ST ANDREW’S OCCASIONAL PAPERS
- The wonder of light.
On the first day of creation, as recorded in Genesis chapter one, light was created, and was seen by God to be “good” (verses 3-4). Now light plays an important role in the study of Physics – to which I have devoted much of my life! – and it can be investigated with some very simple experiments, involving just a mirror and a couple of pins and yet is also a very complex subject as one digs deeper into its nature. Perhaps divine light, which is our subject here, is also something which ranges from simple to more complicated ideas.
As far as most people are concerned the primary function of light is to enable us to see, and without light many of us would be reduced to helplessness (and for this reason we admire the fortitude of those who no longer enjoy the light yet live full lives). This was the case in ancient Egypt when, during the time God visited plagues on Pharaoh and his people because of their mistreatment of the Israelites, the Egyptians experienced complete darkness, a darkness so intense that we are told that “No-one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days…” (Exodus 10:22,23). Light is so important for our way of life yet we take it very much for granted. Perhaps it is one of those things that we should give thanks to God for His gift of it to us.
- Light and Darkness.
If there is no light then there is darkness and the more carefully we exclude any trace of light the more complete the darkness becomes. The Bible has often made this contrast between light and darkness, one of the earliest examples being during the escape of the Israelites from Egypt pursued by the Egyptian army. The “pillar of cloud” through which God was leading His people, “moved from in front and stood between them…. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other; so neither went near the other all night long” (Exodus 14:19-20). Nor does it take much thought to decide that the Israelites would have had the light while the Egyptians were encamped in darkness.
The “Teacher” (generally thought to be King Solomon) makes the point that “light is better than darkness” (Ecclesiastes 2:13), an observation that most of us would agree with.
Jesus also challenges us, “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it is dark, it will be completely lighted…” (Luke 11:35-36). If only we could measure up to that challenge! But when we fail we know that the same Jesus will forgive and restore us when we confess our failure and seek His pardon.
Yet the Bible verdict is that most men actually prefer darkness to light! Again Jesus said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19-20).
- Light reveals.
The last verse that we quoted in the previous section reminds us that one of the major things that light does is to reveal what is going on. We only have to think of the vast array of lights that can be found around the stage in a theatre or in a television studio to see the truth of this. St. Paul puts it this way, “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible…” (Ephesians 5:13-14). Of course Paul was not thinking of artificial lights of the sort we are so used to, but of the light that comes from God into our consciences and reveals just what we are. Do we welcome that light? The psalmist did – “Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me” (Psalm 43:3a). Perhaps we should seek that light more ardently and be ready to respond to what it reveals in each one of us.
- God is light.
Of course God can only send light into our consciences because He is light. As St. John puts it in his first letter, “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
Ezekiel gives a more graphic description but with the same idea, “…brilliant light surrounded Him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around Him..” (Ezekiel 1:27b-28). Ezekiel goes on to tell us that the vision so affected him that he fell to the ground, face down. The light of God is very powerful.
There are more examples of the same idea in the Bible, for example, when Jesus was transfigured, “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” (Matthew 17:2b).
However, what the quotation from John does underline is that there being no darkness in God our darkness, our sin, is a real problem. As the psalmist says, “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence” (Psalm 90:8).
God’s light reveals everything about us, we cannot hide from the Almighty. However, as was said above, God, through Jesus, will pardon and forgive when we repent, and so treat us as unstained and fit to come into His light.
- Jesus, the Light of the World.
In the prologue to his gospel, the Apostle John makes it clear that his namesake, John the Baptist, was not THE light: “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through Him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” (John 1:7-8).
So if John the Baptist was not THE light, who was? Jesus answers the question later in the same Gospel: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus repeats this statement in John 9:5.
So what did this great statement (One of seven “I am” statements in John’s Gospel) mean? Surely that Jesus was bringing the truth about God into this world and doing it with perfect accuracy and clarity because He was not only a man but also God and therefore actually was “Light” (see section 4).
Paul was to experience Jesus as light when he met Him on the road to Damascus. when a “light from heaven flashed around him” (Acts 9:3). This light changed Paul’s life from being one who persecuted the church to becoming one of its chief leaders. Such can be the effect of Jesus the Light, who can change everything for us when we believe in Him, even if in less dramatic ways.
- Walking in the light.
The apostle John, in his first letter, calls on us to do this: “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). What blessings John describes, fellowship with like-minded people and, above all, the forgiveness of our sins. Those are surely reasons enough to walk in the light of the Lord. But there are more!
The psalmist tells us, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1a). If we are walking in God’s light we need have no fears.
t;p class=”MsoNormal<mce:script type=”>ot; style=”text-align: justify;”> Paul adds, “For God…..made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Finally Peter tells us that “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). Surely the fact that we can walk in the light of God will lead us to praise Him forall His wonderful gifts to us.
- <mce:script type=”>tion: underline;”>Light at the end of time.
The prophets are certain that this world order will not continue for ever. They look to a forthcoming day when God will step in to wind up the world as we now know it, a day known as “the day of the Lord.” Amos puts it like this: “Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light – pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?” (Amos 5:20)
Now we might be tempted to think that this is just Old Testament thinking and no longer concerns us, but the same idea was put forward by Jesus and, being God, He should know! He speaks of what will happen after he has returned to this world: “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29). Now this may be picture language but it does indicate a complete change in the order of things.
However we are not to be left in the darkness, for after the light of the sun and of the moon have gone, as Isaiah says, “the Lord will be your everlasting light….” (Isaiah 60:19). This is confirmed in the very last chapter in the Bible, “They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light… (Revelation 22:5).
We may not have the light of the sun to which we have become accustomed and with out which life on this planet would not be possible – in scientific terms. But we are to be given something better, something more wonderful, the light of God Almighty which will continue with us for ever, provided we come to Him in the faith of Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Saviour. This is the true light that everyone needs and which is freely available to all who believe and trust in Jesus.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. © 1973,1978,1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder and Stoughton, a member of the Hodder Headline Group. All rights reserved.