“But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.” Isaiah 9:1-2. How does this passage from the 8th century B.C prophet helps us deal with a state of darkness, whether personal or societal? How do we reach a state of light and hope?
When the prophet Isaiah talks about the people who walked in darkness, he is not using an empty metaphor to contrast good emerging from evil. Isaiah witnessed the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. Zebulun is in northern Galilee, in fact Nazareth was in Zebulun. Nephtali lay along the Jordan east of Zabulon. Because of their geographical location the people in this region suffered immensely. They faced many wars, subjugation by Gentiles, and conquest by the Assyrians. They suffered deportation, hard labor, and pain reminiscent to the exile in Egypt. “For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.” Isaiah 9:4. These were truly dark times.
Isaiah promised deliverance. The merciful God will intervene, they would once again experience intense joy and military victory, “as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.” Isaiah 9:3. How? Through the Messiah. “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6.
How many times have we faced dark days in our lives, times when we experienced wrenching sorrow and anguish, difficult times that seemed as if they would never end? And yet, slowly things improved and many times we see that looking back, important emotional and spiritual growth would not had been possible had it not been for those dark times. Even mystics experience the “dark night of the soul,” a sense of meaningless and distance from their beloved God. But that time was required for them to evolve to the next level.
The Bible is full of stories where great things come from seemingly terrible situations, none more dramatic than Jesus’ resurrection following the suffering and death by crucifixion. They key is that whether or not the physical things causing our dark times change or not, embracing Jesus, the “Mighty God and Prince of Peace,” surrendering totally to our merciful God, will bring us the needed internal great light. That's the key to inner peace and joy.
Fulfilling the prophesy 760 years later in the beautiful tapestry found in the Bible: “Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled. From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."" Matthew 4:12-14, 17.
Reference: A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture and Commentary on the Old Testament