Arise, and Shine! - Isaiah 60

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Copyright September 25 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche
We are living in tumultuous times. Truths we have believed all our lives are being undermined. Bible believing Christians are being painted as bigots and terrorists to get us to conform to the “Woke-speak” of today. (Originally the term “woke” meant an awareness of injustice, specifically racial injustice. But the word has also expanded over time to describe an ideology that is hypersensitive to perceived injustices.) If you don’t march in step with the culture, you may be canceled (removed from all media accounts), you may be fired (as a troublemaker), or you may be slandered by having obscure statements taken out of context and published to show you in the worst light possible. You might even be sued for damages because of your “biased” attitudes.
This is not about rational debate, this is about conformity. It is about who shouts the loudest and who can capture the language to control those around them.
Erwin Lutzer (retired pastor at Moody Church) has a new book out titled NO REASON TO HIDE: STANDING FOR CHRIST IN A COLLAPSING CULTURE. In the book, he looks at the issues and pressures on the church today. Lutzer recounts the heroic efforts of former President John Kennedy when he was in the Navy and heroically rescued the crew members of PT 109. Kennedy and crew saw their boat destroyed. They made it to a deserted island. Kennedy swam to a nearby island where he could get help for his crew. He concluded the story with these words,
When your boat is blown out of the water, you have a choice: allow yourself to be captured by the enemy, sink, or swim. If you refuse to surrender, you can disappear silently under the waves or muster the courage to swim to shore and become a hero. Perhaps a reluctant hero, to be sure, but a hero nonetheless. And through this courage, you can remain a faithful witness for Christ. (p. 17)
I find Isaiah 60, especially verses 1-3 to be powerful words to us just as they were to the Israelites.
1 “Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see.
For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.
2 Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,
but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.
3 All nations will come to your light;
mighty kings will come to see your radiance.
This is not the best translation of the verse. It is more accurately, “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” It points to something that has happened to us rather than something we must bring to pass.
The picture is a darkness that will cover the earth. This darkness is godlessness among the people. See if these words from Timothy don’t seem to describe our day.
Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. 2 These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead.
3 They will say it is wrong to be married and wrong to eat certain foods. But God created those foods to be eaten with thanks by faithful people who know the truth. 4 Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. 5 For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5)
In the midst of the abandonment of faith, what are we to do? We are to arise and shine! There are three dimensions to the words in Isaiah. First, they referred to Israel proper. The people had been in exile and God was going to bring them home under the Persian Emperor Cyrus. They were to arise and shine in their victory.
The second application is to the church. God brings light into the world through the New Zion, the church. As the gospel expanded so did the view of “Zion.” Paul says we are now “grafted into Israel” (Romans 11) and our job in the world is to “let our light shine.”
The final fulfillment of these words will be at the return of Christ. This is when his light will shine most brightly. We see this in the last verses of the chapter.
19 The sun shall be no more
your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon
give you light;
but the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
These events have yet to take place. They will come to fulfillment at the return of our Lord to the earth . . . this time as conqueror and judge.
In the verses that follow in Isaiah 60, the Lord tells Israel some of the remarkable things that were going to happen to them. They would move from a land in shambles to a thriving land that would carry the focus of the entire world. People would be drawn to the glory of the Lord that rested on them.
I hope you can see how these words could also apply to the church. We too will be brought out of the secular confusion of the world into the light of wisdom and understanding. We should be people who drawn others to Him because they see His light in us. To get to this point we must “arise and shine.” To do this we must keep in mind three things.
Who the Lord is
Look at all the references to the Lord in the passage. The hope of the people is found (1-2) in the fact that “the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.” In v 7 the Lord says, “I will accept their offerings and make my temple glorious.” In v 9 we read, “They will honor the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has filled you with splendor.” In verse 15 we read, “I will make you beautiful forever, a joy to all generations.” In verse 16 “You will know at last that I the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer the Mighty One of Israel.”
The LORD is the one who will make Israel great! The Lord is the One who blesses and works in us as well. And we can’t forget this! Worldly philosophies will not save us. They can’t even make us happy! The push is to get the church to embrace the views of those who consider themselves “enlightened” or “woke.” However, earthly thinking can do nothing for us except keep us confused.
If we are going to anchor to something, it should be to something solid and reliable. We must anchor to the Lord and not the ways of men. Are things becoming more difficult? Yes. There is a great push to silence those who want to treat the Word of God as the true truth! The secular world doesn’t mind if you believe in the Bible . . . so long as you interpret it the way they want you to interpret it. Their way of interpreting strips it of all authority! They want the Bible to conform to their thinking rather than conforming our thinking to the Bible.
Paul asks in the book of Romans, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” It is a rhetorical question that implies the answer . . . No one! And this is something you and I need to remember. The world may grumble, growl, and call us names, threaten any number of thing, but the world will not and cannot lead us to peace, joy, or a right relationship with God. The world wants to control us and, contrary to public opinion, the Lord wants to teach us what it means to be free!
So, the first reason for us to rise and shine in a hostile world is we belong to The Lord God Almighty who was, and is, and always shall be. We are not standing against a hostile world alone! He stands with us, and when we stand close to Him, we are surrounded by a power and authority no amount of pressure and persecution can touch.
Who We Are In Him
Once again, let’s look at the text.
· V. 1 we are the ones on whom the glory of the Lord shines
· V. 9 He has filled us with splendor
· V. 10 We are recipients of His mercy
· V. 15 Though we were once despised and hated, God now makes us beautiful forever.
It is not uncommon for people to have low self-esteem. People can draw their sense of value and worth from a number of different places.
We can draw our self-esteem from our own evaluation. That can go both ways. We can esteem ourselves as much better than we are (usually, by far!), or we can esteem ourselves too harshly.
When you look at yourself in the mirror, what do you see? Some see a person superior to all others (we call these people narcissists). Others however dwell on flaws. They don’t look at the beautiful features of their frame, they see the blemishes, the little extra weight, the bags under the eyes, the frizzy hair and on and on it goes. Still others look at the person in the mirror and see failure, someone beyond recovery, or a person with nothing to offer the world.
There are many who encourage us to be negative about ourselves. They call people bigots who do not agree with them. They like to call people judgmental, a disgrace, or in some cases a white supremacist. We know in school days there were a host of hurtful names that could be hurled at us. People do this because they believe they can tap into the insecurity of people and manipulate them to conform to their will. It was about power then and it is about power now!
The Bible would say to all who don’t like the person they see in the mirror: “Hey, you are fearfully and wonderfully made! You are a person Christ died for. You are a child of God, and you should not live beneath the privilege that is yours because of Christ.” I’ve said this many times and I will say it many more times: “The truest thing about you is what God says about you!” Nothing else matters. There is no authority higher. When the Lord speaks, the highest court of all has spoken. There are no more appeals. When He attributes value to you, no one can take that value away from you.
When we remember that we are His people, who have His glory shining on us, His mercy cleansing us, and we have been filled with His splendor and are made beautiful forever, it changes our entire approach to life. It doesn’t matter what names others call us for they are temporary and not true. We must learn to believe the Lord and not trust even our own opinion about ourselves, much less, the opinion of others.
The one who shines as the possessor of God’s image is not arrogant but humble. They are confident but not cocky. They can overcome the barbs of the world because they know who they are in Jesus Christ.
Where We are Headed
The third thing to remember is where we are headed. The picture in the passage points to those who are content, cared for, and honored because of their position in Christ. Listen to these last verses again,
19 “No longer will you need the sun to shine by day,
nor the moon to give its light by night,
for the Lord your God will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
20 Your sun will never set;
your moon will not go down.
For the Lord will be your everlasting light.
Your days of mourning will come to an end.
21 All your people will be righteous.
They will possess their land forever,
for I will plant them there with my own hands
in order to bring myself glory.
These words echo some of the pictures we find in the book of Revelation. We will be with the Lord forever. Pain, misery and sorrow will be gone forever. Our broken bodies will be made new. Loved ones will be reunited, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord FOREVER.
For a soldier to survive the rigors of war, they must constantly remind themselves of what they are fighting for. If they don’t, they will become discouraged, bitter, and a danger to themselves and those who serve with them. We must keep the big picture in mind.
We like to say this as we approach ministry: we must play the long game. We must remember the goal is to win the war, not every little skirmish. We celebrate inches of progress rather than bemoan the seemingly slow pace of the Lord’s work in the world. We must remain steady and not get upset or discouraged over the seeming lack of progress. This world is not our home, we are only passing through.
The secular world around us threatens us with consequences that are short term. Even threats of death are actually short term. The moment we die . . . we will be more alive in Christ than we ever were before. We will be more at home in Heaven than any place this world can offer us. Consequently, the threats that come are way can be shrugged off. They hold no attraction to us. Why trade the fickle acceptance of the world for the eternal blessing that comes from God? That would be like trading your beautiful home for a simple lego model of a house. It’s a really bad trade!
So, there you have it. In Isaiah 60 we are told to arise and shine. That’s what we are called to do in the increasingly godless society in which we live. That means we need to stand up and proclaim the message of the gospel with love but without fear, compromise, or apology.
Our task is to remember who God is, who we are, and where God is taking those who put their trust in Him.
There is a great account in the book of Acts when Peter and John were told by the religious leaders that they were no longer to preach about Jesus in public. And the disciples, with great boldness said, “We must obey God, rather than men.” And that is the bottom line. Just because something is acceptable to the majority, does not mean it is right or good.
We are facing unprecedented times in America, but other nations have experienced the hostility toward the gospel that is growing in our land. In these times we can drown, tread water, or become heroic. To be heroic is to rise and shine in this dark world in which we live. Irwin Lutzer in his book writes,
But—and I need to emphasize this—as we approach these matters, we must always be gospel-driven; biblical redemption must lie at the heart of our motivation. Our goal is not that our lives will be less stressful or filled with more comfort, but rather, that we have more freedom to point beyond ourselves to Christ, who redeemed us. Even our collapsing culture must always be seen through the lens of our gospel witness. (p. 20)
I believe that in the days ahead, we are either going to see a renewed all-around commitment to exalt Christ above our expected comforts, or the church will lose its witness through more compromise, more apostasy. Increasingly, Christians are finding it difficult to stay in that “mushy middle.” The fearful are going in one direction, the faithful are going in another. The wheat is already being separated from the chaff. (p. 22)
As we wrap this up, let me give you a few essential guidelines for how we can stand in a decaying culture?
1. Trust the Bible (God) more than you trust so-called “experts.” Everyone quotes their experts. No expert can equal or negate the wisdom of God.
2. Know what your children and grandchildren are being taught. Read the textbooks, ask questions, be informed and be proactive in instructing your children in the things of God.
3. Think rationally rather than emotionally. The culture knows how to push our buttons. We need to listen for arguments, not slogans. Think about what you are hearing in the world, much of it is amazingly illogical.
4. Remind yourself that relative truth (I have my truth, you have yours) is meaningless; it is not truth at all . . . only preference. The idea that we can “believe our own truth and then we can be whatever we want to be” is sheer nonsense, even though it sounds delightful.
5. Refuse to adopt the tactics of the world around us. Our job is to speak the truth in love. Do not let the hatred of the world turn you into a hater.
6. Remember that no matter what is being said or who is saying it, people cannot be saved apart from Christ. Our job is to share the gospel, even with those who may be trying to destroy us. Why? Because it is their only hope and it is what Jesus did for us.
We don’t know what the future holds for the people of God, but we do know who holds the future. That is our comfort, our confidence, and the conviction that enables us to arise and shine for Christ in our decaying world.
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