Eclipsed Glory

Here in America there has been a lot of hype about the solar eclipse that happened on August 21, 2017.  The anticipation managed to overshadow almost everything else and completely dominated the news headlines. Moving at roughly a 1000 miles per hour, the moon’s 150 mile wide shadow tracked coast to coast across the United States beginning on the far western coast of Oregon and vanished off the east coast in South Carolina only a few hours later. In the wake of its spectacle, remarkable pictures flooded social media as people shared their ‘dark in the middle of the day’ experiences.

Jason with his eclipse glasses

And not to miss such an event, we joined the throngs of people donning their officially approved and licensed solar protection glasses to watch the celestial show. As I sat patiently watching the moon slowly dim the sun’s light, it occurred to me that what we were seeing was a visual illustration of the incarnation, the moment in history when God took on human flesh and became a man.

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.  For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.

Isaiah 60:1-3

When people think of the glory of God, they often come up with an image of brilliant light. While His glory is certainly more than luminescence, it isn’t an inappropriate visual as Luke described Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus as “light from heaven, brighter than the sun” and Paul tells of Christ dwelling in ‘unapproachable light.’ (Acts 26:13; 1 Tim. 6:16) All the way back in the Old Testament, the prophet Ezekiel, too, described the glory of God as “glowing metal” and burning fire that caused him to fall prostrate on his face. (Ez. 1:25-28)

Full Eclipse

Me? I think it might be like staring into the noonday sun on a hot summer afternoon. It’s just too bright… too awesome… too intense to absorb which forces us to quickly turn away. But on Monday during that short time when the moon perfectly blocked the sun’s rays, we could, for just a moment, look at the sun and not be overwhelmed. Isn’t that very similar to what happened 2000 years ago? Jesus took on human flesh and, for an instant, the glory of the Godhead was blocked just enough for us to see what the Almighty is really like… to stand in His presence… to behold our Creator and King.

But just like the eclipse, when the shadow of the moon moved on and the brilliance of the sun returned, that brief historical moment when Christ’s glory was veiled is now gone too. His brilliance has returned! Just look at the startling description of Jesus that John gives in Revelation 1:12-18 when John was confronted with the Risen Christ. He didn’t call out a greeting as you might expect from someone who had spent three years of his life with Jesus. Instead, he was absolutely overwhelmed at the majesty of the glorious Lord, and Revelation 1:17 says John “fell at His feet as though dead.”

This should be a reminder to all of us that the eventual return of Christ will not be in the form that many continue to carry in their minds or paint in pictures. He’s no longer the baby in the manger, the gentle teacher on a grassy hillside, or the suffering servant on the cross. He holds the exalted position of King of kings!

So as we all return to our lives after enjoying the celestial ballet,  perhaps we can take with us a larger lesson. Just as we must be cautious of the power of the sun, we must never forget the greater power of the Son of God, knowing that in a sinful state, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. 10:31) While Christ’s offer still stands for the weary to come to Him (Matt. 11:28), one day that opportunity will end. Instead of an open-armed welcome, those who rejected his offer will hear Him say “Depart from me. I never knew you.”  (Matt 25:41) So, now is the time to come to Him in salvation, and just as the sun drives away darkness, He will drive away sin, fear, brokenness and hopelessness.  And in their place, He will illumine your heart with His Spirit so that you can, in turn, reflect His light and glorify our God in heaven. (Matt 5:16)

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