“And God made two great lights…the lesser light to rule the night.”—Genesis 1:16
“And God said,…and let them be for signs.”—Genesis 1:14
How marvelous in its beauty is the night!
How full of speech and utterance of knowledge to him who in God’s light sees the light.
How comforting and instructing for the pilgrim child of God, passing through a night of sin, suffering, and death to the eternal morning in God’s everlasting tabernacle.
I do not mean the dark, wild, and dreadful night, when the furious tempest rages and the wild wind howls and the storm-swept waves roar and the fiercely driven clouds, like panic-stricken demons, chase one another through the dark sky; when the floods rush and the sea groans mournfully and the woods moan and all creation wails.
In such a night I fear. It is the night of terror.
It fills the heart with dreadful apprehension of approaching judgment; it speaks of creation’s bondage in corruption, of evil and pain, of suffering and grief, of the creature as it tore itself loose from the heart of its creator and is now restlessly driven about, seeking peace and finding none, terror-stricken and chased as by an overpowering fear; of wrath revealed from heaven and impending destruction.
I mean the still and deep night.
The night of profound peace, when all creation slumbers… When just a mere breath of a breeze floats through the still woods…When only a slightly dimpling ripple runs playfully over the surface of the lake…When high in the deep heavens glides the moon, flooding the landscape with its kindly pale light, daubing the woods with a thousand splotches of twinkling silver, and splashing a sparkling path across the rippled lake…When all is at rest, and the creature just waits for the morning.
How beautiful then is the night!
The queen of the night mingles silent speech with the silvery beams she pours forth into the darkness.
For God said, “Let them be for signs.”
Not only to rule the day is the sun set in the heavens, and not only as queen of the night rides the moon along her path in the firmament, and not simply to serve as lights in the darkness do the stars sparkle like angels’ jewelry in the darkened sky.
But God said that they should also be for signs.
As signs they speak. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard” (Ps. 19:1–3).
They testify in their own realm of earthly and temporal things and of heavenly and eternal things. For the Lord God, whose counsel will stand and who accomplishes all his good pleasure, who knows and declares all things from the beginning, wrote as with his finger in all this symbol-language of creation not only of the glory of his name, the power of his might, and the unsearchable riches of his wisdom, but also of the wonder of his counsel, the glory of his kingdom, and the beauty of his covenant.
Because of this the earthly is the image of the heavenly; in the temporal there is a picture of the eternal; the natural is a symbol of the spiritual.
True, a silent speech they utter. Their language will never be truly understood by the natural man, whose sphere is the earthly not the heavenly, who loves darkness rather than light, who despises God’s word and never understands that also this light, shining from all the works of God’s hands, is to be seen only in God’s light.
But speech of God it is nevertheless, wonderful to him who has eyes to see and ears to hear.
For signs they are. The greater light by day and the lesser light by night. And every night the queen of the heavens pours her silvery speech into the silent darkness.
A sign in the darkness is the moon in the heavens.
Smiling kindly, she whispers, “Fear not, for the darkness of the night is only a passing shadow!”
For is not her mellow light a reflection of the glory of the sun? What does the moon do except catch some of the sun’s golden glory, change it into her own silver beauty, and pour it into the night? Does she not witness that even though the sun sank into oblivion below the western horizon, and although its glad rays do not for the moment brighten my path, yet its glory still exists and its brightness is not diminished?
When the sun does not shine on my earthly habitation and the darkness of night is spread over my dwelling, from the high heavens the queen of the night pours forth the testimony, “The golden ruler of the day still is and shines where I am!”
She thus witnesses that the night is only a shadow.
The night is not like that first horrible darkness, when the earth was still waste and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep. For then there was no light in all the awful void of chaos.
But the night is a mere shadow of turning, a shadow in the midst of a flood of light poured into the wide expanse of the universe.
A beautiful picture this is of the path of God’s children in the world. For pilgrims through the night are the children of God, the sojourners to Zion, the seekers of the city of God.
How dark seems the night through which they pass on their way to the light eternal! How dark often is the night of sin, when floods of guilt and iniquity roll over their souls and it seems as if they cannot be delivered from so great a death. What awful night of corruption there still is in the dark recesses of their hearts, whenever new and hitherto unknown darknesses and shadows of death and pollution arise from that hidden source. What night of pain, suffering, and agony of body and soul is the lot of God’s pilgrim children when it is with them as with Asaph of old, and their chastisements are there every morning. What darkness of sorrow and grief often overwhelms their souls! What night of reproach and shame, of cruel mockery and enmity they pass through when the enemy raves and furiously attacks for Christ’s sake, and persecution is their lot in the world.
The night of death yawns threateningly from the dark and dreary prison of the grave.
How dreadful would seem that night. Did the sun of light and life and joy disappear forever when it sank from view in paradise the first? Was its glory extinguished, never to appear again?
The moon in the heavens whispers into the silent night of nature that the sun is still there, though for the moment you see it not.
The earthly is image of the heavenly. The sun of life is still there, even though with sadness of heart you remember its setting in Eden’s garden.
Pilgrim, your night of sin and guilt and sorrow and grief, of reproach and shame and tribulation is only for a while.
A passing shadow!
Fear not, O pilgrim of the night, for your light shines. There is a silvery path across your night, reflected from the Sun of Righteousness. It shines still, although you see it not.
Be not afraid!
How beautiful is the moonlit night.
For a sign is the moon, harbinger of the coming morning.
Does not she witness that the sun, though disappeared and hidden from view in the present night, will rise again with new glory and brighter gold and presently break the morning of a new day through the darkness of the eastern sky?
Does not her presence reconcile me with and comfort me in the night, when she assures me of the coming dawn?
Speech from the night for you, pilgrim to Zion!
Oh, surely the night in nature is also the symbol of another night, where the light will shine nevermore and the sun will never rise, the night of everlasting sorrow and pain, darkness, and moaning, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. The fierce night, full of tempest and disturbance, full of moaning and groaning, the night when the sun is darkened and the moon appears as blood and the stars drop out of the seam of heaven—that night is a sign and a symbol of the everlasting night prepared for those who love the darkness rather than the light because their works are evil.
Fierce and full of terror can be the night of nature. Fiercer and more terrible will be that everlasting night of the wrath of God!
But such is not the night of Zion’s pilgrim.
His is the moonlit night. That night speaks of the coming morning, for the queen of the night witnesses of the approach of the bridegroom of the morning.
The sun of life, joy, and righteousness set in the garden of Eden. And darkness spread, darkness of sin and guilt, sorrow and grief, and pain and affliction.
For a time we wander through the darkness, longing for the light of day.
But the morning is approaching.
For the Sun of Righteousness is there. He once appeared. He was humiliated. He suffered. He died. He disappeared from view in the awful darkness of his cross. But he appeared again, glorious, full of life and grace; and again he left and disappeared from view. For a while we see him not. But he left us his sure word and promise, his light in the night. It assures us in the midst of night that presently the Sun of Righteousness will rise once more, in unknown glory and beauty, never to set again, to dissipate all the clouds and shadows of suffering and grief, of sin and corruption and death, and to lighten our day with the light of God in his eternal tabernacle.
Fear not, O pilgrim!
Yours is the beauty of the moonlit night.
The night of your affliction is only for a moment, a passing shadow. The morning comes, the day eternal, full of life, light, joy, and covenantal friendship.
For there shall be no night there.
Be of good cheer.
This blog post was taken from chapter 6 in the book All Glory to the Only Good God.