A long-time friend asked me to do the following research on the topic of LIGHT. She provided several scriptural references from which to start. What her primary goal is – I do not know, but I do know that the Holy Spirit will meet me anytime I seek the Lord in His Holy Writ. Though I have plenty of research projects of my own, I am glad to take a short reprieve to see where the Light leads me in this study. The narrative below will contain disjointed ideas that I follow throughout the study. I will not avert from these because I have this process to be the excitement of the journey through the scriptures. At times, I will follow these trails away from the initial direct quest, but have found them, generally, to be enriching to my understanding of this unified story of Jesus that threads its way through all the scriptures, Old and New Testament. In fact, His witness and testimony to His veracity is on display throughout all creation and His created image-bearers. In ways, we cannot avoid being a reflection of His Glory and order in the cosmos and on earth. We begin at the Beginning.
Genesis 1:3-5 “And God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was the evening and there was the morning, one day.”
In the preceding two verses, when God created the heaven and earth, the earth was described as “unformed and void”. The picture that I get in my mind is that of a potter throwing a lump of clay on the wheel where the raw materials are present, but there is not real usefulness or formation that can demonstrate the utility of what is yet to be created. Jeremiah 4:23 uses the same language in his description of the earth as a result of Nebuchadnezzar’s armies devastating Judah and Jerusalem. In his vision, he “…beheld the earth, and lo, it was waste and void…” In this scenario, the purposefulness of the land was diminished by the wickedness of God’s people, indicating that the Lord always has made a firm connection between the land and the people. This was evidenced when the land was cursed by God when the first earth-man sinned. Moses confirmed this connection, as well, when God told him that when His people turn away from Him, He will drive them off His land. Jeremiah was prophesying this very thing…the power of man to return the earth to its pre-ordered state before time began…waste and void.
Going back to the analogy of the potter with his lump of clay – there is also water necessary for the formation of the clay. It is said that the human body is comprised of 80% water. The potter analogy still holds with the creation of the earth-man as well. In the beginning, the “deep” is a Hebraic reference to the depths of the oceans and their great and destructive amount of water. It is a place of chaos and darkness; however, the Spirit of God is hovering, trembling, fluttering over its surface, seemingly tamping the destructive powers of this chaos down, indicating the overbearing order that the Spirit ultimately has over the darkness. Fortunately, Jeremiah 4:27 alludes to the desolation on the land by saying that the Lord will not make a “full end” to it all. This was always the story of Israel, a remnant was always preserved no matter how dark the people became…and not only Israel, but manifest prior to the nation of Israel with the eight that Noah saved.
In the pre-creation (unrecorded history prior to Genesis 1:1) it is presumed that, materially, there was nothingness. What is nothingness? We cannot conceive such a concept, yet we have hints that there was God prior to creation of the material earth and heavens. In fact, Paul tells us that God knew us before the creation of the world. That is a mind-bender.
With regard to recorded history, we have the first spoken monologue of the Creator recorded by the writer of Genesis, when God SAID, “Let there be light.” This spoken word was pregnant with creative power, and it was so…Light. Did God speak the earth and the heaven into existence? This reference does not say so, but I will not take the time to examine other biblical references to confirm nor deny, but, at least, this passage reports God’s statement to LET (come to pass, occur, happen, become). When I think of the word “let”, it feels to me that the implication is a reference to resistance. The letting of anything is a type of birthing which requires effort…which is more than just hopeful thinking. I have often wondered about the command of Jesus saying, “Let NOT your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” How does one “let not”? This, too, implies resistance and effort. So, throughout all creation there is a principle related to creation that requires effort against resistance. As image-bearers of the Great Creator, we, like Him are called to “let”. Speaking of light, Jesus referred to this principle of letting by commanding His disciples, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” As the creator “let His light shine”, Jesus said, so should we. The impact of the first light was the declaration that it was good. This was the first recorded glory. Is it strange to think that the Creator of heaven and earth could not declare that this creation was good until He said “Let there be light?” Perhaps my perspective is so earth-bound and material that such is the only way that my cognition can cope with the understanding of this word.
The act of creating light did not overwhelm and destroy darkness at creation, but was distinct from it. This distinction held and is still holding, confirmed by the (afore-stated) command of Jesus to “Let your light shine before men…” The result of such “letting” is the glorification of the Father (Creator of heaven and earth.) Interesting that God said that the light was good, but omitted the idea that darkness was good. Paul encouraged (1 Thessalonians 5:5) the church in Thessalonica to understand that they were “children of the light and children of the day”…not belonging to the night nor darkness. Once again, this principle of distinguishing between the day and night, the light and darkness was from the beginning of time. Obviously, the purpose of God is founded on this unalterable foundation of discernment. What was the reason that God named the light, Day and the darkness, Night? Then He put them into rotation every 24 hours for the earth-dwellers. Mankind cannot flourish in either/or. We must have both, currently, in these dust-based bodies, whereas, the heavenly host seem capable of living in the celestial light of God’s throne continuously. They were made of a different substance – one to which we yearn so that the promise of Jesus can be fulfilled whereby we, too, can live in His continual light-presence. One might ask, how did Adam and Eve cope with being in His Presence in His Garden? Presumably, they lived under the rotation of Day and Night as do we. Perhaps the answer lies in the concept of “two powers” in heaven that was a staple of Jewish thought until the incarnated Christ arrived in Israel. (Exodus 33:11 compared with Exodus 33:20-23 is an introduction to that concept of two powers in heaven. Moses could meet with the Lord face-to-face in the tabernacle, but could not see the LORD’S face and live when he went to the mountain.)
Genesis 1:14-19 “And God said: ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night, and let them be signs, and for seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. And God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; and the stars. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from darkness; and God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.”
The comparison between Day 1 and Day 4 can be somewhat confusing at first glance. In fact, to the modern reader, they seem rather redundant. Tim Mackie (thebibleproject.com) contends that the first three days (Day 1,2,3) are written in such a way as to depict that the Creator is establishing order in specific spaces (realms) of His creation. The following corresponding three days (Day 4,5,6) are where the Creator fills the space with “inhabitants” that are designed appropriately for the conditions of that specific realm. (Day 1 corresponds with Day 4, Day 2 corresponds with Day 5, Day 3 corresponds with Day 6.) For purposes of this study, we will stay focused, primarily, on Days 1 & 4.
Notice that God said in Day 4, “Let there be lights…” (plural). God had already established LIGHT on Day 1, but He is now putting in place individual reflectors of that great light into the “firmament of the heaven” which was part of His material creation depicted in Genesis 1:1. The concept of “firmament” (a word that moderns do not frequently use) relates to ancient cosmologies (e.g. the study of the origin, structure and fate of the world – which we may partially refer to as “worldview”). [i]In the ancient world, the sky was seen as a dome-like barrier between heaven and earth. It is first referenced in Genesis 1:6–9, where God creates an “firmament” as he separates creation into realms. The sky was thought to contain rain, snow, clouds, birds, and so on. The Lord explains that the purpose of these reflectors is to divide the day from the night as He established on Day 1. The usefulness of these lights was to provide a sense of TIME for those upon the earth. The earth-men could now determine these signs, seasons and years; but, were subject to this order established by the Creator since He set them in the heaven, out of our reach. Remember that mankind since the days of the tower of Babel has always striven to reach the heavens to control those realms that were not given to him. Such is the continued pursuit of man in reaching the planets and the stars; desiring to put our mark on those domains for which we were not designed. I am not saying that man should cease space exploration – just that we must recognize that the earth was the location where the Lord gave man dominion. Similarly, the lessons of the outcome upon angels “who did not keep their own domain” (Jude 1:6 referencing Genesis 6:2) should speak wisdom to the earth-dwellers of whom the Lord said, “…now nothing will be with-holden from them, which they purpose to do” (Gen. 11:6). Those building the tower were all of one language, which enabled them to pursue the things beyond their prescribed domain. Today, the internet has removed the separation of languages in such a way as to enable the earth-men to pursue their grasping to be gods. So we go.
God divided the light from the darkness; so, it is reasonable for His creation to employ the same strategies in their given realms of occupancy or influence. The arrival of light is good. As image-bearers of the Father of Lights, He has brought us forth by His word of truth so that we can be a kind of first fruits of His creatures (Jas. 1:17). While God is incapable of being tempted by evil, we are not exempt from temptation. Also, “…God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).” God is incompatible with darkness. His Presence brings the contrast with darkness. Our role is to shine. Being who He made us to be, and receiving the good and perfect gifts from Him must be our way of reflecting His light as the heavenly bodies do. Can darkness impede that light?
REVELATION 21:22-23 “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it.”
Based on Genesis 1:3, LIGHT pre-existed the sun, moon and stars (e.g. Genesis 1:14-18). When we read scriptures indicating that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, I wonder if it is referring to the equipping of the three spaces (heaven, waters, earth) mentioned in Genesis 1:14-31. As I mentioned earlier, Tim Mackie referred to these as inhabitants of those particular realms, spaces or orders. Just as the glory of God illuminated the heaven and earth with His Light on the First Day, would not this same Light be the illumination of the City of God? In thinking about the Garden, there was no recorded temple in that location either, because the Presence of God was in that place manifesting in fellowship with Adam. Has not the purpose of the Almighty been to bring His image-bearers back into full-time fellowship with Him in His sacred residence? The wilderness tabernacle and, subsequently, Solomon’s temple were temporary seats of Yahweh’s Presence, but there was no permanence in either of those locations. It seems to me that the Father wants continual, unbroken fellowship with mankind, which was not possible because of our sin. It all required sacrifices and the coming and going of His Presence until He sent the One capable of abiding with us still and fully abiding with Him. Yet, the completion of process in remaking us as children (fully) of the Light would come when we adopted the new bodies Jesus modeled for us – new bodies capable of living in His continual Presence. John said that the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the city’s temple. Paul referred to our physical bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are lesser than this ultimate Temple, but, nevertheless, designed in the image of such. The Lamb, the glory of God, illuminated the city with His Light. These concepts are so difficult for me to understand due to my own time/spatial thinking and experience. The Lamb is the temple, but yet He is also the Light.
The purpose of Light is to reveal, cause us to see what is “there”. The majesty of God’s creation can only been seen with the aide of light. This New Jerusalem is the holy city coming down from heaven prepared as a bride for her husband (Rev. 21:2). Accompanying the descent of this city was a loud voice announcing that this city was the tabernacle of God where the Lord has taken up residence. THE VOICE from heaven has spoken throughout recorded Hebrew history at significant events: Jesus’ baptism, Nebuchadnezzar’s pride, Saul’s Damascus Road experience, the arrival of the City of God on earth. An examination of THE VOICE is just as important as an examination of the Light…because the Voice spoke Light into existence (e.g. “…and God SAID, “ Let there be light.’”) This idea that the Voice and Light are connected is highlighted, again, when Habakkuk said that he “…will look out to SEE what He will SPEAK to me.” Job (42:5) confirms that first comes hearing, then comes sight when he says, “Indeed, hearing by the ear I heard of you before, but now my eye has seen you.”
JOHN 1:1-9 Verse 5 says that the light shines in the darkness and that darkness could not overcome (comprehend) it. These two entities are so completely adverse of each other that the darkness cannot understand light – two different world-views. One seeks to rule the earth, keeping it in chaos, unruly, independent of order. The other seeks balance only acquired via sight where things can become ordered so as to reflect a kingdom fashioned after the dwelling place of God. Recently, I was getting some tests done that required me to stand on one leg and then on the other in order to test my balance. My nerve-injured leg did not perform as well as my good leg, but it still provided a significant amount of balance to the body. Then the clinician asked me to do the same exercise with my eyes closed. Balance was severely impeded, cut more than in half the amount of time when I was able to “see”. Sight, provided by light is critical to the world being in balance.
The Word was in the beginning prior to any creation, prior to the command for light to shine in the darkness. This command can be seen as an assault on the chaos of darkness, impeding its territory, establishing a competing entity. As the light in the beginning shined in the darkness, God did the same thing in mankind. When HE breathed life into the nostrils of the formed lump of clay (later to be named, Adam), he became a living soul (Gen.2:7). According to John, once that breath made man a living soul (the life), man also received this breath as the “light of men”. Even though on the potter’s wheel, a pile of earth-dust was formed to have eyes, man could not see until the Lord breathed life into him – the “light of men”. Equipped with eyes, described as the “light of the body”, Jesus indicates that the eyes can be either good or bad.
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness.” Matt. 6:22-23
What a conundrum – how can the “light that is in you be darkness?” Is not light antithetical to darkness? The fact that mankind received the breath of life, which brought light (as I contend above), how can Jesus describe a “dark light” in a man as an indicator that darkness rules the body. Could it be that just as in the beginning, man received the lesser lights relative to the sun, moon and stars in the fourth day that is only reflective of the Great Light declared on Day 1? My head hurts. I can’t really process these random questions and thoughts in a coherent way, yet they seem to be related to God separating light from darkness on Day 1 in a universal fashion that permeated all subsequent creation, even, down to mankind, the image-bearing creature of the sixth day. This darkness/light dichotomy is still very much the battle today in our personal lives as well as in the larger society and, definitely, in the cosmos. This scripture in Matthew indicates the importance of what we allow our eyes to see – impacting our whole body.
This reminds me of Habakkuk’s burden. Seemingly everywhere he turned he saw violence, iniquity, mischief, strife and contention. He was so weary being a witness of these darknesses that he complained to the Lord that HE was allowing all these perversions to perpetrate, allowing the wicked to overcome the righteous. Yet, we have become so accustomed to these same perversions with all of the “screen-time” we use to distract ourselves, we are numb to the seeds of darkness planted in our own souls. Who can turn on the television, view their Youtube feed, continually search through the thousands of videos to “find something to watch” – and not be fed an imbalanced meal of darkness?
Verse 9 (John 1) tells us that the Word that shines in the darkness is the one who gives light to every man who comes into the world. However, not all men who come into the world will believe in HIM as that true Light. He came to His own, those of the same biological heritage, descendants of Abraham. They were His “kind”…from that stock of Abraham’s faith; but, only those who received Him would receive the rights conferred onto them that belong to “children of God.” How could Jesus come to “His own” but they not be “children of God”? Somehow this mystery hinges on the issue of BELIEF, the same kind their forefather Abraham had. Biologic claims were not enough, but rather, character that receives the Light, not turning their faces from it in the fashion of Cain dropping his countenance, refusing to face God, refusing to amend his ways, rejecting God’s counsel in favor of nursing his own hurt feelings. The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness cannot overcome the light. Light pierces the darkness just as each new morning pushes back the darkness to bring new mercies every day. At eventide the Great Light rests. It is not pierced by darkness, but rather cedes momentary rulership to the lesser lights (moon, stars, etc.) as reminders, representatives of the Great Light. Even those heavenly bodies pierce the darkness. The Great Light is not left without a witness, even in the darkest night. Those image-bearers who receive the Light, also, become designated as witnesses to pierce the darkness wherever they are assigned to hang. O Light of the World – shine through us.
[i] The Lexham Bible Dictionary