Sunday, December 8, 2013

Day 8-9 (6): Light in the Darkness - Scene 3 (8-11)

(meditate on this for the next two days)

Scene 3 - "The prophecy of the Virgin Birth" (Movements 8-12)

8. Secco recitative (Alto)

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, GOD WITH US. (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23)

Note: Secco recitative is a new musical term. It is a "dry recitative" usually with only harpsichord and cello accompaniment. It recites the words directly and does not repeat them.

9. Aria (Alto) & Chorus

O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, and be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! O thou that tellest good tiding to Zion, Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. (Isaiah 40:9, Isaiah 60:1)

10. Accompanied recitative (Bass)

For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. (Isaiah 60:2, 3; Matthew 4:16)

11. Aria (Bass)

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


Isaiah 7:14

Historically, Isaiah prophecy in chapter 7 occurred in 734 B.C. when Judah was going to be attacked by an alliance of the northern kingdom of Israel and Aram (northeast of Israel). Rezin was Aram's last king and Pekah was Israel's second to last king. King Ahaz of Judah and his people were frightened, but Isaiah prophesied that there would be a break up of Israel's alliance with Aram and because of this alliance, Israel would be destroyed, but Judah, though punished, would not be destroyed. 

Ahaz piously said he did not want a sign that would confirm God's word because that would be "testing" God (Deuteronomy 6:16), but he did not want one because he did not really believe or want to believe Isaiah. He would rather trust in the King of Assyria than the King of all kings! He was testing God by not asking, and the Lord gave Ahaz one anyway.

This sign would be a boy named Immanuel (which means "God with us"). This boy would be:

  • Born of a virgin (the Hebrew word is ‘almâh, an unmarried woman of marriageable age)  
  • Raised in a time of national turmoil 
  • A youth when the two king alliance would be broken

In the historical context of that moment, within three years (the time for a virgin woman from the house of Ahaz to go through nine months of pregnancy and two or three years for the young boy to know the difference between right and wrong), Tiglath-Pileser II of Assyria destroyed Damascus (732 B.C.), putting Rezin to death (2 Kings 16:7-10). The two king alliance was broken. King Pekah of Israel was murdered by Hoshea in 732 B.C. Hoshea would be the last king of Israel. He was carried off to captivity by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., and the Kingdom of Israel ceased to exist after that (2 Kings 17). 

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

Though this prophecy had fulfillment in the historical context of that moment, it had future fulfillment as quoted in Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:31-35 with the birth of Jesus by a virgin, Mary! This is the first of many prophecies in Isaiah about Jesus, the Messiah. 

Isaiah 40:9

We already learned about the background to Isaiah 40 during Scene 1 (Movements 2-4) a few days ago. The glory of the Lord has been revealed. 

Now, "Zion" and "Jerusalem" were to shout it from the mountaintops, "God has come to be with us. Take a look at Him!" 
Now the nation itself comes out of the valley and climbs the mountaintop to declare God’s victory over the enemy. To “bring good tidings” means “to preach the Good News.” The good news in that day was the defeat of Babylon and the release of the captive Jews (52:7–9). The Good News today is the defeat of sin and Satan by Jesus Christ and the salvation of all who will trust in Him (61:1–3; Luke 4:18–19). 
Be Comforted:“Be” Commentary Series, p. 109
Notice the great joy in this part of the music. It is dance-like with upward leaps and the first swinging 6/8 time of the oratorio. (Maybe you should dance?)

Isaiah 60:1-3

A new day was dawning for Jerusalem. They could arise from sitting in the dust of captivity (Isaiah 3:26) and their light could shine in the darkness (Isaiah 58:10). We can rise from the dust of our captivity to sin and also shine! 

For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:8-10)

The glory of the Lord in the person of Christ has risen like the sun, and His purpose is to reveal His glory to the whole world held in darkness without the light of Christ (Malachi 4:2; Luke 1:78). 

Of course, this is also talking about a future day when Christ will return to live among us at His second coming, and people will flock to the light; but people in spiritual darkness can see the light of Christ in us right now!

Notice how ominous the music sounds when talking about darkness covering the earth until the bass says, "but the Lord shall arise upon thee" and it goes up beautifully and becomes comforting as he sings of His glory. So beautiful. Do not miss this in the music!

Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16

Isaiah has just prophesied that Assyrians will carry Israel into captivity (2 Kings 15:29), and he is warning Judah not to put their trust in Assyria but in the Lord. The nation had rejected Isaiah's message and turned to demons instead of God (Isaiah 8:19; Deuteronomy 18:10-12) which led them into greater darkness and decline. Yet, into this utter darkness (8:22), a light will dawn (9:2).

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

I love Isaiah 9 because it is the dawn after the darkness! It is the promise of the Messiah  (Matthew 4:13-16) who will come from "Galilee of the Gentiles" (9:1).  Jesus is the light in a dark world (Luke 1:78-79; John 1:9; 8:12)! There will be more on Isaiah 9 in the next movement!


Shout and Shine

Jesus is Emmanuel, "God with us."  This is an amazing thing to ponder in the very depths of your being. In the oratorio, it is a very, very short 23 second recited piece packed with power. Maybe if we really grasped that God was with us we would be more inclined to realize what absolutely GOOD NEWS we have to share, and we would go right on that mountaintop and SHOUT!

Or maybe if we fully grasped the utter darkness of people's lives, we would be more inclined to SHINE His light into all the dark places?

Jesus said:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand and it gives light to all who are in the house.  
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. (Luke 11:33)
Yet we hesitate.  God knew what the heart of the problem with SHOUTING and SHINING would be: FEAR.  He says through Isaiah "Be not afraid" (Isaiah 40:9).  Did you know this phrase (and ones similar to it) is commanded most often in the Bible?  
What was true for Judah two and a half thousand years ago is still true for us. We know that we have been given good news and commanded to share it -- indeed, to shout it from the rooftops. But the voice of fear and hesitation intrudes. Would that really be wise? Should we draw such public attention to ourselves? Isn't the work of God secret, personal, private to each of us, far too "precious" to be the subject of noisy proclamation?
As a consequence, the "good news" of God's glory revealed through His Son is not so much shouted as stifled. It's as though we are somehow ashamed of the sheer blatancy of God's action in coming among us. "Lift up thy voice with strength," urges Isaiah, "Lift it up, be not afraid." There are times when silence is golden, but there are also times when silence is gutless.
In any case, to hide light is to defeat its very reason for being. 
Forty Days with the Messiah by David Winter, p. 33
We are to be bearers of the light to SHOUT and SHINE it to the world! Let's not be afraid. Shall we?
"This Little Light of Mine" by Harry Dixon Loes (1895-1965) circa 1920
This little light of mine/I'm gonna' let it shine 
This little light of mine/I'm gonna' let it shine 
This little light of mine/I'm gonna' let it shine 
Let it shine/Let it shine/Let it shine 
Hide it under a bushel Oh no!/I'm gonna' let it shine 
Hide it under a bushel Oh no!/I'm gonna' let it shine 
Hide it under a bushel Oh no!/I'm gonna' let it shine 
Let it shine/All the time/Let it shine
I had a bad attitude in church a couple of weeks ago. There was a part of my teaching job at the university that I just do not like, and I was grumbling about it to the Lord during communion and wondering why I was even at the university in the first place. I had other things that were more pressing, and I didn’t really need this job. I was trying to have a "listen and obey" time with God in hopes of improving my attitude. Then, this little girl gets up as the elements of communion are being passed and belts out a modern rendition of the song above, and I hear God, in His ever so gentle voice say, “Carol, don’t you remember I told you to be light and joy to this campus?”

As the girl belted it, I cried tears of repentance. “Yes, Lord, thank you for reminding me. I will let this little light of mine shine.” 


What are you going to do with what you have learned? What is your "I will" statement?

I find Christmas an excellent time to let my light shine! We have had such wonderful times around our Advent wreath. One time, we were explaining the meaning of all the candles to our Muslim friends. We thought we were done and were ready for our meal, and they said, "No, we would rather not eat right now and learn more about this!" 

There is no reason to be afraid. If you are afraid, talk to God about it right now. Let Him show you the source of your fears. Confess it all to Him and let Him speak!

You also might not have compassion. Maybe your fear overpowers your compassion. Ask God to open your heart to see the darkness all around you. Ask Him to give you a heart for the things that break His heart.

Maybe you do not really believe this is GOOD NEWS. Talk to God about that if this is the case. 

As I type this at a public library, there has been a smiling woman, obviously from another country, practicing her English. "I will" pray that God opens a door to talk with her! :)

(Update: This woman and I became friends.  I was able to pray for her as she studied for an important medical exam. We had many great conversations. She wanted to learn about what the Bible says about her prophets. Isn't it great to have "I WILL" statements, follow through, and see God bless it?)

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