First Reading: Isaiah 8:23-9:3

The Light Among the Gentiles

What insights have you had lately? How have they impacted your life?

8:23b The Lord brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the latter time he has made it glorious, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

9:1 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
Those who lived in the land of the shadow of death, on them the light has shined.

9:2 You have multiplied the nation.
You have increased their joy.
They rejoice before you according to the joy in harvest,
as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

9:3 For the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as in the day of Midian.

World English Bible

Isaiah, the prophet, preached in Judea (the southern kingdom) circa 740-701 B.C. His ministry was preceded by those of Hosea and Amos in Israel (the northern kingdom).

Even during the time of Hosea and Amos, Israel's political landscape was bleak. The corruption of the ruling class left the poor malnourished and destitute. Political infighting left the monarchy weak. Divided by class and royal intrigue, the nation was ripe for the taking. In 722 B.C., the Assyrians dismantled the northern kingdom and displaced much of the population with foreigners.

As a witness to these events from a distance, Isaiah decried the infidelity of the Israelites and mixed it with warnings to the king of Judea, Ahaz. Isaiah argued with the despondent king, even offering him the sign of Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:1-17, 8:5-10). But, since the king rejected the sign, Isaiah prophesied Judea would go the way of Israel (8:11-15).

The message was not entirely negative. There was still hope, even for the mixed populations of Israel. God would raise the status of the area to the west of Lake Galilee [8:23a]. And a light would arise to dispel anxiety [8:23b] and to give them hope [9:2]. That light would lead to liberation [9:3]. Notice the themes of hope and freedom so traditional for Jews was now applied to non-Jews. Isaiah implicitly extended God's activity to the Gentiles of the area.

In his gospel, Matthew used Isaiah's more universal scope when he described the mobile ministry of Jesus. No matter who inhabited the land, God would bless them with a light, a leader to guide their way to spiritual liberation. For Matthew, that light was Jesus.

How does Jesus "light" your way?