DayBreaks for 10/17/16 – The Message of Zebulon and Naphtali
Matthew 4:12-16 (NLT) – When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he left Judea and returned to Galilee. He went first to Nazareth, then left there and moved to Capernaum, beside the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This fulfilled what God said through the prophet Isaiah: “In the land of Zebulun and of Naphtali, beside the sea, beyond the Jordan River, in Galilee where so many Gentiles live, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.”
This passage is most often thought of in conjunction with the Christmas story – and for good reason. But there is much deeper truth just below the obvious.
Zebulun and Naphtali were sons of Jacob – and they were the founding members of the two tribes that carried their names. They aren’t as famous as some other tribes, but there is something worth knowing about these tribes and the fact that Jesus went there as he was beginning to announce the good news.
After the death of King Solomon, what had been known as Israel split into two parts: the northern kingdom (which kept the name Israel) and the southern kingdom (called Judah). Eventually both kingdoms would be overwhelmed by surrounding world powers due to their idolatry and disobedience. But the northern kingdom was the first two fall.
Zebulun and Naphtali were part of the northern kingdom that was carried away by the Assyrians in 722 BC. In fact, Zebulun and Naphtali bore the brunt of the Assyrian army as it devastated and destroyed Israel.
By the time of Jesus, the area once occupied by Zebulun and Naphtali had become known as Galilee of the Gentiles because people from all nations dwelt there and it was a wild, wooly and very dark place spiritually – and it had been for centuries.
It was to this place, so dark and vile, that Jesus went early in his ministry. He went to these people who were in a darkness so deep that the people there “sat” in darkness…it was so dark that they couldn’t even move. But Jesus brought to them the Light. Those who lived where death had long cast its shadow saw the Light that had come from heaven above.
So what, you might ask? Several things strike me about this passage:
FIRST: Jesus isn’t afraid to go into darkness. He came into a world of darkness from a place of eternal light and glory. He did it to bring that light to mankind.
SECOND: If Jesus took the light into the darkness, I must ask myself how good of a job I am doing of imitating my Lord and Master? I am to be like him – and so are you.
THIRD: we are in a time of deep frustration and despair in America right now. We are seeing, first hand, how dark it has gotten in this country that has been historically so blessed by God. We are stunned by the nature and character of the choices before us of those who would lead not just our country, but the free world. It is very, very easy to despair. We live in a land of darkness. But Jesus (and his followers) are still here and that means there can still be light if we choose as his people to be like the city set upon a hill.
Jesus came into the darkness in the Incarnation. He went into the darkness of Zebulon and Naphtali. He entered the darkness of the tomb. And every time he has emerged with victory in hand. Wherever Jesus is, there is hope.
Let’s not lose hope. Let’s pray. Let’s reflect the Light that dispels the darkness!
PRAYER: Thank you for not being afraid to come into the dark to rescue us. Help us to not be afraid to go into the darkness with you. We pray for our nation, that the Light might once more burn brightly as your people repent and turn from the darkness to the Light once again. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2016 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.