Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60.1-3.
The words in this morning’s reading are addressed to Jerusalem, for we are told later in the chapter that those who come to this shining will call it “the City of the LORD, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 60.14). It is not, of course, the Jerusalem of Isaiah’s day but a future Jerusalem, and the glory that Isaiah describes is a glory that flows out of, and depends upon, the sufferings of the “servant” of the Lord that he has spoken about in chapter 52.13 to the end and chapter 53.1-12 — the one of whom he has said: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53.4-5).
Although the city shines in the darkness, the verses of this morning’s reading make it clear that it shines with a reflected light. It is the glory of the Lord that has arisen like the sun and is over the city so that the city reflects his glory into the world. And it is light and a glory that attracts nations and kings — kings that will come with camels and “shall bring gold and frankincense” (Isaiah 60.6).
That makes the connection for us, doesn’t it? Seven hundred years down the line, Matthew records how “after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem … And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2.1, 11). No wonder that, in Christian tradition, the “wise men” of Matthew soon became the gold-and-frankincense-bearing “kings” of Isaiah; and the “glory of the LORD” that Isaiah said would arise on Jerusalem became (quite rightly) identified as Jesus. “We have seen his glory,” says John on behalf of all the apostles (John 1.14).
The glory is at its brightest, of course, when the Lord has risen. “The LORD will arise upon you,” says Isaiah, “and his glory will be seen on you.” And it is in the resurrection, when the Suffering Servant steps out of the tomb as the Lord of Glory (James 2.1), that the Light shines in its full strength.
But if that is so, where is the Jerusalem that is to arise and shine and reflect his glory into the dark world? Surely it is me, and you … the church. It is the church that is the new Jerusalem of the end-times vision in Revelation — “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21.2). It is a city that (as Isaiah said) “has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (Revelation 21.23-24). This is what Jesus meant when he said “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5.14). Jerusalem is the city set on a hill and that is what we, the people of God, now are … We are those who, because our light has come, are to arise and shine and be the light of the world.
When I was going into hospital on Monday, my dear sister in Christ, Michelle*, wrote to me saying, “May your light shine so brightly, the doctors and nurses will glorify God.” As usual, she was spot on in what she was praying for me. My function as a member of Christ’s church is to arise and shine with Christ’s glory … today and every day of my life. Please, Lord Jesus, help me to do just that!
As we gaze on Your kingly brightness
so our faces display Your likeness,
ever changing from glory to glory.
mirrored here, may our lives tell Your story —
shine on me, shine on me.
Shine, Jesus, shine,
fill this land with the Father’s glory,.
blaze, Spirit, blaze,
set our hearts on fire.
Flow, river, flow,
flood the nations with grace and mercy;
send forth Your word, Lord,
and let there be light!
*Do, please, visit Michelle’s blog … an intensely personal record of her walk with Christ, full of deep truths and challenges.