Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation…
We are not left in doubt as to what the end of this great prophecy was. In Matthew 4:15, 16, we have it expounded to us.
I. THE GREAT DARKNESS. The prophet first saw the people utterly overwhelmed by the ruthless hand of merciless war. It had been once a prosperous land, but now darkness dense had come over it till it was a veritable "shadow of death." Turning from the immediate political significance of this to its spiritual import, we can easily see in it a picture of the spiritual condition of the world when Jesus came. The whole world was lying in the wicked one. The Jewish people, though they had the living Word of God, had in the darkness of their carnal ambition and lifeless formality lost all true vision of God. The Gentile world was no better. The best which they had was, on the one hand, a sensuous and godless Epicureanism, and on the other a cold and hopeless Stoicism. Turning to the condition of the unconverted people of our own day, we see also darkness and the shadow of death. What light for the soul has all our modern philosophical thinking and scientific research given?
II. THE GREAT LIGHT. The light which the prophet saw was the intervention of God for the deliverance of the people from political bondage and physical misery, with some spiritual return to God. That which it typified was the advent and work of Christ. How this light shone upon the darkened world when He came! Truly it was a "great light." The light seen in the face of Jesus Christ is the glory of God, revealing His eternal purposes of grace to all sinful men. Christ lights the world by loving it, i.e., by revealing the love of God to sinners.
III. THE GREAT BLESSINGS. With the coming of the true light came wonderful blessings to the people. This is described in the language of the prophet under several figures of speech.
1. "Thou hast multiplied the nation." If we look to the real fulfilment of this prophecy, what a vast increase in the people of God there has been!
2. "And increased their joy." Of old the people of God rejoiced at their best periods in mere national prosperity. But under the spiritual reign of Jesus the people shall rejoice in better things. The joy of salvation.
3. "According to the joy in harvest." The happiest festival of the Jews was the harvest feast, when the fruits of the earth were all gathered in, and the people blessed God and rejoiced in their riches. But now He gives us a new and better harvest, the ingathering of souls, the first fruits of which were gathered on the day of Pentecost. There is no such pure joy as that which arises in the heart when God's salvation is being accepted by men and women, and His harvest is being gathered. What will it be in that day when the glad harvest home is accomplished?
4. "And as men rejoice when they divide the spoil." This is a figure borrowed from the triumphant joy of the victorious warrior, who, having overthrown the enemy, and taken possession of his goods, divides them as spoil among the victors. Well, so shall, and so do, God's people rejoice over the victories which the Gospel wins over "the god of this world."
5. "Thou hast broken the yoke...and the staff." Hitherto the people had boon under the iron yoke of their oppressors, and beaten by the rod of their taskmasters, as in the old slavery times of Egypt. How happy when that yoke shall be broken, and that cruel staff or rod done away! Under Messiah's reign the cruel bondage of Satan's yoke is broken, and the taskmaster's staff done away.
IV. HOW CHRIST DELIVERS. In earthly conflicts battles are fought "with confused noise and garments rolled in blood." The captives were delivered of old by these terrible and sanguinary methods; but Christ delivers His captives by the power of the Spirit of God, "with burning and fuel of fire." The fire is the Holy Ghost, and the fuel of fire is the Word of truth.
(G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
WEB: But there shall be no more 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 it glorious, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.