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Sermon 7/16/06
Isaiah 9:1-2 – Surprise


   Audio Sermon


“Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, as when at first He lightly esteemed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward more heavily oppressed her, by way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (Isaiah 9:1-2)

Zebulun and Naphtali were two of the original twelve tribes that made up the nation Israel, and both of those tribes were located in the area of the Sea of Chinnereth, which later became known as the Sea of Galilee. The tribe of Zebulun was to the west, toward the Mediterranean Sea, and Naphtali was to the north. Those two tribes were “lightly esteemed” by the other tribes, and as a result, they felt “lightly esteemed” by God. You were thought to have had an “unfortunate” birth, if you came from one of those two areas.

That attitude carried over into New Testament times, relating to the same place. A judgmental spirit was directed toward the Galileans who later lived there much like it was in Old Testament times. A group of “Pharisees” or the “separated ones” as they called themselves, had heard that “many of the people believed” Jesus was “the Christ,” the Anointed One of God (John 8:31). The Pharisees didn’t like it that many believed in Jesus, and they, along with the chief priests “sent officers to take Him” (John 8:32). One of the things that bothered them about Jesus was that He had come from the area known as Galilee. He wasn’t part of the “in-crowd” who lived in Jerusalem.

Jesus kept on teaching in the Temple at Jerusalem, and some of His listeners said of Him, “’This is the Christ, but (others asked scornfully), 'Will the Christ come out of Galilee?'” (John 8:41). The argument continued, and then “the chief priests and Pharisees” became angry at the officers who had been sent to arrest Jesus, demanding, “Why have you not brought Him?” The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man” and the Pharisees insultingly accused the officers of being “deceived” (John 8:46-47). The Pharisee Nicodemus defended Jesus. This was the man “who came to Jesus by night” as recorded in John Chapter 3. The others sneered back at Nicodemus: “Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee” (John 8:50-53).

As you read on in the direct context of our Scripture verses in Isaiah, you’ll discover excellent words that were written about the Christ, the Messiah hundreds of years before His birth. Included are these words: “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). This “Child,” this "Son” of God, the One who is “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” would be from the area called “Galilee of the Gentiles” as we saw in Isaiah 9:1. God is full of surprises, isn’t He? Napoleon Bonaparte, the great French general and leader, said “Everything in Christ astonishes me.” We should agree with Napoleon, for Jesus Christ, this Gift from God, is indeed a surprise for all who are on this earth.

God is absolutely NOT interested in placating or endorsing the pride of this world. In the Book of Judges, God chose a meek little man named Gideon to deliver the nation Israel. God selected a shepherd boy, David, as HIS choice to replace the imposing man, Saul, as King of Israel. When the Messiah came to this world, God chose a pack of uneducated men to follow Him, walk with Him and then become the leaders of His church. God is not impressed in any way by your credentials; He is interested in your heart.

“If only I could meet God! THEN I would believe in Him!” Have you heard people say that? Have YOU said or thought or said something like those words at some point in your life? It is amazing that the Books by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that we call the “Gospels” contain written words about many people who actually did that – they MET God the Son. They saw Him, Face-to-face. Jesus looked in the eyes of His disciples, the ones who had walked with Him for three years and told them the simple truth: “He who has seen Me,” He said, “has seen the Father” (John 14:9). The Pharisees saw Him, too, and so did the chief priests, the officers and the people. They saw Him, and some believed, but many did not. Seeing does not mean you will believe. Millions have learned that BELIEF in the Lord is better than seeing; it is better than life itself.

It’s a surprise that Almighty God chose the rural area of Galilee for the boyhood and young manhood of Christ Jesus. It’s also incredible that Bethlehem, in Judah (Judea), was picked as the place of His birth. It was a tiny town. Micah the prophet had been prompted by the Lord to predict, hundreds of hears before: “You, Bethlehem Ephrathah. though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” literally “from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2). The Messiah WOULD be born there, but why?

Well, it had been the birthplace of David, it fulfilled prophesy, and God chose a place that was “little” as it says in Micah 5:2. Paul later spoke to the Corinthian believers, and through them he spoke to us. He commented: Have you noticed about yourselves that “not many (are) wise according to the flesh, not many (are) mighty, not many (are) noble… God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:26-28). And then we are given the reason WHY God has chosen to surprise the world in this way: “that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:29). We are to learn from the example of Christ - we are to "glory" in God; not in ourselves.

Isn’t it wonderful that we are NOT God? If we had god-like abilities, we would have ruined everything a long time ago. It takes pure love to do what He does, and after thousands of years, only One in the human race has had the love to do it: Jesus Christ, the God-man who came “from the days of eternity.” Jesus Christ deliberately became a rural person, an uneducated man, a commoner; someone of no reputation. As it is predicted about Him in Isaiah 53:2, “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” The point is that we will not regard His earthly form, but look to His words, His heart and see God. Let’s pray:

Thank You for the surprise You have given us in Christ Jesus. Let us see and want the “great light” you have given us in Him. We trust in Him now. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

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