History does in some general way repeat itself. The players and the places change, but one can see the broad patterns. In part, that is how we are able to make connections with others though our common experiences where history has unfolded in some similar way across our individual lives. Common experiences, and that the experience of life is not complete randomness and chaos are to be expected for those who believe in the Christian God. We trust that God tamed and organized the chaos into a home for us. God gave that creation patterns of day and night, and set the sun and stars and planets in their places. God separated the dry land from the sea and the air and put each animal is its proper place. There is regularity, there is pattern, and there is renewal as things die and things are born.
Isaiah was a prophet in the royal court in the latter part of the 8th century BC. At that time, the Neo-assyrian Empire had conquered Syria and Israel (i.e., the northern kingdom of the divided monarchy). That Empire was now threatening the southern kingdom of Judah. Part of the captured northern lands were the tribal lands of two of the sons of the patriarch Jacob - namely, Zebulun and Naphtali.
The promise in Isaiah is that to those people walking in darkness and to those now being threatened by darkness, a new hope from God has dawned. Centuries later, history is repeated. Details change, but the pattern is there. The ancient tribal lands are now the “Galilee of the Gentiles” and the oppressor of God’s people are now the Romans. The smell and the shadow of death are ever present, but again God brings hope. Can we learn the lesson of history: that darkness comes in a variety of ways, but God is faithful in bringing new hope? And, can we learn to search for the meaning of our lives and hope for our lives in the story of the Bible? Certainly, Matthew points back to Isaiah in order to bring hope to a new day.
My German heritage includes something like an exodus story. A group of German settlers journey to a land where things for them are better. They work hard and become numerous and wealthy. Their religion, culture, and language become the common currency. Then there is war, retribution, and darkness and death. The light of God came in the form of the American Red Cross. Survivors made their exodus to a new home, not welcomed back home as “real” Germans, and scattered to many places across the sea. In our history, we are like the children of Jacob in our journey, like the Samaritans in our reception by others of our motherland tribe, and like all, we are children of God for whom a new light dawned. This is part of my story and how I connect with the story of God. I want to know your story and I want to know how your story connects with my story.
Will you tell your story too?