As the Christian world celebrates Christmas, the wonderful prophecy of Isaiah 9:6 “Unto us a son is born”, comes into focus once again. But perhaps less familiar to many is the treasure just two verses before it, in 9:4:
“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.”
It’s easy for Christians to gloss over texts which have war and battle in them, thinking that they are rather primitive and brutal, irrelevant to us in the twenty-first century. And brutal they may be, but no word of Scripture will ever become irrelevant. It is eternal, true, and cannot be broken. And often there is treasure buried in these unlikely places, if we steady ourselves to gaze on the less comfortable, the confusing, and seemingly contradictory texts.
The Day of Midian, it turns out, has everything to do with the coming and birth of Yeshua! It’s worth taking a look at that verse in Isaiah 9 again in context –
“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. 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.
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. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
What was “The Day of Midian”?
The Midianites had a chequered past in the history of Israel, originally being descendants of Abraham, and the ancestors of Moses’ wife Zipporah, but also turning to be hostile enemies to Israel. This verse is referring us back to the miracles found in Judges 6-7 that God worked through Gideon and his pitifully outnumbered band of warriors. The Day of Midian was the day that God vanquished Israel’s foes through a mighty defeat that depended on a group of men armed with clay pots, torches and trumpets. God saved the day and made it quite plain that this was no ordinary military victory: this was the arm of the Lord at work, mighty to save.
A day of supernatural salvation
You might remember the story from Judges 6-7; an exasperated Gideon asks,
“Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”
On the Lord’s instruction, Gideon whittles the Israelites down to an army of 300, and equips them with a torch in a pot and a trumpet. They surrounded the huge army of Midianites, and at the right moment,
“They blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands… They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. When they blew the 300 trumpets, the Lord set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army.”
What a resounding and supernatural victory! This is the day of Midian – a day of trumpets, broken pots and light shining in the darkness. Victory for the Lord and his people, and his enemies are confounded by broken jars and brightly shining lights.
Victory of light and jars of clay
These themes might bring to mind some New Testament verses:
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Corinthians 4:6-7
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world… But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:5, 9, 12-13)
Yes, Yeshua came into this fallen world, weak and vulnerable as a baby, brought God’s light and salvation to all who call upon him. The incarnation, the Son that was given, is like the Day of Midian, in that God is telling us we cannot do it ourselves. He delights to save us in our weakness as we trust and lean into him for salvation.
“The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.” Judges 7:2
God’s glory is insulted when we think we can do it all by ourselves. A reference to the Day of Midian in a passage about the incarnation of Yeshua our Messiah is entirely fitting. No word in the Bible is out of place. As we rejoice in the miracle of Yeshua, the true light coming into the world to save us, let us also remember the glorious day of Midian when God just wanted to clearly make it known to Israel that they could not save themselves. We desperately need a savior. Praise God for sending Yeshua, our salvation.