Eclipse of the Sun
(Spiritual lessons from a recent event)

Recently we experienced a rare event, the eclipse of the sun (though only partial, in our area). Using a simple pinhole device, my wife and I were able to view it in safety. Then, indoors, we watched on two different TV networks, as the sun was tracked across the United States from coast to coast.

The secular media try to be balanced, but they find it difficult to recognize or present a spiritual perspective. It grieved me that we didn’t hear a single reference to God from the many television commentators and scientists (except for one who swore!). “Mother Nature” was given credit for it all. Perhaps we could call this an eclipse of the Son.

The movement of the sun, moon and stars reveals the handiwork of our Creator (Ps. 19:1), who not only made them (Gen. 1:14-19) but sustains them, and holds them in place (Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:1-3). A hymn about that by Joseph Addison says:

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame
Their great Original proclaim.
The unwearied sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator’s powers display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an almighty hand.

The great excitement of watchers also struck me. Millions looked up in wonder, cheering in the eerie darkness, as the sun slowly disappeared from view, then became visible again. The fascinated scanning of the skies made me think of the prophesied return of Christ to reign. “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30).

Though the eclipse wasn’t full in our area, it definitely was to the south of us. There, for a few moments, the moon came between our earth and the sun, blocking out its light. Think of it, a dead pile of rock (the moon) concealing and blocking out the light-giving, life-sustaining sun. In a spiritual sense, that is what sin has done, brought darkness to the earth, hiding the light of God. And “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Jn. 3:19).

And sin brings divine judgment. One dark night in Egypt death swept through the land, the final plague against a rebel king and his people. “So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead” (Exod. 12:29-30).

But contrast that with another dark night. Two Christian missionaries were beaten and cast into prison for their service for the Lord. “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).

What made the difference? How could a midnight cry of anguish become a midnight song of praise? The answer is everything changed with the coming of One who said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12).

There came a day when the Lord Jesus hung suspended between heaven and earth, nailed to a cruel wooden cross. And the Bible says, at that time, “from the sixth hour until the ninth hour [noon to 3:00 p.m.] there was darkness over all the land” (Matt. 27:45). It was a supernatural darkness marking the time when all the rotting filth of all the world’s sin–yours and mine, and everyone’s–was heaped upon the sinless Son of God (Isa. 53:6; I Jn. 2:2).

When our Saviour paid the debt of our sins on the cross, in His agony He cried out in the darkness, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). He died as our Substitute under the wrath of God, so that, by God’s grace, we wouldn’t have to face that ourselves. As hymn writer Isaac Watts puts it:

Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man, the creature’s sin.

That’s how the dark night of sin gave way to the dawning of a new light. “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 4:6). Of those who have trusted Christ as Saviour it is said, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8). And now, we are to “shine as lights in the world, holding fast [or, holding out to others] the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16).