“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see.
For the glory of the LORD rises to shine on you.
Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,
but the glory of the LORD rises and appears over you.
All nations will come to your light;
mighty kings will come to see your radiance.” (Isaiah 60:1–3 NLT)
Prior to the modern era – before electrical or gas lines crisscrossed our cities – nighttime illumination was much less common. There were no streetlights or porchlights dotting the landscape; no headlights or stoplights marked the roadways. Every bonfire, candle, or lamp was lit with immediate purpose, so there were far fewer lights dotting the horizon. This meant large cities – especially cities on hilltops, like Jerusalem – truly were like beacons, visible for miles upon miles and drawing in the wayward travelers from the darkness of the night.
Isaiah 60 is yet another sign from history pointing toward Jesus, the Light of the World. His arrival in first century Israel was the beginning of the central point around which all of creation revolves. Isaiah describes Jesus as a light for all the nations to see. In his Sermon the Mount, Jesus takes this imagery and makes it his own, telling his followers they are like a city on a hill, lighting the horizon for all to see. In Jesus’s words, this light is the good deeds performed by his followers. Taking Isaiah 60 and Matthew 5 together, if Jesus is the light, our good deeds are like mirrors reflecting his glory as it flows through us by the Holy Spirit.
The final stanza of Isaiah 60 takes this light to its end goal, painting a picture of God as our only source of illumination; no longer will we need the sun or moon, for “the Lord will be your everlasting light” (Isaiah 60:20). In other words, no longer will it be up to us to illuminate the horizon for all to see through reflecting the glory of Jesus, but God’s glory will be evident to all. In that day, all people will be righteous, and there will no longer be need to mourn.
This is a wonderful and beautiful image, but it is one that is still yet to be realized. We still await that glorious day even now, more than 3,000 years after it was prophesized by Isaiah. We live in a liminal space, the time between times; the light has come, but he is not yet our sole source of illumination, so we are still tasked with serving as lighthouses in the dark, reflecting the glory of God.