Bible Passage: Isaiah 8:19-9:4
Pastor: Pastor Berg
Sermon Date: January 22, 2017
With other things and people. We do it over and over and over. So does it work?
More, better, bigger, and faster in this world does not bring rest, peace, joy, or serenity. None of those things deal with the real reason for the gloominess in our lives. Trying to treat our gloom with those things is like trying to cure the flu with a band-aid. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t address the root of the problem. None of them point out that the real problem is our fractured relationship with God. None of them point out our problem is not a lack of things to do, but an overabundance of doing what we shouldn’t. None of them point out the problem is not having too little of something, but having way too much sin on our record. Not a one of these things can show us the true problem, the true reason for gloominess. We are very much like that remnant from Zebulun and Naphtali. Like they did, we too needed to be humbled because of our real problem, the problem of our sin.
Back in its heyday, K-Mart was one of the most popular stores around. And one of the things that made K-Mart popular was the phenomenon known as the “Blue-Light Special.” The “Blue-Light Special” was an unadvertised sale that would take place s in a different department of the store every day. While people were shopping, they’d hear a police siren and see the blue light flashing. That flashing blue light indicted the surprise sale for the day—hence the “Blue-Light Special.” On this day before “Blue Monday,” Isaiah also has something very surprising for us who often live in the darkness and gloom of our sin. It’s a “Blue Monday Light Special.” “On the other hand, there will be no more gloom for the one who was in anguish. In the former time, he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will cause it to be glorious, along the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of the shadow of death, the light has dawned.” Right after Isaiah has said that all Israel had to look forward to because of their sin was utter darkness, he says, “On the other hand.” What a surprising contrast! Equally surprising is the promise of no more gloom! Why? Why this surprising change of mood? “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light…”
Have you ever tried to make a room completely dark during the day? Maybe when you’re trying to get your kids to take a nap? You turn off all the lights. You shut all the doors. You might even put towels over the windows to prevent any sunlight from peeking in. But as hard as you try, it’s almost impossible to shut out every trace of light. And as frustrating as that can be when trying to get our kids to nap, that property of light is especially comforting to us today! Because Jesus is the light of the world! And not only is he the light of the world, but Jesus is our “Blue Monday” Light Special! When Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, darkness came over the land. But what took place during that brief period of darkness brought light to the whole world, including you and me. When Jesus died on the cross, he solved our greatest problem, the problem of our sin. Because Jesus lived perfectly and died innocently, our sins are forgiven. Because Jesus died iI don’t know if you are aware of this or not, but tomorrow is “Blue Monday.” Never heard of “Blue Monday”? “Blue Monday” is supposedly the most depressing day of the year. And it has nothing to do with the results of a football game later today—although that could certainly contribute to it. Believe it or not, a semi-scientific study has been done; a mathematical formula has been developed; all to determine the most depressing day of the year. Many factors are weighed: the weather, debt, the amount of time since Christmas, New Year’s resolutions, motivational levels and the need for action. By the third or fourth Monday in January, winter weather is no longer viewed as “fun” by most people and certainly the rain and ice and sleet we’ve had haven’t helped. Winter in general is starting to wear people down as there are more hours of darkness than light. The excitement of Christmas has worn off as the gifts have lost their luster. The first credit card bill after Christmas has come in the mail. The New Year’s resolutions have been put on the shelf and the forbidden chocolate bar has been taken off it. Putting all those factors together makes tomorrow “Blue Monday.” Now you’ve been warned.
I think you can probably tell where I come down on “Blue Monday.” It’s funny how people think that one day can be more depressing than another simply based on a bunch of random, subjective factors. But whether you put any stock into “Blue Monday” or not, we certainly know what it’s like to be sad. We know what it’s like to be distressed. We know what it’s like to feel gloomy. And it’s because we know that we can relate to the people Isaiah is talking about here in chapter 9. Those people were the remnant of Jews living in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. Zebulun and Naphtali were two of the northern-most tribes of Israel on either side of the Sea of Galilee. And they were two tribes that were well acquainted with gloom and sadness. When God allowed other nations to come in and take over Israel because of her rejection of the Lord, the worst trouble, the deepest darkness, naturally fell on this northern part of the kingdom—Galilee. This area was the most vulnerable and often served as the doormat for invaders. In fact, so often did Zebulun and Naphtali suffer losses at the hands of her enemies that she became known as Galilee of the Gentiles! There were more foreigners living there than native Israelites. That’s what Isaiah is talking about when he says in chapter 9: “In the former time, he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali…” And unfortunately for Israel, it wasn’t all in the past. The worst was still to come. Because of Israel’s rejection of God, because of her sin, God was going to allow Assyria and Babylon to come in and destroy. Only a remnant would return and remain. Just listen to what God says in the last part of chapter 8: “They will pass through the land, distressed and starving, but when this happens and they are starving, they will be frustrated, and they will curse their king and their God. They will turn their faces upward, and they will look down to the ground, but listen: They will see only distress, darkness, and the gloom that brings anguish. They will be banished into thick darkness.” Distressed, starving, frustrated, cursing God! It’s not a pretty picture. All they would see would be distress, darkness, and gloom.
Have you ever felt like the cartoon guy who has a rain shower that follows him no matter where he goes? All of us have at one time or another. But have you ever asked yourself why? Why am I going through this hardship? Why can’t I be happy all the time? What possible good can come from this situation? Seriously, ponder that. Why? And don’t say this isn’t you. We all have the tendency to talk about how the past week wore us down or about how the coming week will. We talk about our aches, pains, trials and troubles. We report the bad completely but often leave out the good. It’s almost as if we think being tired, gloomy, worn and stressed out are badges of honor to be displayed so everyone can see how gloomy we are. Why? Might it be that we are looking for peace, joy, and serenity in the wrong places?
Sometimes we look to vacations to find peace, quiet, joy, and serenity. And there’s nothing wrong with vacations—not at all. That can work for a while. But while we’re on vacation, instead of enjoying it, how often aren’t we thinking of how we have to go back in a few days, or who much money we’re spending, or about the work that is piling up on our desks and so on. Vacations are nice, but they end. And often times we come back more frazzled than when we left. And so we think maybe something else will do the trick. We could take a class. We can learn how to do origami or become groupies to our children, making sure they have the best instrument or athletic gear, taking them here and there and everywhere so they can compete. But what happens when the class seems like just another thing on your schedule? And is getting up at 5 AM on Saturday, driving hundreds of miles to chase your kids around, and then getting back at midnight on Sunday really going to bring peace, to you or your family? Will such things chase the gloominess away? And finally, money. People are always saying money doesn’t bring happiness, and they are right. But don’t we still often get the idea that if we had just a little more, if a rich relative just left us something or if we could just get a small pay increase at work that joy would fill our lives? So where does that leave us? Is there peace in any of this? Will gloom disappear if we have and do these things? Well, has it? Because we sure do the above. We run from problems, we try to distract ourselves, we medicate ourselves n our place, our debt has been paid. Jesus is our light, a light that penetrates the deepest darkness, a light that shines in our hearts; a light that never stops shining on us. Yes, even though we are far from deserving, Jesus is our “Blue Monday” Light Special. And he shines on us.
“You have multiplied the nation. You have increased its joy. They rejoice before you like the joy at harvest, like the celebration when people divide the plunder. For you have broken the yoke that burdened him, the bar on his shoulder, and the rod of his oppressor, as you did in the day of Midian.” Jesus, our “Blue Monday” Light Special, increases our joy. The gloom that formerly dominated our lives is replaced with happiness. It’s the kind of joy that a farmer feels when the work of the harvest is complete and all the crop is safely in the barn. It’s the joy that a soldier feels when the battle is over and the victory is won. It’s the joy that Israel felt on the day of Midian’s defeat.
Those were dark days in Israel, when Midian was running amok over Israel. The people literally lived in darkness as they were forced to abandon their homes and live in caves. Every time they tried to plant crops, Midian would come through and plunder their fields and destroy them. There was absolutely no peace, no joy, no happiness. Gloom hung over Israel like a thick blanket. But God heard his people’s cry for mercy. He raised up a judge named Gideon. He sent Gideon out to meet those marauders from Midian. It was an impossible mission. God sent out Gideon with 32,000 soldiers against Midian who soldiers were as thick as locusts, whose camels were too numerous to count. And then, God whittled down Israel’s force from 32,000 to 300. Only a miracle from God would give them the victory! And that’s exactly what happened. In the dead of night, by the light of the torch and the power of God, the 300 of Israel routed the Midianites. Israel could once again live in the light because their God had given them victory. He had led them out of the darkness. God has given us that same feeling of joy as he destroyed the darkness of our sin through Jesus!
Tomorrow may be “Blue Monday,” but it’s not going to be the most depressing day of the year, even if the Packers lose. In fact, every day is a great day! Because every day we are graced to walk upon this earth, we live in the light of our “Blue Monday” Light Special! The light of Christ shines on us. The promises of forgiveness, peace, and heaven fill our days. And those truths chase away the gloom of “Blue Monday” like nothing else. May God bless us as we bask in the light of our “Blue Monday” Light Special. Amen