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 Prince of heaven was among His people. The greatest gift of God had been given to the world. Joy to the poor; for Christ had come to make them heirs of His kingdom. Joy to the rich; for He would teach them how to secure eternal riches. Joy to the ignorant; He would make them wise unto salvation. Joy to the learned; He would open to them deeper mysteries than they had ever fathomed; truths that had been hidden from the foundation of the world would be opened to men by the Saviour's mission. DA 277.1
John the Baptist had rejoiced to behold the Saviour. What occasion for rejoicing had the disciples who were privileged to walk and talk with the Majesty of heaven! This was not a time for them to mourn and fast. They must open their hearts to receive the light of His glory, that they might shed light upon those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. DA 277.2
It was a bright picture which the words of Christ had called up, but across it lay a heavy shadow, which His eye alone discerned. “The days will come,” He said, “when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.” When they should see their Lord betrayed and crucified, the disciples would mourn and fast. In His last words to them in the upper chamber, He said, “A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me. Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” John 16:19, 20. DA 277.3Read in context »
The prophet was permitted to look down the centuries to the time of the advent of the promised Messiah. At first he beheld only “trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish.” Isaiah 8:22. Many who were longing for the light of truth were being led astray by false teachers into the bewildering mazes of philosophy and spiritism; others were placing their trust in a form of godliness, but were not bringing true holiness into the life practice. The outlook seemed hopeless; but soon the scene changed, and before the eyes of the prophet was spread a wondrous vision. He saw the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings; and, lost in admiration, he exclaimed: “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. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” Isaiah 9:1, 2. PK 373.1
This glorious Light of the world was to bring salvation to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Of the work before Him, the prophet heard the eternal Father declare: “It is a light thing that Thou shouldest be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth.” “In an acceptable time have I heard Thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped Thee: and I will preserve Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; that Thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves.” “Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.” Isaiah 49:6, 8, 9, 12. PK 373.2
Looking on still farther through the ages, the prophet beheld the literal fulfillment of these glorious promises. He saw the bearers of the glad tidings of salvation going to the ends of the earth, to every kindred and people. He heard the Lord saying of the gospel church, “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream;” and he heard the commission, “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles.” Isaiah 66:12; 54:2, 3. PK 374.1Read in context »
So great are the world's needs, that not all who are called to be medical missionary evangelists can afford to spend years in preparation before beginning to do actual field work. Soon doors now open to the gospel messenger will be forever closed. God calls upon many who are prepared to do acceptable service, to carry the message now, not waiting for further preparation; for while some delay, the enemy may take possession of fields now open. CT 469.1
I have been instructed that little companies who have received a suitable training in evangelical and medical missionary lines should go forth to do the work to which Christ appointed His disciples. Let them labor as evangelists, scattering our publications, talking of the truth to those they meet, praying for the sick, and, if need be, treating them, not with drugs, but with nature's remedies, ever realizing their dependence on God. As they unite in the work of teaching and healing they will reap a rich harvest of souls. CT 469.2
And while God is calling upon young men and women who have already gained a practical knowledge of how to treat the sick, to labor as gospel medical missionaries in connection with experienced evangelical workers, He is also calling for many recruits to enter our medical missionary training schools to gain a speedy and thorough preparation for service. Some need not spend so long a time in these schools as do others. It is not in harmony with God's purpose that all should plan to spend exactly the same length of time, whether three, four, or five years, in preparation, before beginning to engage in active field work. Some, after studying for a time, can develop more rapidly by working along practical lines in different places, under the supervision of experienced leaders, than they could by remaining in an institution. As they advance in knowledge and ability, some of these will find it much to their advantage to return to one of our sanitarium training schools for more instruction. Thus they will become efficient medical missionaries, prepared for trying emergencies. CT 469.3Read in context »
In the work of educating the youth in our schools, it will be a difficult matter to retain the influence of God's Holy Spirit and at the same time hold fast to erroneous principles. The light shining upon those who have eyes to see, cannot be mingled with the darkness of heresy and error found in many of the textbooks recommended to the students in our colleges. Both teachers and pupils have thought that in order to obtain an education, it was necessary to study the productions of writers who teach infidelity, because their works contain some bright gems of thought. But who was the originator of these gems of thought?—It was God and God alone; for He is the source of all light. Are not all things essential for the health and growth of the spiritual and moral nature found in the pages of Holy Writ? Is not Christ our living head? And are not we to grow up in Him to the full stature of men and women? Can an impure fountain send forth sweet waters? Why should we wade through the mass of error contained in the works of pagans and infidels, for the sake of obtaining the benefit of a few intellectual truths, when all truth is at our command? FE 167.1
Man can accomplish nothing good without God. He is the originator of every ray of light that has pierced the darkness of the world. All that is of value comes from God, and belongs to Him. There is a reason that the agents of the enemy sometimes display remarkable wisdom. Satan himself was educated and disciplined in the heavenly courts, and he has a knowledge of good as well as of evil. He mingles the precious with the vile, and this is what gives him his power of deceiving the sons of men. But because Satan has stolen the livery of heaven in order that he may exercise an influence in his usurped dominions, shall those who have been sitting in darkness and have seen a great light, turn from the light to recommend darkness? Shall those who have known the oracles of God recommend our students to study the books that express pagan or infidel sentiments, that they may become intelligent? Satan has his agents, educated after his methods, inspired by his spirit, and adapted to his works; but shall we co-operate with them? Shall we as Christians, recommend the works of his agents as valuable, even essential to the attainment of an education? FE 167.2Read in context »
With prophetic vision David, the anointed of God, had foreseen that the coming of Christ should be “as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds.” 2 Samuel 23:4. And Hosea testified, “His going forth is prepared as the morning.” Hosea 6:3. Quietly and gently the daylight breaks upon the earth, dispelling the shadow of darkness and waking the earth to life. So was the Sun of Righteousness to arise, “with healing in His wings.” Malachi 4:2. The multitudes dwelling “in the land of the shadow of death” were to see “a great light.” Isaiah 9:2. PK 688.1
The prophet Isaiah, looking with rapture upon this glorious deliverance, exclaimed: PK 688.2
“Unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given:
And the government shall be upon His shoulder:
And His name shall be called
Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God,
The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
there shall be no end,
Upon the throne of David,
And upon His kingdom,
To order it, and to establish it
With judgment and with justice
From henceforth even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” PK 688.3