The Father of Lights

October 9, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Posted in John, Q&A | 9 Comments
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Question: I can understand why God would be called the “Father of Light,” but why is He called the Father of lights (plural) in James 1:17?

Answer: That’s one of my favorite verses.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

James 1:17 (emphasis added)

Although the word “light” is found frequently in the New Testament, the plural “lights” is used only four times.

The first time, it is a translation of the Greek word lychnos, which was the generic word for mobile lights. Back in Bible times it would have been used to describe candles or lamps, which could be carried around to light up dark areas or rooms. I imagine it would be the ancient equivalent of our modern flashlights.

Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;

Luke 12:35 (emphasis added)

The second time, “lights” is from lampas, meaning torches. These could have been for outdoor or indoor use, including traveling at night, or to illuminate meetings where people gathered after dark. Think of the angry villagers who came after Frankenstein’s monster to terrorize him with fire.

torches

And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.

Acts 20:8 (emphasis added)

The third time plural “lights” is used, it is a translation of the word phoster, which has a connotation of objects that burn with their own, self-generated light.

That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

Philippians 2:15 (emphasis added)

The word you are asking about – “lights” in James 1:17 – is a translation of the Greek word phos, a shorter form of phoster, and which emphasizes lights that are used for the express purpose of revelation – revealing through illumination that which was previously hidden by darkness.

In its context, James 1:17 supports the truth that, although Christians will be tempted severely by the lusts of our own flesh, we may not blame God for these temptations. He – and every gift He sends down to us from on high – is perfectly good, and His immutability makes it impossible that He could fail to do what is right.

Therefore, although I can’t say for certain exactly why the Holy Spirit inspired James to use the plural “lights” when describing our Heavenly Father’s perfection, benevolence, and blessed immutability, I suspect it has to do with all the different types of light – both literal/physical and spiritual/metaphorical – we see in Scripture as coming from, or representative of, Him.

For instance, God is the Creator-Father of all the celestial bodies, including the Sun and the stars which light up the sky both at night, and in the day.

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

Genesis 1:14 (emphasis added)

God is the Father of all wisdom, which is symbolized by light, even to the extent that we refer to an exceptionally intelligent person as “brilliant.”

I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee.

Daniel 5:14 (emphasis added)

God is the Father of Truth itself (Himself).

But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

John 3:21 (emphasis added)

God is the Father of the Light of the World.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

John 1:4-9 (emphasis added)

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

John 8:12 (emphasis added)

God is the Father of our inheritance, as His children, of light.

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:

Colossians 1:12 (emphasis added)

God is certainly the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and His chosen, redeemed, and sanctified people, and in that sense, among many others, can it be said with joy, reverence, awe, and praise that He is the Father of Lights.

Beware the Five Fingers

August 4, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Posted in The Fives | 1 Comment
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Belshazzar, grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, was having a quite a party. He and his lords and his concubines were getting so drunk that they started using vessels made by the hands of men to toast gods invented in the minds of men. What they failed to realize is that there is a real God Who is free to intervene in the pompous and silly affairs of this world whenever He wants, and is more than capable of reminding everyone just how serious a business it is to ignore His existence or to blaspheme His name.

In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.

Daniel 5:5

The fingers that “came forth” (not “fourth”) were five fingers. These five fingers (I’m counting the thumb as a finger) would write a message of judgment and doom, but even before they started writing, they revealed a terrifying five-fold message.

https://i2.wp.com/www.clker.com/cliparts/s/M/i/c/5/N/fingers-md.png

Little Finger: “In the same hour” means that this happened at the height of the partying and sacrilege. It is clear from the Bible that God is indeed offended by sin, but He is never too offended to show up and set things right. Those who believe that they have sinned God out of their consciences and their lives would do well to remember this principle and repent before He decides, in His wrath, to show up at a crucial moment and put an end to the party. The Lord of glory is not a dainty tea-sipper with His pinky finger held askew while He peers down His nose from a distance at the things He finds unpleasant in His creation.

Index Finger: What appeared out of thin air were the fingers of “a man’s hand.” Let’s be clear. When you and I start looking for the cause of our problems, it would benefit us greatly to bypass the ideas of chance, fortune, luck, our past, our upbringing, our circumstances, our DNA, and our cultural influences. More often than not, when God shows up to deal with us in our sin, we can simply look down at our own hands to find the cause of all our sin-related troubles. Before we use our pointer finger to shift the blame, we need to open the mirror of God’s word and point accusingly at the culprit of evil: ourselves.

Ring Finger: The hand that appeared at Belshazzar’s wanton shindig chose the best place to start writing its message: “over against the candlestick.” When we want to have what this evil world thinks of as a “good time” we like to turn the lights down low. Things that would be shameful in the light tend to take on a false sense of security and secrecy in the dark. Belshazzar and his cronies probably had enough light to ogle the concubines, but not enough to highlight the lecherous leers on their own faces. God wanted His truth to be seen clearly, though. We need to remember that He sees everything, regardless of the brightness of the environment, and that He has a way of seeing to it that the embarrassing things we think we are getting away with in the dark get brought out into the open when we least expect it. The finger that is famous for holding the wedding ring needs to be a reminder to us of who we are, to Whom we belong, and what it means to be faithful.

Middle Finger: God could have made the words themselves, in addition to the hand doing the writing, appear to float in thin air. However, He chose instead to write them “on the wall of the king’s palace.” Belshazzar put great trust in the walls of his earthly kingdom, believing them to be impenetrable against enemy attacks. This was obviously erroneous since the Medes and the Persians managed to get inside the city and conquer his kingdom that very night. We tend to place a great deal of trust in the supposed strength of our earthly institutions, whether it be our careers, our homes, our own abilities, or even our government, but this is a mistake. The Lord God alone is worthy of trust, and we would do well to keep Him (just as the middle finger is the strongest and central part of our hands) positioned in the center of our lives.

Thumb: In the midst of a crowded party, you would think that anyone might have been startled to see a hand suddenly appear out of nowhere, but actually it was the king himself who “saw the part of the hand that wrote.” Belshazzar alone had the right to give the thumbs-up to this party, and he was accustomed to giving the thumbs-down to anybody who might rain on his parade. But this was a different scenario. A quote attributed to D.L. Moody says that, “God has two thrones – one in the highest heavens, the other in the lowliest heart.” We need to be very careful not to try to weasel our way onto the throne of our own hearts. That is a seat reserved for the sovereign God of this universe alone.

The Handwriting on the Wall

June 11, 2010 at 9:59 am | Posted in Common Expressions, Daniel | 11 Comments
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Belshazzar was Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson. He was the son of Nabonidus. He decided to have a feast and to use the cups and vessels from the Temple in Jerusalem. Even wicked King Nebuchadnezzar had not dared to use these sacred objects. Those who are completely corrupted by sin, and who have been given over to a reprobate mind, and who have run out of ways to create a new sensation, take pleasure in desecrating the holy.

The king and his court and guests not only defiled these objects by partying with them, but they compounded their sin and their insults by worshipping idols with them.

Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.

Daniel 5:3-4

In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.

Daniel 5:5

Belshazzar’s knees were knocking together and he looked pale and shocked.

Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.

Daniel 5:6

The queen heard what was happening.

Now the queen, by reason of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banquet house: and the queen spake and said, O king, live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed:

Daniel 5:10

She had a wrong motive: she wanted the party to continue. But at least she knew the right person to call for the interpretation.

Daniel was probably between 81 and 85 years old when this happened, so we can see him – the impervious elderly prophet and man of God, shaking his finger at Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson.

Belshzzar offered Daniel gifts, but Daniel wasn’t interested in rewards on earth.

Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation.

Daniel 5:17

Daniel preached to him:

O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down.

Daniel 5:18-19

These verses remind me of the famous quote that Lloyd Bentsen used on Dan Quayle years ago in a Vice-Presidential debate, concerning JFK. It’s almost as if Daniel is telling Belshazzar, “I knew Nebuchadnezzar. I worked with Nebuchadnezzar. I watched Nebuchadnezzar eat grass, son, and you, sir, are no Nebuchadnezzar.”

And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:

Daniel 5:22-23

The written message on the wall – Mene, Mene, Tekel, Peres – meant “Numbered, Numbered, Weighed, Divided.” Belshazzar had been “numbered” by God – God knew all about him. He “had his number.” Also, Belshazzar’s “days were numbered.” He had been “weighed in in the balance,” and found wanting. The mightiest nations are to God as a drop in the bucket (Isaiah 40:15). Peres or Upharsin meant “divided.” That very night the Medes and the Persians were waiting outside the city gate – they conquered the kingdom and divided it.

I like to look out for instances in the Bible which remind me of everyday sayings that we use today. Daniel Chapter 5 is a veritable cornucopia of common expressions:
Knees knocking together
The handwriting was on the wall
Weighed in the balance
Your days are numbered
I’ve got your number

Diverting the Flow of the Word

August 6, 2009 at 10:26 am | Posted in Biblical Doctoring, Daniel | 11 Comments
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The prophet Daniel had been a very important young man in the kingdom of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar, the wicked and powerful ruler, had known him very well. As the years passed, however, Nebuchadnezzar’s successor came to power, and Daniel faded out of the thoughts of the movers and shakers in Babylon.

One day, however, a hand appeared out of thin air in the royal banquet hall, and began to write on the wall. The king was scared out of his wits. He did not understand what the writing meant, and none of his advisors could tell him. Suddenly, Daniel was remembered.

But the Daniel who was summoned to appear before Belshazzar was not the young whipper-snapper who had dealt with Nebuchadnezzar. This Daniel was probably about 82 years old, and he had no time or interest for the king’s frivolous gifts. (Daniel 5:16-17)

We can almost see Daniel, God’s man, shaking his stern finger at Belshazzar, and giving him the interpretation of the writing on the wall without fear:

But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified… In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.

Daniel 5:23; 30

It is interesting to note the manner in which the Medo-Persian army invaded the supposedly impenetrable walls of Babylon. First they diverted the course of the Euphrates River, which ran under the walls, and into the city. When the water level went down they were able to go under the walls.

Water is very important to a city. Without water, two tragedies would befall the inhabitants. One, they would get thirsty. Two, they would lose the ability to maintain hygiene, thereby increasing the spread of disease.

In the Bible, water is a picture of God’s Word. (Ephesians 5:26) If the flow of God’s Word is cut off from His people, the people will get thirsty, they will become defiled, they will get spiritually sick, and, ultimately, many will suffer a form of spiritual death. The preaching and teaching of the Bible must be central in the local church.


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