By J.R. Miller
"Light is sown for the righteous; and gladness for the upright in heart."
LIGHT is one of the commonest words in the Bible. It means cheer, joy, life; whatever is bright and beautiful. Christ is light. We are to walk in the light of holiness. We are to shine as lights. Light is promised in all our darkness--if we follow Christ. Gladness, too, is a word we all understand. It is the absence of sorrow, it is satisfaction, it is pleasure, happiness.
There is nothing remarkable in the assurance of light and gladness for the righteous and the upright in heart. That is the teaching of the whole Bible. The ways of holiness--are the ways of peace. The remarkable thing in this promise is the way the light and gladness are said to come to us.
"Light is sown." The figure of sowing is striking--light coming in seeds planted like wheat, or like flower seeds. Our blessings are sown for us--to grow up in fields and gardens, and we gather them as we reap our harvests or pluck lovely flowers. That is, our good things do not come to us full-grown--but as seeds.
The figure of seed is common in the Bible as applied in a spiritual way. God's Words are seeds; sown in hearts' soil, they grow up into plants of beauty. Acts are seeds. "Whatever a man sows--that shall he also reap." Here the figure seems natural. But it is remarkable to read of light being sown--that God sows light in the form of seeds in life's furrows, and that we have to cultivate them and harvest them.
There is a deep meaning in the figure. We know what seed is. It contains only in germ the plant, the tree, or the flower which is to be. It is in this way--that all earthly life begins. When God wants to give an oak to the forest, He does not set out a great tree full-grown; He plants an acorn. When He would have a harvest of golden wheat waving on the field, He does not work a miracle and have it spring up over night--He puts into the farmer's hand a bushel of wheat grains to scatter in his furrows.
The same law holds in the moral and spiritual life. "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree." So a godly life--begins in a little seed, a mere point of life. It is at first only a thought, a suggestion, a desire, a holy purpose. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed--but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which lives and abides."
The picture here in Psalm 97, is of God sowing light and gladness for us. He gives us blessings as seeds which He buries in the furrows of our lives--so that they may grow in due time and develop into beauty and fruitfulness. When you look at a seed--you do not see all the splendor of life which will unfold from it at length. All you see, perhaps, is a little brown and unsightly hull, which gives no prophecy of the beauty that will spring from it when it is planted, and dies, and grows up.
Many of the seeds of life--came first as unwelcome things. They did not shine as beams of radiant light. They were not glad things. They may have been burdens, disappointments, sufferings, losses. But they were seeds, with life in them. God was sowing light and gladness for you--in these experiences which were so hard to endure.
Think of the way Christ sowed light and gladness for men--in His life on the earth. What was He doing in those beautiful years of His, in those days of sharp temptation, in those hours of suffering? "Behold, a sower went forth to sow." He was sowing seeds of light and gladness, the blessing of whose brightness and joy we are receiving now. The tears that fell at Bethany, and on Olivet's brow; the blood-drops that trickled from the cross on Golgotha--these all were seeds of light sown to give peace, joy, comfort, and life--along these centuries of Christian faith.
Or think of the promises of God in the Bible--as seeds of light sown in the fields of the Holy Word. Deserts are made to blossom as the rose, wherever the sower goes forth to sow. One of these seeds of promise falls into an unblessed home--and it is changed from hatred, bitterness, strife, jealousy--to a place of gentleness, love, kindness, song. Every divine promise is a seed of light. Take it into your heart and it shines there, changing everything into beauty.
Or take another class of illustration. Every duty given to us is a seed of light, which God has sown for us. Many of us do not like duty. A good woman, speaking of something which someone was urging her to do and which she was trying to evade, said, "I suppose it must be my duty--but I hate it so." Ofttimes our duties at first seem distasteful, even repulsive. They have no attraction for us. But when we accept them and do them--they are transformed. We begin to see the good in them, the blessing to ourselves, the help to others. Seeds are sometimes dark and rough as we look at them--but when they are planted, there springs up a beautiful tree or a flower. Just so, disagreeable tasks when done--appear bright and glad.
One tells of a rustic picture in common life, which heartens humdrum lives. It shows a poor, discouraged-looking horse in a treadmill. Round and round he tramps in the hot, dusty ring--not weary so much of the toil--but more of its endlessness and its seeming fruitlessness. But there is more of the picture. The horse was harnessed to a beam from which a rope reached down the hill to the river's edge, and there it was seen that the horse was hoisting stones, and helping to build a great bridge on which by and by trains would run, carrying freight of lives.
This transformed the horse's treadmill tramping into something worthwhile. There are people, men and women, in workshops, in homes, in trades, in the professions, who grow weary of the drudgery, the routine, the self-denial, with never a word of praise, of commendation. But if we could see what these unhonoured toils, struggles, and self-denials accomplish; the blessings they carry to others; the bridges they help to build, on which others cross to better things--the drudgery, the hard work, the self-sacrifice would appear in new light, and the picture would be transformed. It is in these commonplace tasks, these lowly services, that we find our life's true beauty and glory.
Every duty, however unwelcome, is a seed of light. To evade it or neglect it--is to miss a blessing; to faithfully do it--is to have the rough seed burst into beauty, in the heart of the doer. We are continually coming up to stern and severe things, and often we are tempted to decline doing them. If we yield to such temptations, we shall reap no joy from God's sowing of light for us; but if we take up the hard task, whatever it is, and do it--we shall find blessing. Every duty--is a seed of light.
Again, God sows His seeds of light and gladness in the providences of our lives. Sometimes, indeed, we cannot see anything beautiful in them, or anything good. Many of the providences in our lives--come to us first in forbidding form. They come to us as losses, sufferings, disappointments. Yet they are seeds of light, and in due time the light will break out. "No chastening for the present seems to be joyous--but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness." The light is hidden and at first does not shine out; yet in the end it is manifested. This is the key to life's sorrows. They appear destructive at first--but afterwards light shines out in them. We dread adversity--but when its work is finished, we find that we are enriched in heart and life. We do not receive with confidence the hard things that come to us; afterwards we learn that there were blessings in them.
So it is in all of life. God is ever bringing to us good, never evil. He is a sower. He goes before us and scatters the furrows full of seeds of light. It is not visible light that He sows--but dull seeds, carrying hidden in them the secret of light. Then at the right time--the light breaks forth and our way is made bright. There is not a single dark spot in our path, if only we are living righteously. There are places which seem dark as we approach them. We are afraid, and ask, "How can I get through this point of gloom?" But when we come to it, the light shines out and it is radiant as day.
According to the legend, our first parent was in great dread--as the first evening of his life approached. The sun was about to sink away below the horizon. He trembled at the thought of the disaster which would follow. But the sun went down silently, and lo! ten thousand stars flashed out! The darkness revealed far more than it hid. So for every darkness in our life, God has stars of light ready to shine. Everywhere guidance is ready--when we do not know the way; comfort--when we are in sorrow; strength--when we are weak and faint.
We need never dread hardness, for it is in the things that are hard--that the seeds of light are hidden. The best things never are the easiest things. The best men are not grown in luxury and self-indulgence. We dread crosses--but it is only in cross-bearing that we find life's real treasures. He who saves his life--shall lose it; but he who loses his life for Christ--saves it. In every cross God hides the seeds of light; accept the cross, take it up, and the light will shine out. The darkest spot that earth ever saw--was about the cross of Christ the day that Jesus hung there. There were no stars to be seen. Not a gleam of light was visible. But today the cross is the brightest, most glorious place in all the world!
Take the picture into your heart--this world is a great field on which God has sown light and gladness. There is not anywhere, a path in which these seeds of light are not hidden, and where they will not grow up and pour out their brightness at the moment of need. God does not mean that we shall ever be in darkness.
Then, God wants us also to be sowers, everyone of us, every day, wherever we go. The question is, What kind of seeds do we sow? The Master in one of His little stories, tells us of an enemy, who, after the farmer had scattered good seed on his field--came stealthily and sowed tares among the wheat. What seed did you sow yesterday? Did you plant only pure thoughts, good thoughts, holy thoughts, gentle, loving thoughts--in the little gardens of people's lives where you sowed? It is a fearful thing for anyone to put an evil thought into the mind of another. It is a fearful thing for anyone to let a debasing thought into his own heart.
A sower went forth to sow. He sowed only good seed. We have seen how God sows seeds of light and seeds of gladness everywhere. That is what He wants every one of us also to do. He wants us to make the world brighter, happier. Some people do neither. Many sow gloom, shadow, discouragement, wherever they go. They sow sadness, pain, grief. If we are this sort of sower--we are missing our mission, and disappointing our Lord.
Think of one who, wherever he goes, sows seeds of light and gladness. His life is pure, for only clean hands can sow seeds of light. He is a friend of men--as his Master was. He does not love himself--he never thinks of himself. He never seeks his own ease. He never spares himself when any other one needs his service. He wishes only to do good to others, to make them better, to make them gladder. No matter how others treat him--he keeps on loving them. He will go miles to be kind to one who has been unkind to him, to show a favor to one who has treated him ungraciously. He is ever sowing seeds of light. The home he visits is brighter for months, just because he was there. The words he said that day never are forgotten. The little things he did are remembered and leave a fragrance that will never depart.
Shall we not all go out every morning, to repeat our Master's sowing everywhere? Let us be just, paying our debts of love; let us be more than just, giving more than we owe. Let us go two miles--when one would be enough. Let us be sowers of light and gladness. Thus shall we fill the world--with light and love.