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Faithful witness: The moon and the lordship of Christ
September 13, 2004
By Russell D. Moore, Senior V.P.for Academic Administration; Dean, School of Theology, Southern Seminary

What did a young Jesus of Nazareth see when he gazed at the moon in the Galilean skies above Him?

After all, Jesus was a toddler once. Did He share the wonder children everywhere seem to have for the glowing ball above? Did Joseph make up nursery rhymes and stories about the “man in the moon”? Did a teenage Jesus think about the expanse above Him when He prayed to the Father, walking along the rocky soil of the Palestinian countryside?

Contemporary Westerners tend to think of the moon in starkly scientific and utilitarian terms. We understand that the moon reflects the light of the sun, that its pull on our planet sets the ocean tides in motion. We see it as a Cold War challenge conquered by President Kennedy, a frontier pioneered by Neil Armstrong. And yet, Scripture clouds the moon in far more mystery.

In fact, the Bible doesn’t simply speak of the moon as just one more aspect of the creation order. It speaks of the moon specifically as a witness to Christ.

Jesus’ ancestor David reflects on the creational power of God in the formation of the moon and stars (Ps 8:3). Its magnitude prompted the Israelite king to consider not only the smallness of humanity beside the vastness of God’s sovereignty, but also the promised reign of the coming son of man, the son of David (Ps 8:4-8). This moon was an ancient witness to God’s faithfulness to His messianic promise to seat one of David’s offspring on the Israelite throne forever (Pss 89:36-37; 72:5-8). The rhythms of this moon in ordering times and seasons reflect the Logos that set it in motion (Gen 1:16-18; Ps 104:19; John 1:3). In truth, this moon pointed to the young man from Nazareth himself — by whom and for whom it was created (Col 1:16).

And yet, this same moon had for centuries served as an object of idolatry for rebellious humanity. The patriarch Abraham followed Yahweh from Ur, a region renowned for the worship of the moon gods. The Israelites were warned against joining their Canaanite neighbors in the worship of the moon (Deut 4:19; 17:3; 2 Kgs 23:5). The righteous Job notes the human temptation to forsake the Creator Yahweh for the worship of “the moon moving in splendor” across the sky (Job 31:26-27 ESV). Even now, the Islamic nations’ counterpoint to the cross is a crescent moon. And New Age paganism — especially in its trendy feminist forms — centers its liturgy on the lunar cycle, on “drawing down the moon.”

But how can the same night sky evoke both worship and paganism, both awe and superstition? The dilemma is magnified when one considers that the moon is only one example of a tension found throughout Scripture — nature is the revelation of God (Rom 1:19-20), and this revelation is always subverted by fallen humanity (Rom 1:18, 21-32).

But what we must remember is that the moon — along with the rest of the creation order — is not simply a “general revelation” of God the Creator. It is placed in the sky the Scriptures tell us as a sign, a sign we cannot fully understand apart from the mystery of God unveiled in Christ.

When Jesus saw the moon reflecting in the black waters of the Sea of Galilee, He didn’t simply see the handiwork of God — although He certainly saw that. He also saw an ancient promise to a long-dead king of Israel that one day a Messiah would be seated on His throne. He saw what the God of Israel called a “faithful witness” to the preeminence of Christ (Ps 89:37).

One cannot help but wonder not just what the young Jesus would have seen from the Nazarene countryside, but also what Jesus would have seen in the pre-dawn sky above him that Sunday morning when He emerged, heart beating, from a Middle Eastern tomb. Could He have seen the moon? And, if so, could He have helped but smile at the covenant faithfulness of a promise-keeping God?

We’ve lost some of the awe and mystery of the moon as we attempt to outshine it with our electrified cityscapes. We still point out to our youngsters, but we too often speak of it as scientific rationalists or patriotic NASA enthusiasts. The next time you see the moon, let’s remember that its most insistent message is not “One giant leap for mankind” but something far older and more exciting than that — “Jesus is Lord.”


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