God dwells in light
God dwells in darkness
1) What is the supposed contradiction and why is it believable?
Since there is a 1st and 2nd Timothy, we can only assume they mean 1st Timothy since 2nd Timothy only has 4 chapters:
1 Timothy 6:16 says, “Who alone has immortality [in the sense of exemption from every kind of death] and lives in unapproachable light, Whom no man has ever seen or can see. Unto Him be honor and everlasting power and dominion. Amen (so be it).
1 Kings 8:12 says, “Then Solomon said, The Lord said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.”
Psalm 18:11 says, “He made darkness His secret hiding place; as His pavilion (His canopy) round about Him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.”
Psalm 97:2 says, “Clouds and darkness are round about Him [as at Sinai]; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
The verse in 1 Timothy doesn’t even mention darkness, rather the exact opposite unapproachable light, meaning a light so bright you cannot even try to go near it. The verses from Kings and Psalms talk about clouds, naturally occurring phenomena. When I saw the description I assumed they would be references to the darkness of sin or the world. Regardless, we can see the inference of darkness vs. light here and at first glance, it appears that it is contradictory, especially if that’s what you want it to be. By actually understanding the text, however, we should find that it is not.
2) What is the truth in these verses and why do they NOT actually contradict each other?
The first thing I noticed is the difference in terminology. Although the description from “the list” explains both circumstances as “dwell”, we can see that a different word is used. In 1 Timothy God “lives” in light but in the other verses he “dwells” in darkness. One verse even says it just surrounds Him. Being that these verses are from the same translation, it can be understood that these different words are not used haphazardly, but rather are translated as such because they are different. Dwelling in something simply means to reside whereas living is to actually be. Yes, God IS the Light.
Let’s start with the verse from 1 Timothy. The verse itself is an excerpt from a longer description. 1 Timothy 6:14-16 says: “14To keep all His precepts unsullied and flawless, irreproachable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Anointed One),15Which [appearing] will be shown forth in His own proper time by the blessed, only Sovereign (Ruler), the King of kings and the Lord of lords,16Who alone has immortality [in the sense of exemption from every kind of death] and lives in unapproachable light, Whom no man has ever seen or can see. Unto Him be honor and everlasting power and dominion. Amen (so be it).”
Christ Himself claims this in John 1: “12Once more Jesus addressed the crowd. He said, I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the Light which is Life.” He doesn’t just reside in the Light, He is the Light. This is stated and reaffirmed throughout the bible, from Genesis to Revelation. In fact, it is the purpose of the bible and the Message it carries.
1 Kings 8:12 is a recitation of the Lord’s promise to show His presence over the Ark of the Covenant. It is a reference to when the Ark was initially put together and God was instructing Moses what to inform the Levites, the custodians of the temple, to do and what to expect. We see this in Leviticus 16 ” 2The Lord said to Moses, Tell Aaron your brother he must not come at all times into the Holy of Holies within the veil before the mercy seat upon the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud on the mercy seat.” The mercy seat was the place above the Ark symbolizing God’s throne. The cloud is a symbol, a representation of His presence. This was first seen as the cloud guiding the Israelites by day to the Promised Land (which turned to a pillar of fire to guide by night). This is seen in Exodus 13, “21The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.
22The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.”
The two verses referenced from the Book of Psalms are humanistic descriptions of God’s fury and anger against the evils of this world. In Psalm 18, David articulates a violent storm fighting for him in his suffering:
7Then the earth quaked and rocked, the foundations also of the mountains trembled; they moved and were shaken because He was indignant and angry.8There went up smoke from His nostrils; and lightning out of His mouth devoured; coals were kindled by it.9He bowed the heavens also and came down; and thick darkness was under His feet.10And He rode upon a cherub [a storm] and flew [swiftly]; yes, He sped on with the wings of the wind.11He made darkness His secret hiding place; as His pavilion (His canopy) round about Him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.12Out of the brightness before Him there broke forth through His thick clouds hailstones and coals of fire.13The Lord also thundered from the heavens, and the Most High uttered His voice, amid hailstones and coals of fire.14And He sent out His arrows and scattered them; and He flashed forth lightnings and put them to rout.15Then the beds of the sea appeared and the foundations of the world were laid bare at Your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.16He reached from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.17He delivered me from my strong enemy and from those who hated and abhorred me, for they were too strong for me.
Psalm 97 is very similar:
1THE LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles and coastlands be glad!2Clouds and darkness are round about Him [as at Sinai]; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.3Fire goes before Him and burns up His adversaries round about.4His lightnings illumine the world; the earth sees and trembles.5The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.6The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the peoples see His glory.
We can see these references to God dwelling in the darkness are not God being darkness, but rather representations of His presence. If He always showed Himself as that unapproachable light, how then would anyone be able to function in His presence? Israel was supposed to follow Him and recognize the visualization of His presence in the temple. If they were supposed to serve and worship in the temple, would not the unapproachable light prevent that? An even more common sense point is in recognizing God’s sovereignty, who is to say He cannot dwell anywhere He chooses or as anything He chooses? Exactly how he is in Heaven, lived on earth as Christ, and dwells within us as the Holy Spirit.
3) How can we use this to educate ourselves and others to further the Kingdom?
God in His pure form is so pure He is unapproachable. It is in our weakness He shows Himself otherwise so we can see Him. His representations throughout the Old Testament to Israel prove this: the burning bush, the pillar of fire, the cloud over the temple, and eventually Christ Himself. Today we are able to actually BE that representation with the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are to be the representations of God to those He puts in our lives. The guiding Light in the darkness, the calming cloud of presence throughout the day, the storm clouds of protection in times of adversity.