In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Elizabeth Achtemeier suggests that if we want to gain a meaningful understanding of Jesus' proclamation that he is the light of the world, we need to go back to the story of light in the First Testament. Light is introduced to us at the beginning of the creation story in Genesis and interestingly God creates light before God creates the sun. Often this fact gets all tangled up in creation vs. evolution and science vs. faith debates, which misses the point entirely. Light, as we will see, obviously means something more than just literal sunlight. Historically the sun, the moon, and stars were worshiped in some cultures as gods. Israel creates this creation story and places the creation of light before sun, moon and stars so as to discredit the worship of celestial objects as idolatry, the worship of created things. Light has its ultimate source in God and Light refers to the source of life, the ground of all being. Which is very deep theological and philosophical talk. God is the source of even the greatest things observed in the sky, such as the sun and stars. Light points to God as a deeper source for life. This begins to make more practical or applicable sense as we move forward in scripture to see what else Israel says about the Light.
In Isaiah 9:2 we read The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. The light in this verse is that which gives hope to Israel in their captivity in Babylon and eventually liberates them from the control of the Babylonian Empire. The light created by God not only powers sun, moon, and stars, rivers, mountains, and all creation, but also brings a reversal of fortunes, a change in political and social reality which has been oppressive bringing Israel to liberation. In this sense light is very closely connected to glory that we learned about last weak, both referring to God’s intervention in history to bring dignity and worth to shamed, rejected and devalued.
Finally there is another way that light operates as in Psalm119:105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. The Psalmist refers to the Torah, the God-inspired written tradition of wisdom from God. If Light refers to source of life, and the activity of God to create dignity and worth for all creatures, the word is a conduit of that light or an instructional guide for those who which to be connected to the source of life and activists for the justice creating God here on earth.
Do you have a daily practice for connecting to the Light, the source? What will you do this week to make getting in touch with this creative light this week?