Arise, shine, but how?

full moonAs an old camp song says, “Arise, shine, give God the glory, glory.” But let’s be honest. We have no light in ourselves. There is nothing inherent in the human race that allows any of us to shine.

Of course, that song is based on a scripture. “Arise. Shine. For your light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).  If my light has come, if God’s glory shines on me, I can reflect it.

The moon is likewise a lifeless rock. It has no light in itself. Moonlight is nothing but a reflection of sunlight. If none of us can shine with any kind of inner light, we can shine like the moon.

  • No one can see moonlight until the moon rises. Isaiah commands, “Arise” before he commands, “Shine.”
  • We can occasionally see the moon when the sun is up, but not when it has risen very high. Just as the moon cannot outshine the sun, so we can never outshine Christ. Whatever glory we reflect is, after all, his glory.
  • The moon shines in phases. Sometimes we see it in its fullness. Sometimes we see only a sliver of light. We might not be as regular and predictable as the moon, but we can’t always assume that we are a full moon reflecting God’s glory.

Phases of the moon

reflected glory, phases of the moon

Phases of the moon

The moon revolves around the earth while the earth revolves around the sun. The sun shines incessantly. We don’t always see the sun, because as the earth rotates, half of it is in the shadow of the other side at any given moment. It would be the same if we were on the moon.

The dark side of the moon faces away from the sun and therefore cannot reflect its light. Meanwhile, as it rotates, the same side of the sun always faces the earth.

With a full moon, the earth-facing side is completely in sunshine. With a new moon, only the side of the moon that faces away from the earth is in sunshine. It still perfectly reflects the glory of the sun, but no one on earth can see it.

Between these two extremes of shining or not shining on the earth, the side that faces the earth is partly in the sunlight and partly in darkness. Whether we see a full moon or the thinnest possible crescent moon has to do with our viewpoint.  It has nothing to do when whether the sun is shining or whether the moon is reflecting sunlight.

What we can see of the sun and moon—their apparent rising and setting and the phases of the moon—can be predicted with mathematical certainty. Indeed, the prediction of sunrise, sunset, and the new moon was one of humanity’s earliest scientific achievements.

Some random spiritual musings

reflected glory, crescent moonNo one has yet predicted any regularity in human ability to reflect the glory of God. Except someone turn his face toward Jesus, he cannot discern that glory in the first place. He will be walking in darkness.

As the moon always turns its face to the earth, we also always turn our face to the world. The earth is God’s creation. The world is not. The world, in New Testament terms, is the system of thought and action that Satan devised to war against God.

And so why should I turn my face to the world? If I want to reflect the glory of God, which comes from Jesus’ face, shouldn’t I look to Jesus in order to see and experience that glory?

On the other hand, if the moon always perfectly reflects sunlight and it’s only my earthly perspective that determines how much light I see, what right do I have to judge someone else’s “moonlight”?

That is, if I think I discern some dead darkness, how do I know that the person has not turned his face to the sun and away from me? Is there any way I can tell a dead rock from a new moon?

My ability to see the glory of God reflected in someone else depends on my viewpoint. I can determine only whether I am a dead rock or whether God’s glory shines on me.  The other person’s standing with God is none of my business.

Just as I cannot rightly judge anyone else’s walk with God, neither can anyone else judge mine. My duty is to keep my face towards God and perfectly reflect the Son-light. If someone else’s viewpoint only allows him to see darkness, he will see only more darkness if I turn away from Christ!

I write that last point with some hesitation. Surely the Holy Spirit comes along side to help me keep my face to Christ. Just as surely, he often works through other people. I have no business automatically assuming that I am shining like the moon. The carping of a critic and the exposing of my darkness in the light of another believer will likely feel the same at first.  I have no business rejecting people the Holy Spirit sends to shine their own light into the dark corners of my life.

It’s just that it’s hard to express that thought within the imagery of moonlight. And so I hope you have been blessed by whatever light this post has provided. In any case, however, God’s word to you is the same: “Arise. Shine. For your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”

Photo credits:
Full moon. Some rights reserved by halfrain.
Moon phases. Some rights reserved by Spirit-Fire.
Crescent moon. Public domain, from Wikimedia Commons.

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