24 December 2007

Isaiah 9:2-7

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them the light has shined." (v.2b)


This text is one of the most moving and significant in the entire collection of Old Testament writings. This section comes after a dramatic chapter where Isaiah, a prophet of the Lord, has foretold the impending invasion of Judah by the Assyrians.

This passage has taken on great importance in the many centuries since it was written. For the many communities who have struggled with oppression and social and political marginalisation throughout the ages this text has a special significance.

The passage speaks of a righteous king who is coming to reign: a king whose reign will be characterised by justice, peace and equality. The fact that this reign is one that is anticipated in the future has led to two key developments in Christian thought:

  1. Although this passage is Jewish in origin and was written several hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the echoes of Jesus' own birth are very much part of the whole message of this text for Christians. In short, the future righteous king is none other than Jesus. The future reign is one in which his coming is heralded in this text.

    The future reign of Jesus is established only in part through his birth, which we celebrate at this time of the year. The completion of that reign, however, is accomplished in his second coming.

  2. Many Black people over the years have experienced slavery, exile, extreme poverty and the continued effects of racism. For them, this sense that 'at the end of time' God in Christ will extend a new reign of justice and peace can be a tantalising one. It can be likened to an evocative dream.
Talking of dreams, the great African American civil rights leader, 

Martin Luther King, spoke of his dream for a new worldThis passage today speaks to that dream - a dream for a new world in which all are valued and valuable in the sight of God.


To Ponder

Martin Luther King had a dream. What are your dreams for the New Year?

In what ways will your life demonstrate your commitment to making that dream come to fruition?

Bible notes author

Dr Anthony Reddie

Dr Anthony Reddie is a Research Fellow in Black Theological Studies for the Methodist Church and the Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education in Birmingham. He is the author of a number of books and is the editor of Black Theology: An International Journal.