Monday, 25 July 2016

‘A Sun Which Never Sets’

  “I am the light of the world”  (John 8:12)

Here is the universal claim of Jesus Christ.  If you believe it and follow that light, you will live for ever!  Jesus would have been standing in the light of several great golden candelabra when he made this awesome claim at Jerusalem’s Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:37).  The lamps reminded the Jewish people present of the divine pillars of light that led them in their desert wanderings under Joshua.

Now here was Jesus’ claim – unique, universal and ultimate!  He was not claiming to be one of many lights that have guided humanity, but THE Light; not simply the light and guide of Judaism, but that of the world; not simply one more light, but original, un-borrowed Light in the absolute sense.  John had stated this at the start of his Gospel – "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world" (John 1:9).  That is, no one who turns to Jesus - irrespective of culture or religious background – will remain in spiritual darkness!

Once recognise Christ as The Light – and we are changed for ever.   A man once wrote a letter, after responding to the claims of Jesus at a church service in the city of Leeds:  “It was as if a light suddenly turned on, and everything became very clear.  I was, quite frankly, speechless.  It really is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me.”  

This can happen anywhere.  A musician I know came to this great realisation in the middle of a ballroom dance floor in Bristol; she was to become a missionary in Africa!  An army soldier could find nowhere to kneel undisturbed in his surrender to Christ – except in the barracks bathroom.  A hundred and fifty years ago the Rev William Haslam was preaching in his church on the text What think ye of Christ? But during the course of his sermon he became aware that until then he had never  known Christ for himself.   As he put it later that day, “I felt a wonderful light."  What had happened?  Before the day was out the whole village crowded joyfully into the church at the news that the minister had been  converted to Jesus Christ  in his own pulpit!

Sixteen centuries ago, Augustine - the mighty scholar from Libya - wrote "The Lord Jesus is a sun which never sets."

Sunday, 10 July 2016

When Sun and Moon ‘Stopped’

"O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon”   (Joshue 10:12)
Yes, the elements helped Joshua defeat five heathen kings.  He prayed; the light from sun and moon was arrested, and victory was complete.

True, the English reading – that the sun ‘stood still’ (v.13) - has caused many readers to suppose that Joshua was needing more daylight and that the earth therefore stopped turning on its axis for the best part of a day – but look at the Bible again.  A little further Bible study helps, when certain passages present uncertain interpretations to their readers.

Have another look! Verse 9 indicates that Joshua was on a NIGHT march, and that what he needed was not more daylight, but more darkness - lest the approaching dawn threaten to derail his night attack.

And the Hebrew scholars help us here.  The word for ‘stand still’ can equally well mean ‘cease,' as, for example, in 2 Kings 4:6: ‘Then the oil stopped flowing’ or ‘ceased.’

As for the English reading that the sun delayed ‘going down’ about a full day (v.13), it was the evangelical Bible scholar F.F. Bruce who observed that while the Hebrew word for going down -  ‘Bo’ - usually applies to sunset, it can also mean ‘to come’,  and is parallel to the word ‘zarah’ (‘to RISE) – as in Isaiah 60:1; ‘Arise, shine’ (compare Job 31:26).

Could it be, then, that with the need for more darkness, Joshua prayed, and the resulting thunderous hailstorm (v.11) served him well, not only by devastating the enemy (v.11), but also by delaying the sunrise.  Both sun and moon ‘died’ on them, and never put in an appearance at all!

Here was a God-given miracle of extended darkness.  Try this Bible study yourself.