Creation Eclipsed

Haftarah Reading: Ki Tavo (Isaiah 60:1-22)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 17:1-2
Commentary by: Daniel Clayton

Arise, shine [Yerushalayim],
for your light has come,
the glory of Adonai
has risen over you.
For although darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness the peoples;
on you Adonai will rise;
over you will be seen his glory.
Nations will go toward your light
and kings towards your shining splendor. 
(Isaiah 60: 1-3)

Isaiah chapter 60 is one of the handful of positive, uplifting chapters that we find scattered throughout the book. Israel has had much gloom and doom spoken over their past, present, and future years, but here we find hope and light!

I’m sure many of you reading this looked up to the sky on August 21 for the solar eclipse. Here in Franklin, North Carolina, we were right in the path of the totality, and I must say, that eclipse was one of the most spectacular things I’ve seen in my life. I’m not sure how well what I’m about to write will connect to the haftarah or B’rit Hadashah portion, but I hope you can feel the connection I’m trying to make.

At 1:06 PM, my community and I went out with our pitch-black glasses to see the first contact of the moon crossing the sun. I will say that if someone showed me a picture of what I saw for most of that part of the eclipse, I’d be entirely unimpressed. I would think, “Oh boy, a black circle on top of an orange circle, big whoop.” But knowing that this was not just two spheres, but two giant celestial bodies interacting with each other in the exact way to overlap perfectly, I stood there in awe even in the first stages.

As the eclipse neared 50% or so, there was starting to be some significant changes. It grew dimmer overall, the temperature cooled, the unclouded sunlight on my skin was far less harsh than normal. At around 80%, I began to be overwhelmed with everything there was to take in. It looked like dusk, it was eerily quiet outside, the bugs chirped as if it were nighttime. Then it was 85%. Then 90%. 95%. The anticipation and adrenaline were building rapidly. 100%.  We now took our glasses off and stared directly at the sun and moon together. The moon blocked out the harshness of the sun and we saw the corona reaching out like a silvery flower. We looked around and saw a beautiful “sunset” along with a few stars in the sky. As the first rays of sunshine snuck back around the moon, we saw our last glimpse of the diamond in the sky, and things slowly returned to normal. We, as the witnesses, however, did not return to normal. Complete awe.

As the eclipse happened and in the following hours that I pondered, I gained a new appreciation for Yeshua. The Almighty is so magnificent and bright that we could never look at Him in even 5% of His fullness and remain alive, or not blinded, in this case. But Yeshua in His goodness paid the ultimate price, standing between us and our Father as the perfect Mediator so that we can see at least a part of the beauty of God. Of course these are things that we know, but to stand outside and see a physical representation of this in that big of a scale in the very heavens that God created was nothing less than surreal. To paraphrase Psalm 19, the heavens truly do proclaim the glory of God.

We read further in Isaiah:

No more will the sun be your light by day,
nor will moonlight shine on you;
instead Adonai will be your light forever
and your God your glory.
No longer will your sun go down;
your moon will no longer wane;
for Adonai will be your light forever;
your days of mourning will end.
(Isaiah 60: 19-20)

Six days later, Yeshua took Kefa, Ya’akov and his brother Yochanan and led them up a high mountain privately. As they watched, he began to change form – his face shone like the sun, and his clothing became as white as light. (Matthew 17:1-2)

One thing my wife said at the end of this eclipse was, “If this is only a small taste of the glory of God, then we’re in for a serious treat.” As beautiful as it was, I have no hesitation to say that it was nothing in comparison to what those few disciples saw as they walked up that mountain. The things we see around us in creation are not for us to marvel at in and of themselves, but to direct our attention to the One that created it all. The sun is what gives us our light now, but someday, the glory of our King will be the only source needed for light! I don’t know about you, but that excites me! Come quickly and in our day, Yeshua Messiah.

Photo credit: Sue Corbisez