Radiant with His Glory
from Virtuous Daughters, April 2013~Volume 13, Number 1
Last time, we unpacked the glorious promise of Jeremiah 31:14, realizing that God wants to satiate our souls with living water and soak our lives in His all-sufficient presence. This is a wonderful truth to apply to our lives; but most of us fall short of living it as we should. We know that our Lord is all we truly need—that He alone can bring lasting satisfaction—but we focus our energies on earthly things as if they will fulfill and complete us. We convince ourselves that “if only” we could have this thing or reach that place or become this different person, we would finally be happy; and instead, we wind up empty and miserable. Our gracious Heavenly Father wants much more for us than this! He wants us to know true satisfaction, to walk through each day with joy, and to showcase His glory before an empty, miserable world. His vision for His children is not merely to survive the daily grind, but to thrive in the midst of its challenges. Here is a description of the life He wants for us. The last verse is one you will recognize. “. . . [A]nd they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord . . . [T]heir life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more. . . . I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will [satiate] the soul of the priests with abundance, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, declares the Lord” (Jer. 31:12-14 ESV – emphasis added; same for the following verses).
Coupled with the idea of being soaked and satiated (like a well-watered garden) is the idea of being radiant. It connotes a glow of beauty and joyfulness; and the passage tells us that this exuberant glow finds its source in the goodness of the Lord. Psalm 34:5 says the same thing: “They looked unto Him and were lightened [radiant]; and their faces were not ashamed.” The English Standard Version says, “. . . their faces shall never be ashamed.” Those who look to the Lord and revel in His goodness will exude radiance in their demeanor!
What exactly does God have in mind by the radiance mentioned here? Looking back at the ancient Hebrew reveals a marvelous word picture to us. The word translated radiant in Jeremiah 31:12 and lightened in Psalm 34:5 is nâhar. Strong's Concordance indicates that it means “to sparkle; figuratively, to be cheerful.” Because of its connection with sparkling, nâhar is also associated with “the sheen of a running stream.” (As a result, it is sometimes translated “to flow,” as in the King James Version of Jeremiah 31:12.) We have all seen how this works. Flowing water sparkles with blinding brilliance when sunlight falls on it. The swells in the ocean, the ripples of a river, or the swirls in a backyard swimming pool seem to shimmer with a thousand tiny diamonds in the sunshine. The sight is so bright it fairly dazzles our eyes. This is the radiance God wants to see in our lives! We should sparkle like a flowing stream when His glory shines upon us.
It is indeed God's glory that creates the sparkle in our lives. Scripture refers to Jesus as “the Sun of righteousness . . . with healing in His wings” (Mal. 4:2) and also says that “the Lord God is a sun and shield” who gives us “grace and glory” (Psa. 84:11). We know, furthermore, that “God is light; in Him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn. 1:15). It is clear, then, that the Lord wants us to know Him as a source of glorious light, symbolized by the earthly sun; and, as we learned last time, He also identifies Himself as the living water that satiates our souls. When we put these two pictures together, we see a breathtaking truth about radiance. God Himself creates the radiance that should flow out of our lives. It is all His doing! He is the glory shining on us and the water flowing in us; and together, these two elements make the sparkle that emanates from us when we look to Him and revel in His goodness. What a dazzling work He wants to do with us!
Isaiah 60:1 calls us to our mission as radiant daughters of the King: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” When God's glory rises upon us, indeed we do shine: “Then thou shalt see, and flow together [be radiant—nâhar], and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged [exult]” (Isaiah 60:5). The passage goes on to explain what will happen when God's radiance is beaming out of us: “The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee . . . to beautify the place of my sanctuary [this place is our hearts, according to 1 Cor. 3:16]; and I will make the place of my feet glorious. . . . The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory” (Isaiah 60:13, 19). The word for glory here can also be translated “beauty.” God's radiance pouring out of us clothes us with His beauty and makes our hearts a glorious temple for His dwelling. I especially like the way this is expressed in verse 21. God describes His people as “the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.” A marginal note in my Bible indicates that this could also be translated “that I might display my beauty.” Isn't this the whole purpose for our lives? For God to display His beauty in and through us? This is what nâhar radiance is all about!
I believe we see a picture of this beauty in Isaiah 62:3. The Lord compares His people to a priceless crown for His head: “Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.” A crown is not what makes a king royal, of course; his rank and authority are the same with or without a gold band on his head. But a costly, beautiful crown helps to demonstrate the royalty he already has. It is a visual reminder that this is the king, who has power, wealth, and splendor. Our lives ought to work the same way. May the radiance that God produces within us sparkle like a thousand gemstones to showcase His majesty!
Many of us find, though, that our lives do not radiate God's majesty as they should. We fall short of this glorious vision because we don't focus on the Lord or on His goodness. (Remember “those who look to Him” [Psa. 34:5] and “the goodness of the Lord” [Jer. 31:12])? Instead of looking up in awe and gratitude, we look around at our circumstances and focus on the earthly things we think will bring us happiness. Our lives become centered on ourselves, what we want, and, most significantly, what we don't have. All we can see is the blank spots, the holes—whatever God seems to be withholding from us. Human nature tends to focus on these things; but when we do so, we are choosing selfish drabness over godly radiance.
What is it that turns our sparkling stream into a lifeless, muddy puddle? I believe it is ingratitude. Many of our sins stem from this ugly root. In a sense, even Adam and Eve's original sin (provoked by the first sinner, Satan) can be traced to the presence of ingratitude. Although our first parents had dozens of trees and wonderful fruits God had given them, they desired the one fruit from the one tree He withheld from them. This sin and ingratitude plunged the earth into darkness and decay. Our lives tend to work the same way. The only antidote to our selfishness and self-inflicted darkness is the active practice of gratefulness.
When we choose to focus on the many blessings in our lives, the wonderful gifts God has given us, and we thank Him for these, we won't have time to think about the things that may be missing. We will transform a muddy, self-pitiful outlook to a spirit of wonder and rejoicing.
Perhaps the Lord is calling you to take this challenge also. He certainly wants you to practice gratefulness by looking unto Him (Psa. 34:5), whatever method that gratefulness follows. “And they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord” (Jer. 31:12). Giving thanks is the way to live a beautiful, joyful stream-sparkling life, radiant with His glory!
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