It can be shocking at times to realize how open and honest the Bible is when it talks to us about the nature of the life of faith. Even when I read the sayings of the Lord Jesus Christ in the gospels, there are times when it’s almost as if He’s putting people off from following Him, almost like He thinks of mentioning every conceivable obstacle to put in the way of believing Him and following Him.

Right at the outset of His public ministry, Jesus tells His disciples that following Him will mean unabated persecution and fierce opposition. He tells them that believing in Him as the Messiah of God will mean that they will be denounced by their families, scorned by their parents, and even hated by their siblings. And that note carries on right through the rest of the New Testament. Paul writes in Romans 8 that God’s people are being delivered up to death; all the day, they are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. That’s the default, he says, of the life of faith in a fallen world. 

But all that is said is not to put people off from believing and following the Savior, but rather to confront would-be-disciples of the inevitable realities of believing and following Jesus Christ. And it is against the backdrop of this understanding that we read the words of Isaiah 50:10, “Let him who walks in darkness and has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.This verse is in the context of the third servant song of Isaiah. This Messiah, the promised servant-king, God’s chosen Savior, speaks of His mission—how morning-by-morning the Lord will awaken his ear to hear as those who are taught, and how the Lord opened his ear and how he did not turn backward.

He is the prototypical “man of faith.” He is expressing, in prophetic language, His resolve to be unyielding and unrelenting in following the way of the Lord God. Even though that way would lead to mockery, disgrace, and spitting, he says He doesn’t hide His face from it. Isaiah 50:7 says, “I have set my face like flint.” Nothing will deter Him from fulfilling the mission entrusted to Him by His Father. And it’s in this context that verse 10 begins: “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of THIS servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” Two things stand out in these words:

First, we are being told that it is possible for a believer to be engulfed by this kind of experience. These words are being said to those who fear the Lord and obey His servant’s voice. These words are spoken to men and women who have heart resolve to be faithful to God’s Messiah, whatever may come. Some countries in the world go without sunlight for months.  Antarctica is one example; the sun doesn’t rise during the winter solstice because, during the winter, Antarctica is on the side of the earth that is tilted away from the sun, and so it remains in 24/7 darkness for six months. In fact, most Nordic countries also experience this each year. During this time, many people suffer from what is known as S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder). It is more than a classic case of the winter blues. It usually leads to a type of depression where a person experiences ongoing feelings of sadness, and they may feel helpless, hopeless, and irritable. I would guess that most people living in a fallen world have experienced times when the clouds of our experience are so thick and dark that we have an obscured view of the assurance of God’s love. But what does it mean for all the lights to go out?

No trickles of pinpricks of light here and there. 

No reflection of radiant rays shining in our eyes.

Everything is a blanket of bleak, bare darkness. 

It feels like the Lord has turned His face away from you, and the brightness of countenance is utterly gone. Darkness covers every thought. Nothing makes sense any longer. The way ahead seems completely and utterly bleak, there’s frustration and anger and bewilderment in almost everything, and there’s the loss of all sense of the victory of Jesus over sin, death, and hell. You hardly know who you are when you walk in darkness. You can barely know where you’re going. Isaiah is referring to engulfing darkness. And this can even be the experience of a faithful believer. In this verse, the darkness seems to arise from being a lone voice for God, truth, and righteousness in a world that hates God and truth and righteousness. And there seems to be this intimate connection between that and what follows:

“Let him who walks in darkness — as a result of fearing the Lord and of obeying the voice of his servant…”

It is possible that a faithful believer can find herself engulfed in utterly impenetrable darkness. This, of course, was the unique experience of the one truly faithful man in all perfection, the Lord Jesus Christ. For our Savior, all the lights went out on the cross. Psalm 22, more than any other passage in the Bible, depicts this absence of light from the Savior:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest” (Psalm 22:1-2).

Here is the deep-seated dilemma, the antithetical problem in the Messiah’s mind:

Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; ‘He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’ Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help(Psalm 22:3-11).

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death” (Psalm 22:14-15). 

Here is the one truly incontestable faithful man, and utter darkness enshrouded Him. And it felt like the worst.

But of course, there is an infinite non-identical difference between this redeeming man of faith and ourselves. He alone is our redeemer, so His experience is unique, yet nonetheless, His experience, we are told, is the template of and for our experience. It is to His likeness we are to be conformed. God has purposed to place the template of His Son’s life over our lives. 

In the midst of our darknesses, we are called as believing men and women to trust in the Lord's name and rely on our God. Click To Tweet

This is what belongs to the very essence of the believing life. It is something that we all need to reckon with, that all we go through is of the Lord’s pleasure to bring us through in order to conform us to the prototypical man of faith, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The second thing is this: Notice the antidote to spiritual darkness.

“Let him who walks in darkness and has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God…”

In the midst of our darknesses, we are called as believing men and women to trust in the Lord’s name and rely on our God. That’s what Jesus Christ did, even when the intimate sense of the fatherhood of His Father was eclipsed from His mind and heart in what He was going through when He exclaimed, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?

In our darkness, we are to place our trust in the name of the Lord. The name of the Lord is simply the revelation of His character. We need to learn every day to sync our lives into the revelation of who our God is. That is what it means to live by faith: when all the lights go out, what you will never let go of is the name of the Lord.

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in covenant love and faithfulness…” (Exodus 34:6).

The Lord who, in love, has chosen and provided for our sins and reconciled us to Himself. The God who says, because I do not change, you will not be consumed. In Romans 4, Paul explains how God promised Abraham, “from you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” And then the years and decades passed, and Abraham and Sarah went far beyond the age of bearing children. John Calvin beautifully reflected on Paul’s statement:

“Our circumstances are all in opposition to the promises of God. He promises us immortality, yet we are surrounded by mortality and corruption. He declares that He accounts us justified, yet we are covered with sins. He testifies that He is propitious and benevolent towards us, yet outward signs threaten His wrath. What then are we to do? We must close our eyes, disregard ourselves and all things connected with us so that nothing may hinder or prevent us from believing that God is true.”

That’s what it means to trust in the name of the Lord when all the lights are going out or have gone out in your life as a Christian. This is the character of faith, setting the character of God alongside and above all our troubles, disappointments, and hardships. This also encompasses our earthly successes and pleasures, which also have the potential to engulf and imprison us. That is why the cross is the supreme antidote to whatever darkness touches our lives. In the cross, we see the name of the Lord in all its grace, redemptive splendor, glory, and mercy. And so whatever it is for you, whether it’s shafts of darkness punctuating your life or you’re totally enveloped in darkness, one thing is sure. We all need to have the grace and glory of the cross continually proclaimed to us to capture and captivate our minds and hearts with the love He shows in His atoning work. 

Darknesses that may envelop our lives are oftentimes the way in which we come to see and learn how extraordinarily faithful and abounding in covenant love God truly is. The measure of our Christian faith is not how we respond to the blessings that God pours out upon us. The measure of our faith is usually seen in those times when it pleases the Lord to hide His face. Because then, in those times, we learn to trust in the Lord’s name, to live by faith, and to rest in the revelation of His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

May God help us to rest in Christ.

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