There will be no more gloom. (Isaiah 9:1)
In 2020, During a trip to Israel, I spent a few days in the Galilee. It’s a truly beautiful region. Unlike the desert of the south, Galilee is lush and green in spring, with Mt Tabour and Mount Arbel carpeted with wild flowers that are a feast for the eyes.
Surrounded by such beauty, it’s difficult to imagine the tragedy that once took place here. Centuries before the coming of Christ, Galilee had been the first part of Israel to be ravaged by the Assyrians. They pillaged, plundered and depopulated the region until Galilee was broken, wounded and reeling from the pain. However, in Isaiah 9:1 we read:
“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 honour Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea beyond the Jordan- the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”
We can’t help being amazed at the accuracy of the fulfilment of this prophecy as we read through the New Testament Gospels. It was to this same region, centuries after the pillaging by the Assyrians, that God sent His son to live out his childhood and grow into manhood. It was Galilee that became the centre of Jesus’ ministry.
In Galilee, instead of death and suffering and sadness, we read of healings and deliverances that brought great joy to multitudes. We read of water being turned into wine, a Roman Official’s Son being healed, evil spirits being driven out, lepers healed, a boy and a girl being raised to life and the blind being able to see. Surely, ‘a light has dawned’.
Friends, if you identify today more with the old Galilee, the broken Galilee, the empty Galilee, then let your faith rise. ‘A light has dawned’ on the old Galilee and that same light can rise on the empty and broken parts in your life. When that happens there will be ‘no more gloom’. Let the Jesus of Galilee come to your old Galilee and transform it.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)
This week, Jews all over the world , have been celebrating a feast called ‘Pesach’. The English translation is Passover. At this time they remember the miraculous intervention of God when He freed them from their hard bondage to the Egyptians.
Can you imagine how the captives felt as they started on their ‘exodus’ from Egypt? They were actually going! They were actually becoming free citizens! Free from oppression, free from repression, free from slavery, free, free, free!!
This weekend, Christians worldwide celebrated a different exodus. This exodus was brought about by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who conquered our slave driver, our oppressor, our hard task manager, the devil. This opened wide the way for mankind to enter into a new kind of freedom, freedom from sin!! If there was rejoicing in the first exodus, how much more is our rejoicing in this second exodus?
The New Testament lists around 80 sins. Here are just a few of them;
Our sin not only hurts others, it damages us also. It can cause emotional pain, physical, mental or physical pain. Sin is always destructive. In John 10:10 we read:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” However, the next part of that verse says “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
We also read;
Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
Galatians 5:13 “For you were called to freedom, brothers
2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
Today we can lift up our voices and shout a glad and grateful, hallelujah to God. With the death and resurrection of Christ, there is power for us, through Christ, to find victory over our sin.
Because he lived, because He died, because he rose again, we can experience our own personal exodus from sin, and deliverance into a land of freedom from sin, it’s consequences and it’s pain.
Burning For God
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:16)
Within the pages of our Bibles lie many precious gems. Like diamonds and sapphires, our Biblical gems don’t always lie on the surface. Many have to be mined. It takes a lot of patience and effort to find precious gems, but it’s well worth the time and effort.
One gem I found recently was in relation to a young girl called Hadassah. She lived during the time when the Jews from Judah had been carried off to Babylon. Her parents died when she was very young and she was adopted by her cousin who ‘took her as his own daughter’. (Esther 2:7)
The name ‘Hadassah’ is a Hebrew word that means ‘myrtle’. Hadassah is better known to us as Esther, after whom one of the books of the Old Testament is named. We don’t know when Hadassah’s name was changed to Esther, but it may have been just before she was taken to the palace to become a potential chief wife of King Ahasuerus.
We read in Esther 2:10, “Esther had not revealed her people or family, for Mordecai charged her not to reveal it.” Mordecai, her adopted father, wanted to protect her from the possibility of anti-semitic reactions.
Esther means ‘star’. On reflecting on the significance of the two names, Jonathan Cahn, in his ‘Book of Mysteries”, observes,
“A myrtle grows under the heavens. But a star exists as part of the heavens. A star is certainly much higher than a myrtle. Stars do what myrtles can’t do. They shine. And do you know how they shine? They burn, they expend themselves as does a candle. They give up their essence…and, by that, they shine. So their shining is an act of self-sacrifice. They must sacrifice themselves to shine, to become stars.”
Hadassah, an orphan girl growing under heaven, was exalted to Esther, a star shining as Queen on the throne of Persia.
“She was a myrtle set on high places. But the day came when she had to make a choice. Hold on to her position….or risk it all, even her life, to do what is right to save her people.” (Jonathan Cahn)
She chose what was right. She said ‘If I perish, I perish’. At that point, Esther truly did became a shining star.
Esther maybe did not choose her name but she did choose whether or not to live up to it. You may be reading this and you identify yourself with Hadassah, a myrtle. But constant obedience to God and walking with him daily affords each one of us the opportunity to “shine as lights in the world”, (Philippians 2:15)
We can all be Esthers if we choose.
“Live this day as a heavenly light. Live as a living sacrifice, a gift given for the purposes of God. And you too will shine as the stars.” (Jonathan Cahn)
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