I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
God Insensibly Withdrawn
Philip Doddridge (1702–1751)
A present God is all our strength,
And all our joy and hope;
When He withdraws, our comforts die,
And every grace must droop.
But flatt’ring trifles charm our hearts
To court their false embrace,
Till justly this neglected Friend
Averts His angry face.
He leaves us, and we miss Him not,
But go presumptuous on;
Till baffled, wounded, and enslaved,
We learn that God is gone.
And what, my soul, can then remain,
One ray of light to give?
Severed from Him, their better life,
How can His children live?
Hence, all ye painted forms of joy,
And leave my heart to mourn;
I would devote these eyes to tears,
Till cheered by His return.
Look back, my Lord, and own the place,
Where once Thy temple stood;
For lo, its ruins bear the mark
Of rich atoning blood.
—Worthy Is the Lamb (Soli Deo Gloria, 2004).
“I Am the Light of the World”
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to Him, “You are testifying about Yourself; Your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. 16 But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. 17 Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. 18 I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.” 19 So they were saying to Him, “Where is Your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” 20 These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come.
The conversation between our Lord and the Jews, which begins with these verses, is full of difficulties. The connection between one part and another, and the precise meaning of some of the expressions which fell from our Lord’s lips, are “things hard to be understood.” In passages like this it is true wisdom to acknowledge the great imperfection of our spiritual vision, and to be thankful if we can glean a few handfuls of truth.
Let us notice, for one thing, in these verses, what the Lord Jesus says of Himself. He proclaims, “I am the light of the world.”
These words imply that the world needs light, and is naturally in a dark condition. It is so in a moral and spiritual point of view: and it has been so for nearly 6,000 years. In ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, in modern England, France, and Germany, the same report is true. The vast majority of men neither see nor understand the value of their souls, the true nature of God, nor the reality of a world to come! Notwithstanding all the discoveries of art and science, “darkness still covers the earth, and gross darkness the people.” (Isaiah. 60:2.)
For this state of things, the Lord Jesus Christ declares Himself to be the only remedy. He has risen, like the sun, to diffuse light, and life, and peace, and salvation, in the midst of a dark world. He invites all who want spiritual help and guidance to turn to Him, and take Him for their leader. What the sun is to the whole solar system—the center of light, and heat, and life, and fertility—that He has come into the world to be to sinners.
Let this saying sink down into our hearts. It is weighty and full of meaning. False lights on every side invite man’s attention in the present day. Reason, philosophy, earnestness, liberalism, conscience, and the voice of the Church, are all, in their various ways, crying loudly that they have got “the light” to show us. Their advocates know not what they say. Wretched are those who believe their high professions! He only is the true light who came into the world to save sinners, who died as our substitute on the cross, and sits at God’s right hand to be our Friend. “In His light we shall see light.” (Psalm xxxvi. 9.)
Let us notice, secondly, in these verses, what the Lord Jesus says of those who follow Him. He promises, “He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
To follow Christ is to commit ourselves wholly and entirely to Him as our only leader and Saviour, and to submit ourselves to Him in every matter, both of doctrine and practice. “Following” is only another word for “believing.” It is the same act of soul, only seen from a different point of view. As Israel followed the pillar of cloud and fire in all their journeyings—moving whenever it moved, stopping whenever it tarried, asking no questions, marching on in faith—so must a man deal with Christ. He must “follow the Lamb wherever He goeth.” (Rev. xiv. 4.)
He that so follows Christ shall “not walk in darkness.” He shall not be left in ignorance, like the many around him. He shall not grope in doubt and uncertainty, but shall see the way to heaven, and know where he is going.—He “shall have the light of life.” He shall feel within him the light of God’s countenance shining on him. He shall find in his conscience and understanding a living light, which nothing can altogether quench. The lights with which many please themselves shall go out in the valley of the shadow of death, and prove worse than useless. But the light that Christ gives to every one that follows Him shall never fail.
Let us notice, lastly, in these verses, what the Lord Jesus says of His enemies. He tells the Pharisees that, with all their pretended wisdom, they were ignorant of God. “Ye neither know Me nor my Father; if ye had known Me, ye would have known my Father also.”
Ignorance like this is only too common. There are thousands who are conversant with many branches of human learning, and can even argue and reason about religion, and yet know nothing really about God. That there is such a Being as God they fully admit. But His character and attributes revealed in Scripture, His holiness, His purity, His justice, His perfect knowledge, His unchangeableness, are things with which they are little acquainted. In fact, the subject of God’s nature and character makes them uncomfortable, and they do not like to dwell upon it.
The grand secret of knowing God is to draw near to Him through Jesus Christ. Approached from this side, there is nothing that need make us afraid. Viewed from this standpoint, God is the sinner’s friend. God, out of Christ, may well fill us with alarm. How shall we dare to look at so high and holy a Being?—God in Christ is full of mercy, grace, and peace. His law’s demands are satisfied. His holiness need not make us afraid. Christ in one word is the way and door, by which we must ever draw near to the Father. If we know Christ, we shall know the Father. It is His own word,—”No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” (John xiv. 6.) Ignorance of Christ is the root of ignorance of God. Wrong at the starting-point, the whole sum of a man’s religion is full of error.
And now, where are we ourselves? Do we know? Many are living and dying in a kind of fog.—Where are we going? Can we give a satisfactory answer? Hundreds go out of existence in utter uncertainty.—Let us leave nothing uncertain that concerns our everlasting salvation. Christ, the light of the world, is for us as well as for others, if we humbly follow Him, cast our souls on Him, and become His disciples.—Let us not, like thousands, waste our lives in doubting, and arguing, and reasoning, but simply follow. The child that says—“I will not learn anything until I know something,” will never learn at all. The man that says—“I must first understand everything before I become a Christian,” will die in his sins. Let us begin by “following,” and then we shall find light.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.