To those who were neediest, and who were most likely to recognize their need, Jesus went first.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 107)

 

Sitting in darkness and in the land of the shadow of death indicates a condition of danger, fear, and hopelessness, a pining sway, with no human help in sight.  In Scripture the designation darkness, when used figuratively, refers to one or more of the following features: delusion (blindness of mind and heart; cf. 2 Cor 4:4, 6; Eph 4:18); depravity (Acts 26:18); and despondency (Isa 9:2; see its context, verse 3).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 244)

 

Whenever foreign armies marched over the Fertile Crescent to invade Israel, the first area to come under attack was “Galilee of the nations” in the north.  The Galileans knew slavery and despair.  But God turned invasion into mission by making the people of Galilee the first ones to see the light of Jesus (Mt 4:12-17).  (Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr.; Preaching the Word: Isaiah, God Saves Sinners, 97)

 

Levertoff brings out the significance of Matthew’s reference to this particular prophecy as follows: “The prophet, after prophesying judgment and doom, proclaimed the dawn of a new hope in the birth of a descendant of David who would establish a kingdom of peace.  Yet not in Jerusalem and Judah will the light first dawn, but in the northernmost part of the land of Israel, a region which lay in darkness and death at the time Jesus came to fulfill the ancient prophecy, and which even the Baptist had not been able to reach by his call to repentance.  (R.V.G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 56)

 

The inhabitants of Galilee are pictured as living in the dark land of death (cf. Ps 23:4), a Hebrew metaphor for “impenetrable darkness” (Beare, 115).  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 32-33)

 

The appearance of Jesus in Galilee was the appearance of light in the darkness.  In Isaiah’s metaphor we see the image of darkness and the image of death.  It describes the inhabitants as Gentile people sitting in darkness and overshadowed by death.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 63)

 

“Galilee of the nations” reflects the region’s greater openness to surrounding Gentile populations, and perhaps especially Isaiah’s Judean awareness of the deportation of Israelites from Galilee by the Assyrians both before (2 Kgs 15:29) and after the Assyrian conquest (2 Kgs 17:24-34), to be replaced by foreign population; indeed, by the Maccabean period the region had become so paganized that its remaining Jewish population was evacuated to Judea (1 Macc 5:14-23); the subsequent incorporation of Galilee into the Jewish Hasmonean kingdom resulted again in a substantial Jewish population, particularly in Lower Galilee, but the total population remained mixed and by the first century included the new Hellenistic cities of Sepphoris and Tiberias.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 142-43)

 

The relevant portion of the MT can be translated, “In former times, the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali were brought into contempt, but in the latter times he will glorify the way of the sea beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.  The people walking in darkness saw a great light.  A light shines on the ones dwelling in the land of the death-shadow.”  (G. K. Beale and D.  A. Carson, Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, 19)

 

Whenever you see darkness, there is extraordinary opportunity for the light to burn brighter.   — Bono

 

One possibility, when faced with potential calamities or disasters, is to forget God’s sovereignty and proceed accordingly (vv. 11,12), but to do so is to invite calamity of a more profound nature, for God the one fact we dare not overlook (vv. 13-15).  It is sheer foolishness, when he has made his way (which is also our way) clear (vv. 16-18, 20), to resort to some other means (v. 19) to find a path out of darkness. Such other means can only make the darkness, and our anguish, more intense, for they lead away from him who is light.  Nevertheless, God will not be defeated.  He will shed his light upon his people, and it is typical of his grace that the location of that light will be in the very part of the land which first felt the hand of his wrath, namely, Galilee. (John N. Oswalt;  The New International Commentary on the OT: Isaiah 1-39, 231-32)

 

(Lk 11:34) “Therefore watch out that the light within you may not be darkness.”  There are two kinds of darkness: (a) that of ignorance, and (b) that of stubborn unbelief.  The second kind, here in view, is by far the more dangerous.  It was that kind of darkness which reigned in the hearts of those who hated Jesus.  Once present, it is hard to dislodge.  “Watch out, therefore.”  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Luke, 633)

 

A light to the nations:  In Isaiah (9:2) it is the people walking in darkness who see a great light; here Israel is herself made the light which shines in the spiritual darkness of the surrounding world (cf. 49:6; 51:4; 60:1-3 and especially the Nunc Dimittis, Luke 2:31-32).  (The Interpreter’s Bible Vol. V, 469)

 

An unrepentant faith is a theoretical belief which originates outside the sphere of the Spirit’s illumination in a heart which is still in darkness concerning its own need and the grace and grandeur of God.  (Richard Lovelace; Dynamics of Spiritual Life, 103)

 

II-  Jesus goes to Galilee to show He is the Light of the World.  (Mt 4:16; see also: Ps 104:2; 118:27; 119:105, 130; Prv 6:23; Isa 10:17; 42:6-7, 16; 49:6; 51:4; 53:11; Amos 5:8; Mt 17:2; 28:3; Lk 1:76-79; 2:29-32; 4:18; Jn 1:1-9; 3:19-21; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46; Acts 26:23; 1 Cor 4:5; Jas 1:17; 1 Jn 1:5-7; Rv 22:5)

 

But the good news is that the God who is with us is a God who wants to turn our darkness into light, our conflict into shalom, our loss into abundance, our despair into joy.  The One who rides with passionate desire at the head of the hosts of heaven (“LORD Almighty”; lit., “Yahweh of hosts”) has a passionate desire to do good to all people.  If a God like that is with us, that is good news to all eternity. (John N. Oswalt; The NIV Application Commentary: Isaiah, 162)

 

At the coming of Christ, love was let loose in the world…and nobody can stop it.  God–the awesome and sovereign creator and sustainer of all that is–is love.  God is not loving; he is love.  God is not sometimes loving and sometimes not; he is love.  The darkness has no reality of its own; it is only defined in terms of the absence of light.  The Light has come, and everything that is dark will be destroyed in its wake. (Steve Brown; “Love is a Lot Stronger Than I Thought It Was”, Key Life, Fall/Christmas 2006, Vol. 21 #3, 11)

 

What the world needs is not knowledge; it is not teaching; it is not information; it is not medical treatment; it is not psychotherapy; it is not social progress; it is not punishment, even.  It is none of these things.

What men and women need is a new heart, a new nature, a nature that will hate darkness and love the light, instead of loving the darkness and hating the light.  They need an entire renovation, and, blessed be the name of God, it is the very thing that God offers in and through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  The Son of God came and took unto himself human nature.  He united it to himself in order that he might give us that nature.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; God’s Way, Not Ours: Isaiah 1, 67)

 

Jesus is the light of the world; i.e., to the ignorant he proclaims wisdom; to the impure, holiness; to those in sadness, gladness.   Moreover, to those who by sovereign grace are drawn (6:44) to the light and follow its guidance he not only proclaims but actually imparts these blessings.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: John, 41)

 

A proper sense of God’s holiness sheds light on our unworthiness (cf. Isa 6:1-5; Lk 5:8).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 667)

 

There is joy because God has delivered from oppression, and he does that because he has brought an end to war.  But how will he do that?  This verse supplies the answer.  It lies in the coming of a person, thus fitting biblical thought throughout.  Ultimately, God’s truth is not merely in the realm of ideas; ultimately, it is meant to be incarnated (cf. Mal 2:17-31; Col 1:15, 19, 20, 27).  Who is this person through whom God intends to bring war to an end and establish true freedom upon the earth?  Evidently, he is a royal person (note the references to a kingdom, government, and throne), yet he is never called king. Von Rad and Harrelson conclude that this reference is an intentional slap at the Jerusalem monarchy.  If such as these are called “kings” then the title is too tainted for this one to bear.  He will be in fact what they were in name only. (John N. Oswalt;  The New International Commentary on the OT: Isaiah 1-39, 244-45)

 

(Isa 9:6-7) “Mighty God” or rather “Divine Warrior” represents him as invincible champion of the oppressed; “Everlasting Father” sees in him an unfailing source of protection and love (63:15f.); and “Prince of Peace” means controller of the people’s well-being and prosperity. (John F. A. Sawyer; The Daily Study Bible Series, Isaiah, Vol. 1, 100)

 

Isaiah is thinking of a freedom fighter, like Gideon (Jdg 6-8), breaking the power of all our oppressors. (Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., Preaching the Word: Isaiah, 98)

 

Isa 60:1-22.  Jerusalem Glorified.–This poem, as Torrey puts it, is “one blaze of light.”  The gloom of ch. 59 makes its brightness stand out by contrast.  Light and darkness are spiritual symbols: light is fellowship with the holy God; darkness is life apart from him.  God’s nature is light, “in whom is no darkness at all,” and his glory is the manifestation of himself.  When the nations come to Jerusalem’s light, they arrive at the knowledge of the Lord and his righteousness.  The present application of this chapter is to the glory of the church in faithful companionship with her God, and to human society in obedience to his righteous will.  Details must not be allegorized; the basic truth is the transforming and irradiating effect of life in God’s presence.  (The Interpreter’s Bible Vol. V, 697)

 

 

III-  Jesus preaches the need for repentance to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mt 4:17; see also: Isa 59:20; Jer 18:8; 31:19; Ez 18:30-32; Mt 3:1-2; Mk 1:15; Lk 13:3-5; 15:7, 10) {Please see HFM on-line sermon for September 21st, 2014 for more information on repentance}

 

As to the message of that kingdom, which Jesus was now preaching, it was “the good news” (the gospel), namely, that Jesus was himself the promised Messiah or Savior.  John had prepared for his coming, and now he had come.  If we should then ask, “But how do we get to have a share in that kingdom or become part of it?” the answer is clear: “Repent and believe the good news,” exactly the message ministers of the gospel have been given to preach to people everywhere today.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 64)

 

Preaching was a central part of Jesus’ ministry and remains a central part of the ministry of His church.  From that time, when He went to galilee, Jesus began to preach.  Kērussō (to preach) means “to proclaim” or “to publish,” that is, to publicly make a message known.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 108)

 

Jesus preached His message with certainty.  He did not come to dispute or to argue, but to proclaim, to preach.  Preaching is the proclamation of certainties, not the suggestion of possibilities.  Jesus also preached “as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Mt 7:29).  What He proclaimed not only was certain but was of the utmost authority.  The scribes could not teach authoritatively because they had so mingled biblical truth with the interpretations and traditions of various rabbis that all certainty and authority had long vanished.  They could no longer distinguish God’s Word from men’s words, and all that remained were opinions and speculations.  For God’s people once again to hear someone preach as the prophets had preached was astonishing (cf. Mt 7:28-29).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 108)

 

Knowledge without repentance will be but a torch to light men to hell.  (Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance, 77)

 

Jesus started his ministry with the very word that people had heard John the Baptist say: Repent.  The message is the same today.  Becoming a follower of Christ begins with repentance, turning away from our self-centeredness and self-control.  The next step is to turn the right way, to turn toward Christ and believe in him.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 66)

 

The kingdom of God began when God entered history as a human being.  But the culmination of the kingdom of God will not be fully realized until all evil in the world has been judged and removed.  Christ came to earth first as the suffering Servant.  When he returns, he will come as King and Judge to rule over all the earth.  The kingdom begun with Jesus’ birth would not overthrow Roman oppression and usher in universal peace.  The kingdom of God that began quietly in Palestine was God’s rule in people’s hearts.  Thus, the kingdom was as “near” as people’s willingness to make Jesus king over their lives.  As Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Lk 17:21).  The culmination of the kingdom may still be many years away for us, yet its spiritual reality is as near as accepting Jesus as Savior.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 66-67)

 

The message of Jesus to Capernaum was similar to that of John the Baptist, “Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  This was the theme of His ministry until it became evident that He would be rejected.  (John F. Walvoord, Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come, 38)

 

If we are to be participants in the Kingdom of heaven, then we are to live by the rule of the King.  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 54)

 

The faithful preacher and teacher will proclaim God’s certain truth, with God’s delegated authority, and under God’s divine commission.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 109)

 

Jesus announces that the eschatological reality of the future reign of God’s King is now here and that the ethical imperative that naturally follows that reality is repentance.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 94-95)

 

“Gospel repentance is not a little hanging down of the head.  It’s a working of the heart until your sin becomes more odious to you than any punishment for it.” — Richard Sibbes

 

First of the ninety-five theses Martin Luther nailed to the Wittenberg church door read, “when our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘repent,’ He willed that the entire life of believers be one of repentance.”  (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 32)

 

“The Mosaic covenant explicitly assured that repentance would lead to restoration to the land (see Dt 4:29; 30:1-3).” (Richard Pratt, Jr.; 1 and 2 Chronicles, 239)

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION:  Three Questions we must make sure that we answer because of their eternal and life altering implications:

 

 

A-  Have you seen the Light? (Ps 4:6; 13:3; 27:1; Isa 60:1-3, 19-20; Amos 5:8; Mi 7:8-9; Jn 1:1-9; 3:16-21; 1 Cor 1:18-2:16;  2 Cor 4:4-6; 11:14; Heb 10:32; 1 Pt 2:9; 2 Pt 1:19)

 

The people had requested a sign (Lk 11:16, 29), but Jesus explained that the light of his perfect life should be enough of a sign.  All who would focus their eyes on him and his teaching would be transformed by absorbing and reflecting the perfect light of God’s truth.  Jesus’ command to “see to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness” (11:34 NIV) is also for you.  Examine yourself, let the light of God’s Word expose the inner darkness of your heart and transform you, so that you can live for him.  (Bruce B. Barton, D.Min., Life Application Bible Commentary: Luke, 301)

 

When someone becomes converted to Christ, others say of him, often sarcastically, “He has seen the light.”  As much of a mockery as this tends to be, it is a statement of profound truth, because by nature our souls are shrouded in darkness, and until the soul embraces Christ, that darkness continues to rule.  When the Holy Spirit removes the scales from someone’s eyes and changes the disposition of his heart, then that light of Christ bursts into the soul so that it cannot be contained.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 64)

 

I remembered Pascal arguing that God has given us just enough light so that we can understand and just enough darkness or obscurity to deny the truth, if we wish.  That was it.  Of course, God cannot reveal Himself in a rationally irrefutable manner.  If God were plain to us as the tree outside our window, as one great theologian once wrote, we would have no need for faith.  If we saw God in His true character, in His glory, in anything like the way we see the world around us, our free will would be meaningless.  We could not help but believe in God.  It would be impossible to deny Him.  This would destroy the possibility of choosing to believe–of faith–and with it the possibility of love, because love cannot be compelled.  We cannot love God if we are not given the option of rejecting Him.  Remember, God has given us just enough light to see by, but not enough to eliminate the need to see with eyes of faith.  Our pride has to get out of the way, and we have to recognize that faith is not faith unless it is accompanied by doubt–or at least, as Catholic piety would say, difficulties.  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 380)

 

How you come at religion, How you come at the whole business of Christianity whether from a phenomological perspective or from a relevatory perspective is going to strongly condition your conclusion.”  (R.C. Sproul; lecture, “Kant and Hegel” #PH1.8)

 

The last place we want to be is in the darkness, but the Scriptures indicate that if we reject this One who came into the darkness, our destiny will be the outer darkness where the light of God’s grace will never shine.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 65)

 

The dark night is God’s attack on religion.  If you genuinely desire union with the unspeakable love of God, then you must be prepared to have your “religious” world shattered.  If you think devotional practices, theological insights, even charitable actions give you some sort of a purchase on God, you are still playing games.  (Rowan Williams, “The Dark Night,” A Ray of Darkness: Sermons and Reflections, 82)

 

“Belief in the inner light may be the shortest road to the outer darkness.”  —J. S. Whale

 

Thomas couldn’t believe, without sufficient data, because the implications were just to staggering.   (Steve Brown; If Jesus Has Come, 104-5)

 

The humblest of us, in a state of Grace, can have some “knowledge-by-acquaintance” (connaître), some “tasting,” of Love Himself; but man even at his highest sanctity and intelligence has no direct “knowledge about” (savoir) the ultimate Being–only analogies.  We cannot see light, though by light we can see things.  Statements about God are extrapolations from the knowledge of other things which the divine illumination enables us to know.  (C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 126)

 

When a man is living in darkness, and is suddenly exposed to great light, he will not be enlightened; He will be blinded!  Because of this we must be discerning when exposing unbelievers, or new believers, to the deeper truths of the Lord.  Meat will not nourish babies; it will choke them.  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 184)

 

Man, as the result of sin and the Fall, is no longer governed by his mind and understanding; he is governed by his desires, his affections and his lusts.  That is the teaching of Scripture.  Thus we see that man is in the terrible predicament of being no longer governed by his highest faculty, but by something else, something subsidiary.

There are many Scriptures which prove this.  Take that great statement in Jn 3:19: ‘This is the condemnation (this is the final condemnation of mankind), that light is come (or has come) into the world.’  What, then, is the matter with man?  Does he not believe it?  Does he not accept it?  No, ‘This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.’  Man, in other words, instead of looking at life with his mind, looks at it with his desires and affections.  He prefers darkness; he is controlled by his heart instead of by his head.  We must be quite clear about this.  This is not to say that man as God made him should not have a heart, and should not feel things.  The important thing is that no man should be governed by his emotions and desires.  That is the effect of sin.  A man should be governed by his mind, his understanding.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 370)

 

B-  Are you walking in the Light?  (Ps 18:28; 19:8; 36:9; 43:3; 56:13; 89:15; 90:8; 97:11; 112:4; 139:11-12; Prv 4:18-19; Eccl 2:13-14; Isa 2:5; Mt 6:22-23; Lk 11:32-36; Jn 11:9-10; 12:35-36; Rom 13:12; Eph 5:8-14; 1 Thes 5:4-5; 1 Jn 2:8-11)

 

If doctrine becomes our emphasis, we are being led astray.  We are not changed by doctrine; we are changed by seeing Jesus (2 Cor 3:18).  Anointed teachings are essential for the nourishment of the Christ that is being formed within us, but whenever a truth becomes our focus, it will distract us.  For this reason Satan often comes as an angel of light, or “messenger of truth.”  Truth can deceive us.  Only in the Truth, Jesus, is there life.  He did not come just to teach us truth; He came to be Truth.  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 81)

 

When we trust Jesus Christ, our eyes are opened, the light shines in, and we become children of light (Jn 8:12; 2 Co 4:3-6; Eph 5:8-14).  The important thing is that we take advantage of the light and have a single outlook of faith.  If we keep one eye on the things of God and the other eye on the world (1 Jn 2:16), the light will turn into darkness!  (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Compassionate: A NT Study–Luke 1-13, 128)

 

When we love Christ only for what He brings us, including spiritual feelings, we are loving ourselves, not loving Him, regardless of the sacrifice we think we are offering.  The dark night of the soul purifies our motivation and keeps us from becoming like the crowds in the NT who followed Jesus, not for His teaching, but for the miraculously supplied bread.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 193)

 

One of the deep truths of sanctification is that you get “better” and “worse” at the same time!

You truly shine more brightly as you move toward the light.  You hold onto God more steadily.  You’re more loving and joyful.  You’re more trustworthy.  More teachable.  You give to people rather than use them.  But brighter light also exposes more dark corners, pockets of unconscionable and once unimaginable iniquity.  (John Piper, Justin Taylor, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, 101)

 

The more light you allow within you, the brighter the world you live in will be. — Shakti Sawain

 

“The more spiritual light they have enjoyed, the more they have seen their own countless defects and shortcomings.”  (J. C. Ryle; Holiness, xxi)

 

Jesus says that He comes from above.  He descends from the eternal realm.  He calls the Christian to live his life in light of eternity.  A Christian’s values are to be measured by transcendent norms of eternal significance.  (R.C. Sproul, Lifeviews, 36)

 

In John [of the Cross’] mind, internal pain became the “doorkeeper” to further growth.  He wrote that often souls do not advance because they are unwilling to face the “dark night” that would lead to a closer walk with God.   (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 163)

 

The devil can traffic in any area of darkness, even the darkness that still exists in a Christian’s heart.  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 15)

 

Let us recognize before we do warfare that the areas we hide in darkness are the very areas of our future defeat.  Often the battles we face will not cease until we discover and repent of the darkness that is within us.  If we will be effective in spiritual warfare, we must be discerning of our own hearts; we must walk humbly with our God.  Our first course of action must be, “Submit…to God.”  Then, as we “resist the devil…he will flee” (Jas 4:7).  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 16)

 

God can never entrust His kingdom to anyone who has not been broken of pride, for pride is the armor of darkness itself.  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 17)

 

Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Eph 5:11).  When you expose and confess your sins, they no longer are in darkness (secrecy).  When light is turned on in a dark room, darkness becomes light.  So also, when you bring your sins out of darkness and expose them to light, they vanish in God’s forgiveness; they become light.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 113)

 

People living in the dark want everybody to be in the dark.   People who deny the Light are threatened by people who have seen the Light.  (Steve Brown message, “Kingdoms in Conflict” from Matthew 2)

 

So what does holiness mean?  It means unutterable righteousness.  It means that God is truth, that God is light, and that everything God does is controlled by truth and by right and by justice.  That is God.  Therefore it follows of necessity that the moment you and I try to consider and to understand anything that God does in this world, we must always start with this category of holiness.  Everything he does partakes of that character and quality.  Though, as a Christian, you may not understand many things, you must say that God is light and that whatever God does is right.

Our difficulty, then, is this:  if that is God, we find ourselves in trouble because we are altogether different.  Instead of starting with truth, we start with happiness, do we not?  The characteristic that governs our thinking is selfishness, self-centeredness.  We are not out for holiness – for absolute truth and righteousness and justice.  What we want is ease and comfort.  We want certain things so that we can enjoy ourselves. We see everything from the angle of our happiness and peace.  All our decisions are governed by self-interest.  So a clash is inevitable.  There is God in his holiness; here are we in our sin and unworthiness.  And because God does everything from the standpoint of holiness, we do not understand and we do not like it.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; The All-Sufficient God: Sermons on Isaiah 40, 134)

 

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. —Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Eph 5:11).  When you expose and confess your sins, they no longer are in darkness (secrecy).  When light is turned on in a dark room, darkness becomes light.  So also, when you bring your sins out of darkness and expose them to light, they vanish in God’s forgiveness; they become light.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 113)

 

Here we may learn, if we be “poor, and of a contrite spirit, and tremble at His Word,” divine secrets indeed, secrets of love and wisdom beyond human fathoming.  Here we may find a light on the dark problems of our day, here the purposes of God as to heaven and earth are revealed, here faith may find a solid rock on which her feet may stand, and hope may be so directed as never to be disappointed.  (J. C. Jennings, Studies in Isaiah, 104)

 

Don’t lose in the darkness what you knew to be true in the light

 

“Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.” —V. Raymond Edman (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, 111)

 

Author Joseph Bayly expressed the truth this way:  “Remember in the darkness what you have learned in the light.” (Philip Yancey; The Bible Jesus Read, 71)

 

C-  Are you yourself a light for this dark world?  (Prv 13:9; Isa 58:10; Mt 5:14-16; Lk 16:8; Jn 5:35; Acts 13:47; 26:15-18; Rom 2:19)

 

“People are like stained glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”  —Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

 

You remember how the Apostle Paul addresses a word about it to the Philippians.  He reminds them that they are to be a luminaries in the heavens, they are to ‘do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life’ (Phil 2.14-16).  What a tragic thing it is that Christian people can be miserable and murmuring instead of rejoicing in Christ Jesus.  It is an outcome of the fact that they have forgotten that everything is of grace.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, 127)

 

It is a biblical truth that the more earnest we become about being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and the more devoted we become to reaching the unreached peoples of the world, and exposing the works of darkness, and loosing the bonds of sin and Satan, the more we will suffer.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 342)

 

Do with me whatever it shall please thee.  For it can not be anything but good, whatever thou shalt do with me.  If it be thy will I should be in darkness, be thou blessed; and if it be thy will I should be in light, be thou again blessed.  If thou grant me comfort, be thou blessed; and if thou will have me afflicted, be thou still equally blessed.  My son, such as this ought to be thy state, if thou desire to walk with Me.  Thou must be as ready to suffer as to rejoice.  Thou must cheerfully be as destitute and poor, as full and rich.  (Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, III:17:1-2)

 

Seeing that we are light, how can we shine more?  Consider this: a man returning from a journey brought his wife a matchbox that would glow in the dark.  After giving it to her she turned out the light, but the matchbox could not be seen.  Both thought they had been cheated.  Then the wife noticed some French words on the box and called a friend to translate.  And this is what the inscription said: If you want me to shine in the night,  keep me in the light. So it is with us!  We must expose ourselves to Jesus, revel in His Word, and spend time in prayer soaking up His rays.  As Paul wrote, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).    (R. Ken Hughes; Are Evangelicals Born Again, 141)

 

Here’s the problem: we put men to work in the church duplicating tapes, and they think they are duplicating tapes.  They are not!   They are creating lifeboats that can rescue drowning souls!  They are forging swords that can pierce the darkness that binds the captives.  Every usher and parking lot attendant, every teacher and team leader must see himself as a link in a chain going back to Christ Himself, a foot soldier in the army that is transforming the world.   That’s the power of vision, and without it men perish!  (David Murrow; Why Men Hate Church, 159)

 

“The place of suffering in service and of passion in mission is hardly ever taught today.  But the greatest single secret of evangelistic or missionary effectiveness is the willingness to suffer and die.  It may be a death to popularity (by faithfully preaching the unpopular biblical gospel), or to pride (by the use of modest methods in reliance on the Holy Spirit), or to racial and national prejudice (by identification with another culture), or to material comfort (by adopting a simple lifestyle).  But the servant must suffer if he is to bring light to the nations, and the seed must die it if is to multiply.” (John R. W. Stott; The Cross of Christ, 322)

 

Christopher’s slogan, that “it is better to light one candle than it is to curse the darkness.” (Bob Briner;  Roaring Lambs—A Gentle Plan to Radically Change Your World, 99)

 

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” —Father James Keller

 

It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel.  It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity (Frederic D. Huntington, Forum magazine, 1890).  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 65)

 

Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.  —Erasmus

 

We enjoy warmth because we have been cold.  We appreciate light because we have been in darkness.  By the same token, we can experience joy because we have known sorrow. —David L. Weatherford

 

Churches in such (dark) contexts are called to bear witness to the gospel of the kingdom of God within the social structures, while resisting being subverted by them.  In order to retain their privileged place in society, church leaders can easily lose their distinctive witness and prophetic stance.  They mirror society’s values instead of acting as salt, light and yeast–the salt to savor and sanitize, the light to expose and guide, and the yeast to unobtrusively permeate.  One common feature of salt, light and yeast is that they are capable of exerting influence far beyond their size.  (Eddie Gibbs; Church Next, 20)

 

Am I drawing on my imagination?  My answer is this: one of the greatest philosophers that Germany has ever produced, if not the greatest, and certainly their greatest poet, was a man called Goethe.  Goethe was not a Christian, and he did not believe this Christian teaching.  He had a great brain.  He had read the classics.  He knew the philosophers.  He was a great thinker, and he thought this was all that was necessary.  But there he was, lying on his deathbed.  Do you know what his last words were?  They were these: ‘More light.’  He was crying for more light.  Why?  Oh, because he was in an impenetrable darkness, and his great brain, and learning, and knowledge, and all his great friends could not help him.  The darkness deepened and ‘no man gave unto him’.  All he could do was cry out, ‘More light.”  He did not know the only One who could give him that light.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; God’s Way, Not Ours: Isaiah 1, 84)

 

Godliness is the ability to let your light shine after your fuse is blown.  —Barbara Johnson

 

Worship Point:  The natural response when you “see the light” is to worship.  To not worship is an indication that you really have seen nothing at all.

 

Along with his humility, Job received spiritual insight.  His immortal words in verse 5 describe this: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”  Annie Dillard has written, “You do not have to sit outside in the dark.  If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is required.”  Many Christian graces are imperceptible until the time of trial, and then they shine forth with great brilliance.  (R. Kent Hughes;  Preaching the Word, James, Faith That Works, 240)

 

Gospel Application:  See the Light of the Gospel and that Jesus is the Light of the World for dark, depressed and discouraged places like your heart.   Repent so you might “see the Light” and have life in all of its abundance.

 

The metaphor of light and darkness is used abundantly in the NT.  It gives a vivid contrast between righteousness and evil and between life and death.  The Bible teaches us that by nature we are children of darkness.  The darkness that enveloped the Gentiles in Galilee did not stop at the border.  That darkness cast a pall over the whole planet, and every one of us is born in that state of darkness.  Every one of us is by nature a child of the darkness.  Every one of us is by nature a person who prefers darkness to light, because in the light of day our sins are made manifest.  One of the things we most fear is exposure.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 63)

 

The darkness in which the people lived was the darkness of sin and evil.  Jesus was saying, “The great darkness has been upon you because of the great darkness that is within you.  You must be willing to turn from that darkness before the light can shine in you.”  To turn from sin is to repent, therefore, is to change one’s orientation, to turn around and seek a new way.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 109)

 

Godless ministers are the real cause of the decline of the church in spirituality. They have been in all ages. The purest light shining through a colored medium, becomes colored. Worldly, timeserving preachers promote a worldly religion. They may multiply converts; but their converts mold the church more than the church does them. Constantine secured a greater accession to the church than the apostles did, but the church to this day has not recovered from the idolatrous spirit and heathenish practices which his converts introduced. It was at this period that the worship of saints, the doctrine of purgatory, and the celibacy of priests, had beginning in the Christian church. They were borrowed from heathen Rome.  (B.T. Roberts; Fishers Of Men, 39)

 

Though God in this threefold revelation has provided answers to our questions concerning Him, the answers by no means lie on the surface.  They must be sought by prayer, by long meditation on the written Word, and by earnest and well-disciplined labor.  However brightly the light may shine, it can be seen only by those who are spiritually prepared to receive it.  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, 14)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Begin to look for the blinds or shades in your life that are preventing the Light from shining in on you in all of His glory, strength, hope, courage and power.   Repent and remove the blinds or shades so you not only “see the Light” but that you might also “walk in the Light” and you yourself “be a light.”

 

The reference is not to those who are physically blind, nor even to the spiritually blind, but to the condition of blindness that is the result of sin.  All sinners are blind in that they cannot see reality as it is.  What they need is an opening of the eyes.  Christ also spoke of Himself as the Light of the world, i.e. the bringer of light to those who are blind.  (Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, Vol. 3, 121)

 

The real meaning of the quotation, accordingly, is this, that Jesus Christ, by his presence, words, deeds of mercy and power, would fill the hearts of all his Galilean followers with the joy of salvation.  No longer would they be pining away in gloom and despair.  When Jesus comes into Galilee and begins his great ministry there, the words of a popular hymn go into effect,

The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin,

The light of the world is Jesus.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 244)

 

 

Whenever there is a real clash between darkness and light, the outcome is certain.  If you sit in a dark room at night, with no lights on and no moon shining through the window, light floods the room the second you flip on the light switch.  Darkness is no match for the light.  Yet when the Light who is the life of the world came, the darkness did not understand it.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 64)

 

Have you seen the Light?   Are you Walking in the Light?   Are you a Light to a lost and dying world?  (Rom 8:28 & Gn 50:20)  You are going through trials – NEVERTHELESS rejoice because God is perfecting you through this test (Jas 1:2-4).  You are being persecuted – NEVERTHELESS rejoice because great is your reward in heaven (Mt 5:11-12).  You are suffering from sickness or illness – NEVERTHELESS rejoice  because you will be comforted (Mt 5:4).  You are discouraged mourning over your sinfulness – NEVERTHELESS rejoice because the Kingdom of Heaven is yours (Mt 5:3).

 

You are meek and powerless – NEVERTHELESS rejoice because you will inherit the earth (Mt 5:5).  You are dying – NEVERTHELESS rejoice because you are about to receive the goal of your faith (1 Pt 1:3-9).

 

In the dark?  Follow the Son.

 

Christ:

The Light

of the World

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