Children Of Light
There they stood – a rag tag group of Jesus followers with all their issues and idiosyncrasies, character flaws and inaccurate expectations, and yet, as the King of Light looked at them, he declared –
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.”
As they listened this group of men and women, steeped in Jewish culture, tradition and their Torah understanding could not have missed Jesus reference to “light” and a “city on a hilltop”. One city would immediately spring to mind – their city of light – set on a hill – Jerusalem!
Again the prophet Isaiah holds the key to their and our understanding –
“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you. Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you. All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance.”
The question is – what form should this light have taken – what would this radiance look like? What would cause the nations of the world to wonder? The answer is not hard to find for God, through Isaiah, provides the ultimate answer, as it will appear in the life of the Messiah –
“I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will take you by the hand and guard you and I will give you to my people, Israel, as a symbol of my covenant with them. And you will be a light to guide the nations.
“I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Yet the tragedy of Israel and of Jerusalem was that again and again it rejected its God given mandate and task – the task that ultimately, as we have seen, the Messiah himself would accomplish. Israel was called to express and model God’s righteousness – but it failed repeatedly. It was called to be a light to the nations – but its light was rarely seen.
From the very beginning, God, through Isaiah, (see Isaiah Chapter 1) identifies the Israel and Jerusalem to which he spoke, as a “rebellious child” a “sinful” and “sick” nation. At this point in their history God took no pleasure in their worship – their offerings and gifts were disgusting to him. Why? Because their foundation as a light bearing nation and city had been eroded, corrupted and lost.
The antidote proves the point –
“ Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”
Isaiah 1 16 & 17
“Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumours! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.”
(Isaiah 58 6 – 10)
Light shines when God is revealed and his goodness exposed in the righteous acts of his people. His light shines when the hungry are fed, the homeless given shelter, unjust laws overturned, needy relatives cared for, clothes provided for the naked, workers are treated fairly, we stop speaking unkindly of others and work towards freedom from oppression in our world. This and much more!
So Jesus – the true Light, concludes as he surveys his followers on that Judean hillside so many years ago –
“In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
And yet in all this there is a paradox and a danger. Jesus is not calling his people to exhibitionism as some might think. Light does not call attention to itself but rather it both illuminates the objects on which it shines as well as identifying its true source –
“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”
Jesus – Matthew 6: 1 – 4
Ultimately it’s all down to motivation! Do we want the praise – or do we want to magnify the true source of light? James, the brother of Jesus captures it well –
“So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.”
Our calling is to be children of light for our Father is The Light. We don’t call attention to ourselves but to him! Yet paradoxically it is when people see our good deeds, they, as Jesus says – “will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:16)
To be continued …