Isaiah’s Hope of Dawn: An Advent Reflection for the Weary

by Teresa DeRouchie November 30, 2021

Living in the Darkness

Recently I was working my way through portions of Isaiah in order to shape my prayers of intercession. As I read the following passage, so much seemed similar to our current headlines around the globe. I felt a genuine heaviness as I prayed and considered what this passage speaks to. Yet there was also something that surprised me––something that proved to be quite hope-giving. Beginning in Isaiah 8:11, the prophet declares:

For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:  “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.  And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.” (Isa 8:11–15)

They Have No Dawn

With the stage of conspiracy, confusion, and fear set briefly before us, let’s move into the surprise:

To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn! (Isa 8:20)

It is because they have no dawn? That was my surprise. I read on….

They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward.  And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness. (Isa 8:21–22)

In a snapshot, this is what Isaiah seems to be saying. The people he envisions are confused, in dread, and conspiring. Many (it is prophesied), will stumble on the teaching of the Lord to the point that they will fall, be broken, snared, and taken! Why? Because they have no dawn! They live constantly in the dark, like a never-ending night. And what shall become of these for whom morning light never comes? Chaos, depression, and anger. The people will be thrust into thick darkness, where shadow will never give way to shine.

These are not light words!

So why does Isaiah say, “… because they have no dawn?” Every corner of the world has dawn at some point. So an inability to see the sunrise could not be what Isaiah meant as the cause to this chaos and gloom.

“Day” Ends in Light, Not Darkness

At this point, my mind made a connection. Among the very first words in the Scripture we read:

God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness…. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Gen 1:4–5)

My husband loves to bring this to attention in his teaching—and I can hear his excited voice in my head, “Did you get that? The created day doesn’t end with evening; it ends with morning!” In God’s creative order he gave light to conquer the darkness. Dawn is a sign of hope.

Do you ever wake up and throw open the curtains discouraged to see the sunrise hidden by the gloom? Maybe you find your soul in a perpetual state of sadness—no matter how bright the morning light. Does the end of Isaiah 8 speak more of your vantage point these days than you wish?

As I pondered this, the strength of this dawn reference grew stronger! This gracious God, Creator of light, order, and beauty also created the darkness (Isa 45:7). But do not be confused, children of God: the light will win and, in the process, serve as a poignant contrast against the night.

On Them the Light Has Shone

Chapter 8 ends with darkness, gloom, and scorn. But Isaiah believed hope would rise and burn away the darkness. As chapter 9 opens:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of deep darkness on them has light shone. (Isa 9:2).

My mind leaps back again to Genesis 1:5: “There was evening and there was morning, the first day.” What rays of warmth and goodness! I’m picturing the scene of first light splitting through the darkness now. If you find yourself under the gloom, confusion, and distress of the long shadows, do not forget the dawn. Our hope continues:

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given. (Isa 9:6a)

There it is. Our glorious source of hope! That beautiful dawn sunlight that shines into my home so many mornings is not the answer. But it is a hopeful reminder and pointer. We see that the ultimate light is Jesus Christ. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). As Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (8:12).

Fix your eyes on him. As Isaiah 8 instructs, fear him, not the dread of this world. Let him be your sanctuary.

And the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace! Of the increase of his government, and of peace there will be no end. (Isa 9:6b–7)

Rest today in the One whose four great names bring all of his own real peace. And as you rest, let even greater hope be awakened in your soul, for the brilliance of Christ’s light gets even better!

The Coming of an Even Brighter Day

One day, the hope of dawn that propels us now will be gone––not because evil has won but because sunrise will have given way to eternal noon. Listen to the climax of God’s word in Revelation:

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Rev 22:3–5)

Christ has come! Look, Church! Behold your God (Isa 40:9–11; cf. 25:9)! From the beginning of Scripture to the end we see him steadfastly committed to conquering the darkness!

Father, thank you for the dawn. Jesus, thank you for coming into our darkness. Please encourage the faint hearted and work for your children who need you. Let us walk as those who are in the light. Strengthen us with hope that we may also reflect your light to others. And come, Lord, quickly—I can’t wait to see your face.