Illumination… but not as we’ve known it
Sometimes God plants a word into me, and I don’t know what He means by it for many days, or even months. It has to be planted, and then I have to wait for it to grow and bear fruit in me. This time the word was “illumination”. I seemed to see the word everywhere, we even went to a concert called “Illuminations of the Beyond” (by Messiaen) and yet, funnily enough, I had no illumination as to what God was saying to me about it, beyond the obvious.
I knew that the darker it gets, the brighter the light is, and we’re all aware of how important light is, especially at night. If you go outside on a pitch black night with no illumination, you can do nothing except stand still. If you try to walk without light, you may injure yourself and others. Not to mention not knowing what direction to walk in! Some form of illumination is vital. Spiritually it is exactly the same. If we do not have the Light shining on us, in us, and through us, then we may go the wrong way, be injured, or cause injury to others simply because we cannot see. You may in fact end up at a standstill, unable to go on.
Darkness hides things while light does the exact opposite: it reveals and illuminates. When light pierces darkness, you begin to see things you were blind to before; in dawn’s light you first see vague shapes in black and white, then objects, then full colour, and eventually you can discern and correctly perceive exactly what things are and where they are. With partial light we cannot make correct judgments about what and where things are.
And, of course, illumination is vital when reading the Scriptures, not just so I can physically see and read, but so that I can spiritually see and read! It is a fact that while we can physically read what is written in the Scriptures, we can still have absolutely no spiritual illumination or revelation about what we just read. It takesspiritual illumination to “turn the light on” and enable us to really see what the words mean. Our mind may comprehend, but it is our spirit that needs to apprehend. If we try to interpret or understand the Scriptures with our mind only, then we are likely to misinterpret and misunderstand; the Author always knows exactly what He means by His own words and only He can illuminate them for us. We must read in the Light (Author) so that we may receive “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; illuminating the eyes of your heart” (Eph. 1:17,18).
This cannot be stressed enough. Many people rely on their head knowledge of the Bible and what they think they know and thus they effectively blind themselves to further illumination and revelation from the Author Himself. The verse just quoted speaks of the knowledge of HIM, and not the knowledge of a book; it is heart knowledge of THE Word as a Person, rather than head knowledge of many words about Him.
I recently read a book about an illuminator who lived in the 1700s, and over the course of several weeks, Father began to illuminate for me a little more of what He meant by giving me this word to ponder. I had never heard of an illuminator before. For those who don’t know, centuries ago the artist who would decorate the pages of Bibles for the church (and sometimes other books too, but they were almost exclusively Bibles) was called an illuminator. Here is an example of the work an illuminator would do.
This amazingly intricate work required hours and hours of intense concentration and talent. Often the illuminator would decorate or illuminate only one letter on an entire page. What was illuminated to me, is that we are called to do the same thing. We see only such a very small part of the whole Book, the whole Person of Christ, but when He (as my Illuminator) reveals something of Himself to me, I in turn reveal and shine that one “page” for others to also see, doing my best to reveal and illuminate what I have seen through the words I use. We are individually and collectively the living letters/pages of Christ (2 Cor. 3:3). We are part of Him as The Book, The Word of God (John 1:1,14) with His words written on our hearts and illuminated by the Master Illuminator!
In April of this year, my husband Mike celebrated his birthday with a party. One of the gifts he was given was a card from my aunt and uncle. After the celebrations were over, I had a closer look at the card and realised that it was beautifully handmade. Knowing that my aunt is a very talented artist, I asked her if she had made it, and she confirmed that she had. And, it was an illumination! I now have it in a frame on our wall, it is a very special gift from a very special person:
Historically, illuminators would be cloistered away for years doing their work. Unlike some, I don’t write lots and lots of words. I seem to spend many hours over few words, instead of producing many words over few hours. Just as the illuminators would spend hours and hours painstakingly drawing and colouring, applying layer upon layer of gold gilt and colour to their work, so I also spend hours and hours with words. And it is not so that they are perfect, nice to look at, or easy to read, but so that I am sure that they are faithful to convey what I see the Author and Illuminator of the Book wants; because then the words are treasured and valued because of Who the words come from and belong to.
The illuminators were sometimes paid for their work, and the more of a book they illuminated, the more costly and expensive that book was. Anything of real value is costly, but not only in terms of money. I don’t write to sell books, I don’t even write to convince others of what I write about. My primary aim in writing is simply to record what I have seen and heard from Above, doing what my Master requires and desires. And that may, or may not, be beneficial to anyone other than me! And it may even be for a time in the future and not for now, so I am not interested in statistics or how many people read and comment on what I write. I don’t do what I do because people want me to, but because my Father wants me to. Regardless, it is a costly thing in time, energy, integrity, and resolve, while also being a very deeply valuable thing, rewarded with the presence and companionship of working with the Author of All!
It is better to write one sentence, even only one word that is illuminated by the Holy Spirit of God, than to write a book or an entire library. He does not need our superfluous words. He can convey an entire universe of meaning to a person through one single letter if need be!
Books used to be people’s most prized possession just a few generations ago; they were treasured. Books were often locked away to preserve them. Today, in contrast, books are very cheap, and to a certain extent, words are cheap too. The written word is everywhere you look now, and we have a surfeit of things to read. Today there is too much information and too little transformation. Never before in the history of the world has there been such access to such excess. And we often have an excess of things to say as well as to read! But although the art of illumination is now largely a thing of the past, illumination from Above will never be a thing of the past; these illuminated words are living and are full of Life, Light and Love now, today!
But of course, the most common understanding of illumination is not of applying gold and paint to a page, but simply that of light. The Greek word used in the New Testament for “light” is translated in various forms such as enlightened, illuminated, make men see, give you light, to light up, bring to light, render evident, give understanding to. The word is phos, or photizo, and is the origin of our English word “photo”. And anyone who loves photography, knows how important light is.
Light is Life
Light and illumination are essential to life; our natural world and our spiritual world cannot survive without it. If there was no light, there would be no life on this earth and the same applies to us spiritually.
Light is absolutely necessary for Life and yet many people run from Light or hide from Light instead of embracing it. I recently bought some wheat, and when I got it home I saw that it had weevils in it. Thanks to growing up in Borneo I knew exactly what to do with it, I spread it out on a tray and put it in the sun outside. The weevils simply could not stand the light of the sun and immediately vacated the premises! Within a matter of minutes, the wheat was weevil free. Just like weevils, evils cannot stand the Son shining His Light on His harvest. As Jesus said, “Judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants” (Jn. 3:19-21).
Even though there is darkness all around, and even though the Light in Christ has come, many prefer the darkness. Coming into the Light is costly. Some reject God’s Light when He shines through us because they love the darkness more than the Light; in other words, they have something to hide that they do not want to see or have exposed and illuminated.
“Light is transparency; light is clearness; light is absolute purity; light is honesty; light is openness of character. Light hides nothing; its whole action and nature is contrary to hiding anything. It has nothing to hide; it shows everything; it shows all: in other words, it is not deceitful. It does not want to cover anything, or to pretend or make believe that something is other than what it is. Light is single; it is not double; there is no duplicity about light. And light is just – light! There is “no darkness at all” where there is light…. How many shades and aspects of darkness there are! – a whole vocabulary of words. The Spirit has come to bring all that to an end by applying the Cross, in which it was all brought to an end in the Person of the Lord Jesus; to work out the meaning of the Cross in our lives, so that everything that belongs to that kingdom of darkness is removed: so that in the end, with us too, there is no darkness at all. Is that really what we think of, when we think of having, receiving, and being filled with the Holy Spirit? Here again, perhaps, a little re-shaping of our ideas is called for. It is true that He is many other things, as well as Light: He is the Spirit of Power, He is the Spirit of Wisdom; yes, He is many other things; but, with them all, He is this. And we must not make more of those “demonstration” aspects of the Spirit, in power, in gifts and capacities, in works, than we do of His character side. If He really does His work in you and in me, He will make us to be people who can bear to be “looked into” without any fear, without any drawing of the blinds. Our lives and our motives will bear looking into.” (T. Austin-Sparks – “The Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Nations”).
Light is Love
Love is synonymous with Light – Light and Love illuminate so that we can see what is true. Love is a very seeing thing, it sees through, it sees into, it sees the truth, and it loves regardless! This is made obvious in Christ by the fact that He knows man, He knows the heart of man in all its ability to hate and deceive, and yet He loved us so much that He gave up His life and died for us. He loved, He SAW, and still loved!
“Love is as far removed from blindness as heaven from earth. “Love is blind”? No – not true love. The fact is that true love sees everything, but transcends everything. The love of Christ for His disciples was not blind love that did not know His men, love that was duped, deceived, misled, but eventually found out that they were not the men He thought they were. No, “He… knew what was in man” (John 2:24). His love saw everything, could tell them beforehand exactly what they would do; but love persisted in face of it all. Love is a great seeing thing. If you are consumed with a burning love for the Lord, you will be very quick of scent as to what is doubtful and questionable. You will not need to be frequently and continuously told when a thing is not right. No, love for the Lord will bring you quickly to see and to sense there is something that needs to be adjusted. You may not know what it is at the time, but you have a sense that all is not well. Love will do it.” (T. Austin-Sparks – “His Great Love”).
There is Light from Above, but there is also false light that is really darkness. How can this be? Our heart and its desires are likened to a lamp in the Scriptures. In speaking of the heart Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also, but the lamp of the body is the eye; therefore if your eye is sound, your whole body will be illuminated. But if your eye is bad, your entire body will be darkness; if therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great will be your darkness! No man can work for two masters, for either he will hate one and will love the other, or he will honor one and the other he will ignore. You cannot work for God and for money” (Matt. 6:21-24). You can see that in the context, it is the heart and what the eye of the heart sees and wants that is likened to the lamp of the body. That “lamp” of our heart can result in true light, or false light: “the light that is in you is darkness”. Interestingly, the Greek word for “darkness” here can also mean blindness and darkened eyesight – the two go together: when it is dark, when we aren’t walking in Love, we can’t see well at all.
The key to the source of the light (for even our enemy transforms into a messenger of light – 2 Cor. 11:14,15) and whether it is true Light or false light is often revealed by our own hearts, by our treasure, by what we love and want. When we believe that the darkness in us is really light, then how great that darkness, deception, and blindness is! If you believe that you are walking in the Light when you are really walking in darkness, then you will not even try to seek out real light; instead you’ll say, “I am rich, and have prospered, and don’t need anything or anyone,” and you do not know that you are really poor and blind and naked (Rev. 3:17). May God have mercy on us and give us a Damascus road experience with Light from heaven striking us to the ground, revealing our religious pride, so that we can really see and hear only Him! Only then will we be capable of being filled with His Light and Love.
Light is Truth
Truth is synonymous with Light – both Light and Truth illuminate, reveal, and lead – “Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me” (Ps. 43:3). Light and Truth result in knowledge. But we have a choice to see or not to see. As Paul said, “We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:2-6).
The Light from Above is often a very revealing, exposing thing – a true searchlight. Many do not want to see and live in the Truth, Life, and Love of God and yet God IS Light! “This is the message that we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and in Him there is no darkness—none at all! If we claim that we have fellowship with Him but keep living in darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. But if we keep living in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7).
From the very beginning, God separated the Light from the darkness. And in our own lives He must separate the Light from the darkness – that means revealing to us things in us and about us that have their source in darkness instead of His Light – revealing what is false and revealing lies that we either mistakenly believe to be true, or know are untrue. We might not like to see those things, or admit them, but it is essential that we allow His Searchlight to illuminate them so that there is no longer any darkness (duplicity and deception) in us.
Light is Christ
Another form of light is from fire. Christ, being the Word of God, is our Lamp and must be burning within us. The Menorah/Lampstand in the tabernacle had to burn continually and was not allowed to go out (Ex. 27:21, Heb. 9:2). In that holy place there was no allowance made for the entry of natural light; there was only the light from this golden lampstand, fueled by oil. So too, in the tabernacle of our lives, we must learn to see (discern and judge) all things by the light of the Golden Lampstand who is Christ, and not by any earthly, natural light – not by what we see and think we know naturally – that is ruled out, it doesn’t count.
The lampstand in the tabernacle was a symbol of testimony – it testified not only of its own light, but it testified of all that the light revealed – it was a revelation of all that could be seen and more! In the same way Jesus Christ reveals Himself to us, and as our Light He also unveils and reveals what is around us that we could not see otherwise. All is in darkness until the Light comes.
His testimony is also our testimony and to a certain degree His story is also our story. We too are born spiritually and then have a period of growth where we learn to walk, talk, see, and discern – we are learning Christ in the school of Christ. As we grow into maturity we experience the Cross of Christ. We too lay down our lives in death, just as our Teacher did; “It is finished” – I am finished. And just as He was resurrected, so we too are resurrected to new life, being born from Above. And just as He did, we also testify that we are alive and have Life (Acts 1:3). We realise that we are no longer of this earth, we are heavenly; we ascend with Christ and recognise that our real life is with Him there – we become not only the children of God, but the sons of God reigning with Him! It was only after Christ’s ascension to the heavenlies that the Holy Spirit was given in fullness: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be My witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere” (Acts 1:8). Light – power – witness – these three are linked, Light is a very powerful testimony in and of itself!
Not only did Jesus declare that He is the Light of the world (Jn. 8:12), He also proclaimed that WE are the light of the world too, because we have Him Who is Light living in us: “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14). Everything becomes clear in the light, and what was hidden becomes visible, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:8-16).
The first meaning in Hebrew of the word for watchman (tsaphah) was to shine, to be bright; to look out, to enlighten the eyes, to peer, to watch closely. Watchmen would stay up all night long, and with their torches lit they would look for anything strange or potentially dangerous. They were (and still are) very important. Their work is predominantly when it is dark, when it is hard to see, and when most people are asleep and unaware. The watchman keeps watch and shines his light on anything that may be harmful and alerts those who may not be able to see it.
The role of the watchman in the Old Testament was literal, but under the new covenant it becomes spiritual. We are told many times in the Scriptures to be alert and to be on watch: “For you are all children of light and children of the day and you are not children of the night, neither children of darkness. Let us not sleep therefore as the rest, but let us be watchful and sensible.” (1 Thess. 5:5,6).
As watchmen our job is to first see and then say what we see to make others aware of what they may not have seen. Humility is essential. Not one of us is immune to deception or blindness – we need to hear what other family members we are close to can see in the light of the Golden Lampstand because without a mirror we cannot see ourselves; we can only see each other. This is one of the very practical reasons why our Father places us alongside other Family members – so that we can help one another by what we see in His Light. There is no condemnation, but only love, because the brothers and sisters that Father knits us together with are part of us, we are one in Christ. All is exposed in His Light, so while today my brother may help me to see the log in my eye, tomorrow I may help my sister in the same way!
What we say is what we have seen, with the aim of bringing others into that place of illumination and seeing, with the eyes of our hearts being lit to see what God wants us to see. In His Light we see the earthly for what it is, and we see the heavenly for what it is, and there is no compromise between the two!
We must stand out like a light in the darkness of this world, like a city on a hill all lit up, like the city mentioned in Revelation 21:23: “The city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light”. We are part of this City of God NOW! We are here on this earth as His light, and with no apologies and no reservations, we SHINE as His Light enters into and illuminates our lives and our hearts!
“Arise! Shine! Your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has dawned. Darkness now covers the earth, and thick darkness covers the nations. But the Lord dawns, and His glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings will come to the brightness of your dawn” (Is. 60:1-2).