When The Lights Go Out
Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow. (Isa 50:10-11)
Throughout the Bible, darkness is used as a symbol for wickedness, evil, and separation from God. Light, in contrast, is representative of goodness. Given that, this prophecy in Isaiah 50 is interesting. Here, the roles seem to be reversed. Those who walk in darkness are not themselves wicked, but are merely surrounded by evil. That is the condition we often find ourselves in. The warning here is that when we find ourselves in surrounded by darkness, we must trust in God. If we seek to "kindle a fire" by our own means, we end up in sorrow.
Much of the time I want to shout out to God, "It just isn't fair!" Walking in darkness doesn't seem like what we are called to do, after all. When troubles and disappointments come, the first tendency of most of us is to start scrambling around for those matches. Maybe we can figure out a solution and won't have to bother waiting on God to act. God will usually just sit back and wait until we eventually come to the realization we have to have His help. Sigh.
In fact, this is how most evangelists get converts. Typically, they gather in converts by finding people with a serious problem and promising them that Jesus will solve all their problems. Unfortunately, at that point, most people's idea of a problem is some carnal thing. Food, shelter, money, job, relationships, health -- the list goes on and on. So they come to Jesus thinking that all those problems will be solved. Surprise. Most evangelists fail to warn new converts that the life of faith is one trial after another. The truth is that once you come to Jesus, all hell will break loose against you.
Jesus will solve your problems, of course. It is just that most people don't even realize what their problem really is. They think their problem is that they don't have enough "stuff" in this life, and then after all that, they end up dead. So it's a pretty good come on to tell people Jesus will get them to heaven when they die and will help fix all their problems here on earth in the mean time. Well, the real problem of man, and the real message of the Gospel, isn't that at all. The real problem is man's heart turned away from God. The problem is man seeking his own solutions and not trusting God, man kindling his own fire in other words.
So Jesus does help solve our problem. He helps us with our faith. He makes us completely dependent on Him. As long as we can do it all ourselves, why do we need to trust God? Think of it this way. If a wealthy relative were to die and leave you an inheritance of $1 million, would you think that is wonderful? (I know I would!) But, when all your material needs for the rest of your life are guaranteed, will you still trust God and thank Him each day for provision? Without faith it is impossible to please God. So, that kind of windfall could end up being the destruction of someone rather than a blessing. It's one of those big ironies of Christianity. Success in worldly terms can be the source of eternal destruction.
The best way to get more faith in God is to be put in a situation where you can't solve the problem by your own means. We call this a "test of faith" but it would be better to call it "faith training" instead. So, sometimes, we need to walk in darkness to build up faith. That is the point here in Isaiah. When trouble comes, we wait on the light from above rather than frantically searching for a box of matches. This is exactly opposite of the way the world thinks of things. They love to adore and worship the "torch bearers" who seize control of the situation and turn things around. From my observations of the world, it seems to me most "torch bearers" end up burning the place to the ground in the end. Exactly as Isaiah said, they lie down in sorrow.
God's deliverance is a wonderful thing. When the light finally comes and dispels the darkness, we gain the assurance that our faith was not in vain, and we always should pray for that deliverance. Ironically, God's deliverance can be just as much of a point of danger for us as receiving a windfall inheritance. As soon as the trial is over, as soon as the darkness is dispelled by His light, the target of our faith is gone. Without a new trial, there is no new level of faith. Just remember, without a greater and greater test there cannot be greater and greater faith. As the saying goes, cheer up saints, it's gonna get worse!
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. (Isa 9:2)