Walking In Darkness

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light." (Isaiah 9:2)

Some years ago, I took a tour through Cumberland Caverns outside of McMinnville Tennessee.
On the tour we were led down into the bowels of the earth by a lighted path and ended up in a large room.
Our guide gave us some information about the different parts of the Caverns,
and then warned us that the lights would suddenly be turned off.

We were surrounded by such darkness that we couldn't see our hands in front of our faces.
We were encompassed with the quietness of a tomb, broken only by the sound
of the measured breathing of those around us.
But the knowledge that they were our companions in the dark did relieve us of the resultant tension.

I certainly remember the sense of relief which swept over me when the lights were suddenly turned on again.
Just for a few moments that place had seemed like a dismal tomb but then became
a palace of scenic wonders.
My heart rejoiced in the beauty and grace of God.

That experience led me to think about the multitudes of people all over the world who walk in darkness
far blacker and more terrible than which I had experienced for just a moment.
In my heart was a a prayer of thanksgiving to God who said:
"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light…" (Isaiah 9:2)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow remarked us that "Tis always morning somewhere."
He is saying to us that in the darkest night there is always hope of the dawn and a new day.
We must remember that God will give us lighted paths even in the darkest periods of our lives.

First, let us consider the dark.
Isaiah speaks of "the people that walked in darkness." (9:2)

Robert Bridges, a poet of England speaks of the "unsearchable darkness."
This is suggestive of a awesome picture that is drawn for us by the prophet.

"Darkness" as used in the Bible may speak of the physical absence of blight.
Or it may connote the less tangible elements such as misery, ignorance, or death.
But in the spiritual sense it is a synonym for evil or sin.
And it is used in that light in our text.
"The people that walked in darkness" are those who walk in sin.

The word "sin" has once again become an acceptable word in our vocabulary.
In the past we have heard popular substitutes for that word such as psychological maladjustment,
glandular disorder, outmoded mores, or the famous philosophical upward stumbling in the process
of the human race.

But today there are such shocking crimes of men and nations that these words cannot express their horror.
Man has been forced by his own conduct to admit that he is a sinner with such biblical connotations
as lawlessness, iniquity, and wickedness.
And even if we should ostracize the word "sin" and we should coin a new one for murder, drug raids,
theft, drunkenness, car-jacking, drug taking, and a thousand other evils which plague
and damn the lives of men, women, boys, and girls -- it wouldn't suffice.

Perhaps you say that you are not guilty of any of these crimes.
Therefore, you are not a sinner.
However, before you dismiss the subject let us note that the biblical word used most often for sin
means "to miss the mark."

The pattern of righteous conduct is the holy and righteous nature of God.
And anything which misses that mark is sin.
Not one of us could ever claim to be as righteous as God.

The Bible says that the one sin which can condemn your soul to hell is unbelief
to God's gracious gift of redemption in Jesus Christ.
Romans 3:23 rightly declare that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."

We sometimes speak of the depravity of man.
This does not mean that all men are equally sinful, or that there is not some good in all men.

It means that you and I have transgressed the holy will of God, even in our unbelief,
and so we fall short of God's holy image.
It is a popular pastime to measure or weigh sin.
So we call some men liars and others murderers.
But God calls both sinners who have transgressed His will.
The same Ten Commandments which forbids one forbids the other.

So Isaiah says that because you are a sinner you walk in the darkness rather than light,
because your deeds are evil. (John 3:19)
But there are those who are walking examples of Proverbs 4:14 which says,
"The way of the wicked is a darkness: they know not at what they stumble."

So outside of Christ you stumble in "the unsearchable darkness," seeking but never finding,
aspiring but never achieving.
In your own strength you strive to walk in the ways of righteousness, yet you stumble and fall.
You suffer mental and spiritual distress, but you do not comprehend the cause.
Or you are simply bored with life whose true meaning always eludes your eager grasp.
You are like the man who "walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whether he goeth,
because that darkness hath blinded his eyes
." (1 son 2:11)

Is there no hope for you?
Must you always stumble in the dark, not knowing where you are going or why?
If Isaiah had ended his statement here, we also have the words of Paul,
that we would be of all men most miserable (1 Corinthians 15:19).
But that is not the end of the matter.

Second, there is the dawn.
"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light…" (9:2)

And that "light" is Jesus Christ.
For and Isaiah 9:6 he says, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace
."

In the deep, dismal darkness of this world of sin, "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness,
hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ
." (2 Corinthians 4:6)
So we are not destined and doomed forever to walk in the dark.

In the last chapter of the Old Testament, God summarizes its twofold message of condemnation of sin
and compassion for the sinner.
"For, behold, the day cometh that shall burn as oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly,
shall be stubble: and that day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts…
but unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings
…"
(Malachi 4:1-2).

And then when you turn the page to the first chapter in the New Testament you read,
"The book of the generation of Jesus Christ…" (Matthew 1:1).
Now we know that the darkness has given place to the dawn.
The Sun of Righteousness has risen with healing in His wings.
And that is the good news which means the "gospel."

One of the most dramatic verses in the Bible is Romans 1:4.
It speaks of Jesus Christ who was "declared be the Son of God with power… by the resurrection
from the dead
."
The word "declared" literally means "horizoned."
It is an aorist passive participle.

Now the aorist tense suggests the suddenness of the action.
The passive voice speaks up something done to Jesus by another.
The background of this verse is that the "son" mentioned in Isaiah, whose birth is recorded by Matthew,
grew into a man.
Subsequently, He died on the cross for the sins of the world.

Now Paul says that "by the resurrection from the dead" He was of God "horizoned the Son of God with power."
Power for what?
Power to save those who walk in the darkness of sin.
This is Paul's way of saying that the long night of sin's reign has ended.
And suddenly the Sun of God's righteousness of saving work and power is horizoned in the eastern sky,
bringing the light of God's day of redemption.

Isaiah could look seven hundred years into the future and say,
"… they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them have to lot shined. (9:2)

John introduces us to Jesus when he says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God… in him was life; and the life was the light of men
." (John 1:1, 3)
And Jesus further declares this truth when He says,
"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)

But this is more than a promise.
It is a warning.
Jesus is the Light of the world.
But only those have the light of life who follow Him.

Otherwise you continue to stumble in darkness.
A man lies on the beach with a sun mask composed of two dark patches over his eyes.
He is surrounded by the sunlight, but he dwells in darkness.
And so may you do if the blackness of unforgiven sin shuts out the divine light from your soul.

Many fail to see the light because they are traveling away from it.
Did you ever travel westward in the night when all around you was darkness?
Then suddenly you turned around to face the east.
And the you could see that the sky was bright as the dawn of a new day.

So it is that with your back toward God you stumble along in the dark.
When all the while He has already "horizoned" the Son of God, your Sun of righteousness
with healing in His wings.

Now this turning about or change of directions is exactly the picture found
in the New Testament word "repentance."
Walking away from God, you turn to walk with Him.
Leaving from serving Satan and sin, you suddenly turn about to love and serve God and His righteousness.
It means an entire change of direction for your life, love, and loyalty.
You stop walking in death and darkness to follow Him who is Light and Life.

But simply to come to the Light is not enough.
To realize the fullness of the Lord's blessings for you, you must live in the Light.

Third, consider the day.

Looking again at Isaiah we read, "For unto us a Child is born…
and the government shall be upon his shoulders
…" (9:6).
Now many connotations may be placed upon the word "government."
But certainly they all implied the Lordship of Jesus Christ, whether it be with respect to nations or men.
And He cannot in truth reign in the councils of nations until He rules in the hearts of men.

It is in this latter sense that we speak of living in the light of God's new day.
And such living should be regarded both negatively and positively.

Negatively, there are those things which a Christian should not do.
Paul speaks of these when he says, "… let us therefore cast off the works of darkness,
and let us put on the armour of light.
Let us walk honestly [decently], as in the days; not in rioting [revelling] and drunkenness,
not in chambering [immorality] and wantonness [sexual vices], not in strife and envying [jealousy],
But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh,
to fulfill the lusts thereof
." (Romans 13:12-14)

In short, Paul says, "Put off your night clothes, and put on your day clothes."
In other words do not be walking the streets in your nightgown or pajamas
as though you still belonged to the night.
But put on such clothes so that it is evident that you are up for the day and ready for work.
There are far too many Christians whose conduct would indicate that they are walking in their sleep
or else are prepared at a moments notice to lie down into the darkened room of night.
And such are a scandal to the gospel.

But positively, there are those things which the Christian should do.
Paul said, "Let us put on the armour of light." (Romans 13:12)
"Armour" suggests struggle and battle.
In ancient times armies usually fought only in daylight.
So Paul reminds us that if we walk in the light we must be soldiers of the Light of the world.

Furthermore, as Jesus said, "I am the light of the world…" (John 812),
and He also said of His followers, "Ye are the light of the world." (Matthew 5:14)
And as such He tells us, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father which is in heaven
." (Matthew 5:16)
Likewise Jesus said, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit;
so shall ye be my disciples
." (John 15:8)
We are to live so that the gleaming Light of the world may shine through us.

I read about a church in Germany called, "The Church of the Lighted Lamps."
In 1551 when this church was built, it had no lights in it.
So, the builder gave each family in the village a lamp.
When each person came to church at night he brought his lamp which was lighted at the entrance
from one central light.
Each person had a place to sit.
If he was absent that place was left in darkness.
But when all came the church was filled with glorious light.

This is a parable for each of us.
God has provided a lamp for each of us who believes in His Son.
If we withhold our Christian witness our world is left to grope in the dark.
But if we allow the Light of the world to shine through us, the whole world will be filled with the Light of life.
Then and only then Isaiah's words be fully fulfilled that
"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light."
God grant that it may be so!


Sermon adapted by Dr. Harold L White