The nations will walk by [the city’s] light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.
First, I must confess that I borrowed the title for this Life for Leaders devotion from my colleague and friend, Richard Mouw. Rich, as you may know, was the President of Fuller Seminary for twenty years. He is now President Emeritus and Professor of Faith and Public Life at Fuller. Rich is one of the wisest Christians I know, especially when it comes to questions of how we are to live our faith in the public sphere. Some years back, he wrote a brilliant book about this subject, When the Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem. I highly commend this book to you if you wonder about the relationship of Christian faith to public life, even politics.
Am I living in such a way that Christ’s light shines through me? Does the light of Christ in me illuminate my workplace? My family? My neighborhood?
When the Kings Come Marching In examines a stunning prophecy found in Isaiah 60. In this vision of the future, Isaiah says to God’s people, “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Isa 60:3). A few verses later the prophet adds, “Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you” (60:10). The gates of the New Jerusalem will always be open, “so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations – their kings led in triumphal procession” (60:11).
Rich Mouw, along with many commentators, rightly sees a close relationship between Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21. In fact, if you read these two chapters one after another, you’ll be struck by how much they share in common. Isaiah’s vision of the future and John’s vision are very similar. (This isn’t altogether surprising, of course, given that John would have been familiar with Isaiah and both of these visionaries were inspired by the same Source.)
Yet, there are significant variations between the two similar visions. One of these involves what the kings do when they “come marching in” to the holy city. In Isaiah, the kings are “led in triumphal procession,” a clear sign that they have been overcome by God’s power (Isa 60:11). In the ancient world, defeated kings and armies were often paraded through the city of the victorious army. Isaiah seems to envision something like this. But in Revelation 21, the kings are not led into the city. Rather, they “bring their splendor into it” (21:24). There is no sense here of the kings being paraded around in their defeat. Rather, they freely bring their treasures into the New Jerusalem.
John’s vision encourages us to consider and celebrate the astounding inclusiveness of God’s future. Moreover, we are reminded that God does not beat people into submission. Rather, he draws them by his grace, his gospel, and by his gracious and gospel-shaped people. In Revelation 21, God draws the nations to himself through the light of the Lamb, that is, the light of Christ.
When I think about this, I wonder if I am living in such a way that Christ’s light shines through me. Does the light of Christ in me illuminate my workplace? My family? My neighborhood? My city? My boardroom? My church? Are people drawn to the Lord because of how I live in the world?
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
You might join me in reflecting on the questions I have just asked. In what ways is the light of Christ shining through you? What might this mean for you in the different sectors of your world?
Gracious Lord, how encouraged we are by John’s vision of the kings bringing their gifts to you, not because they are being led in defeat, but because they are being drawn to you in your victory over sin and death. How wonderful to know that, one day, the nations and their leaders will come freely to you.
In the meanwhile, may I reflect your light into my part of the world. May those around me see your light in me. May they be drawn to you, to offer their gifts and, indeed, themselves to you.
All praise be to you, Light of the world! Amen.