Thursday, January 14, 2010

From the Rising of the Sun...

The sun is a multifarious image in scripture. That is, used poetically, it does not always represent the same thing. It is multifarious. And multifariousity can be very instructive. The sun, as we know, is our own local star. And what a star it is! Every quotable statistic is so completely enormous as to give almost no earthly idea of the magnitude and ferocity of the sun. 99.8% of the mass of our solar system is contained in the sun. The core of the sun, which on its own is many many times the size of the earth, burns pretty consistently at around 29,000,000 degrees. The energy output in the core is roughly equivalent to 100 billion large atomic bombs being detonated every second. See what I mean?

The sun is a dangerous place, and considering the numbers, I feel lucky to escape with a mild sunburn when I occasionally neglect sunscreen on hot sunny days in the summer. But viewed from within our cozy atmosphere, the sun is usually a very good thing. We appreciate the light and heat that it provides. It makes the green plants grow, and turns our skin that lovely shade of brown. But every benefit of the sun is a dangerous thing that is being put to a good use. The sun provides us with light, but don't look straight at it. The heat of the sun is good, but don't get too close. The life giving rays make plants grow, or wither, and give us vitamin D, with melanoma waiting in the wings. The sun is a very good thing, but be careful to use it correctly.

When we turn to the scriptures the same complexity is found. In Psalm 84 the Lord god is a sun and shield, giving favor and honor to those who walk uprightly. He provides light and heat, and is the true light that comes into the world, making know to us the path of righteousness. He gives health and encouragement to his saints, and is truly their source of life. In John's vision of the celestial city there is no longer any sun, for the Lord God has taken its place, and his presence is the light of the city. Psalm 121 looks at the other side of the picture, and presents God as our shade, protecting us so that the sun does not strike us. And all who have spurned sunscreen on a bright day know the danger that lurks. The sun is able to give the light of day and to oppress us with its fury. And God is both our supply of the good, and our protection from the bad. For those who believe God is both the light of day, and the sunglasses of grace. He is the energy that gives heat and the car with air conditioning. The prophet Malachi combines both duties of the sun in describing the day of the Lord. For the arrogant and the evildoers the day of the Lord is coming like an oven, that will burn them to stubble, but "for those who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in its wings" (Malachi 4:2). On that great day of the Lord, when Christ appears, the Sun of Righteousness will do his job, and justice will be done. To the unbelieving, who have not the Lord God as a shade, the Sun of Righteousness will scorch and burn. But to those of us who fear his name, and who by faith have believed the promises and clung to them, for us the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. The eternal Son will be for a light and for healing, for comfort, and a never ending protection from darkness.

No comments: