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The Light Ahead

I will lead the blind
by a road they do not know,
by paths they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I will do,
and I will not forsake them.
Isaiah 42:16

Astronaut Jim Lovell, in his book, Apollo 13, tells a harrowing tale of being lost in the dark. It was 1950 as Lovell was flying a night exercise in an F2H Banshee off the aircraft carrier USS Shangri-La. It was Lovell’s first night combat training mission at a time when night flying off a carrier was in its infancy. The night was freezing cold off the coast of Japan and storm clouds erased any light from the moon or stars.

In that first night training exercise Lovell missed a rendezvous point with two other planes. His plane’s instruments had mistakenly picked up a signal from Japan that led him away from his carrier group. As Lovell tried to use his map light, his cockpit suddenly went black as all the electronics in his cockpit short circuited. Every bulb on his controls and cockpit were suddenly dark.

Lovell found himself hopelessly lost and flying in circles over the choppy Sea of Japan. He could see nothing but darkness all around him. Even the light of the moon and stars were gone. It was becoming difficult for Lovell to even know up from down any longer, to tell the dark sky from the dark sea. He was engulfed by a dark night.

Then in time his eyes began to adjust to the darkness. He looked down and there in the water he saw light. He describes it as “a faint greenish glow forming a shimmery trail in black water”. As a navy pilot Lovell knew immediately what he was seeing! It was a trail of phosphorescent algae churned up by the propellers of his carrier. Suddenly in the pitch darkness he could see the way home! He followed the “strange radiance” all the way back to the carrier and landed safely.

I read Lovell’s story and thought of today’s Scripture text. Here is a story of people lost in darkness, disoriented, and not knowing what to do. They are trapped in the Babylonian Captivity, far from their homeland, and far, far from any hope for the future. Our text compares them to people who are “blind”. They cannot see the way they should go. Having turned from the one true God, they don’t know where to turn, or what to do. Darkness surrounds them.

Just as in the darkness Lovell’s eyes could begin to see, so it is in the dark times of our lives that our souls can begin to see. Our souls dilate, opening wide to the light of God’s presence. In today’s Scripture text God points to the light before His people: “I will turn the darkness before them into light”, declares the Lord. He will “lead” and “guide” His people in ways they do not know, or could even imagine. This is God’s sure promise: “These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them”.

Often when we are facing life’s darkest nights we fear that God has forsaken us. But God promises that as His people look to Him and trust in Him, He will “turn the darkness into light.” And just as God promised the ancient Hebrews that He would not forsake them, so He makes that promise to His people today!

I think that must be the reason why I so love the lights of Christmas! I delight in flipping the switch to turn the lights on. Just like a child I thrill at all the lights on the trees and houses, the glow of the Advent candles, and the shining luminaries. The lights all speak to me of God’s promise to us: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (Isaiah 9:2).

I encourage you to take some time today to reflect on the translation (below) of today’s Scripture passage from The Message. Ponder it, meditate on it, and hold to it as God’s promise as you seek Him:

But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way,
who can’t see where they’re going.
I’ll be a personal guide to them,
directing them through unknown country.
I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take,
make sure they don’t fall into the ditch.
These are the things I’ll be doing for them—
sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.
Isaiah 42:16

Grace and peace,

photo by doc(q)man

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