The Star Still Shines!


Balaam's prophesy recorded in Numbers 24:17 states, "There shall come a star out of Jacob". Over the centuries the Jews continue to live in that hope as they wait for the Messiah. The month of December is the traditional time for many people as they look to the star and the story it represents. Over the centuries astronomers have looked to ancient manuscripts and the heavens to gather an understanding of the star that led astrologers to Bethlehem two thousand years ago. Theologians should focus on the nature and character of God for their understanding. The Creator, the God of Israel who is like no other, is a living and 'person' God. In His love and sovereignty His sign for the "least of these", the shepherds, is angelic beings. The chosen, the elect, receive a glimpse of how 'personal' the universe really is. It were angels that led "wise shepherds" (because they obeyed) to Bethlehem. They were stimulated by a divinely initiated curiosity. In contrast, human wisdom's representatives followed a less personal revelation in coming to Bethlehem. Ultimately, all human quests for wisdom bow at the manger of Him who is the Wisdom (Sophia) of God. His name is Jesus.

The first book of Moses in chapter one (14-19) tells us that the stars were created on the fourth day. This past week NASA released a statement that new discoveries suggest that the number of stars is infinitely greater than previously thought. Their number appears to be even much greater than our national debt; there is a "rising star" story of a different kind!

God's Covenant of Grace recorded in Gen 3:15 reemerges in God's promise to Abraham in Gen 15. As God invites Abraham to count the stars, Abraham is reminded that his descendants shall be of similar multitude. It makes us wonder, was it a "cloudy evening" when God invited Abraham to look up? Or was it, as I suspect, a crystal clear night that showed an inkling of what recent NASA photos speak off?

The cosmic entity captured in the "star of Bethlehem" is long gone. It was "rising in the East" and perhaps returned to its place among the myriad of stars and heavenly bodies. Yet in another sense, the Star still shines.

The star that came out of Jacob is, for Christians, the person of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God. He is the fulfillment of prophesy, the One in whom the fullness of God Himself resides. Such a star must radiate quite a "shine".

However, the star of Jacob invites us in the first place not to look at the heavenlies but at the earth. Then, in Google style fashion, zero in on our land, our communities, our homes, and ultimately our own souls. At each click of the mouse we are invited to ask the question, "Is the star still shining?" Do we each experience the effects of that divine cosmic light?

Yes, the star still shines! Yet what it reveals and illuminates does not always provide reason for joy or peace. This past week a judge in Oklahoma has blocked an attempt by the state to uphold a ban on Sharia law. The appeal came from Muslims who want Koranic law to be included in accounting for and justifying their actions. The whole Western world, including our own nation, has largely lost the awareness that our "rights and freedoms", as well as responsibilities, have their origin in the wisdom of the star of Jacob! Our collective defiant stance comes at great peril to the freedoms that we (still) enjoy. Yes, the Star still shines, and what it reveals is sobering.

In our communities the star of Jacob reveals the often brutal truth and reality that "we reap what we sow". Turmoil is birthed in darkness; it is the culture and the atmosphere of hell. Yes, the star still shines and calls us to repentance as we are faced with the consequences of our ideas whose origin is in human wisdom.

The star still shines over His Church. Those who see observe the need for change. The "Light" came into the world so that the Church could go out into the world--a dark place to be sure--but where else is light most effective? Even as wise men and wise shepherds were brought to a common site and sight, both departed to their respective worlds. The Church had forgotten why it "gathers". We gather in the "light/shine of His glory" in order to depart. To let His star shine through us and illumine the dark night that is, paradoxically, evident in the noon day sun!

The star of Bethlehem is gone. The star of Jacob lives. It shines for those who walk with the Messiah in the shine of His glory. They walk in love. They celebrate that the light of that star reveals in their own life the reminder of and necessity for Grace.

The star still shines! Look around: there is work to do! Paul reminded the Thessalonians to "gather together". Like a cordless flashlight battery pack, we gather to be recharged in order to go forth and let His star shine through us. Is there sufficient light in you and me to direct people to Bethlehem?


PJ....a stumbling pilgrim on a breathtaking journey following the shining star!


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