Promises In Action: The Savior Brings Light to Those in Darkness

This sermon was preached at Our Savior Lutheran Church on January 23, 2011, for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany. Sermon text: Isaiah 8:19-9:2

Whether I like it or not, I tend to be up late at night. It’s not usually for very long, but any amount of time around 2am is long enough. Often I’m escorting (or carrying) a little child back to her bed for some reason or other. As you can imagine, I don’t often turn the lights on to take the trip upstairs, walk down a hallway and into one of my daughters’ bedrooms. That’s partly because there’s usually enough light to see what I need to see, and partly because I don’t want to wake anyone else up. But still, it’s dark. I can’t always see everything.

How often do you think I accidentally step on something, or kick something, or stub my toe on something during these nighttime adventures? Maybe you shouldn’t answer that. Let’s just say it’s often enough. But in my defense, it’s dark! How could I possibly remember that there was a big, noisy toy right there on the floor? How would I have known that a door was open at just the wrong angle as my toe was about to go by? These things were impossible to see in the dark.

Ironically, I’d probably be better at walking in the dark if I were blind. They say that blind people’s other senses become heightened because they can’t see. So even though they can’t physically see the things around them, they have a very good idea of their surroundings because of their other, very strong senses. Well, that’s neat, but most of us don’t have any heightened senses. So when we can’t see, we stumble. We put our arms in front of us. We’re powerless. We’re lost.

Now, it’s one thing to think of going through life blind. But can you imagine purposefully blindfolding yourself and living that way? It seems pretty foolish. Think of the stuff you’d run into. Think of the things you would miss. Think of the danger you’d be putting yourself into when there was absolutely no need for it.

Sure, it sounds foolish, but millions of people in this world are doing just that, every day. Maybe some are people you know. Maybe some of you blindfold yourselves sometimes, too. Of course, I don’t mean real blindfolds; I mean spiritual ones. The Bible tells us clearly, Jesus Christ, the Savior, brings light to those in darkness. Through God’s Word, our Savior’s light shines clearly, showing what really matters in this world, showing the only way to eternal life. But many close their eyes. They blindfold themselves. They reject the Savior and his Word.

Don’t let that happen to you. Look to Jesus! Look to God’s Word for the truth about him! That’s the only light we have! That’s the only light we can trust in this dark world. That’s the only life that takes our sin-darkened lives and hearts, and shines on them with the light of Jesus’ forgiveness, life, and salvation. The Savior brings light to those in darkness. Don’t miss the light. 

As we look into our text from Isaiah, the idea of purposely blindfolding yourself comes out pretty quickly. When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? (Is. 8:19) I picture a scene of some sort of dark tent at a carnival. Inside is an old woman with some sort of a robe on sitting at a table. On the table is a crystal ball. She is there to tell your fortune.

That scene might seem funny to us, and a lot of us probably don’t take it too seriously. I mean, a fortune teller? Come on. But things like this are serious, and they’ve been going on a long time. Isaiah mentions them here, and King Saul famously visited a witch to try to speak to the prophet Samuel who had already died. (1 Sam. 28:7-25)

Things like this are real, and people really do put their faith in them. I remember years ago the “Psychic Friends Network” was in the news, and it seems like there is always a talk show or other that is featuring some sort of psychic or future-telling guest. Sure, most people who see these things — people like us — most of us probably don’t believe it. Maybe we’ll watch it once in a while for a good laugh. But still, doesn’t it sometimes make us a little curious? Don’t we sometimes wonder and think it would be pretty neat to hear some of these people tell our fortune or talk to someone who died?

Well, if any of you have thought that, it’s foolish. I don’t mean foolish because the fortune-teller was probably a lying fake, though that’s very likely. I mean foolish because you’re choosing to follow something else than God. You’re spiritually blindfolding yourself!

That’s what our text is saying. To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. (Is. 8:20) The law and the testimony are really just other words for the Bible here. It’s saying, look to God’s Word! If someone is trying to tell you some sort of spiritual truth, but they are getting away from the Bible, they have no light of dawn. They are lost in the darkness!

I heard a horrible story about this once. One of my sisters’ friends had her dad die. She said that they just had to go see someone, a psychic, who could talk to her dad for her, just so she could find out if he was really okay or not. These were people who had gone to a WELS church! They ignored what God said about death and looked somewhere else for answers. That’s darkness.

It reminds me of the phrase, “It’s amazing what some people will believe, as long as it’s not in the Bible.” Wow is that ever true. Trying to talk to dead people is one thing. Astrology is another. Astrology — telling the future or things about people based on the position of the stars — has been in the news lately because supposedly the dates for the different signs of the zodiac have changed. If that sounds like foreign words to you, then just listen to this: it’s talking about horoscopes. People look at a different sign (like gemini or leo) and read their fortune based on how the stars line up on their birthday. Well, the dates for all those signs have apparently changed. The earth has wobbled on its axis (or something) and the traditional dates are now off.

For most of us, this is mildly interesting. But some people had themselves going crazy. They put so much stock in their horoscope, and now to think that their sign had changed or — worse yet — been wrong for a long time — it was horrifying to them. They’d been lost in the darkness

And what does the Bible say about this? It says, if you’re looking for answers in the stars, then you’re in the dark. If you’re looking for answers outside of God’s Word you are lost, you are blind, you are condemned. That’s what Isaiah is saying in our text. Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. (Is. 8:21-22)

Sounds scary. Sounds bad. And it makes us think, “Yes, it’s a good thing I’m not like that. I don’t go crazy after horoscopes or fortune tellers. I believe in the Bible. So none of this applies to me.” If only that were true. You see, you don’t have to be obsessed with horoscopes or have your fortune-teller on speed-dial to ignore God and his Word. That’s something, unfortunately, that we can all be very good at.

When we treat God’s Word as if it’s not a big deal. When the Bible in our house gathers dust. When we think we “already know everything” about God. When we rely more on what we think and we feel at the moment and less on what God has said and declared to be true for all time. It’s so easy for us to pay lip-service to God’s Word as the ultimate authority of our faith and life, but when it actually comes to the vital issues we face everyday, the Bible slides pretty far down our list.

Don’t walk in the darkness. You will only get hurt. Living your life ignoring God’s Word, putting it anywhere other than first in its authority in your life is like putting on a spiritual blindfold. You are in the darkness, and the eternal darkness of hell is a real danger.

So, yes, you need the light. You need the true light of God’s Word. You need the true light of God’s Son. You need the light of one who followed God’s Word perfectly. You need the light of one who shined a light into this sinful world and destroyed the power of sin, death, and hell forever. You need the light of Jesus’ resurrection to shine into your grave, to give you life forever! That’s what Jesus is! Look to him! He will not disappoint you! He will not leave you in the dark!

Listen to Isaiah again. Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress…The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Is. 9:1-2)

Jesus is our light. He brings a light to us in our darkness. When we are hurting and not knowing where to turn, we turn to God’s Word and see that in Christ, God works out all things for our good. (Rom. 8:28) When we feel like we’re all alone, Jesus reminds us that he is always with us, to the very end. (Mt. 28:20) When we’re troubled by death, when we see this world crumbling around us, we see in Christ we have the true Resurrection and the Life! (Jn. 11:25)

So keep looking at this light. I know that it’s supposed to be bad to look directly at the sun because it can make you go blind. But looking at God’s Son in God’s Word won’t make you go blind. No, only in Christ can you truly see the light of God’s love. Only in Christ do you have forgiveness, life, and salvation forever. Keep in his Word. Follow his light. He will never leave you in darkness.


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