I’ve enjoyed this song for years, but never did understand what a “lower light” was. I knew the Bible says “you are the light of the world” and “let your light shine” and “walk as children of light”, but what does a “lower light” do? Recently I learned this song’s history, and learned what these “lower lights” are. It turns out lives depend on these lower lights and people have died when the lower lights were not burning. Give the song a listen, then come back and we’ll talk about being a “lower light” for the Lord.
It was a dark and stormy night
At one of evangelist D.L. Moody’s meetings in America in the 1870’s he told the story of a shipwreck. It was a violently stormy night and visibility was desperately poor as the ship approached Cleveland harbor. The captain could see only one light as they drew near — that from the great lighthouse. Other lower navigation lights vital to guide them safely through the treacherous channel into Cleveland were not lit.
The Captain asked, “Where are the lower lights?”
“Gone out, sir,” replied the pilot.
“Can you make the harbor, then?” asked the captain, to which the pilot answered:
“We must, sir, or perish.”
Bravely the old pilot steered ahead toward the harbor’s mouth, but in the blinding storm and the darkness — without the aid of the lower lights to show the correct angle to safely approach the great lighthouse — he missed the safe channel path toward shore. The ship struck upon many rocks, and in the stormy waters many lives were lost.
Then Moody made his appeal to his audience: “Brothers, the Master will take care of the great lighthouse! Let us keep the lower lights burning!” Moody’s sermon inspired the hymn writer, Philip Bliss, and he penned this classic immediately.
Two points define a line
The preacher said, “Brothers, the Master will take care of the great lighthouse! Let us keep the lower lights burning!”
It’s a brilliant message! That stormy night, the pilot could see the great lighthouse of the harbor. But he could not see the the safe path to get there. The pilot knew that to the left or to the right of that path in the water were treacherous rocks. It took two points of light to show the path — the great lighthouse and the smaller “lower light” located between the incoming ships and the great lighthouse. As long as the pilot kept his ship on the path where those two lights lined up — the lower light appearing right below and in front of the great lighthouse — he would be on the safe path to shore.
But that night the smaller lower light was out. The pilot did his best without it, but missed the safe path to shore and lives were lost.
The safe path to reach God
It’s been said, “You can find God anywhere, and miss Him everywhere.”
The heavens declare the glory of the Lord, but some still miss Him.
The Scriptures spell out the truth of God, creation, Jesus Christ and salvation but some still miss Him.
In God’s loving, wise design, PEOPLE have been given the privilege of serving as ambassadors for Christ. People — not the angels — have been given the ministry of reconciliation. To reconcile is to bring back together that which was separated. God designed us to be able ministers who can help draw people in the right direction to navigate through this life and reach God.
God is THE LIGHT.
He lets us partner with Him and serve as lower lights to help people find Him.
What a privilege!
Lights of faith.
Lights of hope.
Lights of love.
Let’s trim our lamps and keep our lights burning.
God bless you lots!
LYRICS: Let The Lower Lights Be Burning
Song by Philip Paul Bliss (1871)
1. Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From His lighthouse evermore,
But to us He gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning!
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor struggling, sinking sailor
You may rescue you may save.
2. Dark the night of sin has settled,
Loud the angry billows roar;
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights, along the shore.
3. Trim your feeble lamp, my brother,
Some poor sailor tempest tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.
What do you think?
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