‘The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding
to the simple.’
We think of light as being white, but of course science has revealed to us that it is actually comprised of several different colours, which we can see by shining light through a prism, or more spectacularly in the colours of a rainbow – from the reds and oranges at one end through to blue, indigo and violet at the other. The difference is in the wavelength, with violet having the shortest wavelength and red the longest.
Most of the longer wavelengths of light that come to us from the sun pass unhindered through the atmosphere. Little of the red, orange and yellow light is affected by the air, but gas molecules absorb a lot of the shorter wavelength bluer light. This absorbed blue light is then radiated in different directions and gets scattered all around the sky. Whichever direction you look, some of this scattered blue light reaches you and that’s why the sky looks blue. Nearer to the horizon, the scattered blue light must pass through more air. Some of it gets scattered away again in other directions. Less blue light reaches your eyes and the sky nearer the horizon looks paler.
As the sun begins to set, the light must travel farther through the atmosphere before it gets to you, with the result that more the light is reflected and scattered. As less reaches you directly, the sun first appears less bright, then changes, firstly to orange and then to red. This is because even more of the short wavelength blues and greens are now scattered. Only the longer wavelengths are left in the direct beam that reaches your eyes.
This multi-coloured light show which we can enjoy at no expense is something to be thankful for, not just to be taken for granted.
Try to picture the early Christian saints such as David, Illtyd or Aiden
who in order to draw near to their God isolated themselves on some of
the remotest islands and coastlines, preferring the solitude of those
lonely places to the bustle of town and village. They were often at the
mercy of the elements, lashed by wind and rain during the winter months
– life was bleak and harder than we could possibly imagine from
our comfortable dwellings.
But see the dawn breaking over a distant hillside or through the ocean mist on a crisp winter morning must have indeed been a joy for them to behold. And what could be more calming or restful than watching the sun set slowly beyond the horizon amid that glorious display of red and gold. How comforting to be reminded of the warmth of God’s love amid the hardships of daily life. How inspiring to see the Artist’s brushstrokes drawn so extravagantly across the canvas of the heavens.
Let’s return to the mechanics of how we perceive light, if only for a moment - but let us look through spiritual eyes.
‘For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.’ 2 Cor 4:6
God’s Word, the revelation of His will and purpose for our lives is the light by which we as Christians live, but the ways in which we perceive it are many and often tortuous. We have been guilty at times of creating a theological wall between mankind and God, which makes understanding the domain of the few and highly educated. God’s light is filtered and scattered such that we sometimes struggle to see the whole picture, and in struggling eventually come to the conclusion that God no longer reveals Himself to us in ways that we can comprehend.
It is of course a falsehood to suggest that God does not reveal himself to all who open themselves to His will. Jesus did not bring his message just to the Scribes and Pharisees (in fact he spent a fair portion of his ministry criticising them for their attitudes to God’s revelation) but rather to ordinary people, fishermen and carpenters, tentmakers, housewives, tax collectors, prostitutes and beggars. They had no problem understanding because their hearts did not have the in-built filters that we have installed. They saw the light, heard the light and responded to the light.
Those early saints, sat in their caves or stone dwellings on distant islands saw the sun through the darkness of the night with hope for the day, enjoyed the heat and energy which it supplied and were comforted by the warm glow of the sunset which marked the end of their working day. They led lives that were focussed upon God from dawn to dusk and beyond, uncluttered with all the baggage that modern society imposes upon us; able to spend time listening, having time to study, and the openness to be changed and moulded by the Creator’s hand.
I hear too many people say that they are struggling to understand God’s will for their lives, but know from my own experience how frustrating this can be. The plain facts are simple, that God always has and always will reveal His purpose to His people, but light can only begin to enter a house if the curtains are drawn and the door opened. The lives we live, the society in which we have grown up and belong are not geared toward finding the space and solitude that is often needed for ‘that still small voice’ to be heard.
We do not necessarily have to seek out the same solitude that those early saints endured, but time and space are commodities that we should look for in our loves, to be with God in the sanctuary that is our home, or maybe in the countryside if that is possible. Within that space, in the closeness, we should be still and listen, and allow the light of God’s word to enter our hearts and souls.
'As the sun illuminates not only the heavens and the whole world, shining on both land and sea; but also sends his rays through windows and small chinks into the furthest recesses of a house, so the Word, poured out everywhere, beholds the smallest actions of human life.' Clement of Alexandria (c150 - c215)
1. We look at light as being essentially white, whilst having to acknowledge that it is actually composed of several different colours – this is part of the mystery of nature to those who are non-scientists. Are we guilty sometimes of looking at the Bible only superficially and failing to appreciate its depth and beauty?
How can we address this problem?
2. God reveals his world to us mainly though the light which illuminates each day (although our other senses are also involved). Think back to how you first began to understand the wonder of God as Creator. What was the situation and process involved?
3. Spend a moment considering the quote from Clement of Alexandria almost 2000 years ago ‘…so the Word, poured out everywhere, beholds the smallest actions of human life.’ Are you familiar enough with God’s Word such that its familiar phrases prompt you and illuminate your daily life?
Should this be the experience of all Christians?
©John Birch, faithandworship.com (More Bible Studies avilable on the Faith & Worship website)