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Sermon for 01.22.23 “Alien invaders”

EPIPHANY 3, JANUARY 22, 2023
Text: Isaiah 9:1–4
Theme: Alien invaders
Other Lessons: Psalm 27:1–9 (10–14); 1 Corinthians 1:10–18; Matthew 4:12–25

A. In the Name of the Father…Amen.
B. The Old Testament lesson serves as our sermon text for this morning.
C. Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our heavenly Father through
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
D. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray:
LSB 839:1 O Christ, Our True and Only Light
O Christ, our true and only light,
Enlighten those who sit in night;
Let those afar now hear Your voice
And in Your fold with us rejoice.
Text: Public domain
Introduction

A. The class was Russian History and the university professor stood up in
front of his class on the first day of the new semester and began to teach.
1. He started the class with something that wasn’t unique to Russia at all
but universally true.
2. The professor said, “Students, whenever you’re studying history, there
is at least one universal truth you have to remember.
3. That truth is this: Geography Matters.
4. Russia is, geographically speaking, the largest country in the world,
and it spans eleven time zones.
5. Any attempt to understand Russian history must account for its
geographic realities.”
6. And thus the class on Russian history began.
B. The university professor was right.
1. It is a universal truth that geography matters, and you don’t have to
look at the massive country of Russia to see it play out.
2. You can look at the much smaller country of Israel and observe the same
thing.
3. Geographically, Israel is roughly 780 times smaller than Russia, but its
geography is no less important.
C. When Isaiah speaks a prophetic word of liberty and hope in Isaiah
chapter 9, it’s a prophetic word that’s shaped by geography.
1. Specifically, Isaiah speaks of the land of Zebulun and the land of
Naphtali.
2. He says, “But there will be no gloom for her who was 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 has made glorious the way of the sea,
the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” (verse 1).
1. Geography—and Israel’s sins!—made Zebulun and Naphtali dark in the gloom
of alien invaders.
A. But what land, exactly, are we talking about?
B. We’re talking about a portion of the Promised Land—the land promised to
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
1. The story of how the Israelites came to possess this Promised Land is
told in the Book of Joshua.
2. After God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, he guided them
to the borders of the Promised Land by Moses’ hand.
3. After Moses died, Joshua was appointed the leader of Israel and led the
Israelites across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land and conquered
it.
4. The nitty-gritty, action-packed details of the conquest are found in
Joshua chapters 1–12.
5. But in Joshua chapter 13, the book’s rapid-paced storytelling gives way
to some of the more sleep-inducing passages in Scripture as each of the
twelve tribes of Israel is allotted its portion of the land.
6. Zebulun is one of those tribes, as is Naphtali, and they were allotted
neighboring lands in the northern part of Israel.
7. Think of Zebulun and Naphtali like Minnesota and Wisconsin.
8. They’re both in the north and they share a border.
C. Zebulun and Naphtali are beautiful and fertile areas, but their location
in the northern part of Israel makes them vulnerable to alien invaders.
1. The invaders I am speaking of ones from another country.
2. A foreign country coming along with their conquering armies carrying out
military incursions.
3. For you see, when foreign countries invade the land of Israel, they
almost always come from the north because that’s the easiest way to get
into Israel.
4. The Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River which flows south from it form a
natural barrier along Israel’s eastern edge.
5. The Mediterranean Sea forms a natural barrier to the west.
6. Thus, foreign invaders who are looking to go south to Jerusalem or even
to Egypt are funneled first through the land of Zebulun and Naphtali.
7. You see? Geography does matter!
8. Thanks to the geography of Israel, the tribal lands of Zebulun and
Naphtali are perpetually on the front lines of war and bloodshed.
D. In fact, at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, foreign invaders known as the
Assyrians are in the process of conquering Zebulun and Naphtali.
1. Within a few years, the entire Northern Kingdom of Israel will be
completely overthrown.
2. The people of Israel (Northern Kingdom) will be taken away into
captivity.
3. The remaining Southern Kingdom of Judah will be brought to its knees
before God’s miraculous intervention.
E. Zebulun and Naphtali then are rightly identified by Isaiah as a land
upon which the Lord brought contempt.
1. They were a constantly conquered people.
2. They were a people that were burdened, beaten, and battered.
3. They were a land of darkness and shadow.
4. They were in such a bad spot that just a few verses earlier Isaiah
called them a land with “no dawn” that suffers “the gloom of anguish”
(Isaiah 8:20, 22).
F. And remember, God had brought these alien invaders upon the land only
because Israel had abandoned him, fallen into idolatry and all kinds of
sin.
1. So Zebulun and Naphtali were a land of contempt filled with people who
sit and walk and dwell in the darkness of deeds deemed damning by God.
2. But a different kind of alien invader, Jesus Christ, would be the great
light to bring them glory.
A. It is to these hopeless people that Isaiah speaks a word of hope.
1. Isaiah speaks of a stunning reversal of fortunes.
2. God intends to make this “land of contempt” glorious.
3. But how?
4. How will this land go from contemptuous to glorious?
5. The change has to come from entirely outside them.
6. That is, something foreign, something alien.
7. God will bring upon them another alien invader.
B. Except this time it isn’t a nation that will infiltrate the land of
Zebulun and Naphtali.
1. This time it will be just one man.
2. And he doesn’t come to them from out of the north like all the other
alien invaders.
3. This man comes from heaven itself.
4. This man is God’s eternal Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
C. This is a different kind of alien invasion.
1. Jesus takes no hostages,
2. he plunders no grain,
3. he exacts no taxes,
4. and he sheds no blood except his own.
5. Instead, Jesus teaches, and he preaches in Matthew 4:17,
A. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
D. It is this man—and the good news on his lips—who is a great light upon
this land of darkness, because the Lord isn’t interested in holding this
land in contempt.
1. He isn’t looking to extract from Zebulun and Naphtali their greatest
resources.
2. He’s looking to redeem their greatest resource— namely, the people
themselves.
E. The more Jesus preaches, the more Jesus teaches, the more Jesus serves,
the brighter the light shines.
1. In our Gospel lesson for this morning, Matthew says,
A. “So [Jesus’] fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all
the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed
by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them”
(Matthew 4:24).
B. People are flowing into Zebulun and Naphtali, not to conquer them but to
be rescued by one in the midst of them.
F. As the light of Jesus Christ increases, the true source of darkness is
exposed.
1. The greatest threat to the people of Zebulun and Naphtali was never
alien invaders from the north.
2. The greatest threat to the people of Zebulun and Naphtali isn’t alien to
them at all.
3. The greatest threat to the people of Zebulun and Naphtali is:
A. their own sin,
B. the specter of death,
C. and the schemes of the devil.
4. These are the things that held Zebulun and Naphtali in perpetual
darkness.
5. These were the real forces of oppression in their lives.
6. And these are the oppressors from whom Jesus will rescue them.
3. The same light, entirely alien, from outside of us, Jesus, invades your
life.
A. Jesus, like any alien invader, makes a claim upon this people.
1. He’s claiming to be their Lord, and he’s directing them to acknowledge
his Father as King.
2. But they will not be won over by oppression, because his is a kingdom of
freedom.
3. They will not be won over by threats, because his is a kingdom of grace.
4. They will not be won over by extortion, because his is a kingdom of
gifts.
5. They will not be won over by fear, because his is a kingdom of love.
B. And it is God’s love that will break the yoke of their burden.
1. It is God’s love that will break the rod of their oppressor.
2. It is God’s love that will drive Jesus south out of Zebulun and Naphtali
to the city of Jerusalem in order to die on the cross.
3. And when Jesus dies on the cross, Zebulun and Naphtali will experience
darkness and gloom once more, as darkness covers the whole land when Jesus
dies for them.
C. But the darkness doesn’t linger.
1. It disappears.
2. And in three days’ time, it will give way forever to the resurrected Son
of God.
3. So now the light that first shone in Galilee among the people of Zebulun
and Naphtali is invading the world.
D. You and I don’t share the geographical particulars with Zebulun and
Naphtali.
1. The darkness that engulfed Zebulun and Naphtali doesn’t care about
geography, because it isn’t an alien darkness.
2. Our darkness is a local, homegrown darkness.
3. Our darkness, like their darkness, is that of our own sinful flesh.
E. Illustration: The deep darkness of sin.
1. We are quite simply “in the dark.”
A. Our sinful condition is far more critical than being without physical
light.
B. It cannot be penetrated by spotlights or laser beams.
C. It is the darkness that Jesus describes when He says:
1. Matthew 6:23 “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is
that darkness!”
2. The only fitting comparison to our sinful condition is what astronomers
have called a “black hole.”
A. Their theory (and science has proven this to be true) is this:
1. Deep in space there are collapsed stars so dense and with such strong
gravitational pull that they literally swallow up everything:
A. Planets
B. Moons
C. Stars
B. They all disappear into this dark abyss, that even light cannot escape.
C. Such a “black hole” is right here, as the Lord says, within each one of
us.
1. It is the black hole of our sin.
2. It is the darkness of death itself.
3. Pointing to the heart of our problem, the psalmist cries out:
A. Psalm 107:10-11
(10) Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in
affliction and in irons,
(11) for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the
counsel of the Most High.
F. For that darkness, Isaiah tells us all to look to Zebulun and Naphtali
for hope, because there a great light has shone.
1. This light is Jesus Christ and his ministry, and it is a ministry for
all people of all times and all geographical places.
2. This light is for you.
3. It invades your life.
4. The salvation first seen in Galilee is now coming for you.
5. Indeed, it’s already here.
6. Jesus Christ is here, for you.
7. He expels your darkness.
8. He forgives your sins.
9. He casts out the devil.
10. He promises to raise the dead,
11. He does all the with the effect of increased joy.
G. Jesus Christ is the alien invasion we all need.
1. It’s a glorious invasion of grace.
2. Totally alien.
3. Totally from the outside.
H. In the Person of Jesus, God’s Salvation Comes from Outside of Us.
Conclusion

A. There is a darkness that has nothing to do with the absence of light
particles.
1. Rodney could tell you about such darkness.
2. He was wearing a yellow gown, an N95 face mask, and a face shield.
3. He was holding the hand of his younger brother Warren (sixty years old),
who had Down syndrome and was dying of COVID-19.
4. Though neither attended church, Warren would occasionally listen to the
Lutheran Church radio broadcast in town.
5. Thus the Lutheran pastor was called to help them in their darkness.
B. The pastor arrived in a hurry.
1. It was a Wednesday night, and there was much still to do.
2. The pastor talked with them about Baptism.
3. Warren hadn’t been baptized.
4. After reading passages that testify to God’s promises of grace and life
in Baptism, he baptized Warren in the hospital bed.
5. A quick prayer was said and the pastor turned to leave.
6. As the pastor reached the door, Rodney spoke up, asking. “Pastor, do you
have time to baptize me too?”
7. The pastor happily obliged.
C. The light of Christ invaded that dark room on that dark, cold Wednesday
night (Isaiah 9:1–2).
1. Three days later, the pastor gave Warren a Christian burial, in the
certain hope of God, who raises the dead.
D. Jesus Christ is the alien invasion we all need.
1. It’s a glorious invasion of grace.
2. Totally alien.
3. Totally from outside.
E. In the Person of Jesus, God’s Salvation Comes from Outside of Us.
F. To him be praise now and forever. Amen.
G. Let us pray:
LSB 849:1 Praise the One Who Breaks the Darkness
Let us praise the Word Incarnate,
Christ, who suffered in our place.
Jesus died and rose victorious
That we may know God by grace.
Let us sing for joy and gladness,
Seeing what our God has done;
Let us praise the true Redeemer,
Praise the One who makes us one.
Text: © 1987 Hope Publishing Co. Used by permission: LSB Hymn License no.
110000247
H. The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts
and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
I. In the Name of the Father…Amen.