Isaiah 60: 1-6
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. 2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. 3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 4 Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm. 5 Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come. 6 Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.
You can look on the bright side!
Isaiah wrote these words before Babylon’s soldiers marched on Israel’s soil. The temple in Jerusalem was as beautiful as ever, but the church, the people, were rotten to the core. There was a time before King Josiah where they had literally lost the Bible until some scribe was looking through the dusty storerooms of the temple and found THE BOOK. Can you imagine the church losing the Bible? Many of God’s people had turned to idolatry because the gods of the Canaanites worshipped free sex and no responsibility. They gloried in their shame. In addition, the rich were oppressing the poor and taking advantage of them. You could argue that Isaiah is speaking to our culture today.
As a result, God would bring upon the northern tribes of Israel the scourge of the Assyrians who would scatter them to the winds. That’s where we get the expression “the lost Ten Tribes.” Judah lasted a little longer, because they had a few good kings. But in the end, the armies of Babylon would burn the temple, destroy Jerusalem, and take the people into captivity as slaves. These were not good times for God’s people. Isaiah describes it in our text with these words. “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples.” There was a dense fog that had settled on the hearts of God’s people, and it would only get worse during the seventy years of captivity.
I don’t know if we can begin to appreciate what that must have been like. What was it like to live as a slave and be required to work every day without a break? What was it like to have your children sold out of your family to some other place? Or to be children sold to a master after your parents had been put to death in front of your eyes? What was it like to lose your farm and your home and your business and your homeland all at once? You might compare their plight to the stories of the refugees fleeing the Middle East or North Africa. I don’t think that the word “depressing” could capture the mood for God’s people. Darkness, thick darkness, is more fitting.
Maybe we can’t understand that kind of darkness, but isn’t life in this world especially for the Christian a life that is lived in exile? Ever since God drove Adam and Eve out of Eden because of their sin, we have lived in a kind of exile. Can you imagine what Adam and Eve felt like when they buried their first child? Yes, we can, because some of you have buried your children. Some of you have buried your spouses. Some of you have buried your parents. The effects of sin are all around us. The thick darkness of sin invades our lives and it lives in our pores and it wants to choke out our hearts.
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