Friday 06 January 2012

Bible Book:

and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you." (v. 1)

Isaiah 60:1-6 Friday 6 January 2012


Today, many parts of the Christian Church celebrate the Epiphany- that is the appearing of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles (non-Jews).It is normally associated with the Magi, believed to be the firstnon-Jewish people to worship Christ, and today's passage hasspecial relevance to that. The word Epiphany also means 'dawning' -the light of the sun rising over the horizon, bringing an end tothe darkness of night.

This passage is part of the final 'act' of Isaiah. After the Exileto Babylon, some of God's people have begun to return to theirhomeland, under the rule of conquering Persian king Cyrus. Theexile was a humiliating period of great "darkness" (v. 2) for theJewish people: many were carried off to strange lands, includingmost of the ruling classes, while others stayed put in the occupiedland. As they started to return home, life back in Judea was farfrom easy. The people were still not their own masters and theirway of life had been altered by foreign influences. Forming acommunity of God's people was extremely difficult. The traditionalways were no longer accepted by everyone, and the temple had to berebuilt. There was light at the end of the tunnel, but there wasstill a long way to go. Their hopes and salvation were caught inthe tension between 'now' and 'not yet'.

While they were in Babylon, the exiled Jewish people took heart inremembering their history and faith. They would recount thecreation story to help them retain their own identity - who theywere, and who God was, in the midst of so much that was strange tothem. Theirs was the God who said, "let there be light!" (Genesis1:3) and light appeared. They sang songs of lament, that theyshould have fallen so far into darkness that God's light(represented by their beloved homeland, their holy city Jerusalem,and the temple) seemed so far away from them, both spiritually andphysically. They would also remember longingly the impressivesunrise over Jerusalem as the daylight flooded over the horizoncatching the white stone of the city: such stark contrast to theblack of night. Here the prophet sounds a call of hope, invokingthose images.

Earlier in Isaiah, the call had been to 'wake up' - rousing themfrom a slumber (51:917; 52.1) - now it's even more positive: 'get up andshine like the dawn - God's glory is shining on you!' There is moregloom to come (verse 2) - a spiritual darkness covering the earth -but God's light shining in the midst of people would be a beaconthat would attract all nations. This time, though, it won't benations coming to conquer, but to worship their God - bringingpraises to Yahweh. As part of this, they will see theirstill-exiled sons and daughters return, and prosperity and joy willincrease. And here we get a glimpse of the camels that accompanyour nativity sets, complete with gold and frankincense - symbols ofright and proper worship! God's commitment to his people continues,and promises abound in this vision of a bright new dawn that willreach the whole earth.

To Ponder

Think again about the Magi following a light toJerusalem, and then Bethlehem (Matthew2:1-12). What connections can you see between thesepassages?

How remarkable is it, that from one smallmovement of disciples (like a little spark) Christianity shouldspread the light and love of Israel's God to every nation onearth?

Can we hear the challenge to our churches today:'Arise, shine; for your light has come'? How do we live as peopleof the light?

Previous Page Thursday 05 January 2012
Next Page Saturday 07 January 2012