Epiphany – 2020
Text – Isaiah 60:1-2
Arise, shine, for your light has come, & the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, & thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, & His glory will be seen upon you.
HIS GLORY WILL BE SEEN UPON YOU
How have you been feeling lately? Are you exhausted from all the Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s activities? Do you have more aches & pains than you did 10 or 20 or 30 years ago? Will 2020 be the debut of the “new you”? Oh, you’ve already learned that New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time. Murphy’s Law is out to get you!
Has the New Year rung in with a spring in your step & good feelings about your short-term future? Is hope springing eternal in the doldrums of a typical gray Michigan winter? But the gloom doesn’t only arrive in the weather. Experiences darken human living & assault us from all forms of media – lies, injustice, violence & the slaughter of the innocent.
Darkness, depravity & death abound. Anxiety is driven by terrorism, or by dysfunctional schools & families, deadly diseases, betrayal & broken promises. The chapter of Isaiah right before the sermon text – makes it clear that nothing is new under the sun:
“No one is calling in righteousness, & no one goes to court with honesty. They rely upon an empty argument & speak falsehood! They conceive trouble & give birth to wickedness! They hatch eggs of an adder, & they weave webs of a spider. The one who eats from their eggs will die, & a rotten egg is hatched into a viper… Their feet run to evil, & they make haste to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are of wickedness. Destruction & ruin are in their highways. The way of peace they do not know, & there is no justice in their tracks… Therefore justice is far from us, & righteousness does not reach us. We hope for the light, but, behold, darkness. [We hope] for intense brightness, [but] in deep gloom we walk around.” (59:4-5, 7-8a, 9)
That description of life sounds a lot like today. It’s similar to many of the words written in the book of Ecclesiastes. Sin has corrupted, & made a huge mess of, everything in life – including you & me. Now that another of the world’s chief terrorists is dead, we wait for the other shoe to drop as his supporters seek to gain revenge. If we allow evil to run, unchecked, many lives are scarred, maimed & left for dead. Yet, if we end evil in one place, it simply rears its ugly head in another, even in your own heart, & in mine.
King David was a great warrior for the Lord, conquering the pagan people of Canaan, that God’s people might live there to worship Yahweh. Then David committed adultery with the wife of one of his soldiers, even denying, that he’d done it, before God. So, in this new year, filled with all the sins of the last, imagine this as we approach the 60th chapter of Isaiah:
V. 1-2: Envision the entire earth wrapped in total darkness. Imagine Zion, the OT church, also as being overcome by this darkness of hopelessness. Then, of a sudden to her, & to her only, the glory of the Lord flares out into the sky. The vision goes on to show that the rest of the world is still shrouded in the depths of darkness & despair.
Historically, this is the moment when Israel’s liberation from Babylonian Captivity takes place, as though it had been one great burst of glory. A salvation which took years & centuries is pictured as a sudden & instantaneous event. “His glory will be seen upon you.”
In V. 3 – the picture expands. Zion is, as it were, rubbing her eyes & beginning to take notice. The Lord’s prophet is standing by her side, calling attention to marvelous things that are happening. People are streaming in from afar, bearing gifts. The light at Zion has attracted them – the only bright spot on the whole earth’s horizon.
And it’s becoming apparent not only that nations are on the march, but also kings.
V. 5 – now the prophet points out to Zion what joyous emotions are being engendered by this. Looking around, Zion becomes radiant. The center of the higher emotions – her heart – is filled with the awesomeness of this event & expands in joy. Are you there yet? It’s what the season of Advent is designed to prepare you for. It’s what the events of Christmas & Epiphany are bringing to fulfillment. Did you just live through all that, & the whole month of December, for nothing? “His glory will be seen upon you.” That is what the word of God tells us. Do you believe it? It’d be wise to appropriate the words of a certain Biblical father:
“I do believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24 NASB) So how is it that “His glory will be seen upon you.”? Does it mean that someday you’ll be casting out demons? Are you going to have the ability to lay hands one of God’s creatures & heal them? Will speaking in tongues will become your forte?
In the character of Hebrew poetry, “His glory will be seen upon you” is a restatement of the affirmation in verse one, “for your light has come, & the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” The light is Yahweh Himself, or as Jesus said in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.” Do you remember one of His names which Isaiah gave as a prophecy?
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive & bear a son, & shall call His name Immanuel.” As the Gospel of Matthew cites that prophecy he adds, “Which means, God with us.” The true & eternal joy of Christmas is not any of the material gifts you received, nor is it found in the number of friends & family who were with you.
The true & everlasting joy of Christmas & Epiphany is “His glory will be seen upon you” because the Light of the World is God with us. That we believe in Jesus as Lord & Savior from sin is the glory of the Lord upon us. As we tell others, who then come to faith, that we believe in Jesus, then the glory of Yahweh will be seen upon you.
As you tell of the things that God has done in your life, in your heart, & in your soul – “His glory will be seen upon you.” As you serve & love your neighbor as yourself, “His glory will be seen upon you” without necessarily even using words. Jesus’ death on the cross involved very few words, yet for those who are children of God, the message is very clear. There, the heavenly Father’s glory is seen upon the Son as He dies in our place, for our sins. This good news whisks us away from the aches & pains, from the daily drudgery of life, & enables us to see & believe in a future age marked with peace, health & wholeness.
The 2nd Advent of Jesus will bring a glory that will extend beyond us to include the entire new creation. “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
Sin has been a plague on all of God’s creation. When His human creatures reject Him, He turns away & leaves them to themselves. That’s Isaiah chapter 59, & thus lost in gloom & experiencing divine judgment, those who are God’s people confess their sins. Yahweh responds by rescuing His faithful remnant & the bright rays of this explode in radiant color in chapter 60.
The OT reading from Isaiah 60 was fulfilled in a preliminary & partial way in the lives of the OT believers so the prophet can use the past tense, “…for your light has come.” This fulfillment was evident in Yahweh’s appearance as a pillar of fire by which He guided them through the wilderness.
The prophecy then switches to verbs that anticipate a future fulfillment, “…the Lord will arise upon you, & His glory will be seen upon you.” From the perspective of Isaiah the prophecy would reach fulfillment in the future advent of Messiah at Bethlehem, as well as at Golgotha.
Last, the prophecy reaches its most complete fulfillment in the new heaven & earth, after Christ’s 2nd advent, as described in Revelation: “And the nations will walk about by her light, & the kings of the earth bring their glory into her.” (21:24) Thus, a preview & type of this ultimate fulfillment occurred in the journey of the Wise Men from the east to worship the Christ Child.
In many ways, the kingdom of God is coming. That news can put a spring in our step no
matter our circumstances here on earth, if we take the time to ponder the permanent Light of Christ instead of the tragedy going on in the fleeting & temporary circumstances of this life.
Through Isaiah 60:1-6, the prophet calls us to faithfulness not so that kingdom glory will come, but because its arrival is imminent. We can only arise & shine because our Light, Jesus, has already come, & is coming again. His glory rose upon us already on Easter morning. All children of God were there blessed, even though like us, many had not yet been born.
The year 2020 may not be the debut of the “new you,” but there is a Day coming when God’s children will be made brand new. Knowledge of that Day is what empowers us to keep going despite the suffering & tragedy that all creatures endure in this life. When that Day arrives, Murphy’s Law will never set foot in heaven.
Knowledge of that Day when Christ’s glory will be seen perfectly upon you is even better than the feeling you get when the sun shines in January, in Michigan. In our country today the darkness is spreading, evil & depravity is growing, but the Lord’s glory stands out ever more clearly in the darkness. Thank God for the light of His glory. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding will guard your heart & your mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.
 Leupold, H.C., Exposition of Isaiah, Volumes I-II. Baker Book House Company, 1991. Pages 307-309.
 Romans 8:22-23 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet