Poetry is generally full of metaphors and imaginative language, and this is no less true of the Psalms, perhaps the most well-known collection of poetry ever written. In our study of how metaphors for God and His attributes are developed throughout the canon of Scripture this month, we return to the book of Psalms today to look at how light is often used to describe the Lord.
Specifically, today’s passage refers to the light of God’s face (Ps. 4:6). When used of the Creator, light can mean several things, but it is often a reference to His glory, His beneficence, and His love of righteousness. To have the light of God’s face shine upon a person, then, is to have the glory of the Lord shine in a special way on the illuminated individual. It indicates His approval of the person on whom He shines as one who is righteous in His sight.
Scripture describes the experience of God’s light as the greatest blessing that any human being can ever enjoy. This is certainly true of today’s passage, which says that the light of the Almighty’s face brings more joy than the harvest of grain and wine (Ps. 4:7). For an agrarian society like ancient Israel, whose livelihood was dependent on such harvests, this is a powerful statement of the glory of the blessings of the Lord. In keeping with Psalm 4:6, we also see in the Aaronic blessing the idea that life in the light of God is the highest honor for mankind (Num. 6:22–27; John 8:12).
Importantly, the Bible is also clear that those who experience God’s light are not to keep it to themselves but to share it with a world that is trapped in darkness. This, in fact, was the original call for Israel — to be the light of the world and illumine the way toward Yahweh, the only true God and covenant Lord of Abraham and his seed (Isa. 42:6). It is the call that our Savior gave to His church in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:14–16). As those who have been rescued from the darkness of sin, we have the responsibility to shine forth the truth of Christ in our words and our deeds, that people would see the true gravity of their sin and turn from it to the light of grace and holiness revealed in Jesus. This is a high calling indeed, and it is one that we could never fulfill if left to ourselves. Thankfully, we have not been left to ourselves but have been given the Spirit to shine through us as we follow the Lord.