In Zebulun and Naphtali
Matt. 4:12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
The regions of Zebulun and Naphtali had belonged to the northern kingdom of Israel and fell to Babylon long before Jerusalem. The darkness of their journey was well known by the religious Jews and they were not held in great respect. Nazareth and Capernaum are found in Zebulun and Naphtali, certainly not places of great light in the eyes of the Jewish leaders. The prophecy of Isaiah was coming to pass as Jesus returned to this region and brought with him the great light of salvation. Amazingly it is often in the very worst places that God reaches out and brings his healing power.
This was the region of the shadow of death and the people had been sitting there for a long time. They’re not even on the move or trying to get out. Something has blocked their view of the light of God. They are not dead but they are overshadowed and remain in darkness when suddenly the light of Christ comes and begins to dawn. He proclaims that which is so similar to the preaching of his cousin, John. It’s time to repent for the kingdom is near!
We don’t have to physically go to Zebulun and Naphtali. We can end up there emotionally and spiritually when we turn our back on the Lord. It’s easy for the “religious” folks to scoff at those who find themselves at the very brink of destruction. Just like the good leaders in Jerusalem, we may be tempted to avoid those who are sitting in darkness. The reality is that it’s no fun living in Zebulun and Naphtali. People were born in Capernaum and Nazareth — and they had no control over the fate which they had received. They were poor. They didn’t have the benefits of Jerusalem. Life was not easy and so they just plugged along and sat in the shadow of death. They had no hope, and there had been no hope in their region for a long time.
All over the world we have people living in a modern-day Zebulun and Naphtali. We don’t want to go there. It’s not pleasant and we may even think that they deserve their fate. That’s not what Jesus thought or did. He went to the place that had suffered in darkness for the longest time and ministered there — bringing them his light.
As we follow Christ out in the world we must follow him to Zebulun and Naphtali. That place is different for everyone — but go we must. It’s in Zebulun and Naphtali that we will find Jesus already ministering and we are to go and join him in his mission. This is his great calling to you and to me. The shadow of darkness will lift for we will be bearers of his light.
Be willing to travel with Jesus to Zebulun and Naphtali — and proclaim the good news of the kingdom!
Lord, please help me be willing to go where you would send me. Amen.
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