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Isaiah 9:1-4 1
1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.

Background

Isaiah is prophesying to a day into the future when the Messiah would come to his people. Verse 2 is often heard in churches worldwide during the Advent and Christmas seasons. Isaiah’s emphasis is on the arrival of the Messiah and the lack of righteousness coming from the people.  However, the Messiah’s power will be born of righteousness.

While the people had walked in hopefulness, their hope would not be fulfilled until the coming of Christ. When Christ came, it would change lives.  It would be as dramatic as night and day. Specifically, this message was pointing to a land beyond the Jordan, pointo to Nazareth in Galilee.

Bible Truths and Theology 2

Zebulun and Naphtali were two of the 12 tribes of Israel. The territory of Zebulun was west of the Sea of Galilee (see Joshua 19:10-16). The territory of Naphtali was north of Zebulun (see Joshua 19:32-39). These two areas were the first to fall when the Assyrian army attacked. A vast number of the inhabitants became prisoners in Assyria. The ‘foreigners along the coast’ refers to the former Zebulun. The country ‘across the river Jordan’ refers to the former Naphtali. The region north of Naphtali became international Galilee. In the very area where the Assyrians first attacked, God promises to cause a complete change of the situation. The inhabitants will have done nothing to deserve this change. It is God’s free gift.

‘In deep darkness’ is a powerful description describing the feelings of people who had long been prisoners in a foreign land. They could see no possible hope ever again. When Isaiah spoke these words to them, they felt an enormous relief as if a very heavy weight had gone from their shoulders.

  • Centuries earlier, God’s people had been slaves of another enemy called Midian, for 7 years. But then God appointed Gideon, a most unlikely hero, to free them (see Judges 7:15-25). It was such a wonderful surprise that the nation long remembered the story. Isaiah himself mentions it twice more (see 10:26 and 60:6).

Items for Discussion

  • Isaiah’s message is one of hope and encouragement for the future.  How do you think the people felt when they heard it?
  • Isaiah’s message says that the Messiah will come from Galilee.  This, at the time, would have been considered a small, backward place.  Why do you think this was a surprise to the people?
  • Was the darkness a spiritual darkness or a societal darkness or both or more?
  • What does light offer to people who have been in darkness?
  • The yoke “a heavy burden” would be lifted from their shoulders. When this happened, was it spiritual, physical, societal or some part or combination of these?

 

John 1:35-40
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.

Background

In this passage of Scripture, we begin the start of Jesus’ selection of His disciples. Notice that it is John the Baptist who points out Christ to the two disciples in this story. John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Christ, thus part of his own calling was to point others to Jesus. This is exactly what the church has been doing ever since.

When John the Baptist used the phrase, “the Lamb of God,” he was pointing to the Passover story of the exodus from Egypt when the blood of the lamb was placed on the doorposts of homes to prevent the visitation of the angel of death.  This is Christ’s role, to save us from certain spiritual death. The reaction from Andrew and the other disciple (whom we believe was John) was to follow Jesus. Andrew did not answer directly but indirectly wanting to know where Jesus was staying.  By calling Jesus Rabbi, we must conclude that even though their personal growth as disciples had not yet started, they could recognize something special in Jesus.

Jesus makes them an invitation, come and see.  This is the same invitation that is made to all of us.  Their visit was both physical, to see where Jesus was staying and spiritual, to allow Jesus into their hearts. As Andrew saw Christ’s personality, His compassion, His concern for the people of need, Andrew’s heart changed too.

As we get to know Andrew more, we find that he also became the first evangelist by bringing Simon Peter to meet Jesus.

Bible Truths and Theology 3

Two of John the Baptist’s disciples left him and they followed Jesus instead. John the Baptist expected this to happen. He had emphasised that Jesus was greater than himself. Then, he pointed out Jesus again to these two disciples. But John the Baptist was doing the work that God had sent him to do. He was pointing out who Jesus was. He wanted people to follow Jesus, not himself. Jesus asked the two disciples a very important question. He asked, ‘What do you want?’ It is a question that Jesus asks us, too. Some people want to get a lot of money. They want to buy a lot of things. Some people want to have an important job. Some people want to have power over other people. Some people want to have security. But other people want to know God. They want to serve him and to obey him. They want to have the peace that only he can give. They want this more than anything else. And they realise that a right relationship with God matters more than anything else. However, the two disciples did not answer Jesus’ question. Perhaps they did not really know what they wanted at that time. Instead, they asked him where he was staying.

Jesus answered, ‘Come and see.’ He invited them to spend time with him and to learn from him. He invited them to become his disciples.
‘The time was about the 10th hour.’ The Jews counted time from 6 o’clock. So many Bible teachers think that John means 4 o’clock in the afternoon.  Andrew was one of these two disciples. The author did not name the other disciple. It is likely that the other disciple was John, the author of the Gospel. This passage contains many details, such as the time when the disciples met Jesus (verse 39). Also, John was writing in Greek. But he recorded several words in Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke. Perhaps he wanted to record the exact words that he had heard. When he met Jesus, everything changed for him. So he would remember everything about that wonderful day.

Items for Discussion

  • Have you ever been encouraged to go talk with someone, by someone else, the way the two disciples were encouraged by John the Baptist?
  • How did that encouragement work out?
  • How important is it for people to point out Christ to others?
  • The idea “Lamb of God” is meant to say that Christ saves people from death.  How do you think that Christ did that in this story?
  • What do we learn about people when we have long conversations with them? What do they learn about us?
  • Since all of Scripture is “God Breathed,” why do you think it was important for us to know the time of day of their meeting?

Discussion Challenge

  • How do we equip ourselves and others to point out Christ to the world?
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