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The Power and Authority of Light

How ironic that God’s blessings can actually serve to obscure His blessings! More than that, there is a danger that we allow His blessings to cause us to fail to fully comprehend or appreciate all that we read in His Word. When we read, for example, of how people in Bible times waited anxiously for the light of dawn, or that they had to sit patiently in darkness, we today tend to gloss over the reality of what life was like back then because of God’s blessing of modern lighting. The darkness today can be dispelled with the flick of a switch. Not so back then. When their fires went out, they had little recourse but to sit in darkness and to wait for God to dispel the darkness with the light of dawn.

We also therefore tend to miss the Bible’s analogy between the light of dawn and the “light” of God’s Word. As people then had no recourse but to sit in darkness until the sun rose, so also human beings can exist only in spiritual darkness until the light of God’s Word illuminates their understanding. As man was powerless to provide physical light, so also man remains powerless to provide himself with spiritual light. That is the power of God’s Word, but that power can never be appreciated by those who imagine that they can produce their own spiritual light as easily as they can now produce physical light.

Isaiah once wrote: “And when they say to you, ‘Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,’ should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” (Isaiah 8:19-20 ESV) Man has always tried to produce his own spiritual light, but true light and understanding come only from God’s Word. So also Solomon wrote in Proverbs 4:19, “The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” (ESV)

Only God’s Word can dispel the spiritual darkness of man. Scripture thereby attests to the power and authority of God’s Word by referring to it as “light.” Isaiah foretold, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” (Isaiah 9:2 ESV) Clearly this was a reference to Jesus, Whom John not only referred to as “the Word,” but as that which “gives light to everyone.” (John 1:9 ESV) John the Baptist was called from conception “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:79 ESV) This calling he carried out by sharing the Word of God.

And yet as powerful and as miraculous as the gift of God’s light truly is, that power is neutralized and wasted whenever human beings deny the authority of God’s Word, or when they refuse to allow its power to illuminate their sin-darkened existence. Man’s rejection doesn’t change the power of that Word, it just robs that individual of its benefit. God’s Word continues to offer “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” (Psalm 119:105 ESV) but human beings rob themselves of that benefit when they deny the authority of that Word. To do so is, in fact, the height of foolishness, for the core message of that Word is not oppression, but freedom. Not animosity, but love. Not anxiety, but safety. The beating heart of the Word of God is the message of forgiveness and life eternal through faith alone in Jesus Christ. So also we confess with the Apostle Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16 ESV)

Michael Roehl is pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bismarck, North Dakota.