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ASPECTS

a monthly devotional journal
by David Lampel
Issue No. 65
April 1996

I Have Seen the Light


 

HOLY RADIANCE

There is a light in heaven that mortal man cannot bear to see. It is a light so radiant, so overwhelming, that it kills.


Selah


Moses was not permitted to see God's face, and although, in a vision the prophet Isaiah was given the privilege of seeing the throne room of God, he was not able to describe the appearance of God Himself--only the reverberating sound of His voice, and the glory and heavenly creatures surrounding Him.

The apostle John was given a slightly closer glimpse of absolute deity, but even he was unable to describe God the Father in terms descriptive for humans.

 

The Light of the World

The holy radiance of God was either invisible or lethal to mankind--until Christ. Finally we had a visible, touchable part of God--God without death.

 

Revelation

The light of Jesus is not only a light that saves, it is a light that reveals. He reveals God to man through His personality and through his integrity. Jesus manifests the personality of God in flesh.

If darkness represents mystery, bleak foreboding, and evil, then the light of Christ represents revelation, hope, and righteousness. Jesus came into the world not to emphasize the mysteries of God, but to explain them. In Him we have the essential truth of God.


Selah

Light of the world, we hail Thee, flushing the eastern skies;
Never shall darkness veil Thee again from human eyes;
Too long, alas, with-holden, now spread from shore to shore;
Thy light, so glad and golden, shall set on earth no more.

Light of the world, Thy beauty steals into every heart,
And glorifies with duty life's poorest, humblest part;
Thou robest in Thy splendor the simple ways of men,
And helpest them to render light back to Thee again.

Light of the world, illume this darkened earth of Thine,
Till everything that's human be filled with what's divine;
Till every tongue and nation, from sin's dominion free,
Rise in the new creation which springs from love for Thee.

             John S.B. Monsell


The light of Jesus reveals the truth of God to man, but it also reveals the purpose God intends for men and women who call upon His name.


 

IN LIGHT... ACCESSIBLE


They were the first Gentiles to seek Him. They were the first from outside the Jewish faith--these oriental magi--to acknowledge that this child was God.

No matter what darkness they had left behind, they were drawn to the light--the light of Christ. But what drove them to their knees? What made these strangers kneel before a brand new baby and call Him God?

What draws anyone? What is it about Christ, that we are drawn to Him, and call Him Lord? Why does it work?

Because He is light! The wise men traveled in ignorance, not knowing what they would find at the end of their journey. What if God's Son had been a revolting beast? What if God had sent a perfectly hideous thing to die on a cross for our sins? Would the magi have so readily knelt before Him in adoration?

Of course not. Why should they worship a God of darkness and evil? The wise men worshipped a gentle child who represented in flesh a God of love--a God of light. Because God is not a hideous beast, the Christ child could not be.

The heavenly star did more than just point the way; it helped describe the object of their search.


Selah


The hope and salvation offered by Jesus are only part of the reason why we are drawn to Him. Like the wise men of old, we follow the star in ignorance. We may have heard that the object of our search will offer us good things, but we don't know for sure until we stoop down to enter the cave where He lies.

It is at that point--the point at which we like what we see--that our salvation is realized. We wouldn't want salvation from a monstrous God; we wouldn't trust His promise of hope. But because God is light, because He is truth, integrity, justice, righteousness--and because He has given us a Savior who is just like Him--then we believe, and are saved.


Selah

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious--Thy great name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all, life Thou givest--to both great and small,
In all life Thou livest--the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish--but naught changeth Thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
All praise we would render--O help us to see
Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee!

             Walter Chalmers Smith


Of course there were others, around the same time and place, who experienced a light of a different sort.

 

Three Men and a Baby

[Our three shepherds enter furtively, glancing back over their shoulders nervously, as if trying to get away from someone or something that has frightened them. They are traveling huddled closely together for security--which causes them to keep tripping over each other's feet. Caleb, the eldest, is in the lead. He is our strong leader who thinks he has all the answers. Ephraim is the nervous one in our trio, always fussing and fretting, worrying about tomorrow. Jacob is the sober-headed diplomat of our group. Count on him to keep things straight.]

 

Caleb
(turning quickly to halt the others)


Now hold it! Just wait a minute. What's got into us here?

 

Ephraim
(pointing back in the direction
they have just come; stuttering)


B-b-b--but--

 

Caleb
(sarcastically)


Well said.

 

Jacob
(to Caleb; for once, almost as nervous
as his friend Ephraim)


I agree with Ephraim.

 

Caleb
(trying to calm his companions)


We gotta slow down here.

 

Ephraim


Y--you heard what he said.

 

Jacob
(to Caleb)


You heard what they all said.

 

Caleb
(after a beat)


We were dreaming.

 

Jacob
(incredulous)


All three of us?

 

Ephraim
(firmly)


I wasn't dreaming.

 

Caleb


 

Jacob
(to Ephraim; calming down)


Caleb's right. That wolf from last night might come back.

 

Ephraim
(to Jacob)


But the angels said--

 

Caleb
(cross-examining)


Now, how do you really know they were angels? I mean, maybe the sun was in our eyes.

 

Jacob


At midnight?

 

Caleb
('have it your way')


All right then--the moon.

 

Ephraim
(with firm resolve as much to convince himself)


I've never seen an angel before, but I swear on my mother-in-law's life--those were angels.

 

Jacob
(slowly turnint to Dphraim; after a beat)


Your mother-in-law?

 

Caleb
(turning Jacob by the shoulder; with feigned confidentiality)


I've met his mother-in-law. He's got nothing to lose.

 

Jacob
(to both his companions)


Look, I think we can all agree we saw something extraordinary tonight. The only question is: What are we going to do about it?

 

Ephraim


Caleb says we dreamed up the whole thing. The only way to prove it really happened, is to go into Bethlehem and check it out for ourselves.

 

Caleb
(after a pause; more seriously; thoughtfully)


It wasn't just what we saw. Can you imagine! The angels said the Christ child has been born. All these centuries--and finally, He's here!

 

Ephraim
(trying to remember)


What did they say now ...

 

Jacob


They said, (reciting--but not too smoothly) "The sign will be that you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger."

 

Ephraim

(with quickly fading confidence)


Well, how hard can that be. Just find the right cave ... and the right stall ... and the right cows ...

 

Caleb
(assuring Ephraim; with some disdain)


We'll ask directions.

 

Jacob
(after a short pause)


What's so hard to believe is that we'd be chosen as the messengers in the first place.

 

Ephraim
(wryly)


Or the last place.

 

Jacob


I was sure the Messiah would reveal Himself first in Jerusalem--on the temple mount!

 

Caleb
(wryly)


But instead He comes to Bethlehem, of all places.

 

Jacob


I don't know. I guess it doesn't really matter where the Savior shows up--as long as He does.

 

Ephraim
(after a beat; thoughtfully)


What do you think's going to happen?

 

Caleb


What do you mean?

 

Ephraim


I mean for us. What's going to happen to us, now that Messiah is here?

 

Caleb
(after thinking)


I don't know.

 

Jacob


Right away--maybe nothing. Maybe life will just keep moving along, changing a little at a time.

 

Ephraim


Yeah, or maybe the heavens will open up again.

 

Caleb


We may never know. But at least we know one thing: This sorry world's never going be the same again.

 

Jacob


Not likely.

 

Ephraim
(brightening)


And we were the first.

 

Jacob


But we're going to be the last if we don't get on with it.

 

Caleb
(the leader taking charge again, resignedly)


All right. Let's go.

 

Ephraim
(as they exit; to Jacob; innocently)


Have you ever worshipped a baby before?

 

Caleb
(to no one in particular)


Boy I just hope they've cleaned out that stall.[1]

 

EXPECTANT FAITH

Unlike the magi from afar, who knew precisely where they were going but didn't know what to expect once they got there, Simeon knew precisely what to expect, but didn't know where to look or when it would happen.

 

Walking by the Spirit

Jesus being the first male born to Mary and Joseph, they were required--according to Jewish law--to present Him to God at the Jerusalem temple. They would purchase Him back from God, so to speak, with an offering--in their case (because they were poor) a pair of doves or pigeons.

Just as he was every day, Simeon was there, waiting expectantly, serving the Lord and all the while waiting for the promise from God to be fulfilled--that he would not see death before he saw the long-awaited Messiah.

What a beautiful touching scene this is between the new family and Simeon. Here was a man fairly drenched in the Holy Spirit:

The moment he laid eyes on Jesus he knew--he knew that this little one, just over a month old, was the long-expected Anointed One. Simeon took Jesus into his arms and sang a song of praise to his God:

This man was one who helped transfer the heavenly light to all the people of the world. God rewarded Simeon's faithfulness and patience; He rewarded him not only with the revelation of the child, but the additional revelation that through Him the entire world--far beyond the citizenship of Israel--would now have access to God through Christ.


Selah



Lo, He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Alleluia! alleluia!
God appears on earth to reign.

Every eye shall now behold Him,
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.

Now redemption, long expected,
See in solemn pomp appear:
All His saints, by men rejected,
Now shall meet Him in the air:
Alleluia! alleluia!
See the day of God appear.

             Charles Wesley and Martin Madan


Each night the comet is larger, it glows more brightly, its coma more readily spied with the naked eye. Each night the streaming tail thickens and elongates, a reaching vapor-trail painted across the night sky.

Larger and brighter, could it descend? Could it plummet down, screaming its anger, to wreak havoc upon earth, changing with its collision the very course of humanity?

And I think about a man--a twisted, hate-filled man--traveling an ancient road on his way toward evil and evil deeds. A man who looked up and saw a light, an unexpected visitor from heaven ...

 

BLINDED BY THE LIGHT
"Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?"[3]


They had been on the road for more than six days. His companions had grown weary of the journey, but Saul was more exhilarated with every step that took him closer to the city of Damascus. Filled with the passions of the zealot, the Sanhedrinist kept his gaze steadily northward, kept his brilliant mind occupied with the arguments he would offer into evidence against those who were members of The Way.

It was for the purpose of finding and arresting such adherents to the teachings of the Nazarene that Saul was traveling to the crossroads called Damascus. In his bag he carried letters of introduction from the chief priests to the synagogues of that city. These letters gave him formal license to apprehend those who spoke in opposition to the Jewish Law.

From where this holy passion had come was as much a mystery to Saul as was the destiny to which it would eventually take him. He had always been ambitious, both for his God and for his religion, and seemed to be on a fast, direct path to prominence within the temple community-- possibly even the entirety of Israel.

Was he chasing these disciples of Jesus for personal gain--to enhance his own reputation at the temple? Probably. But he was also consumed by a very real and terrible loathing for them, and the many ways their new religion was disrupting his religion.

Saul could put forth any number of reasons for his present occupation, but, in the end, what they would all boil down to was that he earnestly believed he was serving God's will. His people were God's chosen people; anything that challenged their way of life had to be dealt with.

 

"I Am Jesus"

The sun was at its zenith, directly overhead, when it was suddenly replaced by a light painfully more enveloping and intense. The impact of this light and its unearthly presence drove Saul to his knees.

"Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"[4] The voice boomed out of the encompassing light.

His mind struggling up through his pain and utter confusion, Saul realized that He was in the presence of God. There would be no other explanation for this articulate, blinding presence. If his sudden fright, and the brutal impact of the unearthly visitation, had not driven him into the dust of the road, he knew that he would now be just as prostrate of his own volition. He knew not why, but God had chosen to reveal himself to him in this way. He dare not even raise his head.

"W--who are You, Lord?" It was all he could find breath to say.

Out of the rumbling thunder that shook every bone in Saul's body came the reply: "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting."[5]

Saul's mind raced, his senses fairly roared back at him at this revelation. Jesus? Jesus, the Nazarene, the one whose followers he was on his way to destroy? How could this be?

Saul's life was committed to obliterating the memory of this supposed pretender. Once all of his followers were finally done away with, it would only be a matter of time before his teachings and the events of his life would be forever swallowed up in the vapors of history.

But now, what was this? To the very core of his being he knew this voice to belong to God. There was no other explanation. If that was so, then it meant that Jesus was God! And it meant that everything he had been living for--every murdered disciple, every eradicated church, every Jewish convert brought back into line--everything in his life up to this point had been a lie.

Saul felt beaten down, as if the dirt in which he now shook with fear was to be his new home.



Saul's head felt as if it would explode from the pressure--the battle raging in his mind between his Jewish heritage and this heavenly confirmation of new truth. But he wasn't given the opportunity to wrestle it through--to use the reason for which he was becoming famous.

"Now get up and stand on your feet," Jesus commanded Saul. "I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me."[7]

Forgiveness of sins? The Gentiles? Mechanically obeying the order to rise, Saul suddenly realized that the overpowering light, now gone, had left him blind. As he put his hands to his face, he discovered, though his eyelids were open, his vision was gone, and a crusty, scaly substance was already forming around his eyes[8]

 

LIGHT OUT OF HIS KINGDOM


The story of God's light come down to man is, essentially, a story of transference and change. The eternal light of God has been delivered to the dark depravity of mankind through the person of Jesus Christ.

While the physical light may have temporarily returned to the glory of heaven,[9] the effect and power of that light remain behind. Because God was willing to share His light, humanity would have the opportunity to be bathed in its cleansing radiance forever.

God through Christ transfers his light into the believer. The immediate and progressive effect of this light is internal change. Then, as a result of the internal change, external changes begin to take place as the believer moves about in the world.

Of course, there is very often a level of discomfort that tags along as a companion to change.



I couldn't see the sunshine through the shadows;
I couldn't seem to find a soul to care;
Then in my darkest hour, You touched me with Your pow'r,
And when I looked Your light was everywhere.

The light of a million mornings filled my heart;
The sound of a million angels sang my song.
The warmth of a love so tender,
Touched my life and suddenly,
The light of a million mornings dawned in me.

I've never tried to understand a sunrise,
I only know it takes away the dawn;
I can't explain Your healing, or all the joy I'm feeling;
I only know You've come into my heart.

And now that Your glory has come shining through,
Let my life be a candle, Lord, that shines for You.
[10]


NOTES, COPYRIGHT & SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION

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Issue No. 65
April 1996

NOTES

[1.] Three Men and a Baby, by David S. Lampel, commissioned by First Baptist Church, Marshalltown, Iowa, December, 1995. Order #SK13 from the His Company Catalogue (return to footnote 1)

[2.] This quotation originally read: "... so there is only one God." For the purposes of this illustration, the word "God" was changed to "Son." While this slightly changes the meaning of the quotation, the theology is not harmed. (return to footnote 2)

[3.] Acts 9:4; 22:7; 26:14. (return to footnote 3)

[4.] Acts 9:4 NASB. (return to footnote 4)

[5.] Acts 9:5 NASB. (return to footnote 5)

[6.] A.W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest (Christian Publications, 1978), p54f. (return to footnote 6)

[7.] Acts 26:16-18. (return to footnote 7)

[8.] lepis, lep-is', Greek Stg 3013; from lepo (to peel); a flake :- scale, scaly substance. See also: Tobit 3:17 - And Raphael was sent to heal them both, that is, to scale away the whiteness of Tobit's eyes, and to give Sara the daughter of Raguel for a wife to Tobias the son of Tobit; and to bind Asmodeus the evil spirit; because she belonged to Tobias by right of inheritance. The selfsame time came Tobit home, and entered into his house, and Sara the daughter of Raguel came down from her upper chamber. T it 11:12-13 - And when his eyes began to smart, he rubbed them; And the whiteness pulled away from the corners of his eyes: and when he saw his son, he fell upon his neck. (return to footnote 8)

[9.] Acts 1:9-11. (return to footnote 9)

[10.] The Light of a Million Mornings, from the musical Everlasting Light, by Claire Cloninger. (return to footnote 10)

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

All original material in Aspects is Copyright © 1996 David S. Lampel. This data file is the sole property of David S. Lampel. It may not be altered or edited in any way. It may be reproduced only in its entirety for circulation as "freeware," without charge. All reproductions of this data file must contain the copyright notice (i.e., "Copyright (C) 1996 David S. Lampel."). This data file may not be used without the permission of David S. Lampel for resale or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all of its content. Brief quotations not to exceed more than 500 words may be used, with the appropriate copyright notice, to enhance or supplement personal or church devotions, newsletters, journals, or spoken messages.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture is from the New International Version. NIV quotations are from the Holy Bible: New International Version, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission. NASB quotations are from the New American Standard Bible © 1960, 1962,1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by The Lockman Foundation.

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