Today’s readings Isaiah 9, 10, 11, 12
There are so many names of towns and places in the OT. How do we know which to pay attention to and which to ignore? I think it’s important as you read these old testament texts to spend some time trying to understand their surroundings just as if you were reading a topographical map. Isaiah 9 is a perfect example. Isaiah the prophet begins by providing a message of hope to the people of Israel, stating “the time of darkness and despair will not go on forever”. He begins a commentary, about towns in northern Israel: Zebulin and Naphtali. And then come to find out, the gospel of Matthew referenced these same two towns in his writings (Matthew 4:15). These towns have to be important, right? So let’s back up a little and discover a little about the topography of the world of Israel, during the conquest of Assyria.
During the time period when Israel, the northern kingdom, was being conquered by Assyria, the northernmost territories were the land that was occupied first. These territories were Zebulin and Naphtali. People were coming in and out of the territories, non-Jews, pagans, people of other cultures, gentiles. This area of the northern kingdom became immersed with gentiles. Think of it as a modern-day New York City, with many cultures, many nationalities, living in a small region of the world, which gives rise to the term “Galilee of the Gentiles”. And interestingly, Jesus began his public ministry in this area, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. (Matthew 4: 13), the region “Galilee of the Gentiles, an area where so many Gentiles lived. ( Matthew 4: 15) And why do you think this may be where Jesus first began his public ministry? Were these people more open to hearing the gospel? Were there more oppressed people in this area of the world? We know that he had his reasons. His was not a haphazard ministry.
In this context, read with an open mind and an open heart the passages of Isaiah chapters 9, 10, 11, and 12. There is a lot to take in. Sometimes it’s good to just immerse yourself in God’s word. Now you know more about the people of the OT and why God was trying to speak to them. Allow this information to penetrate your being, listen and hear His words today. The Assyrians were taking over their world. Their lives were changed forevermore. Reflect on what they may have been going through and how this could apply to life today. Tomorrow we explore and find out more, what happens next, and our old friend Ahaz, his son begins to rule and we meet a new prophet, Hosea.
I leave you with a beautiful song for meditation. This song is an old friend, a live rendition, lengthy in nature, and just the perfect song to sit in reflection of Isaiah’s beautiful prose.