Arise and Shine!

Arise and Shine!

By Stephen Green

First published in the Christian Voice Newsletter February 2013

 

Isaiah 60:1  Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.

I believe these words of Isaiah were written either to Israel or to the Redeemer of Isaiah 59 but we can also take them as an encouragement to us to arise and shine in the world.  The Father’s first act of creation was to command ‘Light, be!’

Genesis 1:3  And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Some have questioned why God made light before the sun and the stars, but it makes sense to me to see this first creative act as that which set in place all the physical laws of the universe, including the principles governing the operation of light.

Light is actually quite a complex marvel.  I remember from my physics and mathematics lessons that light has a certain speed, faster than which nothing can travel.  In a vacuum this speed never changes.  Einstein incorporated the speed of light, ‘c’, into his famous equation linking energy and matter: E=MC2 .

More than that, light behaves both as a waveform and as a stream of particles.  The wave aspect of light is easily understood.  Visible white light can be split by a prism – or by rain droplets – into its constituent colours, where red has the lowest wave-length and violet the highest.

The concept of light as a stream of particles or ‘photons’ is more difficult for us to imagine, but it can be seen in the way light bounces off a mirror and by its finite speed. The photoelectric effect in which ultraviolet light forces a surface to release electrons when the light hits is another example of a phenomenon only explained by seeing light as a stream of little packets of energy.

From the ancient Greeks up until the 20th Century scientists fought over whether light was particles or a wave, with the debate ebbing to and fro.  Modern physicists have concluded that both the particle theory and the wave theory are simplified explanations for some very complicated goings on.  In a triumph for Hebrew over Greek thinking, both these seemingly contradictory views appear to be true at the same time.

Much of scripture uses light as an analogy of goodness and the Apostle John identifies both Jesus Christ as ‘the light’ and the Godhead as a whole with light:

 1John 1:5  This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

When the light comes it illuminates everything.  It dispels darkness.  It shines.

John 1:5  And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

John did not invent the idea of God being light.  All through the Psalms we read of how desirable it is for the face of God to be shining upon us, bringing favour, or in this case repentance:

Psalm 80:3  Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

In the great blessing the Lord gave to Aaron, the shining of God’s face upon the people was symbolic of his grace, that is, of his unmerited favour:

Numb 6:25  The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:

But it was not just the face of Almighty God which could shine.  So did that of Moses:

Exod 34:29  And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.  And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.

Much of our Lord’s earthly ministry revealed him as coming ‘in the spirit’ or Moses or of the prophets.  His miracles of healing and feeding showed previous such miracles to be prophetic of his own.  They confirmed him as ‘the Prophet’ of whom Moses spoke and as the prophesied Messiah.

Our Lord’s own transfiguration had echoes of the transfiguration of Moses, and the presence of Moses and Elijah, symbolising ‘the law and the prophets’, or the whole of scripture as the apostles knew it, took the event to a higher level:

Matt 17:1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elijah talking with him.

The Lord appears to be saying that he draws together and in fact embodies all of what has gone before, all ‘the law and the prophets’.  When the Apostle John saw the Lord Jesus at the beginning of the revelation granted to him, he reported the same thing:

Rev 1:16  And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

The face of the Lord Jesus shone like the noon-day sun.  Both Matthew and John describe the face of the Lord as the brightest thing they could think of, that great emitter of light and life which God set in the sky on creation’s fourth day.

However, it is  not just Moses and our Lord whose faces can shine.  The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes says:

Eccl 8:1 Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.

Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, it is the fear of God which is behind that shining face of the wise believer.  Daniel puts forth a similar observation and brings in a gospel perspective:

Dan 12:3  And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

The Lord Jesus himself repeats the theme, in the parable of the wheat and the tares:

Matt 13:43  Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

These scriptures could lead us to suppose that such shining forth just happens to those who fear the Lord, seek his wisdom, and act righteously, but earlier in his ministry, in the Sermon on the Mount, we read of the Lord Jesus commanding his hearers, and us, to shine:

Matt 5:16  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Our Lord makes a clear link between shining and good works, and this I suggest is developed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Philippi when he tells them to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling:

Phil 2:13  For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

This seems to be saying that the contrast between the purity of the ways of God seen in us and the crookedness and perversity of the ways of the world will be noticed by the world.  Certainly we have a prophetic and evangelistic duty, but doing the good pleasure of the Father is also in itself a prophetic act.

Atheists say, and I quote one from the comments on the recent ‘Darwin Day’ story on the Christian Voice website, that ‘as humans evolve, religion will slowly die out as it’s no longer needed.’  The writer quoted the German philosopher Heinrich Heine who apparently wrote this in the early 19th century:

‘In dark ages people are best guided by religion, as in a pitch‑black night a blind man is the best guide; he knows the roads and paths better than a man who can see. When daylight comes, however, it is foolish to use blind, old men as guides.’

Well, Heinrich Heine was the man who preferred dogs the more he saw of people. He did have a rather bleak view of humanity and life in general.

However, the irony of the Heine quote is that our present age, with the inhumanity of modern man, the rebellion of earthly governments leading us back to Sodom and the uncertainty of the geopolitical and economic spheres, is looking increasingly dark. As the storm clouds gather, by Heine’s argument, more people will turn to the divine for a rock of stability in the crashing waves.

Our duty in such a situation, if and as it arises, is to pray it will be the Lord Jesus Christ they encounter as they start their spiritual journey, and by our lives and witness to be the light which draws them to him.  There will of course be those who mock and those who oppose us:

John 3:20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

Christians don’t like to be seen to be reproving others today, and yet there is a good portion of it in the prophets – and their books are 20% of the Bible.  Similarly, the idea of ‘arising’ and doing something about the evil we see around us threatens to take too many out of their religious comfort zone.  But in truth, if it is we who are going to be the light of Christ, we shall have to stand against those who do wickedness, expose their deeds and call them to repentance, having first cleaned our own hearts and washed our souls in that precious blood.

John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before you.

Every one that does evil hates the light, hates Christ who is the light and hates us who reflect his light.

That thought leads me finally to a big difference in how Christ shone and shines today and how we should shine.  We read this in Genesis about God’s majestic creation of the sun, moon and stars:

 

Gen 1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. 17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

And herein lies the difference.  The sun emits light.  It is a giant nuclear reactor.  The moon, on the other hand, has no light of its own.  It can only reflect the light of the sun.  This analogy can suggest to us that we, like the moon, have no light of our own.  We can and should only reflect the light of Christ.

I am not suggesting we have no responsibility for how we live our lives, for the command is not ‘wait until you are filled with the love and grace of Christ and then you will be holy as he is holy’.  It is simply ‘Be ye holy as I am holy’, in both Leviticus 19:2 and 1Pet 1:15 and 16.

But I am saying that if we are ambassadors of Christ it is his light, his risen life and his word we should be reflecting in all we say and do as we ‘give light upon the earth’.

2Cor 4:6  For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

We can take the moon analogy an uncomfortable step further.  From time to time there is an eclipse of the moon.  The reflected light is obscured.  And why is this?

It is because the Earth gets in the way.  The world comes between the moon and the origin of its light.  The moon cannot shine to its full capacity when the world is in the way.

In the same way, if the world and all its cares and temptations get in the way of our walk with Christ, we cannot reflect his glory or his light as we should.  Our task is so to seek his face and so do his will in order that we minimise the days when no-one can see anything but the world in us, and maximise the days when we reflect Christ’s light perfectly and to the full.

Then we shall be shining forth clearer than the noonday, as Zophar puts it, bringing Christ’s light to exemplify goodness, expose wickedness and call for repentance in our land.

At the end of this age, when the new heavens and the new earth appear, that initial light that God created in Genesis 1:3, which stems from his glory and which was seen in Jesus on the mount, is the only light we shall need:

Rev 21:23  And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

But until then, let us arise and shine!

 

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2 comments

  1. Michael J. Kerr

    ‘Hinc lucem pocula sacra’. A most absorbing and succinct essay, in the spirit of G. F. Haendel. Very many thanks, God bless you, Sir.

    1. Stephen

      Thank you and God bless you too.

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