This glorious chapter describes the restoration of ‘’Zion’’ (14). We need to interpret it on at least three levels: a.) it refers to the restoration of Jerusalem following the Babylonian exile; b.) it speaks about Christ’s shining church in this present age; a divinely illuminated community filled with people, provision and power; c.) much of the prophecy (especially verses 15-22) will only be fulfilled when Jesus comes again and establishes His Messianic Kingdom in its fullness (e.g. verses 19 and 20 – see Revelation 21:23 and 22:5; 21:4, 27). ‘’You’ll name your main street Salvation Way, and install Praise Park at the centre of town.’’ The Message. What a day that will be!
Thinking about the church in the present age, there are a number of points to note. Some years ago, I believe God led me to this chapter, and Saturday night by Saturday night, as I was preparing for Sunday, I prayed through its contents. I got ‘stuck’ here for a while, and I believe it was God’s intention that I should. It was a wonderful spot to camp out on. God’s church will be full of light (1-3); it will be filled with people and provision (4-9), authority (12) and victory (14). Jesus is building a church that is ‘’open’’ to the outsider (11): outward – looking and always ready to receive new people. ‘’Your Jerusalem gates will always be open – open house day and night!’’ The Message. (Ultimately, Jesus is that open ‘’gate’’: John 10:7)The church will be a community composed of Jewish (4) and Gentile people (10a; see also Acts 15:14-16; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5). (By the way, the coming of the magi from the east to visit Jesus resonates with the early part of this chapter. Think also about Psalm 72: 10, 11 and 15, and the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon.)
This world is a ‘dark’ place, and 2014 feels like one of the darkest years I have lived through. What is the church’s responsibility in such an atmosphere (2a)? It is to ‘’Arise, shine…’’ (1); to be that ‘’city on a hill’’ that ‘’cannot be hidden’’ (Matthew 5:14). This is the divinely appointed answer for a world shrouded in deep darkness. But our light is not our own; we shine with ‘’the glory of the Lord’’ (1, 2; see also 9b, 13b and 21b). The church is like the moon: ‘’the lesser light to govern the night.’’ (Genesis 1:16). We do not shine with our own inherent light. We reflect the rays of ‘’the greater light’’ – the Lord Himself who is our Sun (19, 20). When the church is most true to her calling; true to herself; and when she shines like God Himself because of her relationship with Him, crowds of people from all across the globe will flock trough her ever open gates (11). There will also be the arrival of abundant provision so that the church can fulfil her true calling. ‘’God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.’’ Hudson Taylor. The word ‘’but’’ (2b) draws attention to the fact that God has put a clear distinction between the church and the world, and people in the world should be able to see it. The church is most attractive when she is most counter-cultural.
‘’Whenever the glory of the Lord rises upon thee, be sure to reflect it. Arise, shine! Arise, to catch as much of it as possible. Shine, that others may catch as much as possible also…Sometimes Christians seek release from their positions in business or social life, on the plea that they are uncongenial and ungodly. Yet these are the very circumstances under which Zion is bidden to arise and shine. The darker the staircase, the more need of the candle.’’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Great verses through the Bible’, p.291.
Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus for giving us the privilege to shine in this dark world. Thank you that in you our lives have meaning and purpose.