‘For you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.’ Malachi 4.2
Why did the ancient pagans worship the sun? Was it because it was by far the largest thing in the sky? Or, because they understood it as the source of all light, heat, power and life? As we move into July and August we should (hopefully) begin to feel its warmth and allow its effects to lift our spirits and make us feel better. The sun may even make us think of God.
In the Bible, believers were constantly warned that the sun could become an idol (Deut. 4.19; 17.2-5; Jer. 8.2; Ezek. 8.16). Unlike God, the sun is not eternal – in Genesis 1 it is not created until Day #4 (!) and Revelation tells us that one day it will no longer be needed because ‘the Lord God will be their light’ (Rev. 22.5). Unlike God, the sun is not in control – it can be made to stand still (Joshua 10.12-14). The sun is to be regarded as a gift from a loving Creator, not an idol.
The sun, however, can provide us with profound ways of thinking about God. It can illustrate some of the amazing attributes of God in a way that nothing else can. It can help us reflect on God’s glory, his otherness (holiness), transcendence and immanence. It reminds us of his all-seeing, all-illuminating character which brings heat and revelation to the entire world (Psalm 19.4-6). When the apostles want us to see the splendour of Christ, sunshine is the only metaphor they need: ‘He was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light’ (Matt. 17.2).
The sun is the gravitational centre-piece of the solar system, pulling everything else into its orbit. Although it is created, its existence points to the independence of God, since it produces light itself, unlike the moon which can only reflect light. It is at the centre of how we measure time (the hours of the day) and space (the points of the compass). Apart from human beings it is hard to think of anything in creation that highlights as many of God’s characteristics as the sun.
Perhaps this is why Christ is described as the sun of righteousness. Malachi 4.2 (above) prophesises that the Lord himself will come to judge all wickedness and usher in the joy of God’s kingdom. The return of the King will make the whole world feel as though it is being healed by beams of celestial light. We will want to dance with joy because the long-awaited Day of sunshine has come. As we enjoy the summer sunshine this year, may it remind us to ‘hail the sun of righteousness – light and life to all he brings; risen with healing in his wings.’
Sincerely in Christ