Bereans: Out of the Darkness, Light
Read Matthew 4
As Bereans living in Idaho Falls, we can testify to the power of God bringing light to the darkness. I remember as a boy in this town reading through the Bible for the very first time. Through that particular journey, I thought that I was caught up in some kind of cataclysmic battle between good and evil. Reading through the Bible for the very first time changed my life spiritually. Over and over, I realized that when it seemed like mankind was at their darkest and most helpless moments, God would step in and save the day. I saw a Hero for Idahoans. God.
This is what Christmas is all about – God raising the banner in Bethlehem, declaring war on sin, Satan, and death, by giving to us a Child. The gift is remarkable. Unspeakable glory. God gave to us a Person. A living, breathing, perfect Baby, who would be our Rescuer, our Warrior, and our King. We have Him. He is our Christmas gift. Forever.
The year 2012 has been a tough year for many: political disappointments, wars and rumors of wars, economic struggles, threats of a looming fiscal cliff, loss of jobs, hurricanes, tornadoes, loss of loved ones, broken friendships, depression, and discouragement. But at the end of this year, we have Christmas. And it’s at Christmas where we can carefully, thankfully, and joyfully observe how God delights in bringing light to the darkness. Today, we join in with the worship of king David in II Samuel 22:29 and Psalm 18:28, “For You are my lamp, O LORD, the LORD shall enlighten my darkness.”
Jesus is the Light
Two thousand seven hundred years ago, God spoke to His Servant, “I, the LORD, have called You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house” (Is. 42:6-7). The Servant of the LORD is the ultimate freedom fighter who breaks into the most impossible prison fortresses, bringing healing and light, for He is unlimited power and pure light. His name is Jesus.
Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, prophecies, “the Dayspring from on high has visited us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79).
A man in Jerusalem named Simeon called Jesus a light. At the temple, he held the Child in his arms and blessed God, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all people, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
Matthew says that Jesus fulfills Isaiah: Light has dawned
Jesus grew up in Nazareth. Then one day, he stepped into the synagogue on Sabbath day and read Scripture from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD” (61:1-2a). He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant, and then he sat down. Everybody was quiet. All in the room looked straight at Him. This is what He said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” And in the ensuing discussion, all hell broke loose. Like King Herod in Matthew 2, the Jews tried to kill the God-man. But do you really think that Satan and sinful people could capture and end God’s purposes through their own scheming and timing? No way! He is the King!
Jesus was going to show the region that He literally was the One fulfilling the words of the ancient prophet. He left Nazareth and did exactly the words of Isaiah. Matthew 4 demonstrates how Jesus is to be connected with Isaiah 9.
“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16).
Consider how much death and destruction the region of Galilee had experienced over the centuries. Assyrian armies. Babylon devastation. Murder. Rape. Pillaging. Burning. The shadow of death did indeed hang over this area. But now the time had come for a rising Dawn.
Jesus had come to the earth. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12). Light walked among the people in Galilee. He preached, “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He taught. He healed. And great multitudes followed Him. They experienced firsthand the light of Jesus Christ?
Have you seen the Light?
Have you seen the Light? It’s Christmas time. There are lights shows all around us, grand outdoor Christmas lights on houses in Candy Cane Lane and on South Boulevard, colored lights on Christmas trees, and theatre lights in Christmas shows. But we are talking about much more than what you see with the physical eye. Christmas is about the transformation of your heart, where you move from unbelief to belief, from doubt to faith, and from spiritual darkness to light. The singer, Wynonna Judd, has correctly confessed, “Most of us are imprisoned by something. We’re living in darkness until something flips on the switch.”
R.C. Sproul taught, “The metaphor of light is instructive. In our present earthly state we are equipped with the faculty of sight. We have eyes, optic nerves, and so forth- all the equipment needed for sight. But a man with the keenest eyesight can see nothing if he is locked in a totally dark room. So just as an external source of light is needed for seeing, so an external revelation from God is needed for knowing.” To see the light involves you hearing the Word of God, being illuminated by the Holy Spirit, and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ commands you to turn from your sin and to turn to Him. Repent and believe. And in this spiritual conversion, God will turn your darkness into light.
In history, there are many examples along this theme of light entering the darkness. For instance, years ago, my wife and spent a few days in Geneva, Switzerland. In the Parc des Bastians, a city park, there is a 325 feet long, 30 feet high wall standing proudly as a marker for the Protestant Reformation. In the center are 15-foot-tall-statues of four Geneva Reformation leaders: (1) Guillaume Farel – the first to preach the Reformation in Geneva, (2) John Calvin – leader of the Reformation movement and spiritual father of Geneva , (3) Theodore Beza – Calvin’s successor and known for emphasizing Calvin’s doctrine of predestination, and (4) John Knox – Scottish preacher, friend of Calvin, and founder of Presbyterianism in Scotland. But it is the motto etched in the granite stone that is remarkable – Post Tenebras Lux (“After Darkness, Light”).
On the wall are other statues and bas-reliefs, including Roger Williams and the Pilgrim Fathers praying on the Mayflower. And so, we have been experiencing the light of Protestant Christmas’s for around 500 years.
Let me share with you another example of God bringing light to darkness. Remember the story of the Chilean miner, Jose Henriquez, and the 32 miners that were trapped in a San Jose mine? This guy was a simple man, 54 years of age, who ministered to the other miners as they lay trapped 2,000 feet underground for two months.
“I believe that the key to all this was in the Word of God, in having believed God,” he added. “That’s why I say to the whole world that the Lord wants them to believe in Him to believe in His Word”.
“Henriquez is a profoundly spiritual person. His faith in God was key in helping his companions to hold on to hope.
“That spirituality served him well, that knowledge of the Word, having worked with the Word, because he preached in the church here,” said Jose Gonzalez, Henriquez’s pastor. “That helped him because he did not have it to read and he had to draw it out from within his heart, to be able to share it with his companions”.
“The Christian miner led devotions twice a day, crying out to God with the other miners. Thanks to his efforts, some of the miners turned their lives over to Jesus.
“On the Sunday before we were rescued, I called for a pastor to come, because I am not a pastor,” Henqiruez said. “So I told my brother in a letter, ‘Bring a pastor that you consider, and that God has confirmed is a real pastor to come and lead the prayer of salvation.’ And he did that. And around 20 miners said, ‘Yes, they believed in the Lord.'”
“After being rescued, Henriquez was the first of the 33 men to go back into the mine. He wanted to return to thank God for getting him out of the depths of the earth alive.
“Henríquez was welcomed in his hometown of Talca as a real hero. Talca Mayor Juan Castro named him an honorary citizen.
“The true hero is Jesus Christ,” Henriquez said. “He is the only hero that should be mentioned. Apart from whatever man may have done both inside and outside that mine, He is the one who deserves the honor and the glory.”
All hail to King Jesus who brings people from darkness into light!
Will you be a light till the King comes again?
Eugene Peterson puts it in his own words. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
When we go on boyscout campouts, it is best to put the camp lantern up on a pole than keep it on the ground or under the picnic table.
Be a light until the King comes again. And Jesus who came to Bethlehem so long ago is coming again!
J.R.R. Tolkien writes this in The Hobbit,
“The King beneath the mountains,
The King of carven stone,
The lord of silver fountains
Shall come into his own!
His crown shall be upholden,
His harp shall be restrung,
His halls shall echo golden
To songs of yore re-sung.
The woods shall wave on mountains.
And grass beneath the sun;
His wealth shall flow in fountains
And the rivers golden run.
The streams shall run in gladness,
The lakes shall shine and burn,
And sorrow fail and sadness
At the Mountain-king’s return!”