Let your light thus shine before men
I read these few verses, that we might consider the character of our testimony. The testimony in this chapter is visible to men: "Let your light thus shine before men, so that they may see your upright works, and glorify your Father who is in the heavens."
The testimony is not to be under the bushel — "Nor do men light a lamp and put it under the bushel" — that would be hidden — "but upon the lamp-stand, and it shines for all who are in the house." And the Lord is teaching here that our testimony is intended to shine before men; that is, that it might be a public and recognised testimony. We understand that we are in a broken day, a day of church ruin. So we cannot claim to be the "city situated on the top of a mountain." We can't claim to be the testimony, but we would seek to be of this character. Oh, that there might be some evidence of light amongst men in our testimony, something that men can take account of! And it's not to glorify ourselves; it's not to make much of ourselves, but the point is "that they may see your upright works, and glorify your Father who is in the heavens." That is, the testimony is in view of divine Persons having their portion: "... glorify your Father who is in the heavens."
And what is the character of those who have part in this testimony? In the first few verses, we read about those who have the Lord's approbation and blessing. The Lord is not speaking, in this section, of the crowds. The crowds were down on the plain, at the end of the previous chapter. "And great crowds followed Him from Galilee, and Decapolis, and Jerusalem, and Judaea, and beyond the Jordan." The Lord had His own ministry for the crowds, healing those who suffered diseases and those possessed by demons, and so on. The Lord had a healing ministry for the crowds, but at the beginning of this chapter He goes up into the mountain, which is a different area, and having sat down, His disciples came to Him. These persons were committed to following the Lord Jesus here. Indeed, a disciple is a follower of Christ, one who is committed to follow Him.
It takes energy to go up on this mountain, you know. It is not something that the crowds were willing to do, as simply getting relief from the Lord Jesus, but His disciples were prepared to come "up into the mountain." "His disciples came to Him", it says.
I trust it might be our desire to come to Jesus in this way, up on the mountain where He is unfolding these blessed truths as to the persons who get the blessing: "Blessed are the poor in spirit – Blessed they that mourn – Blessed the meek – Blessed they who hunger and thirst after righteousness – Blessed the merciful – Blessed the pure in heart – Blessed the peace-makers – Blessed they who are persecuted on account of righteousness – Blessed are ye when they may reproach and persecute you, and say every wicked thing against you, lying, for my sake." All these persons get the blessing and get a reward. The Lord, at the end of this section, says "Rejoice and exult, for your reward is great in the heavens; for thus have they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
I trust we have some sense of getting the blessing from Jesus, as being persons of this moral character. We may read this, and may feel that we don't really measure up to all these features, but they are features of manhood according to the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus set them out so perfectly when He was here in flesh and blood. He was here on this earth, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, like One from whom men hid their faces.
Then we have a link with 2nd Timothy days — ones who hunger and thirst after righteousness — they would be persons who are pursuing righteousness. And then the pure in heart. We have that too in 2nd Timothy — "with those that call on the Lord out of a pure heart."
Well, I just thought that the Lord would comfort us with these few references, that we might be prepared to be in lowliness of mind. The Lord Jesus humbled Himself. He made Himself of no reputation. He became obedient even unto death. And the pathway for the believer is obedience and dependence upon God. It is not to make much of ourselves. It is not to be independent or to be boastful. That's the natural man, but these features of dependence and obedience marked the Lord Jesus so perfectly.
He goes on to say, "Ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt have become insipid, wherewith shall it be salted?" These persons are the salt of the earth, a preserving influence in the scene in which we are, because they are like Christ. But there is a bit of a caution here. "If the salt have become insipid." That points to the lukewarmness of these Laodicean times in which we are. The Lord said, "I am about to spue thee out of my mouth"; how solemn it is, that the salt may become insipid! So let us be exercised to be truly the salt of the earth, and to be here in testimony as the light of the world. Not that we would exclusively claim to be that, or even claim it at all, but let us just be of that character. Let something of the features of the Lord Jesus Christ shine out in our lives and in our upright works, and in our testimony among men. As we do so individually, then I believe as we gather there will be some sense at least, even in this broken day in which we are, that it can be really true: "Ye are the light of the world."
The Lord is speaking of these things as on the mountaintop. "A city situated on the top of a mountain cannot be hid." He is speaking there as with His disciples, persons who love Him and who are prepared to follow Him. I suppose as the disciples were on that mountain, they could look down and see the cities of the plain and the crowds below, and how insignificant they would seem, compared to being up there on the mountain in the presence of the Lord Jesus.
Well, may we find our life in the Lord Jesus. He would draw us out of this earthly scene of things, and we would joy to be "with Him on the holy mountain." Peter writes of that — that's another mountain in Matthew's gospel. He speaks of the glory that they saw in the face of Jesus, being with Him on the holy mountain.
May our testimony be real and living, and may it be of the character of these verses at the beginning of Matthew 5, which are the true character of Christ in us, the hope of glory.
For His name's sake.
S. E. Hesterman
Let Your Light Thus Shine Before Men