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The Third Sunday After Epiphany A, January 22, 2023

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The Third Sunday After Epiphany A, January 22, 2023

In this prophecy concerning the redemption of the people from the Assyrian conquest, Isaiah anticipates the redemption of the people wrought by Jesus Christ. You can hear the resonance with the gospel of John… “walked in darkness…” “light has shined…” (cf. Jn. 1:5). These people, now walking in the light will know great joy… jubilation even… jubilation as they rejoice before the Lord. Their joy will exceed that of the harvest… will exceed that of dividing the spoils of battle.

All this joy results from some particular activity by the people’s God (vs. 4). You may recall that, under the Assyrian occupation of Israel, the people were oppressed and forced to labor under conditions of extreme servitude. Isaiah calls the people’s attention to their Lord’s breaking the yoke of the Assyrian burden upon the people… breaking the staff that beat the people into submission… and breaking the rod of authority claimed by the Assyrians as their right of conquest. Isaiah says of this breaking: it will be “as on the day of Midian.” This “day of Midian” refers to the story of Gideon (Jdg. 7:9ff). There, Gideon, who had an army of mere dozens, and who by human estimates had little chance of success, received a victory worked by his Lord over tens of thousands of Midianites and their allies.

This reversal of human expectations should call to your mind the massive reversal of human expectations that is the victory of Jesus Christ on the cross. To human estimations Jesus Christ failed on the cross. He was a loser. Yet, as Luther describes it in his Small Catechism, in that failure and loss, Jesus delivers us. He has broken our bondage under the oppression of sin, death, and the power of the devil. You no longer bear the burden of your sin. You no longer suffer the beatings your expectant death works upon you. You no longer answer to the devil who had usurped the authority of your Lord. Jesus has broken your bondage in an even more unexpected way than Gideon’s victory over Midian. Thanks be to God!

Table Talk: Discuss the appropriateness of saying, “God’s ways are not our ways.”
Pray—Heavenly Father, grant to me the confidence that the victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil has indeed been won, even if they have yet to end. Amen

Isaiah 9:1-4 English Standard Version

1 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.

2 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.
3 You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
4 For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.

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