Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are trudging through Narnia. The snow is thick, the air is cold, and Christmas is far away. In the face of this, they hear the promise of the coming of Aslan. Aslan will end the reign of the White Witch and bring Christmas and Spring. They hear the promise—but for a time, it is only that, a promise.
Isaiah declares in Isaiah 9,
“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.” (Isaiah 9:1–4 NIV11)
This is a promise given, not a promise realized at that moment. These are words that look to the future.
Believing in the Dawn
If, as a leader, you are going to help others and yourself
- live for God when darkness presses in
- step out of darkness by believing in the dawn
Then you need to believe
- the promise is going to become reality
- that having this promise is enough to believe in the dawn
- that God is the kind of God who will act in the future as he acted in the past
This is why this promise looks to the future and the past. We read in verse 4,
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
Isaiah takes us back to the days of the judges when the Midianites were crushing the people of Israel and God took Gideon and an army of 300 and destroyed an army that is like swarms of locusts (Judges 6.5).
As God Has Done in the Past
As God has done in the past, he will do in the future only more so. History reveals the people walking in darkness are in darkness for a good reason. Thousands of their soldiers have been killed in battle; food is in short supply, many have lost their homes, sons and daughter have been dragged into exile; on top of all of that, they have a lousy king who can’t make a good battle plan to save his life, much less the lives of his people.
But God promises as he has done in the past, he will do in the future. He will do it by sending the light, by sending a king who, instead of having a nation shrinking by death and exile, he will enlarge the nation and bring joy. Instead of defeat, he will bring victory and freedom from oppression. Instead of a lousy king, he will bring a new king who is
- Wonderful Counselor: A leader of great wisdom who knows how to make wise plans, including battle plans that defeat the enemy and rescue God’s people.
- Mighty God: A leader who rules and fights as God’s representative on earth. God gives him special weapons to defeat the enemy.
- Everlasting Father: A leader who protects his people. A leader who shepherds and cares for his people.
- Prince of Peace: A leader who brings full economic, physical, and spiritual flourishing.
This is the king the people walking in darkness are longing for. This is the king who brings the dawn, who will give people the hope of the dawn as they wait for him. If they believe what God has done in the past (the word of God spoken), the promises of God are enough.
They are enough for them in their darkness – enough for us in our darkness – in the moments when it seems the dawn will never come. Enough for us because we’ve already seen a glimpse of the king. As one person puts it, The light that is Christ is already shining in this world. The thaw of spring has already begun. Dark, blind, cold, dead sinners are already having their eyes opened and are being warmed by the love of Christ and are coming alive by his Spirit. We see him, and we see that he is light. But we wait for a day when that light will shine so brightly as to swallow up all the darkness. And so we pray, ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’ Then the melancholy will disappear, but joy will be more serious than ever.
Amid the darkness, leaders point people and themselves to this reality. They point to the beginning of the dawn that sustains hope, gives courage, and sets the community on the right path.