“In the beginning,” we learn, “…the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep…And God said, ‘Let there be light,’…God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness he called ‘night’. And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.” (Genesis 1:1-5)
It’s interesting to note that day runs from evening to morning in Genesis. For us, the day begins when we crawl out of bed at sunrise and ends that wonderful moment when we collapse back into bed after the sun’s set. But for the ancient Israelites the new day began at sunset.
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them…” (Luke 6:12-13)
The day that Jesus chose the men, “whom he also designated apostles”, (6:13) started ‘bright and early’ in the night, with prayer. Later, in the morning, Jesus went out to appoint the men who would help build the church.
This sequence from night to day connects in my mind with that larger theme of darkness to light, which we see so often playing out in our favorite books and movies, and which we wish would play out more in the ‘real’ world. It shouldn’t feel strange to us, this order of things from darkness to light, because it is fundamental to The Bible, and to our Christian faith, as is the hope both expressed and fulfilled in God’s Word.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)
While we were still lost in the darkness of sin, Jesus came with power to save us. (Romans 5:8) He came to give us the light of life. (John 8:12)
The New Testament Gospels record the much-anticipated fulfillment of God’s promised deliverance and salvation, articulated so stunningly in Old Testament history and prophecy, and so beautifully in its poetic language of longing:
“My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” (Psalm 130:6)
Gospel writer Matthew tells us that on the Friday we now call “Good”, when Jesus died in our place on the Cross, “darkness came over all the land.” (27:45) From noon until 3 in the afternoon, it was as night. Then, “at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look in the tomb” (28:1), and found a bright and shining angel, and then found Jesus – not dead but alive! (28:2-10)
It resonates with us, this order of dark to light, because it is intrinsic to our own lives as Christians, as God first delivers us personally, through faith in Jesus Christ, from the darkness of sin and death to the light of forgiveness and life, and then daily delivers us from our doubts, fears, and all manner of trials. It is evidenced in our hope, which by that same faith in Jesus clings to the truth of His glorious Resurrection, to the reality of the Kingdom of God on earth, to the making of disciples and the growing of the church, and to the promises of Jesus’ return and of our own new and eternal life in Him.
“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.” (Romans 13:12)