We invite you to return every day during Advent for this devotional series
Listen to today’s accompanying audio track:
For Behold, Darkness Shall Cover The Earth
“For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross
darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and
His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come
to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.”
In the world’s northern hemisphere Advent comes at the darkest time of the year. It is a time of year when people light candles, string up lights, and set out luminaria to drive the cold dark away. Throughout the Bible darkness is a powerful symbol for the death and destruction that ravage and destroy. Conversely, light is a Biblical symbol for life, life to the fullest, life in never ending joy and delight.
Significantly, we discover darkness on the first page of the Bible, a darkness that covers the earth (Genesis 1:2). From history’s earliest times destruction and death have marked our world. Yet, on the Bible’s last page there is the new earth where “they need no candle, neither light of the sun for the Lord giveth them light” (Revelation 22:5). Human history is the story of what happens between the Bible’s first and last pages. It is the story we are now living: God’s battle against the darkness, and the ultimate triumph of His light.
The Light has come (see yesterday’s reading), but the darkness remains. Isaiah warns of more trouble still ahead. Note the future tense of Isaiah’s verb in the text: “darkness shall cover the earth”.Darkness covered the earth at Messiah’s first coming, and shall cover it until He comes again. But God gives us a glimpse of the dazzling future ahead. God Himself shall return and shine on us like the sun. God does not abandon His good earth to rebellious forces of sin, but redeems and makes it new.
In Isaiah’s characteristic way, he encompasses in one verse Messiah’s first and second comings. In his broad sweeping view of history he sees Messiah coming as a little baby, and Messiah coming as conquering king. Isaiah reveals the dawning of God’s new day.
When Jesus Messiah came the first time He proclaimed: “I am the light of the world: he who followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). A fisherman named Peter saw that Light, and eventually gave his life as a follower of that Light. Peter calls for us to live as people who have seen the Light, to “shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (I Peter 2:9).
Just as a light is meant for dark places, so God puts us where His light is most needed. Perhaps you live or work in a dark place. Know that God has placed you there to be a shining life, a living light. That’s your purpose and special calling. It is both awesome and humbling to shine in the night.
When Robert Louis Stevenson was a boy, he watched a lamp lighter igniting the lamps as he went down his street one evening. Stevenson said to his nurse: “I am watching a man put holes in the darkness.” Let us go forth and put holes in the darkness!
In this solo Handel again uses tone-painting to convey the marked contrast between God’s light and the world’s darkness. The solo begins in a minor key with a darkness one can feel. The music is ominous and threatening. The sixteenth notes rustle, intensifying a feeling of doom.
Suddenly, as from nowhere, the music rises to a bright major key with “but the Lord shall arise upon thee”. The music mounts up as the dawn arises, and the music brightens to declare God’s new day. The nervous violins give way to the music line rising higher. The strings climb to their highest at “the brightness of thy rising”. Here is God’s light overcoming the darkness (John 1:5). The music line then flows downward, suggesting the Lord’s glory flowing downward to the people.
Handel concludes this piece of light versus darkness in the minor key to remind that the world remains in darkness, in need of the light.
- What do you sense that God might be saying to you in today’s Scripture text and music from Messiah?
- What do you want to say to God?
- Now take a few moments to be still in God’s presence.