Light in the Darkness: A Series for Advent Part Three – Starlight

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

I have never been a stargazer, at least not in the sense that some are. I have known people who will brave any kind of weather and stay up all night to watch for the appearance of some unique star.

But, while I admire their beauty and am amazed at their nearly incomprehensible qualities, stars have never been my hobby—to say nothing of my passion. Suffice it to say, I would need another lifetime, and greatly increased interest, to become any kind of an expert on the stars.

It is necessary, however, that we recognize the importance that the Bible places upon the stars. The description of their very creation demonstrated the vital role that they would play all throughout history (Gen. 1:14). Stars were at the center of the episode that once and forever demonstrated the significance of the covenant that God made with Abraham (Gen. 15:1-6). This same event bears a critical role in our understanding of the central Biblical concept of justification by faith (Rom. 4:1-25).

Stars represented the children of Israel in Joseph’s dream (Gen. 37:9-11), as well as in the Apostle John’s vision of Israel’s persecution in the future tribulation (Rev. 12:1). A false prophet named Balaam from Syria—who could not curse this nation that God had determined to bless (Num. 23:7-8)—said that a Star would one day mark the appearance of the greatest descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Num. 24:17).

That Coming One would also be the greatest descendant of the great King David—who became a stargazer as he watched his father’s sheep on the hillsides around Bethlehem (1 Sam. 16:11). Those dreamy nights led later to the writing of Psalm 8 (note verse 2), which the author of Hebrews would use to define the rule of that Messiah (Heb. 2:5-9), who came through the line of Abraham and David.

How amazing then—although not entirely unexpected—that shepherds working on those same hillsides outside of Bethlehem, more than 1,000 years after David’s time, would see a special star, with angels peering through its light. Luke describes it as “the glory of the Lord” (Luke 2:9). Several months later, a group of Eastern magi, or wise men, would see that same star, as it guided them all the way from Persia to Jerusalem, then specifically on to Bethlehem (Matt. 2:1-12).

What was the star that these wise men saw? It seems that they, like the shepherds, witnessed the Shekinah glory of God—a phenomenon that many others had seen on various occasions throughout the history of Israel, but which had not appeared to anyone since the dissolution of the theocracy and the captivity of Judah (Ezek. 9:3; 10:4, 18-19; 11:22-23).

This ineffable revelation of the glory of God now reappeared, because God’s own eternal Son had come into the world to dwell “among us” (John 1:14), bringing His light with Him (John 1:4-9). Indeed, it would seem impossible that there would not be a display at His coming such as the shepherds and magi received.

Still, starlight—even when it emanates from the very glory cloud of God—is not daylight. Even such starlight is viewed primarily through the darkness (Ex. 13:21-22). However, its presence is uniquely amazing, comforting and startling all at once.

We must remember that the point of the star was not to point those who saw it to the star at all. Rather, it was to point them to One who could bear the weight of glory that was revealed through that starlight.

We who have received the light of Christ know that night is once again here on the Earth (John 9:4: Rom. 13:12). In the future, believers will again see the starlight of God’s glory, which will once again be a sign to all the world (Dan. 7:13; Matt: 24:30; 25:31; 26:64; Rev. 1:7).

Even before that final coming of Christ, however, we who know Him “shall be caught up … in the clouds”—of Shekinah glory—“to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17). Our eyes will then be opened to focus within such blazing brilliance (Phil. 3:21) and “we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

But, for now, we wait in the dark, guided by the inspired record of that glorious starlight that led the shepherds and the magi more than 2,000 years ago. And that is enough—in fact, all that we can bear (Matt. 17:6; Rev. 1:17). And the knowledge of that starlight is still leading us directly to the worship of the King, the One “dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16).

May we bask in that starlight this Advent season.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Paul Scharf 2019 Bio


Paul J. Scharf (M.A., M.Div., Faith Baptist Theological Seminary) is a church ministries representative for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, serving in the midwest. He also assists Whitcomb Ministries and writes for “Answers” Magazine and Regular Baptist Press. For more information on his ministry, visit foi.org/scharf or email pscharf@foi.org.

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Darrell Post's picture

Thanks for part 3 Paul. The wise men may have begun their journey seeing something among the natural realm of stars, be it a conjugation of planets, or some other phenomenon. But I agree with you that when it came to directing them to the specific house in Bethlehem, this had to be something supernatural, as the light would have needed to be directly over the house so there was no mistaking where the Christ child lived. I wonder if there is a parallel to the pillar of fire over the OT tabernacle. 

One of the aspects of stargazing I find interesting is the limits of the human eye. God designed our eyes to work well for daylight activity, rather than for being good stargazers. Had the opening of our eyes been designed to be, say, 10 inches in diameter, with flexible enough focusing, we would be able to look up in the night sky and see all the things backyard telescopes enable us to see. But life during the daytime would be nearly unbearable as our eyes would take in too much light.

It is one of the common misconceptions people have about telescopes and stargazing--wrongly thinking it is the magnification power of scope that enables us to see deep into space, but it's instead the diameter of mirror that receives the light enabling the faint objects to be seen. There is a sermon illustration in there somewhere, just not sure what it is. 

But all the beauty of the star clusters, nebulae and galaxies had only been seen by their Creator up until the modern invention of the telescope. Now we can get a glimpse of some of this, and its worth seeing. 

Ps. 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.

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