Light in Darkness
"Unto the upright there arises light in darkness."
Chrysostom calls the Scriptures a spiritual paradise.
The Book of Psalms is placed in the midst of this paradise. David's Psalms
are not only for delight, but for benefit. They are like those
trees of the sanctuary in Ezekiel, which were both for food and for
medicine. The Psalms are commensurate and exactly fitted to every
Christian's condition. If his affections are frozen—here he may fetch fire;
if he is weak in grace—here he may fetch armor; if he is ready to faint—here
he may fetch cordials.
Among other divine consolations, this text is none of the
least, "Unto the upright there arises light in darkness." These words are
calculated for the comfort of God's Church in all ages. This text is like
Israel's pillar of fire, which gave light in the wilderness. Or it is like
the mariner's lantern, to give light in a dark night.
"To the upright there arises light in darkness." Give me
permission to explain the words, then I shall come to the proposition.
"To the upright." Who are meant here, by the upright?
The Hebrew word for upright, signifies plainness of heart. The
upright man is without deception or fraud. He is one in whose spirit there
is no deceit, Psalm 32:2. He who is upright, his heart and his tongue go
together, as a well-made dial goes exactly by the sun. The words following
here in the text, may serve for a short paraphrase to show us who this
upright man is. He is gracious, full of compassion, and righteous.
1. The upright man is gracious—that implies his holiness.
2. The upright man is full of compassion—that implies his charitableness.
3. The upright man is righteous—that implies his justness.
1. The upright man is gracious—therefore he fears God.
2. The upright man is full of compassion—therefore he feeds the poor.
3. The upright man is righteous—therefore he does to others as he would have
them do to him.
1. The upright man is one who acts from a right
principle—and that is faith.
2. The upright man is one who acts by a right rule—and that's the Word of
3. The upright man is one who acts to a right end—and that's the glory of
This is the sincere and upright man.
The second thing in the text is, "There arises light to
the upright man." By light is here meant, metaphorically, comfort or
joy. Esther 8:16, "The Jews had light, gladness, and joy." By light
is meant gladness. The light, when it springs, very much relieves. Joy is to
the heart as light is to the eye—very exhilarating and refreshing.
Third, "light arises in darkness." By darkness is
meant trouble, anything that disquiets either the body or the mind. Trouble
is darkness. Isaiah 8:22, "Look unto the earth and behold trouble and
darkness." Psalm 107:10, "Such as sit in darkness, and in the shadow of
death." As darkness is very disconsolate and frightening, so where trouble
comes it makes everything look like the terrors of the night.
The observation is this:
DOCTRINE. When the condition of God's people is darkness,
God causes a light to shine unto them. "To the upright there arises
light in darkness."
Here are two branches of the proposition. First, the
upright, such whom God loves, have their night. Second, a morning light
arises to them in the midst of all their darkness.
1. First, the upright, such whom God loves, have their
night. It may be a very dark season. Godliness does not
exempt them from suffering. They may have a night of affliction;
a cloud may set upon their names and estates. God may send trouble
upon all their outward comforts, Ruth 1:20.
Moreover, the people of God may have a night of
desertion. God may withdraw the smiling beams of His favor, and then it
is night with them indeed. Job 6:4, "For the Almighty has struck me down
with his arrows. He has sent his poisoned arrows deep within my spirit!" It
alludes, said Grotius, to the Persians who, in their war, dip their arrows
in poison to make their wounds more deadly. Thus God sometimes shoots the
poisonous arrows of desertion at the godly. Then they are in the dark. They
are benighted. Though God has the heart of a Father—yet sometimes He
has the look of an enemy. He may cause darkness in the soul, and shut
up the beams of spiritual comfort.
He does this, that He may the more quicken the
exercise of grace, for prayer may sometimes act highest in the hour of
desertion. Jonah 2:4, "I said I was cast out of Your sight; yet will I look
towards Your holy temple." Faith and patience, like two stars, shine most
bright in the night of desertion. We prefer our comforts—but God prefers the
actings of our graces.
The Lord may cause a dark cloud to be upon the righteous,
a cloud of desertion—that He may hereby awaken and stir up in His people
a spirit of prayer that they may now cry mightily to God, that they may
stir up themselves to take hold of God by prayer. Sometimes a father hides
his face to make the child cry after him more. Just so, God may hide His
face in a cloud of desertion, that His children may cry the more after Him,
"Oh, hide not Your face from me!" Psalm 140:7. Desertion will make one pray,
if anything will. Desertion is a short hell. Jonah called the whale's
belly, the belly of hell, because he was deserted there. And if ever
he was going to pray, it was now, that he might get out of that hell. Jonah
2:2, "Out of the belly of hell, I cried unto You, and You heard my voice."
That's the first point, the godly may have their night.
2. The second part of the proposition is this—A morning
light arises in the righteous in all their darkness.
"To the upright there arises light in the darkness."
Psalm 18:28, "The Lord will light my candle." As if David had said, "My
comforts at present seem to be blown out, and I am in the dark. But the Lord
will light my candle and cause light to arise."
There is a twofold light that God causes to arise in His
people in the dark—an outward light and an inward light.
An OUTWARD light shines; that is, God oftentimes
causes the light of prosperity to arise upon His people, which is a light in
darkness. When God causes peace and prosperity in the tabernacle of the
righteous, here is light rising in darkness. Job 29:3, "When His candle
shines upon my head." The candle is the candle of prosperity, a lamp of
outward blessings. God has suddenly altered the scene of providence; all of
a sudden He has turned the shadows of death into the light of morning.
When God's people are in the dark, God sometimes causes
an INWARD light to arise in them.
First, the light of grace; He makes that
shine. In the midst of darkness, a spark of faith in the soul is a spark of
light. When the tree has no blossoms or leaves to be seen, as in winter,
there may yet be sap in the root of the vine.
So, my brethren, when our outward comforts are dead, as
it were, it is winter; yet there may be the seed of God in the heart. And
this spark of grace is a dawning light to the soul.
Second, God sometimes causes a light of spiritual joy and
consolation to arise in the dark and disconsolate soul. And truly
this light of spiritual joy is the very glimmering of the light of heaven.
Isaiah 12:1, "Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me." This light of
spiritual comfort is sweet and ravishing. It as far exceeds all other joys
as heaven excels earth. Thus you see in the midst of darkness or black
clouds—that God makes light to arise and shine unto the godly.
It is only God Himself who can make it lightsome when the
soul is in a dark, disconsolate condition. When the sun sets, none
can make it rise but God. Just so, when it is sunset in the soul and
the dew of tears drops—none can make daylight in that soul but
God Himself. Others may preach comfort to us—but it is God who must make us
feel comfort. Others may bring a cordial to us, and set it before us—but it
is God who must pour in this cordial, and make it effectual. Psalm 4:7,
"You, Lord, have put gladness in my heart."
Question. Why does God make light and joy to arise to the
upright in their darkness?
Answer. For three reasons:
1. That He may fulfill His promises. He has
said that He will give light to His people when they are in darkness. Isaiah
42:16, "I will make darkness light before them." God's honor lies upon it to
make good His promise. He causes light to spring up in the disconsolate
soul. God's promise is His bond. When a man has given his bond, he cannot
well go back. God's promises may be long in travail—yet at last they bring
forth. There are two things in God that never fail.
First, His compassions fail not, Lamentations
Second, His faithfulness fails not, Psalm 89:33.
God may sometimes delay a promise—but He will never deny His
promise. God may sometimes change His promise, or He may turn a
temporal promise into a spiritual promise—but He will never break His
promise. He has said He will cause light to go before His people in all
2. God will cause light to arise in His people in all
their darkness, because they help to enlighten others, and
therefore they shall not lack light. When others are in the dark of
ignorance—they enlighten them with knowledge. When others are in the dark of
affliction—they relieve them. They are merciful to them in giving them alms,
which administer light and joy to their hearts. The saints of God are lights
to those who sit in darkness. When they are benighted with any sorrow, they
shall not lack comfort. The Lord causes light to arise to them in darkness.
3. God will cause light to arise in His people in
darkness; either He will support them in trouble—or deliver
them out of trouble. He will cause light to arise because He sees
His people have need, great need of some dawnings of light. They would faint
away and be discouraged, if there was nothing but darkness and no glimmering
Should the sick patient always have purging medicine and
no cordials given him, he would faint away. God knows our frame, and He sees
our spirits would fail before Him—if He always allowed a cloud to lie upon
us. Therefore, in judgment He remembers mercy. He causes the daystar of
comfort to arise upon His people. God will not let it be always be
midnight—lest we touch upon the rock of despair. The musician will not
stretch the strings of his violin too far—lest they break asunder. Thus you
see why the wise God sees it best to cause light to arise in the midst of
So much for the doctrinal part.
Use 1. Of INFERENCE.
INFERENCE 1. See the infinite goodness of God
towards His people in all cases that fall out in this world, whether
affliction or desertion. Oh, the goodness of God! The Lord checkers
His work. He mixes in some stars to give light—as the artist mixes
bright colors with dark shadows. The condition of God's people on earth is
never so dark but they may see a rainbow in the cloud of providence.
Take one Scripture to verify this. Psalm 138:7, "Though I walk in the midst
of trouble, You will revive me." Every step I take I tread upon thorns; I
walk in the midst of trouble.
Joseph was in prison, and there was darkness; but the
text says, "The Lord was with Joseph," Genesis 39:21. There light arose.
Jacob had the hollow of his thigh put out of
joint—there was darkness; but at that very time he saw God's face, a
glimmering of God, and the Lord blessed him—there was light rising in
darkness, Genesis 32:25.
Job lost all he ever had and was struck with boils
and sores; here was a dark providence. Yes—but hereby Job's grace was
perfected and improved, and God gave him an honorable testimony that he was
upright, and gave him double estate to what he had before—here was light
arisen to Job in the clouds of darkness, Job 42:10.
Thus God mixes light with His people's darkness. In the
ark there was manna laid up with the rod. So it is in
God's providence towards His people. With the rod of affliction there is
some manna, some light, some comfort that God causes to spring up. Manna
with the rod, oh, the goodness of God! In the darkest night He keeps alive
some spark of light among His people. That's the first inference.
INFERENCE 2. If it is God's work to cause
light and comfort to the righteous, why then, how contrary do they act, who
make it their work to cause darkness and sorrow to the righteous! God's work
is to cause light to spring up in the godly. Their work is to cause
darkness. You know there is a woe that belongs to them who make the heart of
the righteous sad. God is creating light for His people, and His enemies are
laying snares for them. God is pouring wine and oil into His people's
wounds, and His adversaries are pouring vinegar into those wounds.
How contrary do these act! Those who are of the Romish
whore are this day plotting the ruin of God's people, and would have the
Church of God lie in a field of blood. The Lord makes light to arise to the
godly. The wicked labor to make darkness and sorrow to arise for them. But
such as lay snares for the righteous will find God raining fire upon them,
Psalm 11:6. Upon the wicked God shall rain fire and brimstone. The wicked
strike at Christ through His members' sides; but let them know that if they
kick against Christ the Rock, the Lord will be too hard for them at last.
God ordains His arrows against the persecutors, Psalm 7:13, and God never
misses His mark! If He has His arrow upon the string, He will certainly
shoot; and He never misses His mark. That's a second inference.
INFERENCE 3. See here the difference between
the wicked and the godly. In all their darkness, the godly have some light;
some comfort arises to them. In all their comforts, the wicked have some
darkness rising up to them. Conscience chides them and troubles threaten
them. It is like the handwriting upon the wall. God shall wound the heads of
His enemies, and the hairy scalp of such a one as goes on still in his
trespasses. The sinner, in his light-hearted condition, in all his outward
mirth, may see some clouds of darkness. God's threatening arrows are against
him and God's curse is against him; and God's curse blasts wherever it
comes. An impenitent sinner lives every day under the sentence of death, and
there remains for him, said the Apostle, God's fiery indignation! Hebrews
When the hardened sinner dies he will be in a bad case;
he drops into the grave and hell both at once! God has brewed a
deadly cup for the impenitent sinner. Observe Psalm 75:8, "In the hand of
the Lord there is a cup, the wine is red, it is full of mixture, and the
dregs thereof, the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink
them." This red wine is the wrath of God, and this wine is full of
mixture. What's that? That's the worm of conscience, and the fire of
hell. Here is a mixed cup, and the wicked shall ever be drinking this cup.
God will never say, "Let this cup pass away." No, they must be forever
drinking the dregs of the cup of wrath! I think this Scripture should put a
damp on all their joy and mirth. Darkness is coming upon them, 1 Samuel
28:19. It was sad news to Saul that the devil brought, "Tomorrow you shall
be with me." Dreadful news! Now men are sporting with their lusts and
pleasures; now they think they are in their gallantry—but tomorrow they may
be with the devil!
INFERENCE 4. Does God cause light to spring up
in His people's darkness? Then see here the difference between earth and
heaven. Here in this world there is a mixture of darkness with the saints'
light; in heaven there shall be nothing but pure light, no darkness there.
It is called an inheritance of light, Colossians 1:12. As the philosophers
say, light is the very glory of the creation. It is the beauty of the world.
What was all the world without light but a dark prison? Here's the beauty of
heaven, it is a place of light. There is no eclipse or dark shadow to be
seen there. Heaven is a bright body all over embroidered with light. There
is the Sun of righteousness shining with the bright orient beams of glory,
Revelation 21:23. The Lamb is the light thereof. Oh, how should we long for
that place of paradise!
Use 2. Of CONSOLATION. This consolation is for
the Church and people of God.
This text is a pillar of light, a breast of consolation.
"To the upright arises light in darkness." Does God make light, joy, and
peace to arise to the righteous? Why, then, should we despair? Why should we
despond when it is God's great design to lighten His people's darkness? I
confess things have a bad aspect. England is like the ship in the gospel,
almost covered with waves. This may humble us and set our eyes abroach with
tears—yet let us not mourn as without hope.
First, this text, I think, lets in some branches of
light. It gives some spark of comfort in our darkness. Let me come as the
dove with an olive branch of peace. That is some spark of light that there
are many upright ones in the land. And the text says, "Light arises to the
upright." Indeed, were the godly quite removed, as it is the desire of some
to destroy them, God would soon make quick work with the nation. He would
soon break up house here. Genesis 19:22, "Hasten! Escape—for I cannot do
anything until you leave." God will do much for the sake of the upright of
whom my text speaks. The upright are the excellent of the earth; they are
the chariots and horsemen of Israel. They are the very flower and cream of
the creation; they are the glory of Christ, 2 Corinthians 8:23. And for
their sakes God may yet cause light to arise, and His arm may bring
Second, another spark of light in our darkness that God
is pleased to stir up in His people is a spirit of mighty prayer. They cry
mightily. Certainly God will not say to this city and nation, "Seek My face
in vain." Prayer is the wall and bulwark of the land. It is observable that
when the Lord intends to pour out the vials of His indignation, He stops the
sluices of prayer; He shuts up the spirit of prayer. Jeremiah 7:16,
"Therefore, do not pray for this people, neither lift up a cry nor prayer
for them, neither make intercession to Me, for I will not hear." God has not
yet said this to us.
The key of prayer, oiled with tears and turned with the
hand of faith, unlocks God's heart. Prayer, when it is importunate,
staves off wrath from the nation, Exodus 32:10. God said to Moses, "Now
therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I
may consume them." And what did Moses do? He only prayed. Fervent prayer
overcomes the Almighty. Prayer finds God free—but it leaves Him bound. It is
as it was. His hand staves off judgment. This lets in some dawning to this
land, that God doesn't wholly leave us, especially remembering that Christ
Jesus, praying over our prayers again, presents them to His Father and
perfumes them with His sweet fragrance, which makes them go up as incense,
Third, another spark arising is when we consider God's
compassion and mercy. Mercy is God's darling attribute, which He loves most
of all to magnify, Micah 7:18. Mercy pleases Him. Justice is God's strange
work, as if He was not used to it; but mercy is His proper work. It is as
natural for Him to show mercy as for the bee to give honey. Why may not
mercy give the casting voice for this nation? As that Scripture says, "In
His love and in His pity He redeemed them," Isaiah 63:9. Love and pity will
do great things.
God's mercy is not only free, sending out pardons where
He pleases—but, which is more, God's mercy can as well heal as it can save.
It is a healing mercy. Hosea 14:4, "I will heal their backslidings."
Observe, God's mercy can reclaim the persecutor; it can soften the
impenitent; it can bring back some who are gone astray. Mercy can destroy
the sins of the nation and yet save the nation. It is a healing mercy. "I
will heal their backslidings." These are the sparks that God causes to
OBJECTION. But things still look and seem as if they are
in the dark. We would have more light. What must we do? How must behave,
until God makes light to arise to us in darkness?
Answer 1. Let us, in all dark providences, go into our
chambers. Isaiah 26:20, "Come my people, enter into your chamber, and hide
yourself." Enter into your chamber, that is, we must go and search our
hearts by serious meditation. Go into this chamber of your hearts. Let us,
in the first place, search our evidences for heaven, bring our graces
to the touchstone. Let us see what faith we have, and what love
for God we have.
Does conscience witness that we not only serve
God, but love Him? Can we cry out for God, for the living God? Are we
carried up to heaven in a fiery chariot of love? Is it thus with us? Oh, let
us search into the chambers of our hearts and see how all things stand
between God and our souls!
My brethren, when things are dark without, we need to
have all clear within.
Let us go not only into the chamber of our hearts—but let
us go into the chamber of divine promises, and there let us rest a
while. Oh, these sweet promises of God which our souls may take comfort in!
God has promised comfort to all His mourners. God has promised that He will
strengthen the infirmed, Isaiah 40:29. God has promised a crown of glory,
Revelation 2:10. He has said that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Let
us now, by faith, hide ourselves in these chambers. That's the first thing
we are to do.
Answer 2. Having done this, let us, under all clouds of
darkness—commit ourselves to God so that He would safeguard and keep us.
This I ground upon that Scripture in Psalm 37:5, "Commit your way unto the
Lord." In the Hebrew it is "roll your way upon the Lord." Commit yourself
and your cause to God by prayer. As an orphan commits himself under care of
his guardian, so should we give all our care to God. "Commit your way unto
the Lord." Let us do our duty and trust God with our safety. It is our work
to cast care; it is God's work to take care.
Answer 3. Having gone into these chambers, the chambers
of our hearts and the chambers of divine promises, now, in the third place,
let us now wait for God's time until He shall make light to arise in our
horizon, until God turns our darkness into the light of the morning. God can
suddenly disperse the black clouds. God can create light; God can strike a
straight stroke by a crooked stick; God can remove the mountains that lie in
our way until light arises.
Let us patiently wait; light will spring up. The
blessings that we expect are worth waiting for. To see the golden fleet of
prayer come laden home with rich returns of mercy, to see peace and truth
united, to see popery and profaneness abominated, to see the beauty of
holiness shining forth, to see Christ ride in triumph in the chariot of His
gospel, to see the righteous honored and renowned and be like the wings of a
dove covered with yellow gold—these certainly are mercies worth waiting for.
Therefore, let us wait patiently.
And to encourage holy waiting, I will shut up all with
that Scripture, Isaiah 30:18, "And therefore will the Lord wait, that He may
be gracious unto you; and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have
mercy upon you; for the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all they that
wait for Him."