I remember a number of years ago, I was working in a storage warehouse at the university I was teaching at with one of my work study students. We were going through boxes trying to find something when a storm came through. We didn't even know there was a storm because there weren't any windows — we were completely dependent on lightbulbs for light. And then those lights went out. And it was dark. It was really dark.
It only went out for a second — the generator kicked in and everything went back to normal soon after — but in a moment of darkness like that, you experienced a really amazingly deep darkness. You can’t see anything.
When we think about something like that, if we've had an experience like that, it really jolts us because we realize how much we depend on being able to see the things around us to guide us as we go about our lives.
In 2 Peter, the apostle writes about the sorts of things that encroach and bring spiritual darkness into our lives and where we should turn for light. We look for light in all kinds of different places, but Peter says there's one source of light that lasts, one source that's not going to get knocked out by a storm.
The bulb he tells us about isn't going to burn out. It's always dependable. That's God's promise, we just need to turn to him.
It's easy to get caught up in those dark places of life as we go and seek to light our own path. We think we have everything in order. We think we have perfect plans and hopes and dreams and then a year like 2020 strikes. But even in normal years we experience moments, oftentimes whole seasons, where our plans aren't going how we would hope and it feels dark and we feel hopeless.
And that's what Peter is addresses in 2 Peter 1:19: “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
Peter says the light is right in front of you, the light comes from God's promises. We forget that God has His Word packed full of His promises, His plans for the future that are sure and definite and that when we trust in Him we get to be a part of those plans.
God lights our way with hope in a world where every day it feels like things are chipping away at our hope and everything around us. All the voices we hear from from media and from the internet and — oftentimes — even from each other are chipping away at hope and bringing in fear.
Where then can we possibly turn?
We turn to God's Word and we see the light of God's hope of His promises, His prophetic Word that speaks about what is to come.
Past prophecies are a key part of that. Sometimes I don't think we spend that much time on them. They're more of an interesting educational side note that we'll hear people rattle off. How many promises of God were fulfilled when Jesus came? We don’t often bother to pay attention to that. We say, “Well, that's really nice. I'm so glad to know that that happened in the past.”
Then we move on.
But those past promises fulfilled are for us and give us hope for right now, too. They show us who God is when we see that God has declared over time that things will happen and those things have happened and those things continue to happen.
When we read that God is going to make all things new (Revelation 21:5), that death itself will be banished, we don't see that as some kind of pie in the sky utopia, but rather we see it as the logical conclusion of everything that God has been doing from his very first promise of redemption all the way back in Genesis chapter 3.
When Adam and Eve had fallen, the Lord said that He would bring forth a redeemer who would crush Satan. And from that moment on, throughout His law, throughout all the prophets in the Old Testament and throughout the New Testament, we read again and again how God is going to make all things new, that those things that feel broken in our world won't last.
We see who God is: the ultimate loving father who is faithful with everything He has said. Because of that, we know that his future promises will be fulfilled too.
In Isaiah 59:19-20, the prophet writes: “‘So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,’ declares the LORD.”
Long before Jesus was born, Scripture says not only is there a Redeemer who will come to God's people, it says that Redeemer is going to be known from the East to the West, from the rising to the setting of the Sun. The nations will fear the Lord will praise him. And we've seen fulfillment of that already in our present world.
Who would have thought a king could rise up in a little bitty Mediterranean country who would be more than a mere footnote in history? Yet He was and is.
You cannot point even from just a purely secular standpoint to anyone who's been more significant in history than Jesus. So, we already see the fear of the Lord going out throughout all the nations. That this God whom Israel was called to proclaim is now proclaimed all around the world. We don't see it fully, but we see a very clear preview.
Right now we see a partial picture of what God's doing, but God is not done yet. He is going to fulfill his promises completely. That's what Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
Right now, we're sort of seeing what God's doing, but then that darkness creeps back in and we're not quite sure where we're going. We see sort of dimly what's happening, but Paul says it's going to be fully clear when Jesus returns in the fulfillment of God's promises.
Think for a moment about darkness. Really, really dark darkness. You can't see anything.
Maybe this is like that moment I was talking about in the warehouse. You're stuck in in this dark place and all you see is pitch blackness. Then your eyes maybe start to see a little something, but it's still incredibly dark. This is often how we're living life.
We have a little light. We do not have to be completely in the dark anymore because we can find hope in Jesus.
Maybe we find a flashlight and then we start to see a little something. But it sometimes can still look a little scary. It looks a little uncertain still because it's still so dark. But what happens as we study God's promises and we understand him more fully and He continues to grow us as we've been talking about? Gradually, the lights start to come back on and we can see again. And we have hope. And we know that hope is just a foretaste of the fullness of that hope. It's just a foretaste of the fullness of that hope that's coming in the future when Jesus returns.
That's what we have to look forward to, the full brightness of day in God's presence. That's what Peter has in mind at the end of verse 19. He says that morning star that's going to rise, Jesus, is coming and then there will be full brightness.
It won't just be like a lamp in the dark. We'll be in the light of day. But even in the moment, even right now, even in the uncertainty of our life right now, God provides a working flashlight that lights the way, that gives us hope, that allows us to see where He’s leading us.
God’s Word and the promises He has fulfilled are that light. Light we can count on today and everyday. Light that lets us know we can come to God in prayer, as many around the world the world will, in fact, do tomorrow at the FaithTree Online Community Prayer Walk.
Light that will not go out.
This column is adapted from a sermon Tim preached in the midst of the COVID pandemic in August 2020. You can find the original message here.