Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Eclipse: A Warning or a Wonder?

Dear Friends,

The skies are clear blue and yet the sunlight dims as if unable to penetrate a dark cloud cover. Inside my house it’s becoming dark. I go outside and notice that it’s cooler than it was. Shadows sharpened by the low morning sun now become defused and distorted. I sit in a chair by my rose garden. I’d planned to go into the garage and get my welding helmet to look at the partial eclipse but I’m inexplicably resistant to do so. I’m captivated by the sudden quiet – a silence that is not at all normal for this time of the morning. Some Indian tribes believe that an eclipse is a sacred sign from God and is too holy to be viewed. That is how I’m feeling right now and decide to leave the welding helmet in the garage. I feel the need to pray. I just sit outside and pray and see and feel and sense and listen. I rest in God’s presence and see in my mind not the moon blocking the sun but see the hand of God stretched out over our Nation and casting a shadow on our land.

Those who are religious seem to fall into two camps when it comes to a spiritual interpretation of this eclipse. Some see it as a warning sign of God’s judgement on America and an apocalyptic warning of fire and brimstone raining down on our Nation. The daughter of Billy Graham, Anne Graham Lotz, warns that the eclipse viewing parties are likened to the Old Testament account of the drunken feast hosted by King Belshazzar as the fall of Babylon neared. She believes that God’s judgement should be expected in our Nation because of its “grievous national sins.” Others share that belief. But there are also those who saw the eclipse not as a harbinger of doom but as a powerful manifestation of God’s greatness and of His sovereignty over the heavens and the earth. So, what was it that we did see Monday morning? A divine sign of God’s warning to America? A surreal and sacred moment that allowed us a glimpse of the glory of God in all Creation? Or perhaps both?

“Teshuvah” is a forty day Jewish season of repentance and return to God that leads up to the Day of Atonement. This week’s solar eclipse in America occurred on the first day of Teshuvah (Monday, August 21st) and that is a sign from God. “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years’” Genesis 1:14 Our Nation today needs healing that can only take place if we are willing to enter into this journey of repentance and revival. That’s why our Jewish friends are reaching across the theological divide  and inviting Christians to join them in this forty day season of prayer for our Nation. As God promised the people of Israel, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 

Scripture tells of eclipses connected to revivals. When the Holy Spirit fell upon the followers of Jesus in the upper room, Peter quoted the prophet Joel as saying, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” Acts 2:20-21 And in America, we would be hard-pressed to chalk it up to mere “coincidence” that our Nation’s greatest Christian revivals have occurred during the years when a full eclipse has coincided with Teshuvah: the First and Second Great Awakenings in America, the Azusa Street Pentecostal Revival and the Charismatic Revival.

Up until Monday morning, the eclipse was only of passing interest to me until I read the significance of Teshuvah! I then looked on-line and saw the map. I saw the path of the eclipse cutting the Nation in half from the West Coast to the East Coast. Like a divine finger tracing out a line being etched in the soul of our Nation. A line in America between the North and the South. Symbolically separating Northern states from Southern states. I saw that as the alignment of the planets was causing a shadow to be cast across America, our politics and ideologies are causing a shadow of division to be cast across our Nation. We’ve been feeling physically sickened by reading the recent news reports and seeing photos of this demonic revival of racist hate in our Nation. With extreme ideologies threatening to divide our Nation and engage in a new Civil War, Monday’s eclipse brings to mind a passage from Luke: “And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.” Luke 21:25 NLT We cannot deny that our Nation is in great turmoil. 

The eclipse on Monday may have been nothing more than an interesting astronomical event or it may be indeed a sign from Heaven that American people need to stop dividing our Nation with hate. The eclipse may well have been a warning from God that, unless we want to see a line of hate permanently etched in the soul of our Nation, we need to fall upon our knees in repentance. It may have been an invitation for all of God’s people to unite in prayer for these next forty days. This is an opportunity for the church to come together united in prayer because a divided Nation can only be healed by a united church. Let’s pray that this eclipse will be a harbinger of the church’s coming finest hour. Let’s pray for revival. Amen?

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