“Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness” (Ps. 112:4). The godly will have their share of afflictions in this life; none is exempt. Presently, the darkness around us is deepening. The visible church lacks clarity and conviction on fundamental doctrines, practice, and methodology. Duty calls us to take action but our hearts are cold or cowardly, uncertain or confused. Temptations abound. The daily news gives little comfort: more economic hardship, corruption and utter folly in leaders and parties, mindless violence, titillating sensuality. Though we must take care against allowing blind men’s assessment of current events to color our thinking or guide our expectations – and there is not so much a media bias as media depravity – we cannot help but sense that something is terribly wrong with the society in which we live.
When God calls his people to live in such times, soberness and vigilance are our watchwords. It is easy for us to get carried along and overwhelmed by the constant stream of news, pictures, and unbelieving commentary. Better to know less and pray more than to be so swamped with information that spiritual paralysis or frenzy clouds the soul. A sense of desperation leads some citizens to take to the streets, but their activism is a very thin veil hiding their covetousness and discontent. Others would hide, “fleeing to their mountain” until the dark times pass. Entertainment, immersion in the artificial world of the internet, and simple absorption with one’s own life appear attractive alternatives to responsibility. We may conclude that God has given us over, to use Paul’s phrase, that he is simply allowing us to burn (Rom. 1:28). However deserved and even likely this may be, we do not know the Lord’s intentions; our reading of current events is always fallible. The strong temptation to meddle in high things must be resisted, for there are no experts when it comes to knowing the mind of the Lord (Rom. 11:34). The clay pot has no idea what it will be, whether it will be broken and thrown away or polished and preserved, until the potter is finished.
However horrid we may think our times are, only our Lord has endured the most intense and malicious “power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). Let us follow him and see how he faced the darkness. His agony in the garden has just ended. The disciples are fitfully sleeping. Marching up the slopes, an armed band approaches, Judas near the front. He knows why they have come. Satan is about to have his hour, but, O, it is far darker than Satan can imagine even in his blackened, absolutely depraved heart. The cup of God’s judgment, not Satan’s wrath, stands before him. The Priest is about to offer himself and give the full measure of submission to the claims of divine justice. Torments of body, deeper torments of soul await him. He has already lost blood, so violent was the agitation of soul he experienced as the “sorrows of death” began to descend upon him (Mark 14:33). And what a death! The most horrific deaths of all the men who have ever died are nothing in comparison. He is about to become sin: he who is as holy and pure as his Father. He will stand before the throne of God and receive the sentence of death: condemned in the place of sinners, to receive and swallow the terrors of holiness against sin, the wrath of the consuming fire. His truly human nature is practically unhinged by the thought. As divine, he knows the righteous wrath and judgment of God fully. How great is the darkness, the curse and misery, of all the sins of the world, the guilt and penalty about to be laid upon him!
“I am” causes the soldiers to fall back as dead men. He might walk away, passing through the midst of them (John 8:59): is mankind worth the price of my precious blood? No, but worthiness is not at issue. What I am about to do is all of grace. My Father’s will to save poor sinners and manifest the glory of his grace and love is the only worth in question, as well as the glory of his justice and wrath in the judgment of sin and sinners. Twelve legions of angels? Angels ministered to our Lord in the days of the flesh; this is no idle question he poses to his disciples. Yes, sinners would receive their just desert – and here is the light in the darkness – but how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled (Matt. 26:54)? There is a necessity laid upon me by the word of my Father, by my own word as the Mediator of the covenant of grace in all ages to all my people, by the word of my Spirit who testified by the prophets that the “Christ must suffer, and enter into his glory” (1 Pet. 1:10). Settled determination, indescribably glorious submission, and the awful cup of divine wrath descend upon him. He allows them to lay hands upon him and lead him away.
The disciples immediately forsake him, heading off to their various dark corners to brood and weep – and hide. Satan is trembling with hideous glee as the curtain of darkness descends over him, vainly hoping to defeat in death him whom he could not overcome in life. The Sanhedrin is illegally assembling to hear a capital case at night. Our Savior heads toward the citadel of injustice, to be condemned by a higher court that they cannot see. Was there ever such darkness? The human race has faced dark nights but none like this: the only One who can save fallen man is about to be fatally rejected and condemned. It is intent on crucifying the Lord of glory. Can anything be expected from this act of treason against heaven but the utter destruction of the human race by fire from heaven? And yet, light in the darkness: the Scriptures must be fulfilled. Things are not as they seem. God is working out his purposes through the evil and blindness of men (Acts 2:23). Our Savior knows the Scripture. “Thy word is true from the beginning; and every one of thy righteous judgment endureth forever” (Ps. 119:160). My Father has spoken; I have come to do his will. I must suffer and die, for my Father must be glorified in the salvation of my sheep, in confounding the wisdom of the world, in showing his power in my utter weakness, in pouring out love in the face of man’s blindness and rebellion.
We can neither understand nor feel how deeply committed our Savior was to God’s word. It guided his every step and wish. It was a part of him. It was his word as much as his Father’s. As the living Word, he came to fulfill the written word spoken by his Spirit. He knew that the events of this dark night were fulfilling, must fulfill, the Scriptures. Abraham’s faith must be vindicated. The promise to David’s house and seed realized. Isaiah’s sufferings at the hands of the Jews because he proclaimed the Suffering-Servant of the Lord, laying out this very night with a detail and pathos that can only be described as a prophetic miracle, must come to pass. This is no accident. He yielded himself to the power of darkness because his Father said that the salvation of sinners required it. Having willed to save us, which was all of mercy, no other course is open but for him to atone for our sins by his own death, for darkness to have its final, futile hour – so that the Light of the world may dawn in all his saving fullness, power, and glory.
Let this sink into your very soul. If our Savior so revered, obeyed, and followed the Scriptures in the hour of darkness, if he viewed the Bible not so much as the writings of men but the voice of his Father, so much so that he was willing to be “numbered among the transgressors and bare the sins of many” (Isa. 53:12), that same word is guiding our present darkness. Whatever it is – personal affliction, public conflict, the deluded masses, tyrannical governments, wayward children and unloving spouses – God’s word and will are being accomplished. He is clearing the rubble of darkness so that the light of our Savior’s glory and kingdom may be illumined before the adoring eyes of his people and the terror-stricken gaze of the world – now and especially later. The Scriptures must be fulfilled. God must and will be glorified. Sinners must and will be saved. We must share in our Savior’s suffering and weakness so that his power may rest upon us. Nothing, absolutely nothing that we experience of darkness will fail to accomplish our Father’s purpose to cause light to dawn. His Scriptures alone give us this sure hope. They are the promise and path our Savior walked on that darkest night.
When we see unbelieving nations teetering – morally, philosophically, economically – are we surprised at all? The Scriptures must be fulfilled. Men and nations will either build upon the Rock that is Jesus Christ or be crushed by him. Can a man take the fire of immorality in his bosom – whether the temptress is a co-worker or an image on a computer screen – and his clothes and soul not be scorched? The Scriptures must be fulfilled. Young and old, male and female, sensuality and immorality will be cursed with broken homes, defiled souls, and societal collapse. Can governments with messianic complexes think by printing presses to create value and prosperity out of thin air, and not face the judgment of God? A just weight and balance: the Scriptures must be fulfilled. There is absolutely nothing surprising or jarring about the precarious condition of the West. Nothing. The Scriptures must be fulfilled. We rejected the light of the Reformation, choosing instead the darkness of the Enlightenment. “Unless we repent, we shall perish” (Luke 13:3). If our Savior went to the cross in obedience to these infallible Scriptures, the Father will never allow one jot or tittle of these lines to fail to come to pass. They have been made too holy, too precious, by the sufferings and blood of the Son of God.
Shall we despair because the Scriptures are being fulfilled before our very eyes? Shall we quail in fear? Should we not, instead, be rejoicing that God is faithful to his word, speaking with confidence that the darkness we are experiencing is because the men of the West are trying to hide their evil deeds (John 3:19), showing by pity, love, holiness, and boldness that the only path of life and security lies in submission to his word? We know why current events are playing out as they are. It has little to do with the political power du jour, government education, statist hubris, easy money, easy sex, or the host of our causes that we tend to identify as the cancer at the center of our calamity. It is because we are not kissing the Son, yielding to his authority. Therefore, we are trampling upon the blood of his cross, blaspheming his name, and declaring war against the Scriptures. They must be fulfilled. Reject Christ and die. Reject the Son of God and be engulfed, slowly or suddenly, in moral, intellectual, scientific, familial, and civic darkness. His death at the decree of Scripture guarantee, certify with his own blood, that not one word will fail to come to pass of all that God has said.
For us, since we know that the Scriptures must be fulfilled, we may have unshakeable confidence that light will dawn for the righteousness. But we must be walk in its light, in full submission to it, as he did. Since we read, for example, that our prayers ascend to heaven to be thrown back by God’s hand to the earth in the form of deliverance to his people and judgment upon his enemies, shall we not pray – individually and corporately, fervently and biblically? The Scriptures must be fulfilled. God will have us seek from his hand the building of our Savior’s kingdom and the establishment of righteousness on earth. Since his apostles practiced fellowship and body life as a chief way we are built up, encouraged, and motivated, shall we not give ourselves more, not less, to communion with the saints. The more evil day, the more God’s people must fellowship, meaningfully communicate with one another, engage and provoke one another to good works (Heb. 10:25). The Scriptures must be fulfilled: hover in your home, refuse to be regularly and transparently with God’s people, know only weakness. Shall we live more like the world in order to survive, be prosperous, and protect ourselves from evil times? God has made the form, the various masks, of the world obsolete. Light must not fellowship with darkness. Play fast and loose with sin, make your best friends unbelievers, blur the antithesis between the church and the world – in mindset, relationships, and priorities – and suffer the world’s judgment. The Scriptures must be fulfilled.
This is our only light in the darkness. It is the path our Savior walked. It led him to the cross, to unspeakable suffering. It led him through the darkness to life, the empty tomb, and the promised glory and throne at his Father’s right hand. Whatever the cost, whatever the sacrifice, we must obey God’s word. It will humble us, as it did our Savior, but this is so that we may enjoy more light: in our families, worshipping God together around an open Bible; in our daily activities and duties, guided and informed by his wisdom rather than the blindness of men, seeking holiness in the fear of God, walking in the old paths of submission and truth; in our relationships, speaking of the mercy we have received, planting seeds, laying the foundation for future righteousness in the hearts and lives of our brothers and sisters, as well as our fellowman. In every duty, every temptation, every affliction: the Scriptures must be fulfilled. God will be glorified. His kingdom will grow and fill the earth. The precious blood of our Savior assures us that the word of God is our life and will give us a future of light.