Musings on yesterday's eclipse

May 21, 2012

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Yesterday much of the Far East and the Southwest US experienced an annular solar eclipse, often described as a "ring of fire" because of the way the moon blocks out most of the sun, leaving a bright ring around it in the sky. Much of the event was also visible here in Missouri, beginning around 7:30pm and lasting for 45 or 50 minutes.

I was able to view the eclipse at my folks' house where they have an open view of the western sky thanks to the rolling Missouri plains. We took turns looking through a thick, dark welder's lens. The sights were breathtaking! One news report I read on the event quoted a NASA official describing people's reactions to the eclipse: "You get everything from stoic, staring into the sky ... to people breaking down and crying, they're just so moved".

In any century and among any people group, viewing the grandeur of creation can be deeply moving, especially when unusual events happen. In modern times, "Mother Nature" makes news headlines with violent tornadoes, sun flares, or unusual events. In centuries past, ancient religions often wrote of astral phenomena like constellations, eclipses, and comets. Ancient Egyptians deified the sun as "Ra", the Greeks as "Helios", and many Native American tribes worshipped the sun as the life-giving force of the universe.

Both of these contemporary and ancient belief systems are blind to the truths of Scripture - that the one true God, the LORD, is the creator and active sustainer of all, including the sun, moon, and stars. He alone is worthy of worship because He created them, sustains them, and actively moves them for a purpose:

“Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;”
(Genesis 1:14)

The sun, moon, and stars were for signs. They are meant to ultimately point us to Someone. Among other things in His creation, the LORD made them to serve as witnesses and indicators to what He was like and what He was going to do. It's no coincidence that a bright star served as a sign for the birth of Jesus (Matthew 2:2). Jesus Himself later said that signs in the heavens would be signals that His return was near (Luke 21:11; Matthew 24:29). The Psalms describe the sun and moon as a "faithful witness in the sky" (Psalms 89:36-37) pointing to Someone. Jesus is identified as that "faithful witness" (Revelation 1:5), the One to whom they are pointing, who will sit on David's throne in Jerusalem and rule the nations. For when He comes and rules, even the majestic, breathtaking witness of the sun and moon will not compare with the glory of who He is:

“Then the moon will be disgraced and the sun ashamed; For the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before His elders, gloriously.”
(Isaiah 24:23)

Is yesterday's eclipse or every comet, meteor shower, or visible planet a sign of a biblically significant event? Perhaps not - but they are all general signs that testify to the glory of God so that men are without excuse in their knowledge of Him (Romans 1:20).

We do well to hear the LORD speaking (Psalms 19:1-6) through yesterday's events. May we not just brush off the eclipse as a predictable, interesting scientific incident, but may it cause us to tremble and remind us of Someone. He will have His day, and it may be sooner than we think.

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