Prophecy of Isaiah – Isa 9:1-4 They That Dwell in The Land of The Shadow of Death…


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Isa 9:1-4  They That Dwell In The Land of The Shadow of Death, Upon Them Hath The Light Shined.

Isa 9:1  Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
Isa 9:2  The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
Isa 9:3  Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
Isa 9:4  For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

Before we can continue this study of our judgment here at the beginning of Isaiah 9, we must repeat the last two verses of chapter 8 to remind us of the darkness which is "the dimness" we will be discussing here in the first verse of chapter nine.

Here are the  last two verses of chapter 8:

Isa 8:21  And they shall pass through it [the 'land' (vs 8) typifying our life here on earth - Jer 22:29], hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.
Isa 8:22  And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.

What we are being told is that at the appointed time for each of us, our hedged and peaceful life on this earth will begin to fall apart, because as God's elect our judgment must begin for us in this age (1Pe 4:17). The words "hardly bestead" are translated from the Hebrew word 'qashah', which means stiff-necked and stubborn. We are made to become the victims of a spiritual famine and a life of darkness and ignorance. Yet we stubbornly dig in our heels rather than accept the inevitable death of our old man and the total destruction of him and his entire kingdom.

As our judgment intensifies, the heat gets hotter and hotter, and the waves of the sea begin to become higher and higher. In time we are brought to our wits' end (Psa 107:25-27). At this point "every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us" is beginning to be purged from our lives, and it just does not seem natural or necessary to be that 'spotlessly' cleansed of our sins. The truth is that we see ourselves as pretty good compared to most people, and we see the Lord as being unrealistic and much too demanding of us. We know we have certain sins we need to eliminate from our lives, but we simply can't do it, and the starvation and mental anguish that comes with the spiritual darkness we are in at this time seems to be way beyond what we see as befitting our 'little sins' - the weight and sin that so easily besets us'.

Heb 12:1  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

At this point, when we are being punished for our sins, it seems that our "fiery trials" are just 'strangely' severe and simply more than we can bear.

1Pe 4:12  Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

The reason we are told not to think our fiery trials are strange is because that is exactly what we all just naturally do. And when we do that we look upward and curse our God. We look to the earth, and all we see is trouble and darkness. It is so dark, so foreboding, so fearful that we "gnaw our tongues for pain".

We closed our study last week with the New Testament version of Isa 8:21-22, which is:

Rev 16:8  And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.
Rev 16:9  And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.
Rev 16:10  And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain,
Rev 16:11  And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.

While in my own total darkness I wondered how it was possible to be 'scorched with fire' and also be in a 'kingdom that was full of darkness'. With the Lord's spiritual eyes, that apparent contradiction vanished, and it is now clear how the fiery trials our spiritual blindness brings upon us can scorch us with fire while we are in that blind and dark kingdom.

Of course it is all by Christ's design. King David explains to us what God is doing with our lives in this age, and he tells us we are born into a body which is designed to bring upon itself God's wrath and judgment.

Psa 90:3  Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.
Psa 90:4  For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
Psa 90:5  Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.
Psa 90:6  In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.
Psa 90:7  For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.

God has given us an evil experience in this life, and He did so for the specific purpose of humbling us, and that is what He tells us right up front:

Ecc 1:13 I applied my heart to inquiring and exploring by wisdom concerning all that is done under the heavens: it is an experience of evil Elohim has given to the sons of humanity to humble them by it.

Joh 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Isaiah reiterates this truth in words which cannot be dismissed or denied by any intellectually honest mind:

Isa 63:17  O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants' sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.
Isa 63:18  The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while: our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary.
Isa 63:19  We are thine: thou never barest rule over them; they were not called by thy name.

"They are not called by your name" implies 'Why have you given dominion of your people over to those who are not yours, why have you placed such a burden upon me which I cannot bear?' In spiritual terms we are asking "Why have you made me this way?"

Rom 9:19  Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? [If He "made us to err from [His] ways", why on earth is He punishing us for what He made us do? And what is the answer to that inevitable natural question?]
Rom 9:20  Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

Isaiah had read Psalms and Ecclesiastes and was very familiar with these truths. He knew that our lives, and the destiny of his country, physical Israel, were all predestined to be lived out "after the counsel of His own will" (Eph 1:11).

Later in our studies we will come to this verse which Paul was quoting in Romans 9.

Isa 45:9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?

So I want to repeat those last two verses from chapter 8 and let Isaiah, the Lord's watchman for us, continue with his message from the previous chapter concerning the rebelliousness and stubbornness He has placed within us and what His methods are for dealing with the darkness of our rebellious stubborn minds:

Isa 8:21  And they shall pass through it [the 'land' (vs 8) typifying our life here on earth - Jer 22:29], hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.
Isa 8:22  And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.

Isa 9:1  Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
Isa 9:2  The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

The spiritual message of Isa 9:1 is that the Truth of the gospel is not received by those who think they already have that truth. Here is that message from the mouth of our Savior.

Joh 9:35  Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
Joh 9:36  He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
Joh 9:37  And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
Joh 9:38  And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
Joh 9:39  And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
Joh 9:40  And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
Joh 9:41  Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.

The words, "when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations", refer back to what had happened to the northern kingdom of Israel when Pekah was king and had allied himself with King Rezin of Syria, against Ahaz king of Judah.

Here is what happened at that time:

2Ki 15:29  In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abelbethmaachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria.

The destruction of the kingdom of our old man is not accomplished in one fell swoop. It takes place little by little as we are given to bear it. But as it takes place we dig in our heels, and the temperature rises and the height of the waves rises, until we are brought to our wits' end. King David knew all about how the Lord worked with His people, and he shared his experience with us:

Psa 107:24  These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
Psa 107:25  For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
Psa 107:26  They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
Psa 107:27  They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end.
Psa 107:28  Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
Psa 107:29  He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
Psa 107:30  Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.
Psa 107:31  Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

What we are  being told is that the best thing that ever happened to Job was the loss of all he owned, the loss of all his children and being stricken with boils from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head (Job 1 and Job 2). What we are being told throughout the scriptures is that the best thing that ever will happen to any of us will be to suffer loss in this age and to be "saved though as by fire" (1Co 3:13-15). What we are being told here in Isaiah and in Psalms 107 and 1Corinthians 3, is that the loss of all our wood, hay, and stubble, the kingdom of our old man, is the best thing that will ever happen to us.

Because this is all so contrary to what is taught in this world, I will take the time to list two more sections of scripture which give us the same message we are being given here in Isaiah 9. Those two sections of scripture are:

1Pe 4:12  Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
1Pe 4:17  For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

...And these verses of Revelation 14:

Rev 14:6  And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
Rev 14:7  Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. [The understanding of the need for our judgment is a major part of the good news of the gospel:]
Rev 14:8  And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
Rev 14:9  And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, [All do, Rev 13:16]
Rev 14:10  The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
Rev 14:11  And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. [And what is the message of these three angels?]
Rev 14:12  Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

Right here we are given the three steps of our judgment, and we are told "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."

We must all live the words of the third angel, or we have not received the gospel.

Here is this same message put in different words:

Rev 15:7  And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.
Rev 15:8  And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.

With all of that in mind, let's examine how these verses of Isaiah 9 are treated under the inspiration of the holy spirit in the New Testament:

Mat 4:12  Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;
Mat 4:13  And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:
Mat 4:14  That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
Mat 4:15  The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;
Mat 4:16  The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
Mat 4:17  From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Here we have a very good example of how the writers of the New Testament demonstrate for us that all scripture is Christ-centric. That is why Christ Himself tells us we must live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Mat 4:4 and Luk 4:4).

What we need to learn from these verses here in Isaiah 9 is that the Light does not come to those who consider themselves already to have light, rather it comes only "the people which sat in darkness... and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death". In other words, it comes only to those who have been bought low and have been brought to their wits' end.

Now let's consider what happens to those to whom this light comes:

Isa 9:3  Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

Here is how the New King James, and almost every other translation on the market, translates Isa 9:3:

Isa 9:3  You have multiplied the nation and increased its joy; They rejoice before You according to the joy of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

Considering that we are speaking of those to whom the Light, Christ Himself, has come, it follows that their joy is indeed increased. I know my own joy has increase exponentially. Christ calls those who see His light "the meek" of the earth, and says this about such people:

Mat 5:5  Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Isaiah Himself verifies this fact concerning those who "have seen great light" in:

Isa 29:19  The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

That is those who are the very subject under discussion according to the previous  verse:

Isa 9:2  The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

While it is indisputable that the light of Christ increases outward persecution, it is also undeniable that it also increases inward joy and peace of mind:

Joh 14:27  Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

That great peace comes with the light of Christ and is affirmed for us in the prophecy of Zecharias, the father of John the baptist, when the holy spirit inspired him to tell us this:

Luk 1:79  To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Albert Barnes' Commentary explains how the words "and not increased the joy" were introduced into the King James Version, while it was being translated:

"And not increased the joy" - The Masoretes here read in the margin לו  lô “to it,” instead of לא  lo' “not.” Eleven manuscripts, two of them ancient, have this reading. This reading is followed by the Chaldee Paraphrase, the Syriac, and the Arabic. The Septuagint seems also to have so understood it. So also it is in the margin, and so the connection demands; and it is unquestionably the correct reading. It would then read, ‘thou hast increased for it (the nation) the joy.’" [End Quote]

I have over 120 translations on my computer, and 90% of them agree with the Hebrew scholars quoted by Albert Barnes. Even Tyndale's translation, while retaining the word 'not', poses this verse as a question:

Isa 9:3  Shalt thou multiply the people, and not increase the joy also? They shall rejoice before thee even as men make merry in harvest, and as men that have gotten the victory, when they deal the spoil.

Either way would agree with the very next verse with which we will conclude our study for this week:

Isa 9:4  For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

"As in the days of Midian" makes it clear that the Lord does indeed increase the joy of all who come to His light:

Jdg 7:22  And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man's sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath.

How can we not rejoice when we come to know the battle is the Lord's, and He does our fighting for us?

Next week, Lord willing, we will see more clearly why 'He has increased the joy of the meek' (Isa 29:19), as we discover that it is "the zeal of the Lord [which] will perform this", and as we are brought to understand that nothing depends upon us, even though all things will be accomplished through us (1Co 3:21-22), through Christ (Php 4:13):

Isa 9:5  For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.
Isa 9:6  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Isa 9:7  Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Isa 9:8  The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.

1Co 3:21  Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;
1Co 3:22  Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; 

Php 4:13  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

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