Summary: God is light. Nothing stronger can be said. This is as far as human language can go in relating God and light. God is light. Light is of the very essence of God's nature.
The Emperor Trajan said to Rabbi Joshua, "You teach that your
God is everywhere. I should like to see Him." The Rabbi replied,
"God's presence is everywhere, but He cannot be seen. No mortal
eye can behold His glory." The Emperor insisted, however, and
so the Rabbi said, "Let us begin then by first looking at one of his
servants. The Emperor consented to this, and so followed the
Rabbi out into the open. "Now," said the Rabbi, "Gaze into the
splendor of the sun." "I cannot," said the Emperor, "The light
dazzles me." The Rabbi responded, "Thou art unable to endure
the light of one of his servants, and canst thou expect to behold
the resplendent glory of the Creator. Would not such a light
The Jews had a higher concept of God than all ancient peoples,
because God revealed Himself to them as a God of glory, light,
and splendor. The Old Testament has many descriptions of God
like that given in Hab. 3:3-4. "His glory covered the heavens, and
His praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sun rise;
rays flashed from His hand, where His power was hidden." It
was because of this knowledge of the glory of God that the Jews
were an optimistic people. A man's character is determined
largely by the character of the God he worships. If one worships
a god who is a tyrant, and unpredictable, and without mercy, but
cruel, it is not likely he will be a man of flaming joy. Luther lived
for years with a false concept of God, and as a result, lived in fear
and dread. Most religions have had such a dark concept of God
that the followers of these religions seldom knew what it was to be
truly joyful and at peace.
Many ancient peoples, and peoples yet today, whose god's are
made in the image of man, and are only depraved supermen,
cruel and immoral, are no more optimistic than the materialist
who says, "I feel the universe is one huge, dead, immeasurable
steam engine, rolling on in its dead indifference to grind us limb
from limb." You can't expect persons like that to be bursting
with optimism, and bubbling with joy. On the other hand, when
people have the concept of God as He is revealed in Scripture, it
leads to optimism and joy. This was true in the Old Testament,
even before God fully revealed Himself in Jesus Christ.
The Jews began their day at sundown, rather than at sunup.
All their festivals and holidays begin at night, and their Sabbath
also begins at night. All of this was to symbolize their optimism
and confidence in the God of light. Anyone can have confidence
in the day, and look forward to a bright day when the sun rises,
but the Jews began their rejoicing as the sun sank to symbolize
their confidence that even in the darkness light will prevail, and a
new day will dawn. Tomorrow always comes for the believer.
Even death cannot change that. Such was the attitude of the Jews
who had only a shadow of the full revelation yet to come. How
much greater ought our joy and optimism to be who stand in the
full light? Paul in II Cor. 4:6 writes, "For God, who said, 'Let
light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to
give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face
of Christ." We have a message as superior to the Old Testament, as it was
to the pagan darkness surrounding it. That is why John, after
stating that his purpose for writing this book was that the joy of
believers might be full, immediately announces the truth on which
all Christian joy is based, which is the truth that God is light.
This morning we want to examine this primary message and its
meaning. First let's look at the message itself.
I. THE MESSAGE.
John has built us up to a point of
expectation. He has made great statements of his aim to share
with us truths that will lead to fullness of fellowship, and fullness
of joy. We ought to be standing on our tiptoes breathlessly
longing to see what it is he is going to declare. In verse 5, after
this stimulating introduction, John says, this is it! Here it is! This
is the message that we have received, and now pass it on to you.
This is no matter of speculation and theory, this is the message we
have heard from Christ Himself, and now declare to you, and that
message is, God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. We see a
positive and negative side to this message.