TRA 22nd December, 2002
The Bright Morning Star
As a child I used to sing a scriptural chorus about Jesus that went: "He's the lily of the valley, He's the bright and morning star, He's the fairest of ten thou-sand, Everybody ought to know." That phrase never left me: "The bright and morning star" or as modern translations put it, Jesus is "the bright morning star."
1. THE HEAVENS WERE IMPORTANT TO THE JEWS.
From earliest days the Israelites thought of heaven as the dwelling-place of God. They prayed: "Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place, and bless your people." Deut. 26:15 Jesus Himself taught us to pray, "Our Father who art in heaven." Matt. 5:45 Heaven is the present abode of God and His angels, and the final destination of His people. Using symbols, John de-scribes what heaven will be like; and we find amongst other things that there will be no sea there, no sun and no sin. The Israelites did not like the sea. For them the river was the symbol of peace and tranquillity, Isa. 48:18; 66:12 while "the troubled sea", incapable of rest, re-minded them of the spiritual turmoil of the wicked. Isa. 57:20 The sea farers of those days off the coast of Pales-tine were pirates. The sea was a place of evil and death. The sea spoke of separation and division, and its final disappearance suggested a place of severance away from real life. The sea was to be feared.
Then we are told that the Heavenly city will have no need of the sun. "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp." Rev. 21:23 All those things which have brought us pleasure and happiness here on earth, are no longer noticed.
All the light we have enjoyed from nature, art, literature, friendship and love - all the bright lights - will be swallowed up in the glorious presence of God. How brightly these things have shone in this dark world! But we shall not need them when "the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." 2 Pet. 1:19 No sea and no sun! Two of the things which perhaps Australians relish as much as anything else! But it is God's way of telling us that He has prepared for us such good things as pass our understanding, and that we shall not even miss those things which have given us so much pleasure and enjoyment on this earth.
"O how the city of our God is fair
If without sea, and sunless though it be,
For joy of the majestic beauty there
Men neither miss the sun nor mourn the sea!"
Finally, there will be no sin. Heaven is so beautiful an experience we need no sea, no sun and no sin. Just as sin was excluded from the garden at the very beginning so now we are told that "nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." Rev. 21: 27 The heavens, the sun, moon and stars were important to the Jews.
2. THE BIRTH OF JESUS WAS HERALDED BY A STAR.
"The Sun Herald", published on its science page, an article about the Star of Bethlehem. It's title was rather derisive: "YONDER STAR FOOLED THE FOLLOWING MAGI; IT WAS JUST A COMET". "The Star of Bethlehem which led the Magi, or wise men, to the infant Jesus was almost certainly a comet, not a conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn."
"And the birth date of Jesus was most likely in the spring of the year 5 BC, between April 13 and 27." These conclusions, based on detailed astronomical and historical evidence, have been published by Professor Colin Humphreys of Cambridge University, in the Quarterly Journal Of The Royal Astronomical Society. Professor Humphreys is a materials scientist specialising in computer dating analysis of Biblical events. In 1983 he dated the crucifixion of Christ to Friday, April 3, AD 33.
Prof. Humphreys believes the date of Jesus' birth was at the time of the Jewish Passover. This narrows the time window for the astronomers. He rejects the planetary conjunction theory because the description in the Bible is clearly of a single object that appeared at a specific time and "stood over" Bethlehem. But the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation Pisces in 7 BC would have been a sign to the Magi, who were astronomers, that a messiah or king was to be born in Israel. A second sign, which would have been treated very seriously by astrologers, was a conjunction one year later of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. When, another year later, in the (northern) spring of 5 BC, a bright comet appeared in the constellation Capricorn, the astrologers had a final sign to make their journey. Professor Humphreys says that phrases such as "stood over" are used in ancient literature to describe comets - and comets only. The comet's tail was probably vertical when seen directly ahead as the Magi travelled from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Chinese astronomers, usually very reliable, describe a comet with a tail that appeared in the spring of 5 BC and remained visible in the sky for more than 70 days.
Professor Humphreys has provided scientific support for the understanding of the coming of the Magi. Matthew 2:1-23 records the coming of the Magi from the East. The church celebrates the Epiphany, the showing forth of the Lord to the wise men, not at Christmas, when we are so eager to see the meaning of God's gift of Christ, but twelve days later. The twelve days of Christmas refer to the coming of the wise men. "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
The holy family was experiencing the suffering of all homeless poor. They felt pawns in the bureaucratic machinations of the Empire. Caesar Augustus wanted a census regardless of the inconvenience to an unknown family on the fringe of his Empire. The little family at Bethlehem suffered loneliness, far from family and home. They suffered from poverty, the threats of evil men and the greed of others. They were only ordinary people, but God came to them in their sufferings through other people. The Magi from Arabia, with their fine robes, haughty camels, expensive gifts, and very determined purpose that had taken them over far deserts in the dead of winter, were also seeking to follow the purposes of God. Their skill as astronomers led them at great cost to obey the leading of God. God had revealed His way and will not through great men and scholars, but through the ordinary, everyday activities of astronomers and a carpenter. So often today people are looking for some big sign from God - a star in the sky was appropriate for astronomers.
3. THE BABY WAS THE BRIGHT MORNING STAR.
The association of the birth of Jesus with the star led the early Christians to think of Jesus as the "bright morning star." The planet Venus, when seen just before dawn, shines more brightly than all the other stars. It is called the bright "morning star". It is the herald of a new day. Perhaps this is the most poetic of the titles given to Jesus by the young church. The Jewish people had a special understanding about one who would be the "bright morning star". In the centuries just prior to the birth of Jesus there was an expectation that God would send forth a Messiah who would be called "the morning star". In the book of Numbers 24:17 there is a prophecy from the Prophet Balaam, "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel." That theme of the bright morning star sent by God was reiterated in a number of books written after the close of the Old Testament. ("The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs" "The Testament of Levi".)
The Jews used the phrase twice after the death of Jesus. When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem utterly in 70AD, the looked for the coming of the Messiah who would be the bright morning star. The same happened 62 years later when a Jewish popular guerrilla fighter, Ben-Cochba rose up in revolt and defeated the small Roman army garrisoned in Jerusalem. That gave rise to great nationalist hopes. He was called the bright morning star. But the Emperor Hadrian summoned from Britain his best general, and sent in a powerful army that annihilated the Jews. Half a million Jews were killed and even more shipped off as slaves throughout the Empire.
Ben-Cochba's supporters lived hiding in caves and tunnels much as the Taliban hide today. Ben-Cochba's forces were so fearful of capture that they even resorted to cannibalism. In the end, every city in Israel was destroyed and the name Judea was wiped off the map and the area henceforth was called Syria Palestina. So this name "bright morning star" was used with the last great uprising of the Jews.
In the middle of this time, just before Ben Cochba was born, the name was applied to Jesus in the Book of John's Revelation. It is the last address given by Jesus in the Bible. It is His words to the believers about having courage for the new day that is coming when He will return and establish His Kingdom of earth. Rev 22.12-16 "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."
This title for Jesus has great insight:
It means that just as the bright morning star is the brightest star in the heavens, so Jesus is the brightest of all the sons of men. All other leaders and teachers are pale luminaries beside him. He alone is the light of the world.
It means also, this Jesus was the Messiah, the Prince of God, the long awaited One, "born to set His people free." He Jesus, is "Lord of Lords and King of Kings."
It means that just as the bright morning star heralds a new dawn, so the coming of Jesus heralds a new Age, a new Day, a new time of God's rule on earth as in heaven.
It means a new hope for all people on earth. The light of the morning star cannot be kept to one nation, but shines on all the earth. One prophecies about the coming of the Messiah as the "bright morning star" was that "none shall succeed Him for all generations for ever, and in His priesthood shall all the Gentiles be multiplied in knowledge upon the earth, and enlightened through the grace of God." Levi 18:8:9
The baby Jesus developed a unique personality. There was noone like Him. He was called The Way, The Truth, The Life. The Good Shepherd, The Great Physician, The High Priest. The Saviour, The Prophet, The King. The Foundation Stone, The Door, The Path, The Gate, The Vine. The Bread of Life, The Light of the World, The Water of Life. The Beginning and the End, The Resurrection and the Life. The Judge. The Word. The Head. The Rose of Sharon. The Lily of the Valley. The Lamb of God. The Lion of Judah, The Bright Morning Star. That's Jesus! Why not let Him shine in your life? Everything else pales into insignificance when Jesus comes into your life as Lord and Saviour. Why not invite Him into your life now? The bright, morning star makes all the difference!
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