A total eclipse of the sun is traversing North America on August 21, 2017. The last solar eclipse to cross the U.S.A. took place June 8, 1918 and the eclipse in 2024 will only be visible in the Central USA. Some call the rare occurrence a once in a lifetime experience and an experience one remembers lifelong. Here’s how Christians can make the eclipse life-changing.
Before science’s insights, solar eclipses were met with superstition, being considered a bad omen from the heavens. For Christians the opposite is true. The Bible gives us reason to join the scientific communities’ anticipation and imbue it with spiritual meaning.
Psalm 91:1 is a particularly suited scripture for Christian meditation. It evokes an image of a celestial shadow. “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” -Psalm 91: 1
This Psalm is written by King David, an extraordinary military leader. David praises the Most High as one who protects, but he doesn’t stop with an image of military success. David adds another aspect to protection, the nurturing image of a mother hen gathering her chicks under wing.
Historic shadows heralded safety and victory!
The Psalms are poetry, and sometimes their power is under-recognized. David’s poetic metaphor is buttressed by scriptures written before and after his reign. Biblical accounts of the Almighty’s shadow include these:
1. During the Exodus a plague of thick darkness covered Egypt for three days. Where the Israelites lived there was light. The plague ended with freedom from bondage!
2. Joshua chapter 10 recounts the shadow that didn’t budge: The sun and moon stood still until the Israelites won the battle.
3. Darkness covered Jerusalem for three hours on Good Friday, so named for victory over Hell.
Do you see the pattern King David sang psalms about? In each account the shadow of the Almighty brings not only safety, but victory!
Christians can believe as King David did, that the shadow of the Almighty brings sweeping victory.
Victory requires human faith in action.
The words “rest” and “abide” are not passive when used in Psalm 91:1. In musical terms “rest” means silence, which Mozart called, the most powerful note. In military terms rest is part of battle readiness. The Biblical accounts above involve human acts of faith.
1. The thick darkness recorded in Exodus began when Moses stretched out his hand. “So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days.” (Exodus 10:22)
2. The sun and moon stood still when Joshua spoke it. “There was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.” (Joshua 10:14)
3. The Apostle Peter’s story doesn’t stop with a faith crisis before the darkness of Good Friday. He is remembered for the great faith which emerged from the Almighty’s shadow. Peter’s faith is the Rock of the Church.
Moses raised his hand, Joshua spoke, and once Peter got started he didn’t stop speaking. Therefore, as Christians we should expect to have a piece of the action. Our piece will certainly involve prayer. If the eclipse’s path were a sound rather than a visual event, it might be the blast of a shofar calling us to prayer.
How then shall we pray? A clue in the lunisolar calendar
The Hebrew calendar is a lunisolar calendar where dates are determined by both the rotation of the moon and the earth around the sun. Here’s how it works; each new moon starts a new month. Nightfall on August 21, 2017 in Israel marks the start of Elul, a month to draw closer to the Almighty. Interestingly, to further enrich this ancient season, Elul is an acronym. Its four Hebrew letters stand for the phrase I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine (Song of Solomon 6:3).
Said differently, Elul is the first “ILU” (I love you) text-message. Who said the Bible isn’t ahead of its time? In sum, the eclipse coincides with Elul. Both events can draw us nearer to the Almighty. Our prayers for ourselves, our church and our nation can petition the Almighty to awaken our desire to dwell in His shelter, in the shadow of His wings.
Individual prayer: Accept the love note.
A solar eclipse is fully explained by technical, astronomic science. When placed alongside Psalm 91 and Song of Solomon 6:3 the science enriches the metaphor of the Almighty’s love. Here’s the science:
A solar eclipse involves the moon. An eclipse occurs only during new moon when the moon is positioned directly between Earth and Sun. For example, the moon did not eclipse the sun to cause the darkness of Good Friday. We know this because Good Friday occurred on Passover, which always takes place on full moon.
To totally eclipse the sun, the moon’s elliptical orbit must be close to Earth. When distant from Earth, the eclipsing moon appears in the center of the sun and is ringed in fire. Also called an annular eclipse, it appears as fire instead of darkness and shadow without stars.
The eclipse allows us to meditate on the Almighty’s ILU. Here’s a sample of eclipse-inspired poetry to amplify the Almighty’s love for us.
You are the object of my love. We are not star-crossed or moon-crossed lovers. I desire you close to me, so that nothing comes between us. I want to hold you so close that you reflect my image, even in the darkness. My love for you will quench my fiery anger. For you I will light the night sky with stars and cause the sun to rise even from the western sky. You are my beloved.
Do you love me? PMLK (Please let me know).
We can each reply by prayer at any time. It’s always good to have a calendar reminder.
Church prayer: Be the light.
The eclipse traverses North America from west to east. The magi saw a celestial sign in the west and they followed it. So where is that star today? The Bible describes the church as a light set on a lamppost. A lamp is especially needed when our usual light-source is eclipsed.
Pray that the church draws close to Christ her beloved. May she be His beacon.
National prayer: Anticipate the second sunrise.
The Hebrew calendar defines nightfall as the emergence of three stars. A total solar eclipse can create darkness sufficient to see the stars. Therefore an eclipse can create nightfall. As the eclipse passes and the stars again disappear from view, America might experience a second sunrise!
What will happen when America prays with the bold faith of Moses, Joshua and Peter? Personally I believe these prayers can accomplish Malachi 4:2a.
“But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings;” – Malachi 4:2a
Some of our prayers can be specific to states along the eclipse. These can include:
Oregon. We recognize the sanctity of human life. We pray that the assisted euthanasia enabled by Oregon’s Die with Dignity Act not end a single human life before the Almighty’s appointed time.
Idaho. We pray specifically for the prosperity of Native Americans and their land. We pray for reconciliation and healing.
Wyoming. We thank Ye Almighty for the awe-inspiring beauty of creation and the immense privilege to be its caretakers. Bless the leaders who empower us to be creation’s stewards.
Nebraska and Missouri. We are powerless against those who harm our land. They change the life-code of our crops and poison the earth with chemicals. Our earth and health suffer as we await Your healing.
Tennessee. We thank You for the gift of song and for today’s musicians who inspire us in worship. Increase their number.
South Carolina. We pray for reconciliation of race relationships. We pray that wounds caused by flying by the Confederate Flag be healed. May wounded hearts experience Your Love Flag (Song of Solomon 2:4).
Christians have extra reason to anticipate the total solar eclipse across America. We should mark our calendars for August 21, 2017, especially since it’s already on the Almighty’s day timer. If we pray during the eclipse, in faith the “rising” sun will reveal answered prayers.
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