Isaiah 60:2a – See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples. (NIV)
Recently, I started reading through the Old Testament. While wading through the dark details of intrigue, revenge, and cruelty, and the long catalogues of ancient names and repetitive information, I found myself praying, "Dear Lord! I have better reading material on my shelf! Why is all this arduous material preserved in the Bible?"
God seemed to address my prayer that evening through a BBC documentary on caves. While watching, it occurred to me that the dark zones of caves are much like the dark zones of Scripture. Both can seem mysterious, remote, and unsettling. Yet both contain fascinating secrets worth exploring. Here are some comparisons:
The dark zones of caves lack sunlight. Yet, although no life can exist without the sun, life does flourish in caves. Rainwater from the outside world washes organic matter down into underground streams, and that supplies a unique food chain. In this way, the sun's energy penetrates the darkness. That's true also for the dark zones of Scripture. Here one can indeed find evidence of God's light penetrating the dark.
Cave biologists study the intricate details of cave life to learn how caves affect the visible world. Caves are vital to the environment – our forests, food, and air; they filter our water. Similarly, the "dark zones" of Scripture contain details which, through careful observation, reveal key insights about God and His vital role in human existence.
The ecosystem of caves is distinct from the visible world, yet intertwined with it. Likewise, the Bible reveals a spiritual ecosystem which is distinct from the material world, yet intertwined with humanity. It's called the kingdom of God.
Caves preserve ancient artefacts and provide information about our ancestors. The Bible also provides helpful information about ancient history and our spiritual ancestors.
Sadly, the delicate ecosystem of caves is being threatened by disruptions, such as over-tourism. Laws now exist to protect caves. Cave biologists, valuing their importance, are careful to avoid disrupting the habitat while doing their research. Likewise, the delicate ecosystem of the Bible is also threatened through over-tourism — exploiting and accommodating its passages to serve popular interests. This, sadly, compromises the Bible's life-giving potential. Just like caves, the Scriptures need to be protected. They must also be studied with care, always respecting the habitat (context) in order to guard the life-giving hope contained within it.
Some of us might say that the Bible's dark zones do nothing for us. Caves help remind us that it's not just about our own preferences and comfort zone. It's about a far bigger picture. The dark zones of Scripture all point toward Christ. In fact, Christ makes sense only in light of the darkness. Isaiah wrote: "Thick darkness is over the peoples". Apart from the life of Christ residing within the heart, fallen humanity dwells in a dark cave of sin, remote from God.
Let us be like cave biologists and carefully observe where the nourishing light of God washes down into our darkness and produces life. God's presence is indeed in the dark zones of the Bible. We see Him in the details, events, prophecies, judgments, promises, miracles, and much more. God's light has also been trickling into dark zones down through the centuries. That's why you and I can have enjoyable, inspiring reading material on our shelves — evidence of God's flourishing life!
Prayer: Lord, teach us to appreciate Your life-giving light at work throughout the pages of Scripture, in obscurities of the past, in times of deep darkness, in times of spiritual vibrancy, in the best of times, and the darkest of times — and every day in our own personal lives. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
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