Echoing Scripture, Pastor Vance Havner said: I am a pilgrim and a stranger on the earth, but I am not an orphan. Our Lord Jesus makes discipleship hard and loses many prospective followers because He says: Follow me. Christ calls us to a pilgrimage, not to a parade, to a spiritual fight, not to a frolic.1 Likewise St. Augustine said: Whoever does not sigh as a pilgrim (on Earth) will never rejoice as a citizen (in Heaven).
We continue looking at Horatius Bonar’s hymn entitled, “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.” We are studying the hymn in three bites (following its three stanzas), the Scriptures it points to, and some lessons to be gleaned.
Hymn Stanza #3
I heard the voice of Jesus say, / “I am this dark world’s Light;
Look unto Me, your morn shall rise, / And all your day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found / In Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that Light of life I’ll walk / Till traveling days are done.
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life….I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 8:12; 12:46)
1. Horatius Bonar (1808-1889) was a Scottish pastor and poet. He married Jane Catharine Lundie in 1843. Jane’s health was never strong and she often wore herself out serving others. Of their nine children, five died at a young age. Towards the end of their lives, one of their surviving daughters was widowed with five small children and she returned to live with her parents. Jane was also a hymnwriter and her poems expressed deep love for Christ and submission to Him. She is best known for, “Pass Away, Earthly Joy, Jesus, All in All.”
The Bonars didn’t write their hymns from an ivory tower. They tasted grief and sadness like the rest of us. Yet looking to Jesus, Horatius and Jane became wise in Christ, shone for Christ, and pointed many others to righteousness in Jesus.2 In spite of our troubles, let’s ask the Lord to use us the same way. Jesus comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we can share with them the same comfort God has given us.3
2. Jesus calls Himself the bright Morning Star, fulfilling Moses’ prophecy of Messiah’s coming.4 Now in Heaven, Christ’s face shines like the sun in all its brilliance.5 Jesus will return and bring us into a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.6 And there will be no more night. We will not need electric light or sunlight. The shining of Christ, our Master and Brother, is all the light we will need. And we will rule with Christ for ever and ever.7 That’s our future hope in Jesus! The best is yet to come. The Bonars believed that. Do we? Let us encourage one another with God’s words.8
3. Scripture calls Abraham a sojourner, foreigner, and nomad here on earth. He was moved by God from his former home, a temporary resident in various places, and heading for the Promised Land. At the time of his death, Abraham owned no land and had to purchase a grave site for his wife. But he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. Abraham and Sarah were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland.9
Likewise God has rescued Christians from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His Son, who purchased our freedom and forgiveness.10 Now our citizenship is in heaven, but we are not yet home. So we eagerly await our Savior from there. Jesus will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same power with which He will bring everything under His control.11 Christ will bring us to our new home and make us holy and happy with Him and with all God’s people forever!
This is what Bonar means when his hymn closes: I looked to Jesus, and I found In Him my Star, my Sun; And in that Light of life I’ll walk till traveling days are done.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, this world is being smothered in darkness. Make your light shine on us to cheer and guide us through this pilgrim journey. Make us little lights who shine with your light to others. Help us to shine with your life, truth, and holiness. Make our light shine before others, so that they may see your work of grace in us and glorify our Father in heaven. Give us your light and your Holy Spirit’s ability to serve you well. Amen.
Notes (various translations): 1 See Eph 6:10-20 on The Armor of God. 2 Allusion to Dan 12:3. 3 2 Cor 1:4. 4 Rev 22:16 and Num 24:17. 5 Rev 1:16. 6 2 Pet 3:13. 7 Rev 22:5. 8 1 Thess 4:18. 9 Heb 11:10,16. 10 Col 1:13. 11 Phil 3:20-21.