“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5, NLT)
Judges, chapters 19-21; 2 Corinthians, chapter 4
2 Corinthians 4:5-7 (NLT):
You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
Let there be light in the darkness. What a powerful statement! My thoughts turn to Genesis 1. “The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters” (Genesis 1:2, NLT). Into that darkness, God spoke: Let there be light in the darkness. And ever since then, the darkness has fought against the light, but it cannot overcome it (John 1:5).
This same God has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. Scripture often uses the imagery of light and darkness to speak of spiritual matters. “Light and darkness” is a major thread running through John’s Gospel. Here, Paul uses that same imagery to describe what God has done for us. John says that Jesus brought light that gives life; Paul says that the light enables us to see God’s glory in Jesus.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. On the credenza behind my desk is a small ceramic piece that holds scented wax. There is a place for a tea light under it; when lit, the flame melts the wax and the scent fills the room. The body of this piece says “Faith makes all things possible.” There is a cutout of a cross through which the light from the candle shines. That’s the image that comes to mind when I read this passage. The light of God is shining in our hearts; the cracks in our “clay jars” allow His light to shine through.
What a contrast between this image of God’s light shining in our hearts and our companion passage from Judges 19-21! A brutal crime. The willingness of the Levite and his host to send two women out to try to appease the violent crowd. The reaction of the Levite – to cut his concubine’s body into pieces and send it around to the whole territory of Israel. The unwillingness of the tribe of Benjamin to take action against those who committed this horrific act.
“Such a horrible crime has not been committed in all the time since Israel left Egypt!” (Judges 19:30). Then, after the Israelites went to war against the tribe of Benjamin, the people gathered and cried out: “O Lord God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel?” (Judges 21:3).
In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes (Judges 21.25). They were living in darkness, everyone doing “their own thing” – and then they seemed surprised at what happened. The parallels with our times are obvious. We live in a time when everyone does what seems right in their own eyes – and they demand that everyone else approve. And many people cry out to God, “why has this happened?”
Light Shining in the Darkness
It has happened because people are living in darkness – and rather than allowing God’s light to shine through our cracks, we feverishly try to cover up our cracks so that no one can tell that we’re fragile clay jars. The answer is not to yell at people. It certainly isn’t to fight with them with the world’s weapons and strategies. The answer is to let God’s light shine through us in ways that make it clear that it is God, not us, who is at work. As Paul will write a few chapters later in 2 Corinthians, “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4, NLT).
Not human reasoning, but God’s power at work in us. Let your light shine!
Father, thank you for reminding us that even though we are “fragile clay jars” – “cracked pots,” as someone once put it – your light shines through us. Help us not to trust in our own abilities and reasoning, but to trust in you. As Paul also wrote, “When I first came to you, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). Help us to focus on Jesus, and to allow your light to shine through us today. Amen.