Arise! Shine! Your light has come;
the Lord’s glory has shone upon you.
2 Though darkness covers the earth
and gloom the nations,
the Lord will shine upon you;
God’s glory will appear over you.
This is why I, Paul, am a prisoner of Christ for you Gentiles.
2 You’ve heard, of course, about the responsibility to distribute God’s grace, which God gave to me for you, right? 3 God showed me his secret plan in a revelation, as I mentioned briefly before (4 when you read this, you’ll understand my insight into the secret plan about Christ). 5 Earlier generations didn’t know this hidden plan that God has now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets through the Spirit. 6 This plan is that the Gentiles would be coheirs and parts of the same body, and that they would share with the Jews in the promises of God in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 I became a servant of the gospel because of the grace that God showed me through the exercise of his power.
8 God gave his grace to me, the least of all God’s people, to preach the good news about the immeasurable riches of Christ to the Gentiles. 9 God sent me to reveal the secret plan that had been hidden since the beginning of time by God, who created everything. 10 God’s purpose is now to show the rulers and powers in the heavens the many different varieties of his wisdom through the church. 11 This was consistent with the plan he had from the beginning of time that he accomplished through Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In Christ we have bold and confident access to God through faith in him.
One of my favorite things to do is restore old things. There is something about restoring the luster that something had when it was new that just thrills me. Our 1919 home is in the middle of that process. We are planning to remove the paint from some of the woodwork and restore the natural wood look. This year Janna’s gift from our son, Joseph, was a set of old dishes. You can tell they had been boxed up for quite a while. They are a beautiful blue with the painted scene of a homestead on them. They are now our everyday dishes – restored to their original usefulness.
The process of restoring something is first to see the worth in what you are restoring. Whether it is an old house, or old dishes, or an old relationship you recognize that it is something worth restoring. Then comes the PLAN – what steps will you need to take to restore it to its original luster. Finally, you work the PLAN to restore that which was tarnished by time.
Isaiah 60 is about restoring Israel and the beloved Jerusalem after exile. Isaiah sees Jerusalem’s coming radiance and speaks of it in verses 1 and 2. “Arise! Shine! Your light has come; the Lord’s glory has shone upon you. 2 Though darkness covers the earth and gloom the nations, the Lord will shine upon you; God’s glory will appear over you.” John’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus Christ was indeed that light and glory. ”What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.” And, “The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” Jesus is indeed the fulfilment of Isaiah 60. God saw the worth of all creation and chose to restore it through His Son Jesus Christ.
In Ephesians the word PLAN is used 5 times in 12 verses. It is referred to as God’s “secret plan” or mystery, which was hidden for ages and is now revealed. God’s initial PLAN was to create a grateful and committed people with grateful and committed hearts through observances that would keep them aware of God and his greatness. Simply put, God wanted the best for His people. In Jeremiah 29:11 we hear God tell the people, “ “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.” The luster of life if a future filled with hope. The simplest statement of this hope-filled future comes in Jeremiah 30:21-22. “They will have their own leader; their ruler will come from among them. I will let him approach me, and he will draw near. Who would dare approach me unless I let them come? declares the Lord. 22 You will be my people, and I will be your God.” Initially Jeremiah is talking about leaders in the near future of Israel, but when we listen with “Christian ears” we can hear the coming of the Lord in Jesus Christ. Then, in fullness of time, the PLAN brings the promises of God to life in Jesus Christ, born as a human – from among us. It is worth the time to remind ourselves what the “secret plan” was. In Ephesians 3 Paul reminds us that ALL are invited through grace to be a part of the family of God. Verse 6 says, “This plan is that the Gentiles would be coheirs and parts of the same body, and that they would share with the Jews in the promises of God in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” This is a huge contrast with the Jewish systems which at that time had degenerated to “working our way into God’s favor” through sacrifices and rule-following. The letter of the law had superseded the spirit of the law. They had also become a way to exclude those who were outside “God’s chosen people.”
What did restored life look like to those who first received Jesus? It was a breath of fresh air in stale lives. Observing a religious life suddenly became life-giving instead of life-draining. Instead of an obligation, following God became a joy and a privilege. With this restored life outcasts were fully adopted into God’s family. Remember that in Jesus day a Gentile could be a believer, but they were always second-class followers. They were not allowed into the inner courts of the Temple. This restored people of God, fully including all who would believe in Jesus Christ, shared a life infused with joy and purpose and meaning. There was a renewed identity as God’s children with a “future filled with hope.”
That said, what does restored life look like for us today? Let’s start with Paul’s bold assertion in verse 12. “ In Christ we have bold and confident access to God through faith in him.” Through Jesus Christ we no longer have to have an intermediary, God is no longer inaccessible. Our God, who is powerful, mighty, gentle, filled with grace, is now as near as the person standing next to us. We don’t have to go anywhere to access God – He’s right here. There is no brokenness that God cannot repair. Think about the places in your life where you have struggled, those broken places. God stands in the gap willing and able to help us deal with that brokenness and triumph over it. Just like Lazarus, we are restored to life – not that we were physically dead, but that we were the walking dead with no joy in life. In Jesus Christ, darkness is not a fearful thing, for Christ is our light. It does not mean that we will never find ourselves in the grips of this dark world, but that God’s light will always shine in our hearts. Restored life means that we have a power for living that is greater than anything we will ever face. God wants to restore us to full life. That is why we celebrate Christmas every year. It reminds us that God’s amazing pan is to give us life and life at its fullest.
But, now in typical Pauline fashion, Paul takes a twist in what he is describing as restored life. This is one unified section of Scripture – God’s newly revealed plan of salvation for all. Hear verses 10 and 11 again. “God’s purpose is now to show the rulers and powers in the heavens the many different varieties of his wisdom through the church. 11 This was consistent with the plan he had from the beginning of time that he accomplished through Christ Jesus our Lord. We are saved to be a saving influence in the world – “blessed to be a blessing”, which echoes Genesis 12 where God is promising to make a great people out of Abram (Abraham), blessing him that he would be a blessing for other. Verse 10 reminds us that God’s purpose, God’s PLAN, is to show “different varieties of wisdom through the church.” The church has a major role in extending restored life to the world around us. We are a part of God’s amazing and wonderful PLAN for restoring life to all.
Pastor Paul Grossman