A sermon idea based on Isaiah 9:1-4.
Isaiah 9:1-4 NRSV
 But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.  You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.  For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
The relevant topic I would be addressing, based on this text…
There will always be shadows through which we must pass on life’s journey, and as we do, we can trust that God is both with us and for us through those seasons.
The heart of the message, a potential outline, key truths to share, special notes for interpreting the text, etc.
Life is a journey. And the journey of life is not straight, not easy, and not always clear.
Most people are at least somewhat familiar with the phrasing of Psalm 23, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”, and that’s the very language the author of this passage in Isaiah uses to describe what the audience has been through. In these verses, the voice of God comes through to us with a simple message…
I’m with you and for you through life’s deepest shadows.
TRUTH #1: God is with us through life’s shadows in terms of his presence.
God is present with his people in suffering. This has been primarily demonstrated in the life and death of Jesus. He left the Father’s side, not to end all suffering in the present, but to experience our suffering and to put to death once and for all the curse of sin which brought suffering into existence.
So God is present with us in the shadows. We may feel forsaken and alone, but that’s an illusion. He never leaves nor forsakes his people.
Truth #2: God is for us in terms of guiding us toward the proper destination.
We wish that God would clear every thorn and thistle and pothole out of our way ahead of time so that our pathway might be smooth. But what God seems to do, instead, is to so order our steps that no particular difficulty can ever separate us from his love, which guides us toward our right destination.
And what is that destination?
For the nation to whom the prophecy of Isaiah was written, the destination was a day and an age in which a messianic deliverer would come and usher in real peace. Some may have anticipated that to be Hezekiah, but those Jews and Gentiles who would later come to follow Jesus as Messiah see this passage as pointing toward his enthronement as King.
It’s too simple to say that our ultimate destination is “heaven.” Our destination must be seen as including full spiritual maturity, full character development, and true community as Jesus intended it to be. All of that may be found in heaven, but we don’t have to wait to realize some of the blessings of God’s deliverance.
God is moving us toward our final form: the likeness of Christ and unity with his forever family. He seems far less concerned with the pleasure or pain of our immediate circumstances and far more attentive to preparing us as a permanent place of indwelling for His Spirit and our spirits to commune together.
In this way, no matter how hard life gets, God is working for his people. He is always moving the pieces on behalf of those seeking to follow him.
I wish to avoid the shadows, but I’m content to know that beyond the shadows comes the light in which I will see that God was at work, growing me in ways I could never before have imagined!
The big call-to-action in the message…
Today isn’t about feeling God’s presence. It’s about trusting that God is present in spite of all the feelings we have while walking through life’s deepest shadows. Pray a prayer of acknowledgment and gratitude that God is always present and always personally attentive to us. He is with us and for us in the shadows.
About the Cover Art: Photo by Matthew Ansley on Unsplash.