Isaiah 60 starts the beautiful conclusion to the book of Isaiah: the coming kingdom of the Messiah. And it kick-starts with a powerful opening in verses 1-2:
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.
There can be darkness on the earth, over and around us, but the Lord rises upon us. It's His glory and His action of rising, but we are given instructions as well: to get up and shine! David Guzik puts it this way:
First, we receive God's light (your light has come), and then we have a service to put forth (arise, shine). You can't shine until your light has come, but once it has come, there is something wrong if you don't arise and shine!
What does shining (not in the Stephen King sense!) look like? John Oswalt says,
God "shines" through us when his ethical life is reproduced in us by his grace. When we lay down our pride in submission to him (57:15), when we put the good of others ahead of our own religious accomplishments (58:1-14), and when we live lives that embody his truth and justice (59:1-15a), then where there had been darkness, there will be light--a light that is not our own but reflects the glory that the Trinity shared before the beginning of time.
It's interesting that many Jews and Christians alike believe that their activity on earth can hasten the ushering in of the Messianic kingdom. As Mendel Dubov explains here (https://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/3771763/jewish/Ki-Tavo-Haftarah-Companion.htm):
A foundational idea in Jewish thought is that it is our actions in the time before Moshiach's coming that will bring about the goodness at the time of Moshiach...The purpose of the mitzvah [i.e. good deed] of lighting Shabbat candles is in order to bring light to the home. The Midrash states that this mitzvah will precipitate the "light" spoken of in the time to come.
Similarly, in some evangelical Christian circles, there is a belief that the moment that every person on earth hears the good news about Christ, that Jesus will return. This belief is loosely based on Matthew 24:14. However, I lean toward what Jerry Root writes on the Decision site (https://decisionmagazine.com/when-all-the-world-hears/):
Although the Scriptures say the Gospel will be preached to the whole world and then the end will come, it does not say that the coming of Christ will follow immediately after the completion of the Great Commission. And even if it is to follow immediately, our understanding of completing the Great Commission may not match God’s. A day may come when we think the task has been completed, but we may be unaware of other people whom God still intends for us to reach. If Christ delays His coming for another hundred years, we must be faithful to proclaim His name to every generation, for as long as He tarries.
We have to be comfortable with mystery. I'm convinced that one of the biggest problems with modern religion is an effort to "scientize" it and to force faith to have predictive abilities that contradict the very meaning of faith. It is OK if we don't know the day or the hour of the Messiah's return. In fact, Jesus tells us that we won't know it beforehand!
Our role is simply to be faithful. To arise and shine. Furthermore, not everything is future oriented. For Christians, there is a now-ness to His kingdom. In fact, Isaiah 60:1 says your light has come. It's not "the light will come if you do this or that." The light has already come. The "already and not yet" kingdom. As Greg Boyd writes (https://reknew.org/2015/12/the-victory-is-already-won-but-not-yet/),
Christ came “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8), to disarm “the rulers and authorities” (Col 2:15), and to “destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil"(Heb 2:14). The result of this victory is that he is seated on his rightful throne, the whole cosmos is liberated from a tyrannical and destructive ruler, humanity is delivered “from the power of darkness and transferred … into the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col 1:13). This has already been done and is a settled reality. However, when we look at our present situation, it is clear that the earth continues to be in bondage to the powers of evil. This is referred to as the “already-not yet” eschatology of the New Testament. Already the Kingdom has come, but it is not yet fully manifested.
I'm reminded of the 1990s-era Newsboys song, "Shine" (https://youtu.be/GoMafmhYKto). The chorus sings,
Shine. Make 'em wonder whatcha got. Make 'em wish that they were not on the outside looking bored. Shine. Let it shine before all men. Let 'em see good works and then let 'em glorify the Lord.
I was fascinated to learn that "Arise, Shine" is a famous Hebrew phrase based on this passage in Isaiah. Kumi Ori: Arise, Shine. Kumi, or rise, is more like, "Get up!" It's what Jesus said to the man who couldn't walk and was mired in negativity and complaints as he bitterly watched others approach the pool of Bethesda in search of healing. In response to the man's complaints, Jesus says, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk" (John 5:8). And the man did!
I'm pretty sure Jesus has been saying the same thing to me this year in the midst of my prayer-complaints. Get up! There's a mercy to the command, the co-participation that gives dignity and meaning to our activities taken on behalf of our own and others' well-being and healing. But we need His Word to kick-start it. And we already have it, because the Light has come.
Other Biblical instances of kumi include God telling Abram in Genesis 13 to arise and see the land that He is giving Him. It looks initially like the leftovers of what Abram's nephew Lot didn't want, but it would end up being the land of milk and honey. We see it in Joshua 1:2 with God exhorting Joshua arise, cross over the Jordan, and receive the land that is being given to them. In a more humorous parallel, we see it in Jonah 1:2 as well, where God tells Jonah to arise and go to Ninevah and he, well, doesn't.
Touchingly, we see it in Jesus' Aramaic words to Jairus' deceased daughter: talitha cumi, or "little girl, get up." And, beautifully, she does.
There's an empowerment to these passages. God clearly has the situation well-in-hand but asks His people to take hold of what He has already procured for them. Sounds like salvation, doesn't it!
What about shining? The plural of ori is urim, which is part of the mysterious substances put in Aaron's priestly breastplate when he is ministering before the Lord. He essentially has lights across his breast, close to his heart. Whatever that means, I love the idea of it.
We also see ori in a recent passage of Isaiah (Isaiah 58:8):
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
And in Psalm 43:3 as well:
Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me.
Both passages emphasize a bursting forth, like a huge flashlight that's been suddenly turned on. God is always the source of light, but we are also called to shine into the darkness. After all, in John 17, Jesus' longest recorded prayer, He says that He has given us His glory:
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one (v. 22).
We're part of the plan! It's not our own light, the Light has come. And to get started on our part, we need to get up and shine!
I'll conclude with this Messianic Jewish group's song, Kumi Ori: https://youtu.be/SuDmwjT3q9w (Note: you'll have this one staying in your head for days!)