Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and orders the moon and stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar--the LORD of Hosts is His name:
I. THEY ARE SIGNS WITH MUCH REVELATION OF GOD IN THEM. The sun, the moon, the stars, the heavenly spaces with all their occupants, the terrestrial surface with the fathomless depths beneath it. We shall never know all that is to he known about these existences; but we may soon know enough to know through them something of their Maker. That they are the common work of one hand, the common expression of one wisdom and love, soon Becomes plain. The unity of all we see is a truth becoming clearer in the light of scientific investigation. God drove Israel from the land they had polluted and forfeited by their idolatries; but their share in the common possessions of mankind remained. It is plain that man gets good from all these signs here mentioned, and the largeness of the good depends on the righteousness and understanding shown in the use.
II. THEY ARE SIGNS WITHIN THE COMPREHENSION OF ALL. Even a child can be made to understand the unfailing regularity that belongs to them. They are signs all over the world. It is not a sign drawn from Jerusalem or from anything comparatively stable in the Israelites' peculiar experience. Sun and moon and stars know nothing of national distinctions. Each nation doubtless can claim its territory to the very centre of the globe, but beyond a certain depth, that globe is defiant of them all. One man may know more than another of the constitution of these signs, by reason of peculiar opportunities, but all can know enough for the purpose here required.
III. THEY ARE SIGNS DRAWN FROM GOD'S INDEPENDENT OPERATION. Not from operations which as a general rule depend on our cooperation. God's operations in sun, moon, and stars are independent of us - unaffected by our disobedience, our negligence, unsteadiness; uplifted far above our interference. Indeed, what can show more clearly how God's operations on the earth's surface are interfered with by human ignorance and indolence than the contrast with heaven's regularity?
IV. THE THING SIGNIFIED WILL OUTLAST THE SIGNS. The thing signified is the everlasting duration of the seed of Israel. That seed will remain when the signs themselves, having done their work, are vanished. The things that are seen are temporal. As our body is but the earthly house of this tabernacle, so the visible universe itself is but as the tabernacle wherein God dwells with us. But all these visible things will come to their end when they have done their work, not through failure of Divine power. They will disappear into a more glorious transformation, and serve some puttee to God's true Israel, the very outlines of which we cannot yet comprehend. - Y.
Thus saith the Lord, which giveth.., the stars for a light by night.John 16:32): — "Two things," said Kant, "fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe the oftener and the more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above, and the moral law within." Certainly there are few sights more impressive than the starry heavens. But the stars, in addition to the influence they produce upon the mind of the beholder by their number and magnitude and beauty, serve a practical and a useful purpose in the system to which they belong. They help to guide the mariner to steer his course, and the traveller to discern his way. The darkness is never overwhelming so long as the stars are visible. The sailor who has come within sight of the lights which skirt the coast knows that he is not far from hospitable shores. So the stars convey to us the intimation and the assurance that we are not far from home. Between the dark side of nature and the dark side of human life is there not a striking analogy? Are not our lives a succession of days and nights? Do we not spend our existence partly in the sunshine and partly in the gloom? That He who has done so much for the dark side of nature, kindling those "soft fires" which enlighten the prevalent gloom and shed their benign influences upon the world beneath, should have done nothing to brighten the dark side of human life so as to preclude despair is a suggestion against which all our spiritual instincts rise in quick and emphatic revolt. But our Creator has not, we repeat, left us in unrelieved darkness. So the dark side of human life is never utterly dark, for there are stars shining somewhere in the darkness. It was into the deepening gloom that Christ passed as He drew nearer Calvary. And yet, midnight as it then was with Jesus, there were stars shining overhead. What were the sources of illumination and strength of which Christ availed Himself?
1. The power of communion with God "I am alone, and yet not alone, for the Father is with Me." The Father was with the Son in approval of His work and in an identity of purpose. A consciousness of a deep underlying agreement with the Supreme will was a source of never-failing strength to Christ in the sacred task which He had undertaken. And never was Christ more conscious of the Father's smile than when the world was most emphatically hostile. And so, no matter how dark it is if only we can maintain our communion with God — if only we have continued to us the Divine fellowship. Should the world forsake us, we shall be able to stand alone if the Father is with us.
2. The power of persevering prayer was another source of light and strength to Christ. The stars are always visible from the high vantage-ground of prayer. The heavens are never wholly dark to him who can repeat the hallowed name. And this was partly the secret of the strength which animated Christ as He passed through the thick darkness, that "He ofttimes resorted thither." He had accustomed Himself to pray. "I have meat to eat," He said, "that ye know not of." It is well to learn to pray if it is only that we may learn how to stand alone. The time will come when the things upon which we have leaned will no longer afford us any support; when our health will fail us; when the ties which bind us to friends and loved ones will be severed. But he who has learned to pray has found a companionship in solitude which shall avail him in all the lonely crises of his life. It is not that, having found God, we can afford to part with everything else. But it is that, having found Him, we have found the true basis and guarantee of life. The darkness that overtakes us, be it what it may, is only temporary and precedent to the dawn. We have found the pathway of the stars.
3. The power of faith's great anticipation was another source of light and strength to our Saviour. He anticipated the Cross? Yes. But He anticipated the Crown also. To the eye of sight the Cross was a repulsive object; to the eye of faith it was the tree of life in the midst of the garden. He said to Himself, "The Cross will not be the end, but the beginning of My influence and power for good in this world, and through the sacrifice which I am about to make I shall transform the very gates of death into the gates of life!" These, then, were the great hopes, the high anticipations, shining like stars in the midnight sky, which sustained Christ in the darkness in which He found Himself. Have faith in God, and that faith, like a great pilot-star, shall light you over the roughest sea and in the darkest night.
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