“I may not see any more eclipses”

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“I may not see any more eclipses”

A transforming response to today’s totality

April 8, 2024 -

A total solar eclipse is observed above the mountainous Siberian Altai region, about 3,000 kilometers (1,850 miles) east of Moscow, on Friday, Aug. 1, 2008. (AP Photo/Oleg Romanov, File)

A total solar eclipse is observed above the mountainous Siberian Altai region, about 3,000 kilometers (1,850 miles) east of Moscow, on Friday, Aug. 1, 2008. (AP Photo/Oleg Romanov, File)

A total solar eclipse is observed above the mountainous Siberian Altai region, about 3,000 kilometers (1,850 miles) east of Moscow, on Friday, Aug. 1, 2008. (AP Photo/Oleg Romanov, File)

When an event won’t happen again where I live until 2317, of course I’m writing on it today. Total solar eclipses occur every eighteen months, but at any given location, it can be centuries between appearances.

When the “totality” occurs this afternoon in Texas, the moon will completely cover the sun for about four minutes, the temperature will noticeably drop, and birds and other wildlife will become quiet, changing to their nighttime behavior. They’re not alone in responding to today’s unusual event:

  • Umbraphiles (“shadow lovers” in Latin) have booked hotels in my area and across the path of totality for months if not years.
  • Those traveling to see the eclipse will bring a financial boost of as much as $6 billion to communities across a dozen states.
  • Some will travel up to thirty hours in the air to see the eclipse from the sky.
  • Four NASA pilots will remain in the path of totality for seven minutes to observe the eclipse at an altitude of fifty thousand feet, one of numerous ways scientists will be studying the event.
  • Product releases tied to the eclipse include donuts, cookies, juices, chips, pizza, chicken, and other restaurant offerings.

A 105-year-old man who has witnessed twelve solar eclipses is ready to watch his thirteenth today. He is aware that this might be his last: “They don’t come but one or two, every couple of years. . . . I may not see any more eclipses.”

The same is true for you and me.

“God is the most ancient of things”

Today’s eclipse reminds us of both our Maker’s omnipotence and our finitude. He created the sun and the moon (Psalm 148:3, 5); we did not. He rules the universe (Isaiah 40:22); we do not. From the earthquake that rattled New York City last week, to the nor’easter that cut off power to hundreds of thousands, to the critical fire threat in the Central US, to the avalanche that killed three people in Switzerland and the falling tree that took the life of a woman in a storm, we are reminded daily of human frailty.

We can’t even look at today’s eclipse without the right protection for our eyes.

However, one of the hallmarks of our fallenness is our steadfast attempt to deny our fallenness. When the philosopher Thales predicted a solar eclipse using empirical rather than religious reasoning six centuries before Christ, he became known to history as the “first scientist.” While Thales also called the universe “the work of God” and claimed that “God is the most ancient of things, for he had no birth,” many who followed in his scientific footsteps have sided with the French mathematician Laplace who is reputed to have said of God, “I have no need of that hypothesis.”

Let us not fall victim to the same self-reliant temptation.

When humans die, they obviously cannot produce life beyond the grave for themselves. Death is the final, irrefutable proof of the fact that we can do nothing in our own capacity to survive death. The psalmist asked the question facing us all: “What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?” (Psalm 89:48).

There is only one Answer to his question.

“They heard him and saw the signs that he did”

Here’s the problem: The same temptation to self-reliance that keeps secularists from depending on God can keep Christians from depending on his Spirit. When we fall to this satanic deception (Genesis 3:5), our fallen culture pays the price.

Why is Christianity declining in popularity and influence in the West at the same time it is growing dramatically in the Muslim world, Iran, Cuba, the underground church in China, and other places where it is persecuted so fiercely? Self-dependence amid prosperity robs us of the Spirit’s power, and without his power, we cannot convict a single sinner of a single sin or save a single soul. However, Spirit-dependence amid opposition empowers Christians to be used in transformative ways to change hearts and win multitudes to Jesus.

We read in Acts 8 that “the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did” (v. 6). It was not just his words but his Spirit-empowered deeds that persuaded them.

The great need of our day is for more Philips. For this reason, let us note today:

Self-reliance is spiritual and cultural suicide.

In response, let us use today’s solar eclipse as an invitation to worship the One who made the sun and the moon and measures the universe with the palm of his hand (Isaiah 40:12). And let us begin today and every day by asking his Spirit to empower and use us to advance his kingdom through our influence (Ephesians 5:18).

When we do, the Son of God will eclipse the Moon of our fallenness and bring us from the shadow of sin into the sunlight of grace.

“It made me feel the majesty of the universe”

Leticia Ferrer has been chasing solar eclipses around the world for several decades. She’s seen twenty in total and every one since 1998. But she’ll never forget her first one in 1991: “It made me feel the majesty of the universe,” she said.

Her experiences have shown her the immensity of the universe but also her personal finitude. She says of her eclipse viewing: “I’m the most blessed person in the world, but yet I’m a minuscule little ant.”

When we understand the latter, we can embrace the former, to the glory of God.

Monday news to know:

Quote for the day:

“Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.” —Corrie ten Boom

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