1 Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
2 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.
3 And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
4 Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from afar,
and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.
5 Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and exult,
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
6 A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.
7 All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you;
the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you;
they shall come up with acceptance on my altar,
and I will beautify my beautiful house.
God calls Israel to rise up! God instructs Israel to shine! The time has come. No more sleeping. No more hiding. The whole world must see the rising Israel. The entire universe must take note of the shining Israel. Because the true light of Israel has come. Because the glory of Yahweh has dawned upon Israel. Because Israel has to become the lighthouse for all the nations in the midst of the coming darkness. All the world will search for light when the darkness comes. And Israel is going to be the only one shining brightly. So it is time for Israel: Arise, Shine!
To those who still ask: Why? Theologians give two reasons. First, Israel must rise up and shine because God, who is the true light of Israel, has come. This reason alone should be enough to motivate Israel. True light penetrates even the darkest place. Not only God has come upon Israel, but also His shining glory that makes the world tremble is on Israel. Out of all the peoples and nations of the world, God has chosen Israel to be His special people, through whom He expresses His utmost glory. Being chosen by the God of heaven and earth is beyond special. It is beyond honor. A privilege beyond words. For all peoples and nations have fallen into the grip of sin and death, and thus of no value to God except to be thrown into the fire of hell. Yet the most glorious God of love and grace decides to lift up Israel and chooses her to be His own, whom He endows with glory and honor and showers with love and mercy. This reason alone should have awaken Israel to rise up and shine!
The second reason that theologians point out is the fact that darkness will certainly come to all the world. God’s foresight is not something anyone can ignore. When He says darkness will come, then certainly it will. And it is not just any darkness. It is not the physical darkness God is prophesying about. It is the spiritual darkness that brings sin and death. It does not just darken the earth, but it will also darken the peoples of the world. The minds and the hearts of all peoples will be engulfed by the coming spiritual darkness. In Romans 1:21-23 Paul spoke about it:
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
That darkness will certainly blind the people of God, which then will result in their complete destruction in the second death. But God desires to save all people, as recorded in 1 Timothy 2:3-4:
3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
And it pleases God to appoint Israel as the lighthouse for all those people, so they may see the light when darkness comes and then come to God and be saved. Therefore it is necessary for Israel to rise up and shine. No more hiding. No more slumbering. In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus gives Christians a very important identity:
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Arise and shine, O Israel of God!
Darkness is also covering our world today. The first quarter of the 21st century is already covered with darkness. Only a few years ago the most powerful country in the world fell to the spell of LGBT, and immediately the entire world is affected by the LGBT tsunami the US has caused. Christians who stand faithfully to the word are labeled intolerant and devoid of love and grace. What makes this darkness darker is the fact that many Christians also fall to the LGBT spell and so they advocate the LGBT way in the church. These spell-bound Christians work so hard in order to legitimize LGBT by forcing the church to rewrite their doctrinal statements. As they grow in power they start excluding the faithful Christians in the name of tolerance. Their motto of tolerance has turned into intolerant, yet they still believe they are the most tolerant people in the world. D.A. Carson saw in advance before tolerance was used as a weapon by the LGBT supporters and wrote a piece addressing such issue in his famous book called “The Intolerance of Tolerance,” which was published in 2012. The whole wide world is now under the spell of LGBT. All books – adult and children alike, all movies – adult and children alike, reality TV shows and many more, are now smeared by the propaganda of LGBT. Even school is infiltrated by LGBT and its shout for acceptance in the name of tolerance and God’s love. This kind of darkness is quite overwhelming that it is able to cause hundreds of Church split in the span of a few years. Imagine how dark the next generation’s mind and heart would be when acceptance of LGBT as a legitimate lifestyle is done being indoctrinated to our young people.
Christmas is supposed to be the amazing event when God’s True Light comes into the world of man. The glory of the heavens was displayed to the shepherd the night the Messiah was born into the dark world. The brightest Star guided the magi from the East to come to Bethlehem to worship the Son of God – the King of kings. The Son’s light shined His heavenly glory and lighted up the minds and hearts of those around Him. But in the 21st century, the world’s Christmas has darkened the peoples’ minds and hearts. The 21st century people are now blind to the light of Christ. Their appetite is for the Christ-less Christmas. They want evergreen tree covered in snow in order to symbolize Christmas. So they call such tree Christmas tree. They also want the old generous man wearing red suit from the North Pole riding his sleigh pulled by reindeers to be the mascot of Christmas. The world gradually forgets about the “Word who became flesh” that incarnated into our world 2000 years ago. As their eyes are blinded by the glamour and merriness of the world’s Christ-less Christmas, their hearts and minds are darkened. When they celebrate Christmas, they reject the center of Christmas and replace Him with their idols who cannot speak, see, hear, or do anything to save them from the wrath of God.
How is our Christmas, brothers and sisters? Is it the Christ-less Christmas of world we are celebrating? Or is it the true Christmas in which Christ is at the center of our joy and celebration? We are in the middle of darkness today. When we celebrate Christmas, do we shine ever brightly so the world may come to the True Light and be saved? Are we still slumbering, sleeping, and snoring, when the Light with its utmost Glory is displayed in our hearts and minds? The shepherd woke up at the visit of the angels and they quickly went to Bethlehem to worship the Son, and then proclaimed the good news of God’s true light of salvation everywhere. We are the Israel of God, Paul says it in Galatians 6:16. Isaiah 60 is speaking to us and about us too. As professing Christians, we are instructed to rise up and shine. The True Light has come upon our hearts. He has chosen to dwell within us. So the heavenly light inevitably shines in and through us. What we need to do is to RISE UP and SHINE the Light into the world. The peoples need the Light. Without the Light they are doomed to eternal death. Their hearts and minds are under the spell of the falsehood of the world. Darkness covers them. Their spirits are chained and imprisoned by the spiritual darkness of the world. And we are their beacon of hope to lead them back to God. ARISE and SHINE, O Christians of the 21st century!
I guess the main question we are to ask ourselves is whether we are awake now and ready to shine or are we still slumbering and hiding the light that dwells within us? Have you O Christians of the 21st century ARISE and SHINE for the peoples in your city and its surrounding? Have you proclaimed the good news of God’s salvation in Christ to the dark world? Have you warned the people living in darkness of the coming wrath of God? Have you taught the young minds who are overshadowed by the blinding darkness of the ultra-modern world on how to live properly as creatures who were created in the image of God? Or is your light dark? Or are you keeping the Light to yourselves only for you to enjoy? Or are you too afraid to shine because the world might come at you and nail you to that cross? The fear of suffering can definitely stifle Christians. But let me tell you something. No doubt that faithful Christians throughout the ages and everywhere suffer as they follow the Master. Yet they persevere. They do not consider their lives to be worth more than the glory of the Lord. So they’d rather lose their lives for the sake of Jesus Christ than to keep their lives in order to gain the whole world. So they truly live the teaching of Jesus:
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26)
ARISE and SHINE, O followers of Christ!
Let me tell you about Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation. Before his world famous 95 theses, Martin Luther was just an ordinary pastor and professor in Wittenberg. Nobody would notice him except for only a few people in the Catholic Church at the time. He lived his life like every other ordinary people in Germany. Yet an event awoke his core and he had to let the Light that dwelled within him to shine. With the courage that he couldn’t afford to summon on his own, he wrote the 95 theses and nailed them on the door of the church that he shepherded. His single act was noticed by the highest leader of the Catholic Church. The Pope ordered him to recant or be excommunicated. Luther refused to obey the Pope. So he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Then the Pope, mad as he was, went to the Emperor and instructed him to do something about Martin Luther. So the Emperor summoned Luther to the city of Worms where he must give his defense in front of the holy assembly of the Catholic Church. But the assembly in Worms were not attended by religious leaders, instead the political leaders were there ready to impose political sanctions if Luther refused the order. Despite the overwhelming threat, Martin Luther chose to stand for the truth of the Scripture even though he was ordered by the Emperor of Germany Charles V to recant his 95 theses. He knew his life would be in danger as he refused to comply with the Emperor’s command. It was the only chance he got to save his life. Luther forfeited his chance to maintain his rank as professor in the university of Wittenberg and pastor of a castle church in Wittenberg. He chose to lose his life for the sake of Christ. This is what he said in front of the Holy assembly and the Emperor:
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.
Martin Luther ROSE UP and SHONE!
Brothers and sisters in Christ. This Christmas, I want to challenge you to RISE UP and SHINE! The True Light has come and dwelled within our heart. The glory of the Lord has filled our spirit. The world is covered with the utter darkness. The peoples are blinded by the spell of the world. Their Christmas is the Christ-less Christmas. It is now the time for us to leave our slumber and go into the world to proclaim of His glory and truth. So they may see your light and come to the Lord and be saved. ARISE and SHINE, brothers and sisters in Christ! And Merry Christmas! May the True Light of Christ fills your Christmas celebrations, forever. Amen!