Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord. (NRSV)
As Brian Hardin, of The Daily Audio Bible, says, “You can’t turn around in Matthew without bumping into a prophecy Jesus fulfills.” Matthew was a good Bible student. He knew what was written. And he knew how Jesus lived out those ancient prophecies. Matthew knew that they made perfect sense in connection to Jesus. And this passage from Isaiah is one of them that became especially important to the followers of Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world in Matthew’s and John’s gospels. Jesus becomes the one who is closest to living out the ideals of Israel’s calling to be a light to the nations.
This passage is interesting in that instead of ‘us’/Israel taking the light to the world/nations, the nations are streaming to ‘us’/Israel because their darkness is so terrible and they want the relief of the light we are/have. It is clear in this passage that the light has been given to us together (all the ‘yous’ are plural.) Our ‘light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon [us.]’ It is not of our own goodness or specialness that we have the light, but God’s mercy and love is its source. It is ours only because it has been given to us, but because of it, many other blessings will come to us.
I won’t be such a literalist as to suggest that the people of the whole world will bring their wealth and put it at our feet (although it has been used that way) but there is no doubt that the benefits of shining the light of the eternal Christ that is the gift of God will provide a richness to life both inside and out. Just as this passage was undoubtedly given to a people who felt lost and overwhelmed (They had returned to Jerusalem from the exile, but a tremendous amount of work was needed to restore the temple and the city to anything resembling its former glory.) The people had gotten bogged down. They had what they needed to restore it, but the people were tired. They were tired of fighting with the people of the neighboring cities. They were tired of fighting among themselves. They were tired of feeling like the work would never be finished.
I can say I have had days like that… and weeks like that… and years like that. Those were the times when my light wasn’t shining very brightly. I felt like I was so far behind I couldn’t see “caught up” on any horizon. But God brings us through that. Some of what seemed so overwhelming got done and some that seemed so very important at the time didn’t get done and wasn’t much missed.
So when you feel like you are stuck at the bottom of an insurmountable list of things to do; when you feel like you will never get ahead; when you feel overwhelmed and afraid; remember, Jesus is with you and nothing can change that. The light of Christ shines on you and within you. Be encouraged and know that God will not leave you alone and without resources. So the light shines in the darkness and the darkness is overcome. Be encouraged, the light is with(in) you.
Blessings to you,
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.