This Long Dark Night

We must keep the light burning.

Command the Israelites to bring you clear (pure, clean, righteous) oil of pressed (beaten, pounded) olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. In the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain that is in front of the Testimony, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the LORD from evening till morning. Exodus 27:20-21 

These verses always strike me. The lamps were to be kept burning all night long. There should always be a light in the Temple of God. And we now know that we are that Temple.  

There were, actually, three things that were to be kept burning: 1.) the lamps (here and also Lev. 24:2), 2.) the incense, which was to be kept burning perpetually or continually (Exodus 30:8), and 3.) the fire on the altar (Leviticus 6:12).   

The importance of keeping our lamps burning is exemplified in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins: 

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming … Matthew 25:1-5 

What is the oil for our lamps that we must keep with us at all times? I believe it is the Holy Spirit in us. It is staying in the Presence, listening for his voice, always poised to obey.  

“The light in the sanctuary was to burn continually before the Lord, in the Holy Place, [Leviticus 24] verses 1-4. The “pure oil olive beaten” is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of grace.” The candlestick of “pure beaten gold” is the symbol of Christ “bruised” as an offering for sin, Isa. 53:10. The Spirit was given by reason of His being bruised. Cf. John 14:16-18, 16:7, 7:39. The lamps burned “from the evening till the morning,” perpetually before the Lord. Grace and truth are given unto us and kept by the priesthood of Christ. John 1:17.” — R. Nelson Colyar, Leviticus, The Book of Holiness, p. 47. 

So, the burning lamps symbolize the Light of Christ, the glory of God shining out from our lives.  

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 Corinthians 4:6 

The continually burning incense symbolizes the prayers of the saints according to Revelation 8:4. We are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17, Eph. 6:18).  

The continual fire on the altar was the burnt offering that was entirely consumed symbolizing the complete and perfect sacrifice of Christ on the cross. We are also to “offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is [our] spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).   

The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out. Lev. 6:12-13 

The fat symbolizes God’s portion, the best part, the “cream of the crop.” “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). That best love, that first love, must be kept burning. It all goes together this continual praying, self-sacrifice, and light.  

The passion of self-sacrifice – offering ourselves on the altar, daily taking up our cross for love of the One who took up the cross for us, the light of God’s Spirit shining out – because if He is in us and we are surrendering to crucifixion of self, the light can’t help but shine, and the incense of unceasing prayer – a continual looking up, offering thanks and praise, the worship of hope and faith and expectation of His goodness, but also just that “naked intent toward God,” the “practice of the presence of God.” 

We who are the Temple must keep the light burning through this long dark night. 

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14 

When night settles down on a church the Lord has his watchers and holy ones still guarding his truth, and these must not be discouraged, but must bless the Lord even when the darkest hours draw on. — Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David 

The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:8 (NASB) 

The bridegroom was a long time in coming …  

Photo, detail of free download from Pixabay 

The Lamp

Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin! (Proverbs 21:4)   

This is one of those verses that it’s easy to just skip over thinking, “Well that’s not me.” But then, I would be just fulfilling the verse wouldn’t I? So I decided to take a closer look. And it’s not what I thought.

The Hebrew word for “lamp” in this verse actually means untilled or fallow ground. I think this verse means that the proud have not plowed up, examined, their ways or thinking, therefore they are in the sin of pride. That is one of the things that our lamp is supposed to do – illumine our wrong thinking and doing. Jesus said:   

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good (single, clear, sound, whole, folded together), your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad (diseased, derelict, blind, evil, wicked), your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! Matthew 6:22-23   

What does that mean: single, clear, sound, whole, folded together? That Greek word is haplous and comes from a root word that means “to plait, braid, weave together.” Woven together with what?   

There are two words in Hebrew for hoping or waiting. Qavah, which means “to bind together (perhaps by twisting),” and tiqvah, which means “literally, a cord (as an attachment).” Could Jesus have meant that if we are hoping and waiting on God (woven together into a single cord, attached to God heart to heart) our lamp or eye is good?   

Another thing, in Numbers 8:2 the Lord gives instructions for setting up the Temple (remember we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit now). He says to set up the Lampstand so that it continually shines “in front” or across the room and illumines the table of the Bread of the Presence. Our lamp, our eyes always upon Jesus, the Bread of Life, God With Us, the Word.   

When Jesus talks about the eye as the lamp of the body here in Matthew, and in Luke 11:33-36, it is in the middle of pointing out a lot of wrong thinking – being a hypocrite, caring about what people think, setting your heart on treasure, serving/loving money, worrying, lack of faith in God, being legalistic but not obeying God’s commands.    

Wrong thinking is when you are not woven together with (or abiding in) the Lord, therefore you don’t have the mind of Christ. You have not allowed the Lord to plough up your hard, stony ground. The light within you is darkness. It is no longer shining on the Bread of the Presence, on the Word of Life, but on yourself. That is why haughty eyes and a proud heart is a lamp of the wicked, a dark lamp. A person with haughty and proud thinking would never shine the light of the Word on any wrong ways but would imagine they are right in whatever they think or do. It is revealing that it says five times in Proverbs that the way of a person can seem right to them but be wrong.   

The way of a fool is right in his own opinion, but the one who listens to advice is wise. (Proverbs 12:15)   

There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)   

All a person’s ways seem right in his own opinion, but the Lord evaluates the motives. (Proverbs 16:2)   

There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death. (Proverbs 16:25)   

All of a person’s ways seem right in his own opinion, but the Lord evaluates the motives. (Proverbs 21:2)   

I know I am mixing a lot of metaphors here, but we need to humbly surrender to being woven together with Him, heart and soul and mind and strength. We need to let the Light of God shine on our wrong thinking and plough up our hard hearts. That we might know him. That we might be like him – a light in a dark world. 

The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being. Proverbs 20:27

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105

You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. Psalm 18:28  

He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. Psalm 25:9  

God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. 

Examine me through and through; 

find out everything that may be hidden within me. 

Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. 

 See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, 

and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways— 

the path that brings me back to you.  

Psalm 139:23-24 (The Passion Translation) 

Flash Forth!

Those flashes through the waves are very brief, but glorious. Like our lives. Like our attempts to be light and to glorify our Lord.

Have you ever sat on the beach as the sun lowers and watched the waves flash? It’s one of my favorite things to do. The sun is just at the right angle to shine through the waves for those few seconds as they rise and then tumble over toward the shore. And they flash. There is a word for praise in Hebrew that means to flash forth. It is halal – to flash forth light, to shine, celebrate, praise. It also means to act like a madman (I love that).

There is another word for praise that I have blogged about here Prisoners of Hope. That word is yadah. Yadah is shooting arrows. Yadah is strength. It’s hope. Yadah is fighting against the darkness. Halal is just pure praise, just because. Being a conduit of God’s light. Shining or flashing forth his glory. Like waves flashing the glory of the setting sun.

Halal is the first part of the Hebrew Hallelujah, or halal Yahh. Yahh being the sacred name, the proper name of the one true God. It is a contraction of Jehovah or Yahweh. Halal Yahh is translated into Greek as alleluia or hallelujah. It is the last ecstatic shout of the book of Psalms.

Let everything that has breath praise (halal) the LORD (Yahh). Praise (halal) the LORD (Yahh). Psalm 150:6

Those flashes through the waves are very brief, but glorious. Like our lives. Like our attempts to be light and to glorify our Lord. But each little flash, each little light adds to that unique glory.

People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness. They point each other to flashes of light here and there, and remind each other that they reveal the hidden but real presence of God. They discover that there are people who heal each other’s wounds, forgive each other’s offenses, share their possessions, foster the spirit of community, celebrate the gifts they have received, and live in constant anticipation of the full manifestation of God’s glory.

Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son

Lord, help me be a little flash today. Let your light dispel the darkness!

Image by Susanne Nilsson, Sunset light in a Wave https://flic.kr/p/qjjpAu

Gethsemane

Jesus was pressed there at Gethsemane, the pure olive oil for the Light of the world, for the sanctification of those who would follow Him.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Matthew 26:36[i]

Do you know what the word Gethsemane means? The place where Jesus prayed that the cup would pass from him; the place where he sweat great drops of blood?[ii] Gethsemane comes from two Aramaic words. The word for wine press, and the word for olive oil. Gethsemane means an olive press. The place where the olives are pressed to get olive oil.

Pure olive oil was used in the Tabernacle for the oil lamps which were to burn continually.

Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. Exodus 27:20

The lamps that never went out are symbols of Jesus, our Light perpetually, faithfully.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

The pure olive oil was also made into the anointing oil used to sanctify, or consecrate, the Tabernacle and the priests.

Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and everything in it, and so consecrated them … He poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him to consecrate him. Leviticus 8:10, 12

Jesus came to sanctify, consecrate, set apart a “kingdom of priests,” and a Temple in which he can dwell.

For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. John 17:19

Jesus was pressed there at Gethsemane, the pure olive oil for the Light of the world, for the sanctification of those who would follow Him.

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Matthew 26:42

Thank you Lord Jesus for yielding to the press at Gethsemane that you might bring us light and life and freedom from sin. Let us pray for his strength to yield with him to our own press, following him to the cross, that we might be little lights in a very dark world.

Pray for strength to say with Jesus, Father may your will be done.

 

Image By Gold2874Hans Lie (according to Exif data) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24742929

 

[i] All Bible verses taken from the New International Version of the Bible.

[ii] Luke 22:44

Light Has Dawned

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12 (NASB)

“My eyes are feeble, and the windows are not clean, but I will wait on the Lord. The light does shine, the light will shine in me, and make me full of light. And I shall learn to walk all day in the light and joy of God.” –Andrew Murray[i]

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day. Proverbs 4:18 (NASB)

Jesus, Light of the world, be born in me again this Christmas time. I know my windows are not yet clean. I know I still walk in darkness, in the shadow. I know I am not fully in the light you have for me. I say again, Yes, Lord! Lead me on your Way. Brighter and brighter. Let your Light fully dawn on me!

 

Photo by Derek Bair, copyright 2019, all rights reserved

[i] Waiting on God, by Andrew Murray (emphasis mine)

Opening Windows

God doesn’t want me to close and hide what’s inside, pretending I have it all together. He’s never been big on “safe” either. He wants the windows open so His light in me can shine out, despite the interior mess it illumines.

I have done nothing but open windows – God has done all the rest … [I resolved] to be as wide open toward people and their need as I am toward God. Windows open outward as well as upward! Windows especially open downward where people need most! – Frank Laubach, Letters by a Modern Mystic

He [the saint] wants himself to be simply a window through which God’s mercy shines on the world. – Thomas Merton, Life and Holiness

This idea of simply “opening the windows” was a hard one for a performance and approval junkie like me to grasp. It has been a revelation and healing to me as I tend to think I have to be wonderful, accomplish wonderful things, be perfect, be the savior somehow.

I chose the above photograph of an open window for this post because the room shown reminds me of the inside of my head, my soul – a big, falling apart, scarred, paint-peeling mess. All that indecipherable graffiti yammering away, images of bad things from my past I don’t want to remember. My instinct is to close the windows and curtain the mess – but make sure the outside looks good. And yet, God seems to want me to keep the windows open, revealing it all to every passer-by.

God’s been teaching me the amazing grace of open windows lately as I visit people at the jail. I go feeling, and confessing to God, emptiness. I have nothing to give or say to them. But as I just ask him to speak through me, pray through me, love them through me and “open the windows” His love fills me and pours out, his words and prayers come to my lips, and his Spirit fills the cell. It doesn’t matter that I am a mess. I have found that my mess ministers to their mess. They rightly see the outward attempt at perfection as hypocrisy.

God doesn’t want me to close and hide what’s inside, pretending I have it all together. He’s never been big on “safe” either. He wants the windows open so His light in me can shine out, despite the interior mess it illumines. That can only happen by his grace and when the light in me is Jesus and his love. Christ in me the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

Mary accepts an unseen, unborn, and unknown love. She proclaims, “My soul magnifies the Lord,” as if she herself knew she would be a window of grace letting through the light of God’s hidden love. – Suzanne Guthrie, Grace’s Window

Mary, the first to hold the glorious Light of Christ. The first to dare to open the window. And she proclaimed, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” “Magnifies” means to exalt, extol, laud, celebrate, declare great with my mouth. But it also means to magnify, enlarge, show great. My soul, my weakness, my falling apart mess, is a lens that magnifies God. It enlarges him to others; it shows how great he is by comparison. Like the night sky reveals the glory of the stars. All I have to do is be real, be vulnerable, let him love through me, open the window and let the Light out.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

Amazing! You are the light of the world. He was talking to us! We are the town built to have open-windowed houses. We are the lamp that has been lit by his light, and that was never meant to be hidden. The light is in you child of God. There are so many living in darkness today, living in hopelessness, thinking of (or tragically doing) suicide. They need your light.

Jesus commanded us to love as he had loved. Jesus was totally vulnerable. Jesus came to be the Light, to give hope in the darkness.

Frank Laubach said, “I have done nothing but open windows – God has done all the rest” We who have the light in us, let us open our windows.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

 

 

Image, Open Window by Keith Ellwood https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=open%20window%20keith%20ellwood

 

 

I Am the Good News

Jesus is the bread of life given for the life of the world. I understood that metaphor. But what/who are the fish?

Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. Matthew 15:36 (NIV)

This account of the miraculous feeding of thousands with a few loaves of bread and fish is repeated in all four gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke explain that Jesus himself did not hand out the bread and the fish; he gave them to the disciples to hand out.

As I was recently looking again at this witness the Lord showed me something I had never seen before. I hope I can communicate it for you. But it is so much that it will take two blogs, so I will finish next week. I think Jesus was demonstrating something far more important than the miracle of multiplication that day. Something that the disciples, and we, would only understand much later. He was demonstrating what the Church would be like after he was gone back to the Father.

I think Jesus was training the disciples to be the Church, to be the hands and body of the Lord. They were the Church-in-training. That’s why he had them distribute the food. Jesus also did not himself baptize people, but had the disciples baptize (John 4:2). Jesus did not go with them when he sent them out two by two (Mark 6:7).

So, the disciples were learning how to be Jesus here on earth. They were distributing the physical bread that day but would later hand out the Bread of Life.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:51 (NIV)

Jesus is the bread of life given for the life of the world. I understood that metaphor. But what/who are the fish? In a couple of places Jesus talked about people as fish.

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.” Matthew 13:47 (NIV)

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19 (NIV)

The disciples were also fishers-of-men-in-training. But they weren’t just learning to fish for men that day as they were handing out the fish, they were also learning to hand out themselves. They were fish that had been caught in the Savior’s loving net whose lives in turn would be broken and given in self-denying service.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. John 12:24-26 (NIV)

Just as Jesus was broken and given for the life of the world, so we are to be broken – die to self, be crucified with Christ – so we can give ourselves. We are to be the hands and the body of the Lord here on earth handing out His love. And, because he is in us, we also become the bread and the fish that is given. J.D. Walt has written, “Because Jesus is good news and Jesus is in me, I am good news.” [i]

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:13, 14).  Jesus blesses us and graces us and strengthens us, but he also breaks us as he broke the bread and the fish that day. Like Gideon’s torches in jars, the light that is in us cannot be seen unless the jars are broken (Judges 7:15-21). And as Gideon’s jars were empty save for the light, we must empty ourselves of all self-seeking, self-righteousness, self-sins.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV)

And the church is his body; it is filled by Christ, who fills everything everywhere with his presence. Ephesians 1:23 (NLT)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11 (NIV)

 

Image, by Mira66 https://www.flickr.com/photos/21804434@N02/4739074036/

“Loaves and Fishes is set into the wall of the Brighthelm Church and Community Centre, North Road, Brighton, Sussex.”

 

[i] J.D. Walt, “The Sower’s Creed,” in This is How We Know, p. 132.

 

The Speed of Light

The light shines

(continually shines, is shining, shines on)

in the darkness, but the darkness

has not understood

(perceived,

conquered,

overcome,

seized,

grasped,

apprehended,

overtaken,

can never

extinguish) it.

John 1:5

 

 

Image By Zouavman Le Zouave – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3302900