Hanging On For the Ride
This past Sunday we sang one of my favorite hymns: Jesus Shall Reign Where'er the Sun. Isaac Watts wrote this hymn as a paraphrase of Psalm 72 with specific application to Jesus as the true King of Israel.
Years ago, I heard an atheist mocking this great hymn. He also mocked Psalm 19. Why? Because they picture the sun as "running." Psalm 19 speaks of the sun as an athlete running a race (v. 5), making its track the edge of the heavens (v. 6). That's quite a racetrack. This, the man said, is the view of a borderline Neanderthal–a geocentric view of the universe. The sun doesn't run. This would mean that the sun is orbiting the earth. And, of course, we modern folk know that's wrong. It's the earth that is running, not the sun. Right? In the words of Lee Corso, "not so fast, my friend." We need to consider the scientific discovery of "solar orbit."
Here's how it goes. The earth is orbiting the sun at about 67,000 mph. That's Mach 88 (and somehow, we're not even dizzy; think about that for a minute). And it gets more amazing. Do an internet search for the phrase "galactic year." Here's a summary of what you'll find. Scientists are now telling us that the sun is orbiting the center of the Milky Way at a speed almost eight times faster than the earth is orbiting the sun—514,000 mph. That's Mach 675. And the sun is "running" this race so fast, with so much mass and force, that it is dragging along the planetary system with it in perfect step. It's like a cosmic dance near the speed of light. It's a race that's hard to imagine. But we're living in it every day, not even sweating most of the time.
There is so much symbolism in the sun. Genesis 1 records God creating it: "And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness" (vv. 16-18). The sun is a servant-ruler. It rules the day. And in so doing it serves us by giving us light. Christ, the Son, is a servant-ruler. He is our King. But He comes not to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28).
As Jesus hung on the cross, paying the ransom for our sin, "there was darkness over the land" for about three hours (Mark 15:33). For light to shine on us, Jesus had to suffer in darkness. The glory of the Son of God had to be eclipsed by sin and the wrath of God so that we could appear in heaven "bright shining as the sun." On the cross, the sun set. In the resurrection a new morning dawned. We are living in that morning, knowing that Jesus shall reign where'er the sun doth it's successive journeys run.
The idea of solar orbit gives new dimension to how we imagine the reign of Christ. Abraham Kuyper said, "there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry 'Mine!' But Christ's reign goes even beyond the realm of human existence. Jesus isn't simply going to reign in the orbit of the earth. The sun's orbit is far beyond that. It extends to every inch of the Milky Way. It all belongs to Christ. And Jesus, like the sun drags the planets, is dragging us along in this great race of life by His power, calling us to center our orbit around Him and hang on for the ride.
Like much of our nation during the pandemic and present social unrest, you may be feeling some turbulence right now. Life's a bumpy ride. But I'm glad we have Jesus hanging on to us. And I'm glad we're hanging on to each other.