“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Cor. 4:6-7).
Especially at Christmas time each year we are dazzled by the numerous displays of lights. In the US, some whole city blocks are lit up, blinking and twinkling with multicolored light displays. It is almost like a wonderland of light, and how appropriate it is, for God has made his light to shine out of darkness.
Paul speaks of the light as being a treasure. When we think of treasure, we no doubt think of many things like gold, silver and precious jewels. However, the Bible says that light is a great treasure, and it is a treasure we can possess.
THE LIGHT OF GOD
This treasure is specifically “…the light of the knowledge of the glory of God.” The treasure of this knowledge of God is found in Jesus and in him alone. Jesus once made a very bold claim. He said, “…I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12). John says in another place that Jesus is: “The true light that gives light to every man…” (Jn. 1:9).
In the world we have various kinds of light. We have light we can see, and we even have some light we cannot see, like the X-ray. When we think of light we are apt think first of the sun in the heavens. Yet, we learn that from the story of creation that there was light before the sun and moon were ever made (cf. Gen. 1:3 & 1:16). While light was introduced the first day, the sun and moon were not created until the fourth day. By this we gather that the true light is the spiritual light of God’s presence.
Just like the natural world needs sunlight to exist, the spiritual person within us needs spiritual light. Without that light we wither and die. Indeed, we cannot live at all. John testified of Jesus saying: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (Jn. 1:3-5).
So unfortunately, the true light has not been understood by the world. That light continues to shine brightly all around us, but many people just do not see it. There is a reason for this. The Bible says: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). Thus, it is the work of Satan, our ancient adversary, to put blinders on people’s eyes and to shield them from the light of reality and truth.
The light of God continues to shine in the darkness. It is brighter than the sun but many people still do not see it. How tragic it is when someone cannot see the light of the sun in its brilliance. Such people are called “blind.” Yet, the spiritual light of Jesus radiates all around us and many cannot see it. This is indeed the greater blindness.
WE HAVE THIS LIGHT
For those who have accepted Jesus and have believed in him, the Bible says, “..But we have this treasure…” Yes, some people in the world today have the treasure of light. It shines brightly within them. They are able to walk in this light and not stumble. They are also able to help guide others. Their lives are producing a spiritual fruit because the light of Life is shining upon them. They are filled with the radiance and warmth of God.
It is clear that the Lord now expects his saints to continue his work. Jesus says in John 9:5: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Since Jesus knew he would not remain in the world physically he chose his followers to be the bearers of his light. He said to them in Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
So Christians have the task of being light bearers to others in this world. That is why we have this treasure. We must be careful not to cover and obscure the light that God has placed within us. The light cannot be hidden but it must be lifted up for all to see. This is at once the glory and the great responsibility of those who are called Christians.
There are many things that can obscure the light within us. We saw earlier that the light comes from the face of Jesus. When we fail to stay in a daily relationship with him our light begins to fade. When we sin against God, our light is obscured. The prophet of God once said: “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you….” (Isa. 59:2).
LIGHT IN VESSELS OF CLAY
We believers have this light in vessels of clay. The Bible says, “the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground….” (Gen. 2:7). The vessel is not much, just sticky dirt, but the light is everything. For many centuries people used little clay lamps for their light. Most of these lamps were small, about the size of a child’s hand. They were formed of clay and baked in the oven. Afterward, they were filled with olive oil, a wick was placed in the spout, and they were lit. The clay lamp is a good picture of the believer’s life. We are but clay, formed by God and fired with the afflictions of life. We are then filled with God’s Spirit. As the little lamp was filled with olive oil, we are filled with the oil of God’s Holy Spirit. After that, God adds the treasure of light.
So we are not much in ourselves, unsightly, sometimes chipping and cracking. Perhaps that is why we spend so much time trying to improve our looks. We might become discouraged about this were it not for the scripture. We see in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29: “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” It was God’s plan all along that we should be weak and unsightly. His desire is to humiliate the proud and wise with us, so that God alone might receive
On one occasion in scripture we learn that these little lights sometimes had covers. Gideon once took a small Israelite band of 300 soldiers against an enemy army that numbered at least 135,000. That night Gideon and his men blew their trumpets and broke the clay covering around their lamps or torches. The enemy camp was put in confusion and the Lord gained a great victory over his foes (Jud. 8:10). We see by this that sometimes it is through our own broken condition that the light gets out. This same picture is also presented to us in the story of the woman with the vial of precious ointment. The scripture says: “While he [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head” (Mark 14:3). For Jesus’ sake this woman recklessly broke the jar, which was a symbol of herself, and then she poured all the priceless perfume on Jesus.
Now let us go back to the symbol of the little lamp. While we are wasting away, we are still able to bring light to the world because of Jesus. Sometimes, even our troubles and pressures cause more light to be produced. We can praise the Lord for this miracle, that through him we can be light-bearers. May we continue to look to Jesus who is the source of this light. The Bible says, “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chron. 16:11). May we be like King David who said in Psalm 27:8, “…Your face, LORD, I will seek.”
– Jim Gerrish
Picture credit Wikimedia Commons