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Volume 15, Issue 3: Virga

A Light Hunt

Matt Whittling

A small strip of newspaper came somersaulting along the sidewalk toward us. The school year had been over for weeks, and we were barefoot. My knees hurt, and as I shifted position and stretched my legs out I could see the little craters that pebbles and sticks had formed in my sunburnt skin. Some of the pebbles were still intact. My brother wanted a turn. I ignored him for a minute longer and refocused. We both bent down again so that we could see the tiny thread of smoke as it danced its way up toward the sun. My hair was hot, and even the gnats had taken refuge in the groundcover under the shady corner of the house. Beads of sweat bubbled up out of our skin, but we remained intent on that quivering brightness that we had harnessed for a moment.

In the Scriptures we are told that everything means (Rom. 1:20, Ps. 19:1). More than simply existing, the things which God has made have meaning as well. A previous installment to this column addressed the fact that God teaches through the symbolism of His creation—all the time. One of the primary duties of parents is to understand what is being taught, and then to pass that on so that their children learn the same lessons even when they're out knocking around in the backyard.
An illustration may help. One symbol that God uses to teach His children is light. God created light, and He integrated it into creation not only to be, but also to mean. In other words, light exists, but that is not all that it does, it also symbolizes or points. In order for creation to clearly teach about God's invisible attributes (Rom. 1), declare the glory of God (Ps. 19), and answer specific questions about God's providence (Job 12) it must do more than simply exist. Light that only exists cannot teach anything, but light that symbolizes, means, or points to something else can truly preach a sermon. Understanding light accurately requires us to grasp both its history and its meaning.
In this context the history of a symbol has to do with its inception and subsequent inclusion in the Scriptures. The history of light began when God created it on the first day of the week. After creating the heavens and the earth, God made light and divided it from darkness, establishing an antithesis between light and dark from the very beginning. The sun, moon, and stars were made later on the fourth day. A proper understanding of light necessarily begins with this account of its inception, and when children study, use, and play with this symbol, its history should be as commonplace as scabs on their knees. The history of light and the antithesis between it and darkness can then be traced to Egypt. In the ninth plague upon Egypt, God made it clear that those in covenant with Him were in the light, while those outside the covenant were in darkness. Again, we find the same distinction in the pillar of cloud that moved behind and protected the Israelites when they were overtaken at the Red Sea. This pillar became a cloud of darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other. In Job 38 and Psalm 104 we learn that God is the One who orchestrates the antithesis between day and night; He actively oversees the administration of light and dark. When Jesus was crucified, the light was put out from noon until three. Mary Magdalene came and found the tomb empty when it was still dark. What better science lessons that these?
Symbols like light also have a metaphorical meaning. One of the many things that God teaches through light is that it is a symbol of the One who made it, "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all"(1 John 1:5). Similarly, Jesus claims that He is the Light of the world (John 8:12), and later Paul writes that those who imitate God will shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15). In the book of Revelation we see God's grand inclusion where the antithesis between day and night will no longer exist in heaven, for "There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light" (Rev. 22:5). In the beginning God created light before the sun was made, and in the end we find a promise of the same sort of sun-less light proceeding from the Father.
This is a small part of the message that creation is declaring about the glory of God, and these sermons are preached each day with the rising and setting of the sun. Many of us have grown up with eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear these things. Of course, we see the light, but we don't recognize what is being proclaimed; we don't know what it means. Sadly, we seem content to grovel about in the dregs of modern science, seeking to understand and teach our children the speed of light or its angle of deflection without any understanding of who made it and what it means _ we focus our microscopes on the fibers in the sheet of paper and the message that it contains is lost to us.
A small pile of blackened remnants constituted our showcase of activity for the afternoon. It had started with a blade of grass—too moist for any serious damage. Then we had moved on to thin and thick twigs, and even a tired leaf that had proved exciting for a time. We scattered our trophies back onto the dirt road and took one more look around the Bermuda at our feet. A large carpenter ant meandered past, and instantly we dropped back to our knees.

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