And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs…
The fourth day's work is "lights set in heaven": mighty work: more glorious far than the "light" upon the first day. Then the light was undefined. Now lights are come; one with warmth; one cold but shining: each defined; the one direct, the other reflex; but both to rule and mightily affect, not the earth only, but even the wide waters: giving another cheek, too, to darkness, not only taking from it day, but invading and conquering it by the moon and stars in its own domain of night. And so after that the seas of lust are bounded, and the fruits of righteousness begin to grow and bud, a sun, a mighty light is kindled in our heaven, — Christ dwells there, God's eternal word and wisdom, — no longer undefined, but with mighty warmth and power, making the whole creation to bud and spring heavenward: while as a handmaid, another light, of faith, grows bright within, — our inward moon, truth received on testimony, the Church's light; for as men say, Christ is the sun, the Church the moon, so is faith our moon within to rule the night. Of these two, the lesser light must have appeared the first; for each day grew and was measured "from the evening to the morning"; just as faith, with borrowed light, in every soul still precedes the direct beams of this light or Word within. Now both shine to pour down light. Oft would darkness fall, if our moon of faith rose not to rule the night. Yet fair as she is, she but reminds us of present night, making us sigh for the day star and the perfect day. These lights are "for signs and for seasons and for years," and "to rule over the day and over the night also." For "signs" — first, of what we are. We have thought this earth is fixed: but sun and moon show that we are but wanderers here. We have supposed ourselves the centre; that it is the sun that moves. The lights will teach us in due time that he is steadfast: it is we who journey on. Again, these lights are "for a sign" how we stand, and where we are; by our relative positions toward them showing us, if we will learn, our real situation. For the moon is new and feeble, when, between us and the sun, it trenches on his place, and sets at eventide. So is our faith: put in Christ's place, it must be weak: dark will be our night: we shall move on unillumined. Not so when in her place, not in His, but over against Him, our moon of faith rises at even, as our Sun withdraws Himself. Now she trenches not upon Him; therefore she is full of light, making the midnight almost as the noon-day. Signs they are, too, to the man, when at length he walks upon the earth, — the image of God, which after fruits and lights is formed in us, — to guide him through the wastes within the creature, as he seeks to know its lengths and breadths that he may subdue it all. The lights are "for seasons" also; to give healthful alternations of cold and heat, and light and darkness. Sharp winters with their frosts, chill and deadness in our affections, and the hours of darkness which recur to dim our understandings, are not unmixed evil. Ceaseless summer would wear us out: therefore the lights are "for seasons," measuring out warmth and light as we can profit by it. So faith wanes and waxes, and Christ is seen and hid, each change making the creature learn its own dependence; forcing it to feel, that, though blessed, it is a creature, all whose springs of life and joy are not its own. These lights, too, are "to rule over the day and over the night." To rule the creature, much more to rule such gifts as the day, wrought by God Himself in it, as yet has been unknown. Even to bound the natural darkness hitherto has seemed high attainment. Now we learn that the precious gifts, which God vouchsafes, need ruling; an earnest this of that which comes more fully on the sixth day. A sun "to rule the day" leads to the man "to have dominion," set to rule, not the day only, but every creature. It is no slight step, when God's aim, hitherto unknown, is learnt; that in His work this gift is for this, that for the other purpose; when it is felt that the best gifts may be misused and wasted; that they need governing, and may and must be ruled.
Parallel VersesKJV: And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: