The Society was sick, morally, spiritually and physically. Isaiah highlights some of the (Isaiah 1:6)
The Nation was also fascinated by the occult. Moses warned the people of his day about this danger. He had it recorded in Deuteronomy 7:1-6 and 18:9-13 to steer Israel clear of the Darkness of the nations prevalent in the land Israel was entering. It is still good advice today. Similar to the Israelite nation of yesteryear people today find a fascination with the Devil’s doorways to despair and bondage.
By the time Isaiah speaks out the nation has become obsessed. ‘When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?’ The result of this involvement is played out in the poverty of the nation and their unbridled anger. The hellishness of their situation is written in Isaiah 8:21,22. ‘Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, they will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.’
As you read that it would be easy to imagine that the eternal and Holy God would simply judge and obliterate the nation. This presumably would be what most others with any such authority would do. But that is not the way of the ever faithful Covenant keeping God. The nation may, and did, break the Covenant but not the Lord. It is an expression of His Holy providence that He is able to achieve His purposes even with a nation acting contrary to Its calling. It is in such unco-operative circumstances that we realise the grace, power and perseverance of the God who will honour His word.
Flowing on from his bleak estimation of the Nation’s unfitness before the Lord the prophet shatters the dismal scene with one word. Nevertheless! (Isa.9:1) God will not be denied the fulfillment of His purposes. In fact the scene will be one of stark contrast, National Darkness penetrated by Heaven’s Light. The impact will be more glorious than a conquering army sharing in the spoils of victory. It will be more joyous than end of harvest celebrations. (Isa.9:2-4)
What will usher in these celebrations? What will be so awesome that it can only be compared to light bursting into the darkness? What will have such authority as to break the bondage of the yoke of the occult? Isaiah doesn’t point to the Lord God of Hosts slaying the unrighteous and casting down the demonic. He adds to a promised babe in chapter 7:14 the following declaration, For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, asnd the government will be on his shoulders. He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.’ (Is.9:6,7)
So great is the power of God to achieve His purposes that He will use a male babe, the child, to conquer the darkness and turn the Nation’s heart to the Lord God Almighty. Ever since the prophet wrote those words Israel, and indeed the world have waited for it to come to pass. Unfortunately some have endeavoured to prevent it. Some have tried to deny it. Others have sought to corrupt it or smother it. However, God who can turn Humankind’s anger to His own purposes will not be put off by such opposition.
There is a claimant to the fulfilment of this promise. In fact a Jewish Tax collector recorded the life of the one he believed met the requirements of Isaiah’s prophecy. Matthew took the words of Isaiah 9:1,2 and wrote, ‘Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which is by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali - to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah, “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordon, Galilee of the Gentiles - the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:12-16)
The person Matthew was writing about has come to be known as Yeshua. At his birth, which Matthew records, as well as does Luke a Gentile Doctor, the sense of Isaiah’s insights of a babe to be born dominate.
It is in the life and work of this person that the ‘Nevertheless’ is able to be fulfilled. He is the source of Heaven’s light in the midst of a Nation’s darkness. Yeshua is God’s ‘Nevertheless’ to all that is blocking a relationship with the Everlasting Lord. Isaiah goes on to deal in more detail with this ‘Son given’ unveiling his character (ch.11), his ministry (ch.42) his rejection, death and resurrection (ch.53) and his return in judgement (ch.63).
Casting an eye over the world scene today is enough to create despair. It would almost appear to make the days of Isaiah a light hearted romp. If the prophet broke his heart then how would he feel today? One thing is for sure, he would still rest secure in the Covenant keeping God. The prophet would acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and bounce back with that declaration of Faith, ‘Nevertheless!’
God will fulfill His word to the Nation of Israel despite internal unbelief and external hatred. He will reign from Zion (Isaiah 2) He will honour His word to David (Psalm 89:20-37) He will be known as The Redeemer (Isaiah 43:14) This is the power and significance of ‘Nevertheless’ in the N.I.V translation of Isaiah 9:1. A foretaste of it has been revealed in the babe of Bethlehem who became the man of Nazareth. A deepening appreciation is gained when he is recognised as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 and the cursed one of Psalm 22. A sense of awe is born when it permeates the mind that in both those passages as in Psalm 118 there is the vibrancy of resurrection life.
God, in our estimation, might be taking His time. When He decides ‘time’s up’ events will happen quickly to the fulfilling of His promises. Let God’s ‘Nevertheless’ take your eyes and heart away from the darkness and look to what He has already fulfilled and what He has promised for the future.
Ray Hawkins. ©Oct. 2014.