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The “great light” Isaiah foresaw shined in Galilee

July 12, 2023

Daily Scripture

Isaiah 9:1-2, Matthew 4:12-17

Isaiah 9
1 Nonetheless, those who were in distress won’t be exhausted. At an earlier time, God cursed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but later he glorified the way of the sea, the far side of the Jordan, and the Galilee of the nations.
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.

Matthew 4
12 Now when Jesus heard that John was arrested, he went to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and settled in Capernaum, which lies alongside the sea in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This fulfilled what Isaiah the prophet said:
15 Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
alongside the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles,
16     the people who lived in the dark have seen a great light,
and a light has come upon those who lived in the region and in shadow of death [Isaiah 9:1-2].
17 From that time Jesus began to announce, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Matthew said Jesus left his hometown of Nazareth (a tiny farming village), and based himself in Capernaum, a larger fishing town on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Trade routes brought many different people through Capernaum. (Click here to see a photo of what remains of a synagogue in Capernaum. Archaeologists believe the “white synagogue” was built after Jesus’ day, on the darker stones which were likely part of the synagogue where Jesus preached.)

  • Isaiah called the region “Galilee of the nations” (or “Galilee of the Gentiles” in Matthew’s Greek version). That referred to Assyria’s actions to fill the conquered area with people who weren’t Jewish. “The overarching theme of the Gospel of Matthew is the role of Jesus as the Christ in relation to God’s plan of salvation for all humanity. * How can Matthew’s use of Isaiah’s vision that Jesus’ “light” was for all people, not just a favored few, guide us as we face divisions in the church?
  • Many English translations say Jesus’ message was “Repent.” But we can misunderstand that message: “They have thought it means ‘feeling bad about yourself’. It doesn’t. It means ‘change direction’; ‘turn round and go the other way;’ or ‘stop what you’re doing and do the opposite instead’. How you feel about it isn’t the really important thing. It’s what you do that matters.” ** How does Jesus’ call most resonate in your mind and heart at this stage of your spiritual journey?

Jesus, I know what it is to ‘live in the dark.’ I choose to identify myself with you as Lord of my life. Shine your “great light” into my very self–and then out of me to others. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Shannon Starek

Shannon Starek

Shannon Starek serves as the Director of Discipleship at Resurrection Downtown. She loves to travel and has been to 49 states, 11 countries and lived in Vancouver, Canada for grad school! When not gallivanting all over the world, she lives in Liberty with her husband, Aaron, and two sons, Owen and Porter.

I love stargazing. So when I read today’s Scripture, the night sky came to mind as I landed on these words, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.”

There is obviously the “great light” of the sun that rises each day. This passage made me wonder, if I was in a pitch-dark land and light began to dawn, wouldn’t that light be from stars long before it was from the sun?

This brought to mind a line from one of my favorite liturgies that says, “How fathomless the thoughts of the One who named and remembers each burning star, and who also names and remembers each of us.”

May we rest in the assurance that even when we are walking in darkness, God knows us by name, remembers us. And in those times of darkness may we have eyes to see even the faint light of stars pointing us to the One who knows us and love us.

Here is the full liturgy I love so much…

A Liturgy for Stargazing (from Every Moment Holy by Douglas Kaine McKelvey)

O Great Architect of These Intricate Heavens,

We have assembled under open skies this night to ponder your handiwork, to be moved to wonder at the poetry of your thoughts revealed in endless patterns of light.

How limitless the creative power of the One who first scattered these starfields as a sower flinging bright seeds.

How fathomless the thoughts of the One who named and remembers each burning star, and who also names and remembers each of us.

Now you, his people, lift your eyes to the heavens, and consider his handiworks.

(Silence is kept, as night skies are pondered.)

Constellations rise and descend the staircase of the night at your command, O Lord. Galaxies spin like dancers. Space and time bend and bow to the gravity of your great will.

In such holy wonders, baptize our imaginations, that we might ever be a people shaped by awe at your eternal power, and a people moved to worship by revelations of your divine nature.

Awaken our hearts how to beat in rhythm to the dance of your creation. Tune our ears to hear the songs of stars in their trillion-fold choruses, bearing witness to your glory, your power.

Use these bright expressions of your extravagant beauty to stoke our holy longings, whetting our appetites afresh for all that is eternal and good.

You made this vastness, and by your love you placed us in it, fixed amongst the wonders. So let us be stirred, O Lord, by night skies such as these, lifting our thoughts to you, our Maker, and to the vast and beautiful infinitude of your designs.

O Spirit of God, draw praise from us, here in this cathedral of creation, beneath this starry dome. Awaken our adoration in this place where we are so very small – and yet so greatly loved.


© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Eugene Eung-Chun Park and Joel B. Green, Introduction to Matthew in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 4 NT.
** Wright, N. T., Matthew for Everyone, Part 1 (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 29). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.