Seeing is nice, but what if nothing can be seen? If I’m working in a mine and all the lights go out, I can see with my hardhat light for a while. But after its battery runs down, I can’t see at all. I can’t see the hand in front of my face. Blacker than black is all that I will see. But why? With the appropriate corrective eyewear I have 20/20 vision. All the rods and cones in my retinas are in perfect working order. The vision processing centre of my brain is working very hard. Why can’t I see?
Well there’s no light of course. My eyes need light in order to see. I will have to feel around with my hands instead. I can do that with hands, but unlike my tactile fingertips, my eyes can’t reach out and touch something. Eyes are passive. My eyes can’t scan the dark mine without light. And my eyes can’t generate their own light. In order for my eyes to work, light must get into them from outside and interact with them.
I don’t need to get stuck in a dark mine to have this trouble. The problem for seeing is not usually a lack of all light, just a lack of sufficient light. Several years ago we were skating at the rink, and my daughter (who was about ten or eleven) was practicing spins with a friend. I sashayed on over and informed the girlings that I would show them how it’s done. I spread my arms and kicked into a spin. No problem. Just like Elvis Stojko. Unlike Elvis, I didn’t have a toe pick, but I’m a man; I don’t need no girlie toe pick. Next came the part where you’re supposed to gracefully draw in your arms and accelerate the spin as your body preserves its angular momentum. I did that, but not gracefully. I snapped my arms to my sides and instantaneously accelerated from 30 rpms to in excess of 40,000 rpms. No exaggeration; I’m absolutely sure of the numbers. Well I of the toe-pickless-skates went down. Very hard. On my wrist. Searing pain from multiple sources traveled up and down the length of my arm. I fought the urge to cry like a little baby. My worried daughter said, “Oh, are you alright, Dad? Did you break your arm?” I smiled sweetly and said “Don’t be silly, honey. See you later.” Then I sashayed off the ice to find a bench to cold sweat upon, screaming silently and suppressing the pain-induced nausea all the way.
All that to tell you this. A week or two later, after the jammed elbow was almost back to it’s normal size but before the torn membranes had healed and before all the excess fluid had drained from the wrist, and definitely before co-workers had stopped calling me Katerina Witt, I had to get up in the night to check on the beagle or something. I didn’t bother turning the light on, so I saw only shadows and dim forms. I did not see the end of the landing at the top of the stairs. Down I went, somersaulting end over end, banging my braced wrist several times, and reliving the horror of the ice rink all over again but this time with feeling. It hurt worse than it did the first time. When my wife’s friend heard about it (how did she find out, I wonder?) she called me Mary Lou Retton. This ignominy happened because I couldn’t see properly, and I had stumbled in the gloom, which made my already bad condition worse. All because there was insufficient light. I will run into great trouble without light.
To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.At the end of Isaiah 8, we are told of the state of the rejecters of God. They won’t acknowledge Him unless there is trial. Then they will blame him. They will look up and shake their fist at Him. This isn’t a hypothetical description. I know people like this. I’ve been people like this. It actually downright spooky how accurately this Isaian description describes the God-hating and blaming that goes on today.
--- Isaiah 8:20-22
But did you catch the bookends of this passage? Those who speak contrary to the word from God have no dawn. They are stuck in the darkness of night. And those who hate and blame God will be thrust into thick darkness. They will wallow in the gloom, and they will wallow in anguish.
This passage speaks of a bitter doom for the God-hater. Fear and worry, gloom and anguish, embraced by tight thick darkness. That is all that can be realistically anticipated by the God-hater. And this passage tells us that God-haters are already in this darkness, even though they may not know it. A perpetuity of night…they have no dawn.
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.Nowhere in the entire earth can you find a book like the Bible that juxtaposes such wretched despair and dire portent with such delightful and unexpected hope. The people enmeshed in the thickness of dark, the people awash in gloomy anguish, cannot do anything for their own situation. I cannot make the dawn come if there is no dawn to come. I am stuck in the night.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.
--- Isaiah 9:1-2
But in the midst of the gnashing hopelessness the light does come. The Great Light comes. Light shines upon them.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.This is how it all turns out: The Great Light wins.
--- John 1:1-5