Unbelief has a mysterious ability to tie knots in just about anything. Because unbelief is a function of the heart and will, it can operate in defiance of right reason, known facts, unambiguous texts, and just plain good sense. Unbelief knows what it wants, and what it wants most of all is the liberty to lock its knees and to just say no.
On one occasion, the Pharisees and chief priests sent out some officers to bring Jesus in (John 7:32). When they came back empty-handed, they were asked the reason why, and they said that no one ever spoke the way Jesus was speaking (John 7:46). The unbelieving rulers replied with a verbal sneer. Has anyone important or accredited believed in Him (John 7:48)? Nicodemus intervened and asked whether or not they ought to hear Jesus out before passing judgment (John 7:50-51). At this the rulers and Pharisees responded with another sneer. Are you from Galilee too? Check into it, bozo, and you will find out that no prophet arises from Galilee (John 7:52).
But what does Isaiah say, that prince of prophets? What did he say about Galilee?
“. . . Beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. 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.”
Isaiah 9:1b–2 (KJV)
And this was no obscure passage in an obscure book. We need to realize that this great light arising from Galilee is one of the brightest lights in the entire Old Testament—and it shines in words familiar to just about everyone here, because they are kind of impossible to miss.
“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, Counseller, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. 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.”
Isaiah 9:6–7 (KJV)
That is what rises in Galilee.
And if we wanted to speak with a biblical trope, we could say that this passage has adorned a multitude of Christmas cards, in number like the grains of sand on the sea shore. It is one of the most well-known passages from the entire Old Testament.
What was the nature of this light? The light was going to begin small. Unto us a child is born. The light was going to start as a fertilized egg, and was going to appear in the world as an infant boy. This boy was doing to grow up in Galilee, but because the prophet Micah had also spoken, it was necessary for Caesar Augustus to wield what he thought was his prerogative, and to order that the whole world be taxed (Luke 2:1). As a consequence, this boy was born in his ancestral town, which was Bethlehem of Judea, but afterward His family returned to Nazareth, which was in Galilee.
Christ is that light who came into the world, and He did so in order to enlighten every man (John 1:9). Wake, o sleeper, Paul says, and Christ will shine on you (Eph. 5:14). This is the light of the kingdom that this child king brought into the world. This is the rule and realm of Jesus Christ, and the light of this kingdom is an ever-increasing light. Isaiah tells us this expressly. Does he not? “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.”
This rule of Christ is the light, and the rule is an ever-increasing light. Not only will it never go out, it will never stop getting brighter. Christmas lights are the future of the world.
But when we look at the stupidity of our race, coupled with our venality and corruption, we find this kind of staggering promise a little hard to believe. And this is why we must pay attention to the last phrase in this promise—the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. It will not be the wisdom of man that does it. It will not be the pure motives of our parliaments and presidents. It will not be the sophistication of our universities that ushers in this state of affairs. No, it will be the zeal of the Lord.
I spoke a moment ago about the stubbornness of unbelief. We think in our folly that we can brace ourselves in such a way as that such unbelief could put God off. No, remember that the zeal of the Lord is going to convert the entire world, and will never stop growing in that world.
And so I want to conclude with a word to the unconverted. Christmas is a time of year when you are reminded more often than usual of the centrality of Christ. So if the zeal of the Lord of hosts is coming for you, then realize that whatever you do to resist will be entirely futile. There you are, barricaded in the dirty little apartment of your heart, and you have all the furniture you possess piled up against the door. You think that will do it? You think you can hold out against this Christmas message? Christmas is just the first few words of the message, and the whole thing includes His life, His passion, His burial, and His resurrection. And after His resurrection, remember how He just appeared in the upper room, with no need to use the door. So when He wants you to follow Him, He can just come in, without so much as a “by your leave,” and start cleaning things up. The zeal of the Lord of hosts is up to whatever challenges you present.
And so here is your Christmas invitation. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. Come. Come now. No need to hold out, and as you should realize, no use holding out. Christ is Lord. Give up your unbelief. Lay down your arms. A prophet does arise from Galilee.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen
And merry Christmas.