My wife Karen loves her plants. They all need good light, but most of them are sensitive to the cold of winter. During the warmer months they flourish in the light and warmth of the sun hanging from the lower limbs of our trees. They also line our porch steps and dot our front yard. Orchids, ferns, succulents, various cacti and her pineapple experiment all have to be sheltered from freezing and therefore lighted artificially, so in they come. Even our treadmill is converted to a plant hanger, which is good because it had been otherwise unemployed.
We’ve installed some hooks in the ceiling of our front entranceway for hanging grow lights and this year we have expanded into the living room with strings of draped LEDs to give them all equal opportunity. They do amazingly well for so little contact with the sun’s direct lighting.
We all need light
In recent meditation I was reviewing Jesus’ bold claim, “I am the light of the world,” one of several self-defining statements that His cousin John recorded for us in his Gospel account. It can be found in John 8:12. His declaration is followed by a promise that is encouraging for both someone still looking for a guru, and for those of us who have already begun a journey with Him.
“The one that follows me will not be tripped up in the dark but will have the light of life.” I note that the one who follows is the one that benefits from His light. What I see in Him and glean from Him becomes the light on my life-path. To follow is to have His light shed on my way. The hymn writer caught on to it this way,
“When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His word, what a glory He sheds on our way…”
As a caution to self, following is a trust issue. If I haven’t as yet begun, then it is for me to step into His light and begin to benefit from trusting Him. For those of us that have begun, no matter the number of years we have made Him our way, it remains that to follow is to have the light He offers. If we drop back from His light, letting some distance grow between us, the path will darken, possibly becoming as dark as ever. But to draw up close again is to have Him also draw close to us, and His light with its accompanying warmth once again discloses all obstacles in my way.
“If the light you trust is darkness, then your light is really, really dark” (Paraphrase mine)
Later on, in the final hours of His life, He shared an intimate moment with His closest friends laying out some concerns for their future. What would be the secret of their success without His direct light on their path? John records His words,
“Abide in Me…unless you abide in Me you won’t succeed, but if you abide in Me (following) and My words abide in you (My light), all I have to offer will be at your disposal and you will enjoy My love (My warmth).” (John 15:7 Paraphrase mine) He included as His promise to them to send them His Spirit as His representative to help and to lead them - and us.
As with Karen’s plants we all need the light with its warmth. Jesus is the same light and love today as yesterday and will remain so for the lives of our children if they follow.
Walk in the Light. Not quite, but something like our setup...
Psalm 121 (read it below) Some context is helpful The text pictured is from a King James version of the Bible. In this case the title of the Psalm as a Song of Ascents is missing. A Song of Ascents is one in the repertoire of the saints of old sung on their way up to Jerusalem. No matter where else you were coming from, your approach to the gates was up. Jerusalem is a city on a hill. It makes me wonder if Jesus may have been alluding to this fact when He said in His Sermon on the Mount that *“a city set on a hill cannot be hidden* (Matthew 5:14).” It may be in the songwriter’s mind that the average worshiper of any persuasion tended to look to the hills for the source of their help because it was common for folks to think of their gods as living in high places. Mountains are often associated with the dwelling of the gods. Think Mount Olympus, or Sinai. It is possible this song is meant to anticipate the help of God from the temple in Jerusalem. Jerusalem sat on Mount Zion and the temple, higher still on mount Moriah within the walls. However, it may also be that he is saying in verse 2 that he lifts his own eyes even higher. Then a contrast. “My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.” Heaven referring to the depth that one can imagine with all the mysteries of the sky an upward look can take in. Earth, including the mountains, is all His making. In other words, the psalmist’s god is Lord above all, even above the most powerful gods thought to dwell in the highest hills. He implies that his god is not limited to any place within the created order. He is transcendent, He is higher than anything But what of His capability to help me here? His is a perpetual help. Verse 3 reads to me like he subtly mocks the earthbound gods of the mountains by wishing the best for their worshipers. If this is so he is setting up the folks on their way to Mount Zion and ultimately to the temple site on Moriah to declare the superiority of Yahweh. My ear hears him politely mocking in southern twist, “Hey, if y’all are looking to something in the hills for help, I hope you find it; wishing y’all the best.” Verse 4 then follows with a description of his God; the true God Israel should look to. The contrast continues into Yahweh’s [LORD] capabilities as a god quite apart from and different than the best of the best to be entertained by our wistful worship. Yahweh never slumbers or sleeps. His efforts on behalf of His people are perpetual, never lacking, never slacking. His help in view is that of protection From verses 5-7, the sun and the moon are two orbs that dwell high in the visible heavens. Given they are higher than the mountains, are they any match for Yahweh? Is the formidable Egyptian sun deity Ra in the back of his mind? Normally we do not think of the moon as a threat to us. In some cultures, though, fear exists that the moon may have an effect on us mentally, as in a person thought to be ‘moonstruck’. It may also be true the moon’s association as ruler of the darkness represents a prince of dark forces, such as “our adversary the devil.” What the writer alludes to is probably spiritual adversaries that may be feared to overwhelm us. But, he says, Israel’s God is a shade, a shelter from such forces. Jonah’s experience illustrates this. If that is true, He is surely greater than the rest – greater than anything. Wrapping up This short but potent psalm is summed up in verse 8, inferring to me that we are meant to view Yahweh as capable even when we are at home in our fields, at work spinning threads in the house or playing in the streets with our friends with this caveat, His protection though greater than any other’s is shelter to those who dwell under the shade of it. Live on the outside, making yourself subject to the fallout from those things we ought to seek shelter from and we are liable to be hurt. Israel lost the benefits of the Lord’s complete protection. Their shade was cut back a little with each departure from His law. He will never go back on His gifts and calling but His benefits along the way will be reduced, rewards withheld, if we insist upon walking out from under the shade of His love. Where does your help come from? Grace today y’all