Arise and Shine

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." (Isa.9:2)

As we enter another year it is painfully evident that people are still walking in darkness and dwelling in the land of the shadow of death. The great light which shined in the world when Christ came to earth with His message of hope has not yet penetrated all the recesses of terrestrial night. The world is a larger place than it was two thousand years ago and there is more darkness to be dispelled. The men and women of earlier centuries made more of the light that was shining because they realised their need more than does humanity today. Men are so clever now; so exultant at wresting from Nature her most cherished secrets. They can fly faster than sound, can descend into the depths of the seas; they can transmute (change) the elements and measure the distant stars. Now they hope that the secrets of genetics will enable them to do better than Nature herself in the growth and production of plant life and food. Like Lucifer, they aspire to sit upon the sides of the north and be like the Most High. Poor deluded ones; like the antediluvians in the days of Noah, they know not that they walk in darkness and that the end of their godless ambitions and dreams is at hand.

But are all men like this? By no means! Those who proclaim abroad so blatantly the might and power of man, and decry man’s need of God, and deny Him any place in human life, are in the minority. They represent numerically but a tiny fraction of earth’s population. The fact that they enjoy control of the world’s means of publicity—the press, the radio, the ear of governments, and so on, gives their utterances and pronouncements a semblance of solidity out of all proportion to their true magnitude. The rest of the people are waiting for what they know not. They only know that they walk in darkness and in the shadow of death, and that the light is a long time in coming. It ought not to be so, for although that Great Light moves visibly among men no more, there are many lights, shining by reflection, and they should by now be making some impression, for they have been a long time in the world. Perhaps they do not shine brightly enough, for if the reflecting surface is not kept clean and polished it loses its capacity to reflect. Maybe some of the lights have been put under bushels and cannot be seen. And some have turned away from the Light and so cannot reflect, for the Light is not reaching them at all.

There was a book published many years ago called "Efficiency in Hades", in which an American production expert, visiting that mythical place of torment, and being conducted round by Lucifer, observed to his guide "It does seem uneconomic to burn all these sinners just to provide illumination for a few elect in Heaven!" whereupon Lucifer re‑joined meditatively "Perhaps the elect wouldn’t give a good enough light themselves." That is the world’s condemnation, not of Christianity but of the failure of Christians. The question ought to be asked: Is it being said of us, as individuals or as a fellowship? It is so fatally easy to become satisfied with our own position before God, our own acceptance of His plans for human well‑being, and the prospect of the promised future "reign with Christ". We forget that the validity of our belief in future things can only be attested by the degree to which we endeavour to practice them now. The very essentials of work in His Kingdom is service for one’s fellows and a constant pointing and leading them to Christ and His way of life. We are failing in our duty and privilege if we do not take good heed of those around us who are submerged in darkness and in the shadow of death and do all that lies within our present power to lift them out of it. Neither is it enough to content ourselves with a vigorous campaign of preaching the coming Kingdom as God’s panacea for all present human ills. True, we are called upon to herald that Kingdom consistently and persistently; but what is the practical use of saying to our starving brother "Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled" (James 2:16) if we give him not those things whereby he may be warmed and filled? The words of James might very well be interpreted here to mean that we who have the knowledge and ability to show how the Kingdom is going to work should not content ourselves with just telling people what it is going to be like when it has come. We should show them what it is like, in our own fellowship and by our attitude toward them and our treatment of them. If we all make a sincere and honest‑to‑goodness attempt to regulate our own daily life and actions toward each other and toward all, by the principles which we profess to believe are the Divine will, and are to regulate life in the Millennial Age, then we shall do more to shine light into the darkness wherein people walk, and dispel the shadow of death, than has been accomplished by all the academic arguments and philosophical discourses that have been delivered from the time of Origen* until now. .

Although that may not alter the Divine timetable for the inauguration of the Kingdom, it will assuredly represent a most substantial contribution to the work of the Kingdom and make the impact of that epoch of justice and righteousness something less of a shock to those who at present understand precious little of either. There is a parable about going out into the highways and byways; without interpreting that injunction too literally, we might do well to think about it a little.