Have you ever seen an eclipse? They’re pretty shocking, if you haven’t experienced one. For it to be daylight but not … it’s unsettling.
From some early morning googling, it seems the first recorded solar eclipse took place around 3340 B.C. That’s more than 5,000 years ago! Can you imagine what people were thinking when that happened? There are eclipses mentioned throughout historical documents and literature all throughout the ancient world. Again, thanks to Google, apparently there’s an eclipse mentioned in Amos 8:9 (http://www.earthview.com/ages/history.htm) that took place in 763 B.C.
Eclipses are something that people have been watching for thousands of years, and I can only imagine how puzzled people must have been when they first started studying them. But for those people who looked at the Sun as though it were a god to be worshipped, an eclipse must have frightened them. For all they knew, sunlight was supposed to be constant and unwavering. The sun was always supposed to shine. It would shine until it set, and then it would shine again as it rose.
Maybe there is some benefit to eclipses that I don’t know about, like for nature or the universe or something, but for all I can tell, an eclipse exists for one purpose: To demonstrate that even sunlight isn’t constant. People who worship the Sun must have freaked out way back when because when the object of their worship went dark for no reason at all, they had no idea why it happened. Granted, we live in a more educated culture now, so we understand it. Or do we?
Today’s verse is James 1:17.Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
I’ve always loved this verse, but when I was a freshman in college, I learned to love it even more because I found out what the words meant. I took an astronomy course that year, and my teacher was a believer (it was a Christian college, but I think he might have been one of the only truly kind people there).
In any case, that statement “never changes or casts a shifting shadow” is actually in reference to the rising and setting of the sun, and the part about a shifting shadow is in reference to an eclipse.
Check it out in the Amplified Version:
Every good gift and every perfect (free, large, full) gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of all [that gives] light, in [the shining of] Whom there can be no variation [rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [as in an eclipse].
Isn’t that cool? The Book of James might have been written as early as A.D. 45, and the fact that we can find something like this in there is pretty amazing. Astronomical, maybe?
So what does this mean for us today?
Well, here’s the deal. The Sun is obvious. It’s easy to look at the sun and trust that it’s going to keep shining no matter what. And now, in our advanced and educated era, we understand eclipses. We know what they are, and we know why they happen. We can even predict them! (There will be a solar eclipse in May this year.)
But the Sun is part of a created system, something God imagined and made for us to enjoy. Now what our world has done is turned the creation into a god or because we “understand” it, we consider ourselves gods. But the Sun, as powerful as it may be, isn’t in control of what it does or doesn’t do. It’s a star. It’s an average yellow star tucked away at the edge of an average galaxy in an ever-widening universe.
It’s tempting to put our trust in science and the things we can explain. The things we can’t explain or can’t understand are scary, so we either make up explanations or we ignore them. That’s what we’ve done with God. I’m sure that’s what people did with eclipses until they could explain what they actually were.
An eclipse is a sign that even sunlight fails sometimes. Even something that we think is as constant as sunlight can be darkened in an instant if God wants it to be. But God doesn’t experience eclipses. He doesn’t rise or set like a sun; He is constant. And there’s nothing in existence that can blot out His light.
So if you’re out and about today and the sun is shining (or even if it isn’t), remember to thank God for the gift of light, but remember that light isn’t a constant. And the light shining on us is only here because God wants to be. But what’s nice to know is that even if the sun stops shining, God doesn’t.