Passage: Isaiah 9:1-7
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
In our culture today, we are experiencing an unprecedented loss of hope. From the ongoing pandemic to societal divisions to political gridlock, never have we needed a collective sense of hope more than we do now—and yet never has it seemed more elusive.
Rather than hoping in nothing and becoming cold, or naively hoping in something perishable and being let down, the Bible shows us the path forward towards a hope that is indestructible and yet totally in touch with the darkness of the world today. Isaiah 9 promises hope and light in the place of darkness and despair, through the light of the Messiah.
First, Isaiah acknowledges the darkness of his times. Under the unfaithful leadership of several kings, Judah was facing national, spiritual, and personal crises on every side—“dwelling in a land of deep darkness”—with no path clear path forward (vs. 2). Isaiah was unflinching about this darkness, and about the people’s desperation, as well as about the failure of their self-made solutions. If we want a durable hope, we need to be just as clear eyed about the darkness today—a darkness that begins inside of our own hearts.
Into this darkness, Isaiah discloses a rich vision of the future—a “light” from the outside, bringing a solid hope. This is precisely what we need, because no solution in this world is without a taint of sin and darkness itself. Prophetically, Isaiah envisions a day in which burdens are lifted off our shoulders—when we experience deliverance from all our enemies, both outside and inside of us. When the Messiah comes, everything evil will be done away with, and all our earthly means of securing victory and peace will be rendered completely unnecessary. We will simply show up to a spiritual battle that has already been won.
All of this is based, not on our own effort, but is simply given to us as a gift—a child, a son, is “given” to us, Isaiah emphasizes, to bring all of this about (9:6). We cannot receive this gift unless of Christ unless we receive it emptyhandedly. And Christ is precisely the gift we need in these times—a “wonderful counselor” who knows what we’ve been through, and yet a “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father” who is strong enough to help us (9:6). Ultimately, Jesus willingly gave himself into the darkness of this world, absorbing it upon himself on the cross, to bring us deep and everlasting peace.
In the middle of these dark times, a light has shone on us from the outside, bringing durable hope. Let’s cling to Jesus and stand firm in this future hope.
• The Darkness is Real (9:1-2)
• A Vision of Future Hope (9:3-5)
• The Gift of Hope (9:6-7)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage(s): Isaiah 9:1-7
The Darkness is Real (9:1-2)
1) Re-read Isaiah 9:1-2 and meditate on these verses together. Consider:
• How does Isaiah describe the state of the Israel? What was their situation? What were they feeling? What imagery does Isaiah use to convey this?
2) Back up and re-read Isaiah 8:21-22, which describes the people’s desperation, in light of the Assyrian invasion. Meditate on these verses together. Consider:
• How do the people respond in their distress? How do they relate to God?
• Where do the people look for solutions, and what is the result?
3) At the beginning of the sermon, Will mentioned that we often tend towards two unhelpful ways of responding to the darkness of our times: we either hope in nothing at all, but become cynical as a result, or hope in something of this world, and get let down. What is your default response towards feelings of hopelessness?
4) In the sermon, Will mentioned how we need “a hope from outside of us”, and yet we often look to man-made solutions to our problems, which often make them even worse. Can you think of a time when you took matters into your own hands to solve a problem, but it ended up making things worse? And in what ways are we, as a society, looking for man-made solutions to major issues we face today? Think of specific examples.
A Vision of Future Hope (9:3-5)
5) Re-read Isaiah 9:3-5, where Isaiah speaks of our future hope as if it’s already accomplished. According to these verses, what are some aspects of our future hope? What imagery/metaphors does Isaiah use to convey this? What emotions is it meant to evoke in us?
6) In the sermon, Will said: “When the Messiah comes, everything evil will be done away with, and all our earthly means of securing victory and peace will be rendered completely unnecessary.” What part of this future vision attracts you the most? What are some “earthly means” we use to secure the things we long for most? (e.g. to secure approval, peace, status, etc)
The Gift of Hope (9:6-7)
7) Re-read Isaiah 9:6-7. Which of the titles of the Messiah stand out to you, and why? Which is the most personally hope-giving?
8 & 9) In the sermon, Will said that Jesus is the “Wonderful Counselor” because he “knows the human situation, from the inside out”. In what area of your life is it most helpful for you to remember that Jesus understands completely? How so? Will also said that Jesus is the “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father” because he is divine—powerful enough to make a real difference in our lives. In what area of your life do you need to remember this truth?
10) What was your main takeaway from this past week’s sermon? It might be, for e.g.:
• A thought you want to keep meditating on
• An attitude you want to embrace
• An action you want to take
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.