(Matthew 4:15-16 ESV) 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles– 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
Matthew records a period of time when Jesus moves to a place where no one would expect him to be. John had been arrested and Jesus knew the authorities would come for him soon. It’s interesting to note that this move was the fulfillment of what Isaiah had predicted many years before.
The description of the geographical location certainly seems to be an out of the way place to hide; the land–beyond the Jordan. But, the reference has more to do with the people than the location. Matthew makes it clear that the Land of Zebulun and Naphtali were full of people who were dwelling in darkness. He’s not suggesting that the sun did not shine there. Rather, he was referring to a sense of spiritual ignorance. Consider…
- The people which sat in darkness – This is an expression denoting great ignorance. As in darkness or night we can see nothing, and know not where to go, so those who are ignorant of God and their duty are said to be in darkness.
- The region and shadow of death – This is a forcible and beautiful image, designed also to denote ignorance and sin. It is often used in the Bible, and is very expressive.
Into this setting walks the light of the world. Matthew describes it as, “a light has dawned.” The most impactful thought in this passage is one of contrast. The people were accustomed to living in a spiritual fog, but there was an immediate illumination of spiritual truth when Jesus moved in among them! Things they had never understood were suddenly revealed. Knowledge was chasing the ignorance from their lives. Wisdom increased because of the newly found knowledge that had appeared when Jesus arrived!
I don’t know about you, but this gives me hope! We live in a very dark world. We are told that never before in the modern world have people been so ignorant of Scripture. There are so many reasons to be discouraged. Yet, in the middle of the darkness is a shining light. Jesus is the light of the world!
Let me encourage you to let his light illuminate your darkness. His truth provides a contrasting reality to the lies of the devil. You’ll never be able to see your dark days in the same way once you have experienced the light of his presence!
PRAYER: Thank you Jesus for the light that comes from knowing you! May we never forget how our lives have changed because of your presence. I see much more clearly now because of you! Amen