Any one who has been in boot camp will never forget the sound of a bugle blowing reveille. The harsh, jarring tones dragging them into the challenging reality of another day’s coping with drill sergeants, those delightful gentlemen who followed hard on the bugle, rattling bunks and shouting, “Come on, you lazy good-for-nothings. Rise and shine!” Ironically, the two things most recruits are reluctant at that moment to do are to rise and shine.
Isaiah was no drill sergeant, and he didn’t use a bugle. But he did have a message for Jerusalem: “Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all the nations to see! For the glory of the Lord is shining upon you.” Jerusalem, the city whose history was a succession of tragedies and trials, was being promised better days. These days came, in part, after the return from the Babylonian exile. Then, centuries later, in A.D. 70, the Romans came and devastated the city once more.
Isaiah was looking down the centuries to something more than the physical restoration of the beleaguered city. He could see with the farsighted vision of a prophet what the apostle John saw much later and with greater clarity: “The holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). The new Jerusalem–the church, the community of believers, the company of the redeemed. The contrast with the ungodly, who are living in “darkness as black as night” (60:2), is stark and startling.
The call to the church is to “rise and shine,” and the rationale for the call is that “the glory of the Lord is shining upon you” (60:1). God does not expect anybody to rise and shine when heaven’s glow on their faces without first shining his own radiance into their lives.
What does the radiance of God look like? When the load of guilt is removed from someone’s shoulders, the frowns of worry begin to disappear. When the promise of life eternal is embraced, the light of hope fills the eyes. When the beauty of grace is apprehended, a quiet smile of inner satisfaction lightens the countenance. When the Lord becomes a present reality in the believer’s life, the heart begins to glow with His passion.
When this happens, people notice and are attracted. Isaiah said, “All nations will come to your light. Mighty kings will come to see your radiance” (60:3). People from all walks of life will be drawn to the people who have risen and are shining. For they, too, are looking for life and beauty, hope and gladness. But first, the church must rise and shine.
Christian reader, I believe this can be our finest hour. As the darkness of sin and death creeps across the landscape of our country, the light of God’s glory has become so recognizable and defined. Let us resolve to shine forth His light in this darkness.