Arise is a word with such resonance, isn’t it? In my head it isn’t just said. In my head Charlton Heston declares it in majestic tones. When I sing this song, or read Isaiah 60:1, something inside me responds to the emotional weight of that word and says, “Yes! I will arise!”
In my head (my head is a busy place!) it is also inextricably linked with getting up, carrying a bed and walking (Jn 5:8). I’m not sure why - especially as Jesus says ‘rise’ and not ‘arise’ - but so it is.
And actually, that phrase is said in Charlton’s voice too.
What am I really saying, though, when I sing this song?
Well, it turns out I’m not actually wrong when I think of Jesus saying rise - as it does, in fact, mean that. In Hebrew it quite literally means, to rise upright, especially when describing the action of rising up from a prostrate position.
A prostrate position - so lying down on the ground, being in a state of extreme weakness. In fact, just like the man Jesus spoke to in John 5.
What prostrate positions have I been in? I’ve been prostrate in sin, of course. I’ve also been prostrate in anxiety and problems. I’ve been prostrate in illness. I’ve been prostrate in depression. I’ve been prostrate when I’ve had a crisis of faith. In fact, I didn’t realise until I started to think about it quite how often I have been prostrate during my life.
It can be so easy for us to fall into a way of being, without even realising it.
But being prostrate isn’t our natural position - and it certainly isn’t our inheritance, or the position we are called to. We are called to rise up and shine. To shine as we live our lives in an upright manner, and be strong enough to stand regardless of what is thrown at us. This is part of how we live the promise of abundant life (Jn 10:10).
When Jesus tells the man at Bethesda to rise (Jn 5:8), He is not only telling him to stand up and be upright - when we look at the Greek He is also telling him to wake up.
So when I’m singing Arise and Shine, I’m actually commanding my spirit to wake up, to stand up and be strong despite the circumstances, and to walk in the light provided by Jesus.
Just as Jesus commanded the man at Bethesda to do.
Are you prostrate today? Are you struggling to stand? Remember your inheritance, and the strength that Jesus has given you. Wake up your spirit and Arise.
By Caroline Weedon.