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the Epiphany

Isaiah 60:1-6

Rev. Andrew Eckert

the Epiphany
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Mon, Jan 6, 2020 

In our text from Isaiah chapter 60, we hear these words: Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

The true light is the Lord.  He is the light that illuminates every man.  That is not to say that every man has the light of the Lord.  But every man who is enlightened can only be enlightened by the Lord.  Many are not enlightened.  Many still remain in darkness.  About these Isaiah writes, For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the people.

The thick darkness is the ignorance of the carnal mind that cannot see the true God.  He can neither perceive nor seek out the light of God.  This is because the mind of man by itself without the Holy Spirit cannot see the true light.  Instead all men are lost in darkness unless the Lord enlightens them.

Because of the thick darkness of human ignorance, mankind is also under the darkness of death.  Because we cannot, by ourselves, accurately perceive the light of the Lord, we cannot escape death.  Death is the thickest, deepest, most terrifying darkness to which our sinfulness leads.

The thick darkness of man's spiritual ignorance takes God's word and devises works righteous religion.  God's law, which is perfect and good to teach people good works, is then used as if it were a system useful for earning salvation.  Since we are under the darkness of sin, obedience cannot save.  Of course the darkened and sinful mind does not understand this.  Instead the sinful mind uses the law to puff itself up with pride and judgmentalism.

An alternate way that the dark and human mind uses the word is to create a religion of cheap grace.  In this version, people use the gospel as a tool to white wash their willful sinfulness.  They still end up being puffed up with self pride and judging others.  But as for themselves, they feel they are safe because the gospel excuses whatever sinful behaviors they choose to indulge.  This is also darkness.

Darkness includes refusal to hear the true Gospel.  When darkness rules the human mind, it pushes away the light of God so that it does not penetrate.  Even though God is offering the light of forgiveness and life, the human mind blocks itself from understanding or receiving His grace.  This is the sad reality, into which each of us was conceived and born.  We could not believe the gospel because our souls were so darkened by sin.

But upon us God has performed His greatest work.  Our darkened mind has been changed and converted.  The Spirit has enlightened us so that we may hear and understand the wonderful Gospel.  He has taken creatures of darkness and transformed them into the people of light.  All praise be to Him!

This is the great gathering to which Isaiah refers.  He is talking about the tremendous flowing of the nations to Christ.  From every country under heaven, the Lord draws His people, beginning with His own people the Jews and moving outward to the gentiles who lived in even greater darkness.  For the Jews at least had the law of God which they could hear and so be enlightened.  But for many centuries, the gentile nations wandered in darkness without that light.  Now it shines upon Jew and gentile alike.

Isaiah says that you shall see and be radiant, and your heart shall thrill and exalt.  This is because of the great joy of seeing salvation go out to the nations.  But whose heart exults?  Is it Christ or us, the church?  Since Christ is in His church inseparably, it does not really matter to whom Isaiah refers.  Our life is hidden in Him, and He is our identity, the new Man who lives in us.  It is no surprise that Christ delights at the sight of so many nations streaming to the gospel of His light.  So we also rejoice, not only because we see the same flowing of the nations, but also because our hearts have been opened by the Spirit to the joy of Christ.  We have received His gift, and we have seen His light.  So we are able to look past the darkness of this world to the greater light and the sure and certain hope upon which our souls depend.

Even though the darkness may try to make us pay attention only to it, we cannot long forget that the light has come.  The darkness of this world cannot claim us anymore because the eternal light that the darkness cannot comprehend has claimed us.  If our hope was based on our ability to keep our hearts joyful, then we would surely fail.  But the Light of light, who is the Lord God, has shined upon us.  Therefore He holds us in His life and light.  He keeps us safe, forever and ever.

Now the good news of the light is upon our lips.  The praises of the Lord are proclaimed by us, the people of light.  We bring gifts to the King of light who receives them as proper offerings to Him.

How can we not do these things when we have been transformed into new creatures, beings of light who belong to the Kingdom of God?  We are the workmanship of life and light, so we will often be about the business of light, in which the light of His word shines also from us.  We have become the light of the world as He is the light of the world.

Another question with this text is whether it refers to the wise men.  It may sound that way when you consider how the text mentions camels, and gold and frankincense.  However, the text from Saint Matthew never mentions camels, even though our depictions of wise men often show camels.  Also, since gold and frankincense are mentioned, then why not myrrh?  It does not seem to be a direct, point for point prophesy.

Although not exclusively about them, the story of the magi does fit Isaiah 60.  The magi are the first examples of the flowing of the gentiles to Christ, the light.  They are the first example of giving gifts to Christ.  Obviously, a multitude of gentiles followed after them, including us.

We should learn to see the church, into which the Lord has included us gentiles, as the great and glorious thing described by Isaiah.  In Christ, who fills His church, the word of God is fulfilled: Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.  The church has been rescued from the deep darkness of this world, and shines out with her light, who is the Lord who took human flesh for her.  We shine out with His glory.  We are His glory, and He ours.

In His name, who is the Light of life and the King of kings, our dear Lord. Amen.

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