‘Light is sown like seed for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart.” (Psalm 97:11)
I love to think about this verse because I love planting seeds and watching as each unique plant emerges and grows. But more so because this is a promise of what God will do for his Church. It is not new light but a light that has already existed before time. Light from light as the Nicene Creed puts it.
Christ is the church’s gladness and his joy will be given to her in abundance. Christ is her light and that light grows as his church grows. And that growth is a growth of conforming to his life, suffering, death and resurrection.
Psalm 97 begins with images of the glory of God. He reigns over all. Two important images of the Lord emerge in this Psalm. God is veiled in clouds and darkness. He is there but he does not reveal himself in every way. He is transcendent. Everything else is beneath him, and separate from him. Worship is demanded of all, even of those that are called gods.
On the other hand, from this Psalm we understand that God’s throne, his authority, is founded on his righteousness and justice. He judges and demands worship. We do know something about God from this section of his word. And the Lord gives warning.
“Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images, who boast themselves of idols; Worship him all you gods.”
Two other images emerge. Idolatry and wickedness are contrasted with hating evil and (being glad in) loving the Lord. God’s people are to hate what is evil, which in this text is idolatry, serving and boasting about anything which takes the place of God. The believer in this psalm is called to a life given over totally to the Lord. They are told to be glad and give thanks. But creation is also included in this contrast of evil and goodness.
The earth and the islands rejoice. “The heavens declare his righteousness and all the peoples have seen his glory.” But it is his people that receive his promises just as it is the idolaters who receive his judgment.
Another Old Testament picture of his light and his gladness is the latter part of Malachi. It also makes a pointed distinction between “the righteous and the wicked” and the “one who serves God and one who does not serve him.”There God promises he will write in his book the names of those who fear and esteem him and speak to each other about him. The picture could be of God reading Facebook busy with his pen.
In chapter 4 God speaks of the arrogant and of judgment but also promises his children healing and joy: “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”
But notice in this that it is those who fear his name. That is those who understand their need of the Lord, their need of forgiveness. They see the difference between wickedness and evil and find their needs are met in him.
And taking this further in the New Testament there is still that division of the wicked to be judged and the righteous to receive gladness and light, yet now it is made very clear that light is given to those who walked in darkness and goodness belongs to those who were once the wicked.
“For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of light. (For the fruit of the light consists in all the goodness and righteousness and truth,) trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”
In Christ, the Light, we can walk with gladness because it is his righteousness and his goodness that cover the church. His is a steadfast light that grows in the faithful church of Jesus Christ.