Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Isaiah 60.1-3.
This prophecy of Isaiah’s looked forward to a time when the exile of the Jews in Babylon would be at an end and Jerusalem would once again be the Holy City — a place of glory. Indeed, the feminine pronouns at the start of this chapter suggest that it was to Jerusalem that the command to arise and shine was being addressed. The picture is of the earth wrapped in the thick darkness of night, but then the dawn begins to break in the east. The sun comes up and rises over the city, and it becomes dazzling in its brightness — so dazzling in its beauty that “nations” and “kings” are drawn to it from all over the earth.
There are “nations and kings” too in Isaiah 52. There, also, Jerusalem was told to arise — “Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendour, O Jerusalem, the holy city” (Isaiah 52.1) — but in that chapter it was Yahweh’s “servant” who, though once “disfigured” and “marred”, was “raised and lifted up and highly exalted” so as to render the nations and kings speechless (Isaiah 52.13-15).
Small wonder then that, from the start, Christians have applied today’s verses to the church and taken them as a call to shine with the glory of Jesus. He is the Servant of all Isaiah’s prophecies — the “man of sorrows” who was “pierced for our iniquities”, the one who was “led like a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53.3-7) — but who rose triumphant from the tomb and is now exalted to God’s right hand.
So it is that John — echoing today’s verses from Isaiah 60 — can describe both God the Father and God the Son as together being the brightness of the New Jerusalem that will be part of the new heavens and the new earth. “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it” (Revelation 21.23-24).
But we have that light even now. Before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Zechariah had prophesied that “the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1.78-79). Then came Jesus, and in his manhood declared, “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).
So what am I to do this day? I am to “arise, shine” for my light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen on me.
Darkness like a shroud covers the earth,
evil like a cloud covers the people;
but the Lord will rise upon you,
and His glory will appear on you,
nations will come to your light.
Arise, shine, your light has come,
the glory of the Lord has risen on you;
arise, shine, your light has come —
Jesus the light of the world has come.
Please, Lord Jesus, let my life today be a true reflection of something of your glory. Amen.