Called out of Darkness – Isaiah 8:17-9:7

 

Paul tells us in Galatians that at the appropriate, foreordained moment God sent His Son into the world. He was “made of a woman, made under the law.” And His purpose was “to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” This is just one way of expressing the purpose for the incarnation of eternal Son of God.

In Luke 4 the Lord Jesus, himself, took another tack in describing the purpose for entering into His creation. After defeating Satan at the temptation in the wilderness, He returned to Nazareth, His home town. There in the synagogue He was invited to read the scriptures, so he turned to Isaiah 61 and read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

Matthew tells us the Lord then left Nazareth and walked to Capernaum in order to fulfil another prophecy of Isaiah. “The land of Zabulon, the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in DARKNESS saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” There is a phrase in Jesus’ statement taken from Isaiah upon which I’d like to focus this morning. “The people which sat in DARKNESS saw great LIGHT; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of DEATH light is sprung up.” Or as Isaiah put it in 9:2 “The people that WALKED in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the LAND of the shadow of death upon them hath the LIGHT shined.” Again later from Isaiah, the purpose of Christ’s coming was “To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in DARKNESS out of the prison house” – 42:7.

Towards the end of the New Testament Peter tells us that Christ’s purpose has been fulfilled in US. YE are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of DARKNESS into his marvellous light” – I Peter 2:9. And John testified – Christ, the living Word of God, is life, and the light of men. “And the light shineth in DARKNESS, and the darkness comprehended it not. BUT as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” This morning, I’d like to consider this darkness and the light – to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The darkness.

The Holy Spirit has recently impressed upon me a different way to consider this “darkness.” I have always looked at it as human blindness, spiritual ignorance and social confusion – I still do. But my thoughts were brought in another direction this week. Darkness is not just the current condition or situation of humanity, it is the spiritual kingdom in which we live. Each of the scriptures we have read thus far suggest more than just the darkness of midnight or blindness. Yes, for years we sat in darkness and walked in darkness – and our neighbors are still there. But parallel to people sitting in darkness runs the statement that they “sit in the region and shadow of death.” That Greek word “region” is three times as often translated “country.” And Isaiah uses the word “land” instead of “region” “they dwell in the LAND of the shadow of death.” Every baby we bring into this world comes initially into a kingdom of darkness and death.

As the Lord Jesus was being arrested outside the garden of Gethsemane He said to the mob, “When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the POWER of darknessLuke 22:53. Did you hear the word “power” – “power of darkness”? Paul uses that same word when speaking to the Christians of Colosse – God “hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” Paul compares and contrasts “the power of darkness” and “the kingdom of Christ” – which includes salvation. The word “power” in both verses is “exousia” – which speaks of authority, not dynamite or muscular strength. Darkness is a kingdom of sorts with its own “exousia” – authority.

And then in Ephesians 6 when Paul is talking about God’s armor for the Christian he says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the RULERS of the DARKNESS of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”Ephesians 6:12. This world is a kingdom of darkness which has its own rules and rulers – wicked rulers. Salvation – the purpose for Christ’s incarnation and death – is to deliver sinners from the kingdom of darkness into God’s marvelous light.

And my commission under Christ is to carry a mirror by which I can reflect the light of the Lord in your direction. In Acts 26:18, Paul described the commission which Christ gave to him at the time of his salvation. The Lord said, “I have delivered you from your darkness and from among the wicked of this world – “To open their eyes, and to turn them from DARKNESS to LIGHT, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” To “turn people from darkness” is to deliver them from the power of Satan – his “exousia” – authority. And in contrast to that darkness is the light of God.

Living in a world created by the God of light, why are men and women living in such turmoil and confusion? Why are so many defeated by life and so unhappy? Why is there so much suicide; so much fear and uncertainty? Why do so many worry about death? The answer is that they are “in darkness.” The cliche is true – “they don’t see the light.” And the purpose of the gospel is to “call us out of that darkness” into God’s light. Conversely, why was Paul so fearless when it came to death? – “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Because he was not in darkness when he came to the subjects of death, salvation, God, God’s purpose and a great number of other important topics.

Think of the nature of darkness – darkness as you know it. For example, what does darkness produce? “Ignorance” is one word that comes to mind. When we can’t see what is in front of us, in most cases we are ignorant of what might be there. In an unfamiliar place, there might be a shin-high table, or a hole in the ground, or a bear trap. Death may be only a few feet in front of us, but we are blind to it; we’re in the dark. And when it comes to God, the natural man just doesn’t understand; he is spiritually incapable of understanding anything spiritual. But Jesus said to His Father, I am come that “they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” In John 12:35 the Lord Jesus was talking about His upcoming sacrifice on the cross. “Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you (speaking of Himself). Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.” Not knowing where we are going is an apt description of the state of the world. In contrast to that is the Christian who can say, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” II Timothy 1:12.

Characteristics of the kingdom of darkness include ignorance and confusion. What did Paul say about man’s most common night-time activity – sleep? He said to the Thessalonians, “They that sleep sleep in the night.” And that min-death of sleep – that coma or hypnotic state of sleep – is the reason that John 1:5 is true – “the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” This kingdom of darkness is so dense – such a black hole – that the light of Christ is swallowed up before the eye can perceive it. Only through the miracle of grace can the light of Christ be seen – can God be known.

I have to admit that I like to sleep. The six to seven hours that I get are not nearly enough to please me. But the average child hates to sleep; he’d rather play until he fell over in some sort of coma. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil”John 3:19. But nothing good grows in the darkness without the sunlight of God’s grace. The Apostle John said, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” I John 1:5. The Kingdom of Satan is the antithesis of the Kingdom of God – as darkness is the antithesis of light.

So what do we see when we look around at this kingdom of darkness? We see a fearful people struggling to find their way. But since they can’t see God’s light – basically hating God’s light – they turn to use the candles and flashlights and illuminated cell phones of the world. There are a thousand different philosophies created by blind men to help other blind men to find their way. I looked up Google’s definition of the word “philosophy;” it said, “Philosophy is a way of thinking about the world, the universe, and society. It works by asking very basic questions about the nature of human thought, the nature of the universe, and the connections between them. The ideas in philosophy are often general and abstract.” All human philosophies and human religions are nothing more than blind men’s peering into the darkness.

What makes Christianity different from human philosophy is that it is not based on asking questions. Christianity is based on God’s answers – upon revelation. Christianity is predicated – based – on facts, history, and the declarations of God Himself. It begins with the problem – the darkness – before it supplies the light. The philosophies of men usually deny the darkness. Another difference between philosophy and the gospel is that the light of Christ is complete and eternal – not temporary and short-range. “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” – John 8:12.

Why is alcoholism such a problem throughout the world? Because man is a denizen of darkness and alcohol relieves the pain of ordinary, depressive life. Some of you might remember the name Timothy Leary. The man earned his master’s degree in psychology at down the road at Washington State University. But then his PhD was given to him by the University of California at Berkley. Timothy Leary encouraged the young people of the 60s and 70s to seek the light that LSD and other psychedelic drugs could offer. President Nixon once called him “the most dangerous man in the United States.” He saw the light from behind the cell bars of 36 different prisons during his lifetime. But he claimed that all he wanted to do was shine a light in the midst of the darkness of life. And many people did see his light – temporarily and dangerously – sometimes in a deadly fashion.

Isn’t it true that the misery we see all around us is rooted in dead, cold darkness? In the midst of this darkness and its resulting pain, people turn to entertainment for comfort. And they reach for sports. Education and science are employed in man’s search for light. We peer into the depths of space looking for answers, light and hope. And someone comes along with his Cheshire cat grin and says, “Cheer up,” “Stiff upper lip,” “Be happy.” Such words might work for a moment, but ultimately they fail, because the world continues to be dark. There is no hope anywhere except in the One who said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Timotheus was a young preacher, associate of Paul, who apparently got caught up in the spirit of darkness. By the time Paul wrote his Second letter to Timothy, the Apostle was in prison facing a death sentence. Timothy was sad, depressed, and confused, especially in seeing his mentor on the verge of death. So Paul gently rebuked him – “God hath not give us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” “Don’t be embarrassed of me the prisoner of the Lord; don’t grieve over my death if it should come this way.” Remember God “who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling according to his own purpose and grave, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” Paul said, “Like you, I am appointed a preacher and … a teacher of the Gentiles,” “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” Paul wasn’t in the darkness; he lived in the kingdom of light. The solution to the gloomy darkness in Timothy’s life at that moment was a return to the gospel to which he had been called to preach. In Christ we find the light.

God’s light is the answer to the kingdom of darkness.

As I’ve said, that was the purpose for the incarnation of God’s Son. Isaiah prophesied that Christ’s coming was “To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in DARKNESS out of the prison house” – 42:7. And Peter tells us that Christ’s purpose has been fulfilled. “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of DARKNESS into his marvellous light” – I Peter 2:9.

Have ever heard a message comparing the original creation with the re-creation of salvation? It can be a blessed lesson. I won’t try to preach that sermon this morning, but its introduction begins with – “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and DARKNESS was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be LIGHT: and there was LIGHT.” And that light, you might say, was the beginning of life as we know it. From there God created plant life, and the created ability to photosynthesis of God’s light enabled those plants to live. With plant life came the life of the animals, and even the man who ate the fruit of those plants. Because God said, “Let there be light” the darkness disappeared and there was LIFE.

Now please turn to Paul’s testimony in II Corinthians 4 – He says in verse 3 – “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.” In what way is the gospel hidden? It is hidden through misunderstanding – and as a result – rejection. Are you currently rejecting the gospel? Is it foolishness to you? It is because you have been in the dark so long that your eyes are unable to focus on the gospel’s light. Or perhaps – it is because you refuse to look. Paul went on – “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who COMMANDED the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Just as God spoke in Genesis 1 “Let there be light,” he speaks today commanding that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ shine into cold, sin-dead hearts. He gave that command in regard to Paul, when His light blazed down on him on the road to Damascus. And where that light appears so does spiritual life.

Don’t forget those words of Peter – “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” – I Peter 2:9. When God first spoke – “Let there be light” there was no resistence, no rebellion – there was just light. And today when God calls to souls living n the midst of the kingdom of darkness, they come to His light and life, becoming His peculiar people at his command.

Listen to the words of the Lord Jesus from the Book of John. “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in DARKNESS, but shall have the light of life” John 8:12. Do you, this morning, sense the Holy Spirit calling you and saying “follow Christ”? Submit yourself to Him. Christ is the light this world needs; Christ is the light that YOU need. And notice ye “shall have the light of LIFE.” This light is not just illumination – Christ is LIFE itself. Christianity is not a 2,000 year old philosophy; it is an all encompassing life – an eternal life. “Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth” John 12:35

John 12:46 – “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” Humanly speaking you have a choice – you can remain in the darkness which ultimately ends in eternal death – or you can turn to the light – the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ speaks of “outer darkness” as the final end of those who refuse His light. It’ s not just “darkness” but OUTER darkness.” Matthew 8:12 – “The children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” On three separate occasions Christ used that term “OUTER darkness.” The denizens and citizens of the kingdom of darkness will spend eternity inOUTER darkness.” But those who put their faith, hope and their very souls into the hands of Christ will forever enjoy His light. And they will spend eternity in the place where Jesus Christ is the infinite light.

Paul, along with thousands of others, could say, God “hath delivered us from the power of DARKNESS, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” Colossians 1:13-14. Has the Lord delivered you? Paul could also say, “I know Him in whom I have believed, and I am certain he is able to keep my soul which I have committed unto him against the future day of judgment.Is that your testimony this morning?