The people that walked in darkness - The inhabitants of the region of Galilee. They were represented as walking in darkness, because they were far from the capital, and from the temple; they had few religious privileges; they were intermingled with the pagan, and were comparatively rude and uncultivated in their manners and in their language. Allusion to this is several times made in the New Testament; John 1:46: ‹Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?‘ John 7:52: ‹Search and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet;‘ Matthew 26:69; Mark 14:70. The word walked here is synonymous with lived, and denotes that thick darkness brooded over the country, so that they lived, or walked amidst it.
Have seen a great light - Light is not only an emblem of knowledge in the Scriptures, but of joy, rejoicing, and deliverance. It stands opposed to moral darkness, and to times of judgment and calamity. What is the particular reference here, is not agreed by expositors. The immediate connection seems to require us to understand it of deliverance from the calamities that were impending over the nation then. They would be afflicted, but they would be delivered. The tribes of Israel would be carried captive away; and Judah would also be removed. This calamity would particularly affect the ten tribes of Israel - the northern part of the land, the regions of Galilee - “for those tribes would be carried away not to return.” Yet this region also would be favored with a especially striking manifestation of light. I see no reason to doubt that the language of the prophet here is adapted to extend into that future period when the Messiah should come to that dark region, and become both its light and its deliverer. Isaiah may have referred to the immediate deliverance of the nation from impending calamities, but there is a fullness and richness of the language that seems to be applicable only to the Messiah. So it is evidently understood in Matthew 4:13-16.
They that dwell - The same people are referred to here as in the former member of the verse.
In the land of the shadow of death - This is a most beautiful expression, and is special to the Hebrew poets. The word צלמות tsalmâveth is exceedingly poetical. The idea is that of death, as a dark substance or being, casting a long and chilly shade over the land - standing between the land and the light - and thus becoming the image of ignorance, misery, and calamity. It is often used, in the Scriptures, to describe those regions that were lying as it were in the penumbra of this gloomy object, and exposed to all the chills and sorrows of this melancholy darkness. Death, by the Hebrews, was especially represented as extending his long and baleful shadow ever the regions of departed spirits; Job 38:17:
Have the gates of death been opened to thee?
Hast thou seen the gates of the shadow of death?
Before I go - I shall not return -
To the land of darkness
And of the shadow of death.
It is thus an image of chills, and gloom, and night - of anything that resembles the still and mournful regions of the dead. The Chaldee renders these two verses thus: ‹In a former time Zebulun and Naphtali emigrated; and those who remained after them a strong king shall carry into captivity, because they did not remember the power which was shown in the Red Sea, and the miracles which were done in Jordan, and the wars of the people of the cities. The people of the house of Israel who walked in Egypt as in the midst of shades, came out that they might see a great light.‘
The years are rapidly passing, bearing away their record for eternity. Wherever you see work to be done, do your very best, after the order of Christ. Place yourselves under the discipline of God. He who professes to be a Christian and yet acts out the spirit of a worldling, bears testimony that he is a false disciple.... Heaven is to be reflected in the character of the Christian. In the way Christ worked, he is to work. Our cause should be years in advance of what it is. It was God's plan that those in darkness should see great light.... Christ's work was one of constant progress. In His life He has left us an example of how we are to labor. Constantly He went about doing good.... UL 305.2Read in context »
We are, dear husband, building for eternity. God is rich in strength and power, and we may have His shining countenance beaming upon us and we reflecting the light to others.... God will not excuse us in sin who have had so great light. We have not one atom of righteousness of our own to stand upon. All we have ever done is because Jesus has given us His strength and His power, not because there was any inherent goodness or wisdom or righteousness in us. We are sinful and weak and imperfect, and we must feel this strongly enough to reach up for a stronger help and holier power than we possess. Jesus’ life is perfect model. We must not build upon the sand. If we do, there will be a terrible down-tumbling by and by of our house. Ye are God's building. Let us show this in a harmonious character.—Letter 25, April 23, 1880, to James White. UL 127.5Read in context »
God requires every man to stand free, and to follow the directions of the Word. In every movement Christ's followers are to reveal their regard for Christian principles—loving God supremely, and their neighbors as themselves; reflecting light and blessing on the pathway of those who are in darkness; comforting those who are cast down; sweetening the bitter waters in the place of giving their fellow pilgrims gall to drink.... We are to have a pure, growing Christianity. In the heavenly courts we are to be pronounced complete in Christ.—Manuscript 83, October 29, 1903, “Christ Our Example in Medical Missionary Work.” TDG 311.5Read in context »
With intense interest God is looking on this world. He has noted the capacity of human beings for service. Looking down the ages, He has counted His workers, both men and women, and has prepared the way before them, saying: “I will send My messengers to them, and they shall see great light shining amid the darkness. Won to the service of Christ, they will use their talents to the glory of My name. They will go forth to work for Me with zeal and devotion. Through their efforts the truth will appeal to thousands in a most forcible manner, and men spiritually blind will receive sight and will see of My salvation. Truth will be made so prominent that he who runs may read. Ways will be devised to reach hearts. Some of the methods used in this work will be different from the methods used in the past, but let no one, because of this, block the way by criticism.” 7T 25.1
Those whom God chooses as workers are not always talented, in the estimation of the world. Sometimes He selects unlearned men. To these He gives a special work. They reach a class to whom others could not obtain access. Opening the heart to the truth, they are made wise in and through Christ. Their lives inhale and exhale the fragrance of godliness. Their words are thoughtfully considered before they are spoken. They strive to promote the well-being of their fellow men. They take relief and happiness to the needy and distressed. They realize the necessity of ever remaining under Christ's training, that they may work in harmony with God's will. They study how best to follow the Saviour's example of cross bearing and self-denial. They are God's witnesses, revealing His compassion and love, and ascribing all the glory to Him whom they love and serve. 7T 25.2Read in context »
Many will prize the wisdom of God above any earthly advantage, and will obey the Word of God as the supreme standard. These will be led to great light. These will come to the knowledge of the truth, and will seek to get this light of truth before those of their acquaintance who like themselves are anxious for the truth.—Manuscript 97, 1898. 3SM 422.4Read in context »