And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard;
I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.
For the Lord GOD helps Me,
Therefore, I am not disgraced;
Therefore, I have set My face like flint,
And I know that I will not be ashamed.
He who vindicates Me is near;
Who will contend with Me?
Let us stand up to each other;
Who has a case against Me?
Let him draw near to Me.
Behold, the Lord GOD helps Me;
Who is he who condemns Me?
Behold, they will all wear out like a garment;
The moth will eat them.
Who is among you that fears the LORD,
That obeys the voice of His servant,
That walks in darkness and has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.
Behold, all you who kindle a fire,
Who encircle [gird] yourselves with firebrands,
Walk in the light of your fire
And among the brands you have set ablaze.
This you will have from My hand:
You will lie down in torment.
I want my whole life to be lived out in the light. I want to walk always beside still waters and in green pastures. My fears circle almost entirely around my disdain for the dark places of pain, humiliation and suffering. I am in good company. Jesus too was less than eager to endure the deep dark things He was destined for. We know that He sweat blood over it and asked to be excused from it, but for the joy set before Him, He chose ultimately to endure it all (Matthew 26:39, Luke 22:44, Hebrews 12:2).
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death [valley of deep darkness], I fear no evil [harm], for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever" (Psalm 23:4-6). I want the abundant table of God's provision to be set in a fine, bright room, but often God has set it for me in a horrid, menacing courtroom in the presence of my accuser where I am struck and plucked and bloodied. I cannot full tell why, but I know that there I have come to understand His provision and His affection and His anointing and His goodness in ways that a safe, fine hall with floor-to-ceiling windows shining glorious rays on all of my admirers and friends gathered round me would never have afforded.
"If I say, 'Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,' even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You" (Psalm 139:11-12). I have imagined that God's people always dwell in sundrenched landscapes, but I am seeing now that it has more to do with in Whom we dwell, no matter the locale. He Himself is our light. "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend [overpower] it" (John 1:4-5). There, in my pitch-black hours, He has been most luminous to me. There I have most definitely experienced His nearness and been transformed by what He thinks of me. There I have even tasted of ecstasy as I transcend suffering and see past the veil into life as it is in heaven, where God's glory is the light, and His son is the lamp (Revelation 21:23).
Through Isaiah, Jesus was calling out for a people. These people would look like this: they would fear the Lord, obey His voice and walk in the dark places (Isaiah 50:10). He was calling these people to keep trusting in God alone in the absence of external light. He was calling them to faith that, by definition, walks forward in complete darkness with no sight whatsoever. These are the clay-jar people strategically situated in darkness whose cracks seep His light for the lost to run toward (2 Corinthians 4:6-7). And this is what He has to say of those who refuse to dwell in the dark places--who are so determined to be out of the inky trials and into the sunlight that they will make their own fires, or gather around lesser lights for comfort: from God's own hand, they will receive torment (Isaiah 50:11).
This is the truth. "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" (Malachi 4:2). We who are willing to fear God more than the gloom and the suffering will find, right there in the darkness, our healing, our liberation, our wholeness, our delight. "Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:78-79).
"He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him" (Daniel 2:22). We no longer have to fear the dark, my friends. The Light Himself is within us. We have overcome.