Dec 21, 2013 | Comments 4
With the creative magic of an artist, God brushed the light of the sun and vibrant colors of day on the dark canvas of primordial night. From His palette of paints, He chose azure for the sky, blue for the water, green for the forest, white for the snow-capped mountains, and every bright color to clothe the flowers of the field so they could dance in the light.
Throughout the Bible, the contrasts between the darkness of night and the light of day are significant. Generally, (1) the darkness of night is the time for sleep and inactivity, but the light of day is the time for work and activity; (2) the darkness of night is the time for dreams and visitations, but the light of day is the time for obedience displayed and promises fulfilled; and (3) the darkness of night is the time for mischief and the hiding of a thing, but the light of day is the time for righteousness and the disclosing of a thing.
I think the contrasts of night and day are brought into sharpest relief in the account of the birth of Jesus in Luke 2 and the description of the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation 21. However, before we get there, let’s look at how the contrasts of night and day are used.
(1) The FIRST contrast: THE DARKNESS OF NIGHT IS THE TIME FOR SLEEP AND INACTIVITY, BUT THE LIGHT OF DAY IS THE TIME FOR LABOR AND ACTIVITY.
Both the darkness of night and the light of day are God’s good gifts. According to Genesis 1, God saw both the darkness and light and called them “good.”
Have you ever noticed the creation story begins with darkness and moves to light? That is, the sequence is from the evening to the morning.
Have you ever noticed the ancient calculation of the hours of the day moves from sunset to sunset? That is, the movement begins with night and rest and progresses to day and activity.
What does this say about the God of the Bible? Is God informing us of the importance of rest? In Psalm 127:2, the Psalmist writes, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he gives his beloved sleep.” Is God saying our lives do not consist in our obsessions to work and to obtaining possessions?
I think Luke 12 is given as an antidote to workaholism and I’ve-got-to-have-it-ism. Jesus tells a parable of a rich man whose only goal in life was work and the possession of things. Jesus’ assessment of this man is “Thou fool!”
Often the concept of Sabbath in the Bible is misunderstood. Sabbath in the Old Testament was not particularly a day of worship; it was a day for rest. Sabbath was a day of trust; it declared God could take care of the believer. That is, in the refrain of the gospel hymn,
God will take care of you,
Through every day, over all the way;
He will take care of you,
God will take care of you.
Similarly, Hebrews 4 clearly declares Jesus is the believer’s REST. Rest is used metaphorically for salvation. In other words, we don’t work in order to gain favor with God; rather, God chooses us and calls us by His Spirit to faith in Jesus who came in flesh to give Himself as a sacrifice for sin on the cross.
What is your rest? Some find rest in Jesus. Some are attempting to earn favor with God and therein to merit rest. How does one earn the gift of salvation and its accompanying rest?
As we noted, the contrast here is between night and rest and day and activity. What are some of the activities of the day?
First, day was the time of Jesus’ manifestation as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Day was the time of Jesus’ baptism. Day was usually the time of Jesus’ miracles. Day was the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. Day revealed the empty tomb and heralded Jesus’ resurrection. And Jesus’ ascension into heaven was in the light of day in order for many witnesses to see and attest to its validity.
Second, day is how the Christian is defined. In 1 Thessalonians 5:5, Paul says, “You are all sons of light and sons of the day.” In other words, our Christian faith and life are not hidden from sight but lived out in the light of day. The characteristics of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23), are exhibited in the light of day before a watching world.
There will be NO MORE NIGHT in the eternity of the new heaven and the new earth. Eternal day will disclose the perfections of God and the glorious beauties of His people made righteous.
(2) The SECOND contrast: THE DARKNESS OF NIGHT IS THE TIME FOR DREAMS AND VISITATIONS, BUT THE LIGHT OF DAY IS THE TIME FOR OBEDIENCE DISPLAYED AND PROMISES FULFILLED.
In the darkness of night, God visited Abraham and informed him that, in spite the barrenness of old age, he and Sarah would have an heir by natural birth. And, in the night, God sent Abraham into the darkness and told him to look up at the dark sky and see the stars. God challenged him to count the stars, for, if Abraham could, he would know the number of his descendants.
In the light of day, in obedience to God’s Word, Abraham left his homeland and set out to find the land of God’s promise. By faith, in the light of day, Abraham sojourned in the land of promise and lived out life trusting and obeying God who does not lie but fulfills His promises.
The birth of the Son of Righteousness occurred on a Bethlehem night. What Irony! The story of the One who came to illumine the world is told on the backdrop of night’s darkness.
I am told a normal human eye is capable of seeing the light of a single candle at a distance of ten miles. That’s amazing. However, it’s nothing compared to the light of Jesus. The light of Jesus is so brilliant it enlightens the whole world.
On the night-shrouded Bethlehem plain, there were shepherds keeping watch over their flock. Suddenly, the night sky was filled with the glorious light of angels. Suddenly, the silence of the dark was broken with angelic voices announcing the good news that the Light of the World is come in human form – a Savior is born who dispels the darkness of sin’s night and the dark dread of God’s judgment.
In the Old Testament, the light of God was veiled from sinful men less it consume them with its intensity. When Moses received the Law of God on Mount Sinai, God’s light on him was such it made his face glow brightly when he came down from the mountain. For a time, he had to veil his face in order to meet with the people of Israel.
The story of Jesus is different. The Light of the World is come in the face of a man. This light is sent for us to see, for us to understand, and for us to receive. The darkness of night veils mystery. The light of Jesus discloses the veiled mystery of God in the flesh.
In the light of day, Jesus showed Himself to be God’s obedient Servant, obedient even unto death on the Cross. In the light of day, the promises of God’s plan for the salvation of sinners were fulfilled. Jesus declared, “The people which sat in darkness saw great light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Matt. 4:16).
Beginning in the darkness of night, the message of Christmas is the hope that God’s salvation “is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light” for sinners such as we (2 Tim. 1:10). In the clear light of day, Jesus called men and women to repent of their sins and to believe on Him. In the clear light of day, Jesus called men and women to cast away the darkness of sin and error and to come to the light of the Truth of God’s Word made flesh. In the clear light of day, men and women believe and follow Jesus.
The Apostle John writes, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3.2). What does John mean? What does it look like? Well, Paul, on the Damascus Road, was given a glimpse of it when Jesus appeared to him. But now is the time when night remains, and the clear light of the new heaven and the new earth is distant and alien to mortal eyes. Paul’s eyes were overcome with the light of the risen and glorified Jesus, he was temporarily blinded, and his eyes were left partially dim from the experience. However, in the light of the new heaven and new earth, we shall see Jesus as He is for we will have been given eyes like Jesus’ eyes to see Him in His light. Light will reign in the new heaven and the new earth. There will be NO MORE NIGHT in the new heaven and the new earth.
(3) The THIRD contrast: THE DARKNESS OF NIGHT IS THE TIME FOR MISCHIEF AND THE HIDING OF A THING, BUT THE LIGHT OF DAY IS THE TIME FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS AND THE DISCLOSING OF A THING.
Though “night” and “dark” are often used positively in the Bible, “night” and “dark” are also metaphors of sin and evil deeds. Men and women apart from God love the darkness of sin and separation from God rather than the light of the revelation of God and His presence (John 1.5 and 3.19). The heart of the unbeliever is a dark heart (Rom.1.21). Darkness is the place of unbelief (Rom. 11.10). The Christian is called to put off “the works of darkness” and to put on “the armor of light” (Rom. 13.12). Darkness describes the place where the believer was in sin, but now the believer is to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5:8 and 11). Indeed, the believer is delivered from “the dominion of darkness and brought . . . into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:13-14).
Also, night is the time for mischief and the covering of sins. Night was the time of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Night was the time of Peter’s denial of Jesus. Night was the time of the disciples’ cowardice. Night was the time of Jesus’ arrest by the High Priest’s guards. Indeed, night is a time for hiding treachery.
In contrast, Jesus makes manifest the light of God’s grace to all who will receive it. He also charges His followers to be light-bearers.
Jesus says the task of evangelism is “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18). The result is believers “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praise of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
Christmas declares the light of Jesus who has come to save sinners from their sins. Christmas also anticipates the light of Jesus coming again to claim His people and the forever light illuminating the new heaven and new earth. In the new heaven and new earth, there is “no more night” (Rev. 21:25) for “the glory of God” is the “light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev. 21:3).
In the light of the new heaven and new earth, there are no long nights of regret, depression, and grief. God wipes away all tears. Death is no more. And, since there is nothing for which to mourn, mourning ceases, and pain fades into a vague memory. (Rev. 21:4)
Nevertheless, there is a place where there is darkness and night. There is a place for “the cowardly, faithless, the vile, murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, idolaters, and all liars” (Rev. 21:8). It is called “the second death” (Rev. 21:8). Jesus describes it as a place of “outer darkness” where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30) and a place of eternal fire where “the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44-48). There is a place where there is NO MORE DAY and NO MORE LIGHT.
I think the most attractive thing about the new heaven and the new earth is Jesus’ acknowledgment of His people. In the brilliance of eternal light, before the Father and the holy angels, Jesus shall acknowledge as His own those who have acknowledged Him (Matt. 10:32 and Luke 12:8).
The song of Christmas reads, “Arise, shine,” for the light of the Savior has risen and the nations shall come to His light (Isa. 60:1-3). The song of the new heaven and the new earth reads, “No more night” for the Light of the world has conquered the darkness of sin and Jesus shall reign as Savior and Lord forever and ever. Amen.
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson
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