“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (I John 1:5
The village of Theydon Bois is very unusual. You only notice that outstanding feature when you visit Theydon Bois at night, as I did when I was the Moderator of the church there a few years ago. For the evening Deacons’ Meetings and Church Meetings some of the people arrived by car even though they only live 200 yards along the very flat road. Others arrived carrying enormous torches. Theydon Bois is inside the M25 and has its own tube station. But the village stands out because even though it has 4000 people it has no street lights at all. When night falls, it gets dark. Very dark. Surprisingly dark. Darker than most of us who live in towns are used to.
Of course we only notice the dark in places like Theydon Bois because we are so used to having light. We live in a 24 hour a day society. You can buy almost anything you might fancy at Tescos at 3 am six days of the week. And in the darkest month of the year you can go clothes shopping in Lakeside until 11 pm – 7 hours after it will have gone dark and cold outside. We are surrounded by light – 24 hours a day if we want to be!
Life was not always like that. Until gas lighting became popular in Victorian England most people preferred to be safe inside their houses once night fell outside. The same would be true outside the cities and away from electricity supplies in most of Africa or India or South America even today. People may have oil lamps or candles indoors but outside at night it is dark, very dark. We can surround ourselves with as much electric light as we want. But our ancestors could not. Billions of people around the world still cannot. No wonder most people have an instinctive and completely rational fear of the dark. The dark contains unseen dangers, obstacles, wild animals and evil men which we can only imagine. So darkness came to represent all that is unknown, all that is sinister, all that is evil in the world.
That is the context in which the Bible was written. That is the context in which the Bible says “God is Light.”
“God is Light” is a metaphor, a symbolic representation of a deep truth. Metaphors touch not only our minds but also our hearts. So there are parts of God’s Word which engage our emotions and our imaginations as much as, if not more than, our minds. The statement that “God is light” is one such truth.
1 John 15 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
God is light. God is not darkness. So what does this reveal to us about the God we worship?
The whole universe started out in darkness. God spoke and there was light.
1 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day”, and the darkness he called “night”. And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
God speaks and light brings life. Right from the very beginning there was a distinction between day and night, light and darkness. Day was safe – night was dangerous.
In the Bible light is a picture of many things. It is a picture of joy and blessing and life. In contrast darkness is a picture of sorrow, adversity and even death. Light signifies God’s presence and His blessing and so light also represents salvation. Outside God’s presence is only darkness.
Dark is full of unseen hazards and dangers. Light guides us and keeps us safe.
Remember how God manifested Himself to the Israelites all through the Exodus and the wilderness.
Exodus 13 21 By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
God as light brings blessings to His people.
Numbers 6 22 The LORD said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24 “ ‘ “The LORD bless you
and keep you;
25 the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
26 the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.” ’
Psa 27 1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
Light is also a symbol of God’s holiness. And God’s glory. And God’s truth.
1 Timothy 6 God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
Beyond that light and dark also come to represent good and evil. God has saved us out of darkness and brought us into His wonderful light. So the Bible calls Christians the “Children of Light” and “the Light of the World”!
John 3: 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
Colossians 1 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
And Jesus describes Himself as the Light of the World.
John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Jesus said, John 12:46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no-one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
Into this dark world God sent His only Son Jesus Christ to be the light of the world. To bring light to our darkness. To rescue us from the gloom and sadness and bring us joy and happiness. To set us free from our fears and give us peace and hope. To deliver us from ignorance and bring us knowledge and wisdom. To drive out sinister creeping evil and bring us goodness.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
Light brings life. Without light there is no life. Apart from God who is the source of all life there is only darkness.
A wise man* once said, “There is no greater darkness than a soul that has lost its way.” That wise man was actually G’Kar, one of the aliens in the science fiction series Babylon 5. But the saying is no less true for that. “There is no greater darkness than a soul that has lost its way.” And it’s true. If you turn your back to the light, all you can see is your own shadow. For the last 2000 years Christians and Churches, and the Jews for a thousand years before that, have been lighting candles to proclaim and celebrate the truth that God is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:1-3 John talks of “what WE have seen and heard.” He is surely remembering his own experience of how Jesus’s glory was revealed to Peter, James and John, in the Transfiguration. I find it fascinating that Matthew, Mark and Luke use different words and similes to describe the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ – the testimony of three different eyewitnesses to the Transfiguration.
Matt 17 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Mark 9 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.
Luke 9 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.
And John describes encountering the Risen Christ in a similar way.
Revelation 1 12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
One day we will all see God’s glory in this way!
Isa 60:1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
….. 19 The sun will no more be your light by day,
nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the LORD will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
20 Your sun will never set again,
and your moon will wane no more;
the LORD will be your everlasting light,
and your days of sorrow will end.
Rev 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.