Grace to you!
Around 732 BC, Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria attacked the Kingdom of Israel (Northern Kingdom). The territory of Galilee was the victim. Two of the tribes of Israel located in and around Galilee suffered the most. They were Nebulun and Naphtali.
The people were decimated. Many were exiled. Excruciating pain, hunger, death and hopelessness are fitting adjectives to describe the plight of the conquered people.
The prophesy of Isaiah, chapter eight, paints the picture: “They [referring to those moving into exile] will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry; and when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will curse 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” (8:21-22).
Sometimes in our lives, as believers, we may be like Nebulun and Naphtali, knocked down and broken, without hope or a clear vision of what to do next. Naysayers may be peddling rumors of hopelessness, trying to convince us that redemption is a spurious expectation.
Like the deported people of Nebulun and Naphtali, we struggle through the rough routes of our earthly journey, sometimes, like the defeated in battle and other times, like wounded soldiers. Yet the war isn’t over. We may have lost first and second battles. Desolation and distress may weigh heavily on us and dampen our spirit. We still trust God is with us. There comes the realization that the morning dawn of glory is here.
In the case of Nebulun and Naphtali, God spoke expressly through the prophet concerning a savior. “But there will be no gloom for her that 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 will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.” (Is 9:1)
Much more, God’s message takes a messianic tone: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased its joy; they rejoice before thee as with joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” (Is 9:2-3).
Their salvation was God’s ultimate concern. Their hope was God’s priority. What they suffered is a case study of what anyone today can suffer. Conquered and defeated, broken and hurting, double-crossed and boxed in, locked in without way out, God speaks similar words. Salvation is here. I am here for you.
Historically, what we glean from the Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in the Christ. See how in the Gospel the connection is established. Just like the first place in Israel devastated by the King of Assyria was Galilee, the first place Jesus preached, where he made a second home (as the Gospel according to Matthew relates) was Galilee. The decimated and hopeless are Christ’s prime candidates for visitation.
“When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen. From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:12-17).
There is no coincidence in it all. It was the fulfillment of a promise of old. God says and does what he says.
Light to the gloomy world is Christ. The hope of the nations is Christ. The morning dawn of glory is Christ. Christ is our peace.
In whose life Christ is, the dawn of glory has come. To whom the grace of Christ is given, to that person, salvation belongs.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.