The Eclipse's Ancient Lessons
You may not have been in the prime-viewing path of the recent eclipse, but those who were won't forget it. They described it as “ethereal”, “spectacular”, and “life-changing”. One enthusiast stated, “It’s the only event that’s going to leave you totally awestruck.”
In the days leading up to the eclipse, this gut-level reaction was also talked about in a historical context. Examples were given of how ancient people were terrified by solar eclipses. In ancient China, many believed a solar eclipse occurred when a legendary, celestial dragon devoured the sun. Christopher Columbus even took advantage of such fears when in 1504 he (using astronomical charts) predicted an eclipse in Jamaica, scaring the natives into providing him and his crew with ongoing rations.
But listen to what one ancient writer confessed when he looked up at the movements of the moon:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4)
David, the son of Jesse, was the greatest king over ancient Israel. But before he sat on the throne, he sat with sheep, as a shepherd. A thousand years before the time of Christ, David must have spent countless nights with his flocks under the stars. Undoubtedly, he was well acquainted with the movements of the moon and the night sky. But the wonder of what he witnessed above drove him to an even greater wonder: how can the God who made the whole cosmos, before whom and before which we seem so tiny, how can he not only notice us, but care for us?
Today, most are not frightened by an eclipse. But our scientific understanding has not made this cosmic event any less powerful. David's confession points us to two important lessons, any time we are awed by the sky above. First, it is good when we are reminded of our place in the universe. We are small, and so much is beyond our control (though our pride deceives us about this).
But, second, in spite of our size, we are deeply loved by the God who rules over it all. He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting...O LORD, how manifold are your works! (Psalm 104:19, 24a) God loves when we marvel at what he has made. But he doesn't want it to end there. He wants us to be in awe of him. He wants us to marvel at his love and mercy.
Above all, he wants us to cry “spectacular” and “life-changing” when we understand his “care” in the “sunrise” of Jesus (Luke 1:78) and the power of the cross. Death may have eclipsed Christ for a time, but on the third day, his light shone even more brightly. It continues to shine today.
So even though the eclipse is past, may we continue to look up and be humbled. Our Maker has more for us than fleeting spectacle. His gift is eternal light, and love.