And the Lord Went before Them

By: Joseph H. Murray

   “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people” (Exod. 13:21–22). And even before this when the plague of darkness was upon the Egyptians, it was so dark, “They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings” (Exod. 10:23).

   David said, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105). And, “The entrance of thy words giveth light” (Ps. 119:130). The words David is referring to here are the words written in the Law of God given to Moses.

   In David’s care and concern for God’s people, he was expressing his grief because God’s people had forsaken God’s law: “Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they [God’s people] keep not thy law” (Ps. 119:136). In his (David’s) instructions to his son Solomon, he continues, “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Prov. 6:23).

   Isaiah prophesied of the coming of Jesus to Israel in these words, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil” (Isa. 9:2–3).

   God’s people have been manhandled in that there are many divisions or many denominations among them, and the joy has not been increased. Righteousness, peace, and joy cannot remain as long as God’s people are divided by men who are not led by the Spirit of God, for in unity there is power, peace and joy, and the consuming fire of God gives light in the camp.

   Jesus was sent only to the household of Israel with His personal ministry, but Isaiah said in his promise of Israel’s deliverance, “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth” (Isa. 49:6), and confirmed by Simeon in Luke 2:29–32 in these words, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” We find more affirmation of this prophecy in these words, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” (Isa. 60:1–3).

   There are times in our lives when the light of God grows dim, not of any failure on God’s part, but of us, and the enemies rejoice at our failure, but there is comfort in the words of Micah: “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation [or chastisement] of the LORD, because I have sinned against Him, until He plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold His righteousness. Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the LORD thy God? mine eyes shall behold her: now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets” (Mic. 7:8–10).

   Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, said, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14–16).

   “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). In John’s testimony of Jesus, he said, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:4–5). And John goes on to explain why darkness cannot comprehend light in these words, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:19–21).

   The light that shone from God through the law and the prophets, Jesus, His disciples, and the apostle Paul must shine through us. This light first was shown to the household of faith: the Israelites, then, to the Samaritans, and lastly, to the Gentiles.

   The apostle Peter opened the doors to all these groups: to the Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2:14–37), to the Samaritans in Acts 8:14–17 and to the Gentiles in Acts 10:34–48. Jesus also prayed for the light of this glorious gospel to be shown to all the earth through all generations (John 17:20–21). This was Paul’s commission to the Gentiles in Acts through words from God spoken to Ananias, “But the Lord said unto him [Ananias], Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:15–16, Acts 13:47).

   Paul testified to this in these words, “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people [Jews] and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:16–18). “Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people [Jews], and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22–23; also Ps. 22 & Isa. 53).

   Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4–5). He proved he was the light of the world by healing the man who was blind from his birth.

   Jesus has returned to His Father to sit at God’s right hand until all His enemies are made His footstool. The torch has been passed to those whom He has chosen to be like Him. He said these words, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12).

   The light that Jesus showed while in the world was doing the work of God. Therefore, the light that the followers of Jesus must show must be in works also, or else we are not true followers of His, and hence, we are not the light of the world as He said we should be (John 12:36).

   Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14–16).

   I see a close relationship of life, light, and Spirit. We receive these qualities when we are baptized into the body of Christ by the one Spirit spoken of by Paul in 1Cor. 12:13. Should we receive these attributes of Christ and bury them in a napkin wrapped in the ground or hide them under a bushel, we are only trying to save ourselves. The Spirit of God is saying, “Let your light shine behind you.” But to do that, it must shine through us, or else we are casting a shadow behind us and causing those who follow us to walk in darkness.

   Jesus said, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” (Matt. 6:22). When we attain this standard of godly living, it can be said of us, “We are light and in us is no darkness at all” and anyone who is following us will have “none occasion of stumbling” (1 John 2:10).

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