We See Light
051-00750 Psalm 36:5-9
I. Diogenes (412 B.C.) made himself most unwelcome in Athens by going around barefoot and not wearing proper clothes. He was best-known for carrying a lantern during daylight hours, thrusting the lantern in the face of people, “I am looking for an honest man.”
A. We are told that he never found one.
1. But he kept looking. And in the daylight he kept using the light of a lamp to see.
2. The problem though, was that Diogenes while trying to see in the light, was living in a darkened world.
3. His light was the light of nature: the sun and a burning lamp.
4. But natural light is not powerful enough to see what Diogenes was looking for: a pure heart.
B. There is only one light that can reveal light.
1. “In your light we see light.”
2. This is what Diogenes needed; a light powerful enough to see light.
3. And he could have known about this light if he had only known the Hebrew Scriptures and especially the Psalms.
4. But alas, even we have the Scriptures including both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Surely that is enough light by which to see.
C. If that were the case, we would not only devote ourselves to reading and studying the Bible.
1. The truth is, though, that even when reading God’s self-revelation we do not always get the message.
2. Face it, what does God really mean, “In your light we see light”?
3. Or what did David mean when he wrote those words?
4. Well, that’s the challenge that stands before us this morning.
5. And to accomplish this task, I need to begin at the beginning:
a) I need to ask God to enlighten us.
b) And I need to give you a context for this declaration.
(1) So allow me to take a moment to pray.
(2) And I ask you for help in this prayer by praying with me.
(3) O Lord our God, your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Give us grace to receive your truth in faith and love, that we may be obedient to your will and live always for your glory; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
II. Psalm 36: “For the director of music. Of David, the servant of the Lord.”
A. The Psalm begins with David’s concern for the sinfulness of the wicked.
1. He says there is no fear of God in them.
2. When David looks around the world of his experience, he sees corruption, dishonesty, abuse, violations of the Law of God, and many other evils.
3. It’s enough to cause one to pause and reflect on God.
4. Is God not powerful enough to stop the evil among his people?
5. Or is it that God just does not care enough to do anything about it?
6. So David turns to what he knows about God. And he turns to God to find truth that is greater than his human vision and experience.
7. When I was a new Christian I often doubted the reality of this thing called faith.
a) What if it wasn’t true? What if God doesn’t really exist? What if Jesus Christ never died and rose from the dead? Most important among my doubts was this, What if it is all true but I am not really saved? What if I just think I believe but really don’t believe the right stuff?
b) But one night, all the doubts disappeared. One night when I was in despair, I was weeping and I cried out to God to show me what is true, what is real.
c) And God answered that prayer. He did it by coming to me (no I did not see a vision or hear a voice through my ears, though I believe that God has given me visions on rare occasions) and asking a very simple question: “If you do not really believe in your heart and soul, then why are you asking me?”
d) What God revealed to me that night was that sometimes my thinking interferes with my faith. I believe this is why Paul wrote, 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV) “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
B. So in the face of what David knew by his experience in the fallen world, he turns to God too. And he begins by remembering four qualities of God’s character which we call attributes of God. If you follow me looking at Psalm 36 in your Bibles, you will remember them as well.
1. First is the quality of love. God is love. That means in his very nature God is love and if he is love then he cannot do anything that is not consistent with his love.
a) But I prefer to let God speak for himself.
b) Deuteronomy 4:37 (NIV) Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength…
c) Isaiah 38:17 (NIV) Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.
d) Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV) The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
e) Romans 5:8 (NIV) God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
f) Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV) But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
g) These are just a few of the hundreds of places the Bible speaks of God’s great love.
h) David speaks of the limitlessness of this love saying it reaches to the heavens, which for us go on forever.
2. Second is the quality of faithfulness which is likewise limitless – it reaches the skies.
a) Faithfulness in David’s poem is made parallel to God’s love. They each have something to do with each other.
b) We know God is love because God is faithful to who he is and what he has promised.
c) God is faithful because failure to do what he says, failure to keep his word is unloving.
d) Genesis 9:15-16 (NIV) I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
e) Hebrews 10:13-18 (NIV) Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.
f) God is in his essence loving and faithful.
3. Third is the quality of righteousness. This characteristic along with the next one, justice, sometimes appear to contradict with the love of God.
a) But because he is faithful to his love, he must also be faithful to his righteousness which is just as much a part of who God is as love.
b) So those who live within God’s love are also within his righteousness. And God who makes those who love him to love all the more makes those who trust him righteous.
c) Psalm 48:10 (NIV) Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with righteousness.
d) Daniel 9:7 (NIV) “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you.”
e) 1 John 2:1 (NIV) My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
f) Matthew 6:33 (NIV) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
g) God’s righteousness then, is parallel to his justice, his judgments
4. So God is just which is required of righteousness and he is righteous which requires judgment.
a) As we have seen, God’s righteousness brings fear and shame, but is also brings good things to those who seek it.
b) Judgment is a double edge sword. It cuts both ways: Hebrews 4:12 (NIV) For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
c) Daniel 4:37 (NIV) Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
d) Romans 2:2 (NIV) Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. Romans 2:11 (NIV) For God does not show favoritism.
e) 2 Thessalonians 1:4-6 (NIV) Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you.
f) God’s righteous judgment separates the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff, the righteous from the unrighteous.
g) And like the heights of love and faithfulness, his righteousness is like the mighty mountains and his justice is like the great deep. Both similes present the limitlessness of God’s righteousness and justice.
C. So what does all of this mean to David? In the face of evil which is lovelessness, unfaithfulness, unrighteousness, and injustice, God, who is the opposite of this evil is the source of safety, security, protection, and assurance that all things he works together for his glory which is the manifestation of his attributes.
1. This great and mighty God who is high above the sin of the world is the only source of life.
2. Those who practice evil are really dead and cannot harm those who live in and practice these attributes of God.
3. David makes this claim by giving us another metaphor in parallel.
a) Those who trust in God will eat, no, more than eat, they will feast on the abundance of God’s provision.
b) And they will drink from his river of delights.
c) Now this is life!
III. All of this points to the answer David seeks: God is the fountain of life; God is the source of all that life entails.
A. And if we remember back to the beginning, God not only made the world but he bestowed upon us life.
1. His Spirit breathed into us the life which is God.
2. And God said that this was good.
3. When we are in God, we are restored to paradise: life, and life abundant.
B. And it is here that David recognizes the reality of God’s great promise of protection and provision.
1. Your light reveals light.
2. Some think that David didn’t really know what his words would ultimately mean.
3. But Peter disagrees: 1 Peter 1:10-12 (NIV) Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
C. In your light we see light.
1. Or we could read it, in the illumination you provide by your Holy Spirit we see the light of the world, Jesus Christ.
2. The first part of this is the Holy Spirit.
a) John 14:26 (NIV) But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
3. The second part is that this illumination from the Holy Spirit reveals the light of the world, Jesus.
a) John 1:4-5 (NIV) 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.
b) John 3:19-21 (NIV) “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 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.”
c) John 8:12 (NIV) 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.”
d) John 12:46 (NIV) I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
4. Now this is the light that Diogenes needed! This is the light we all need. And we can have this light simply by turning ourselves over to God.
5. And we can turn ourselves over to God because Jesus is the light of life.
6. But to see the light of the world and to comprehend who he is and what he offers us we must rely on the illuminating light of the Holy Spirit.
D. This is what the Trinity is all about: one God in three persons who work together for the restoration of humanity to the beginning. That beginning is our purpose and role as created by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: the revelation of the glory of God.
1. Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV) “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.”
IV. Making decisions in the dark can lead to some regrettable consequences. Back in the days before electricity, a tightfisted old farmer was taking his hired man to task for carrying a lighted lantern when he went to call on his best girl. “Why,” he exclaimed, “when I went a-courtin’ I never carried one of them things. I always went in the dark.” “Yes,” the hired man said wryly,” and look what you got!”
A. Some people change their ways when they see the light, others only when they feel the heat.
B. O Lord, grant that we may all see the light of Jesus.
1. Without it we are left to stumble a grope our way through this fallen world, this world of evil.
2. With it we rest in the shadow of your wings. Amen.