Spreading the light of God’s presence
Let’s pray that just as the Olympic torch will pass through Japan, God’s presence will be felt in this land
“Blessed are those . . . who walk in the light of your presence, Lord” (Ps. 89:15 NIV).
The Olympic torch is scheduled to journey through all 47 prefectures of Japan and 23 wards of Tokyo. At the time of writing, the plan is for the torch to pass within an hour of over 98% of the population of Japan, held aloft by a chain of some 10,000 people across the nation. The torch unites people from across Japan and around the world with the motto “Hope lights our way,” symbolizing the longing for a new era in Japan.
Thinking of the Olympic torch and motto, I cannot help thinking of the presence of God. In Exodus, God appeared to Moses as a fiery bush and to the Israelites as a pillar of fire, lighting “the way” through the desert. More than that, the Olympic torch also makes me think of the golden lampstand in the Tabernacle, perpetually providing light for the “bread of the Presence” (Ex. 25:30 ESV), a representation of the 12 tribes of Israel. Designed with flowering tree blossoms, the lampstand points back to God’s presence in the garden of Eden and ahead to his presence and the Tree of Life in heaven. Light from this lampstand was “a copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Heb. 8:5 ESV), where “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev. 21:23, Is. 60:19–20 ESV).
The Olympic torch also makes me think of the day of Pentecost when the presence of God appeared as tongues of fire. Later, John the Apostle saw seven lampstands representing seven churches in seven cities (Rev. 1:20). The fire of the Holy Spirit has continued to move among the people of every language, tribe, and nation, covering the face of the planet with the light of the presence and knowledge of God. As the Olympic torch (“holy flame” in Japanese) is carried by 10,000 people across the nation, it makes me think about the thousands of people carrying the Holy Spirit through every city and region of Japan. As the traveling Olympic torch helps people feel the excitement that “the Olympics has come to me,” it makes me long for people to feel the even greater excitement that “God has come to me! The church has come to me!” This is a big deal for the unreached people of Japan.
All these things lead me in worship of Christ. He is “the true light, which gives light to everyone” (John 1:9 ESV) and the true hope that lights our way. In the words of the famous song, “In Christ alone my hope is found, he is my light, my strength, my song.”1 Christ is Immanuel, God with us, the tangible, knowable presence of God for the people of God. On the cross, Christ experienced the darkness of God so that we could know the light of God. On the cross, Christ was consumed by the fire of God’s wrath so that we could be surrounded by the fire of God’s love. Christ became the forsaken One, experiencing total physical and emotional abandonment so that you and I would never have to know this kind of abandonment.
During the 90 days of the Grace2020 prayer campaign (www.grace2020.org), from June 9 to the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games on September 6, please join us in praying for the Holy Spirit to sweep powerfully across Japan. Please pray God would use the energy and the excitement of the Olympics to spread the gospel throughout this nation. Please pray that more and more people would come to know the light of the presence of God that gives true hope and life.
“Help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many” (2 Cor. 1:11 NIV).
1. “In Christ Alone” Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townsend