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PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
'The people walking in darkness have seen a great light' (Isaiah 9:2)
Isaiah’s word ‘darkness’ described a situation in which no-one was certain what to do, and where there seemed no future hope to be found. Yet, in foretelling the coming light of Christ into the world, Isaiah was writing about the future as though it was in the past. Other prophets did the same, as they cast themselves forward in time, seemingly to look backwards on the sure actions of God in coming days.
Isaiah’s people were facing the biggest threat they had ever known. In 733 BC, Assyria, with the world’s first professional standing army, was massively powerful; unprincipled, and contemptuous of every religion in sight. But Judah’s young king Hezekiah, faced by a threat in writing from Assyria’s king Sennacherib, was to find encouragement from Isaiah. Taking the letter into the Temple, he prayerfully ‘spread it out before the Lord’ (2 Kings 19:14). There then took place the God-given collapse of the enemy's army, and their withdrawal.
Christians today can learn from king Hezekiah. What of the persecution of Christ’s disciples in many countries today? How should we react when faced by some banner headline of violence, secularism or aggressive atheism? Answer: Take it and spread it out before the Lord – with the hopeful message of the prophets and apostles at your side. For tomorrow has always belonged to them, or at least to God's word through them - and never to the military dictators, terrorists, heathen, or to the other short-term opportunists.
Let us then, like Hezekiah, gain a fresh confidence from the light of Jesus’ Advent among us. Though aware of discouraging events on every continent, we may be surprised to learn that Christ’s Church is the fastest-growing family of belief in the world. His Light can never be put out. As that courageous pioneer of the Christian faith to our shores, Augustine, declared some sixteen centuries ago – 'This Child of Bethlehem fills the world'.
Adapted from an article by Preb. Richard Bewes
Vicar & Lecturer