Our dependable North Star ∙
Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. – James 1:17
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His faithful love endures forever.
4 Give thanks to him who alone does mighty miracles. His faithful love endures forever.
5 Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skillfully. His faithful love endures forever.
6 Give thanks to him who placed the earth among the waters. His faithful love endures forever.
7 Give thanks to him who made the heavenly lights – His faithful love endures forever.
8 the sun to rule the day, His faithful love endures forever.
9 and the moon and stars to rule the night. His faithful love endures forever.
Mankind has looked to the heavens quite literally for “guidance” for millennia. From the perspective of being planted firmly on the earth, the sun, moon, and stars have “moved” through the heavens in an orderly and predictable fashion. Based upon these observations ancient civilizations often ordered their lives and religious practices. Many well-known ancient architectural constructions provide mute testimony to this fact. Included are such famous sites as Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid, and Machu Picchu.
In the northern hemisphere, a remarkable routine plays itself out. Stars at the celestial North of the earth, “move” in an ordered counterclockwise, circular fashion from left to right, around the center. In the center of the orderly procession is Polaris which we call the “North Star.” This star appears to not move at all and therefore people deduced that they would always know where “North” was by finding this star in the night sky.
A bit of clarity is required here. First, the stars do not “move.” Rather, the earth itself rotates on its axis and provides the appearance of stellar motion. The stars are so far away from Earth, that for all practical purposes over short periods of time, they do not “move” at all. But in fact, we now know that all the stars and galaxies are in motion. But the perceived differences are so small, that we never notice them.
The only motion of heavenly bodies that we are capable of noticing with our naked eye, is the movement of the moon, the sun, planets, meteors, and comets. The origin of the word planet comes from the Greek word, planetes, which meant wanderer. To ancient man, the planets such as Mars, Venus, and Saturn, seem to wander, even stagger, through the skies among the ordered and predictable movements of the stars.
In the ancient world, the most permanent and reliable things known to mankind were found in the signs of heaven. The movement of the sun, the moon, and the stars allowed ancient man to navigate his way through his world. But even the most stable thing known to man at that time was indeed variable and unstable.
What then is reliable and certain?
REFLECT & PRAY
“The lights change, but the one who created them never changes” (Barclay).
Father You are absolutely dependable, encourage me to trust You more fully every day.
James 1:17 All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change
Notice that the word lights is plural. A modern translation has, heavenly luminaries. It does not refer to light itself but rather the lights in the sky: the sun, the moon, and stars. The Father is the source and creator of both light and the lights.
The Greek word translated variation is parallage meaning change or alteration. The Greek expression tropes aposkiasma is frequently translated as ‘shifting shadow’ or ‘slightest hint of change.’ It is literally, the dark ‘shadow-mark’ created by a heavenly body such as the sun, moon, or the earth itself. The moon is eclipsed by the shadow of the earth, and the sun by the shadow of the moon.
Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
“Unlike the ‘shifting shadows’ that are caused by the sun, moon, and stars, God ‘does not change.’ With him, there is no variation at all. The shadows cast by the sun are minimal at noon, but just before sunset, they stretch out for yards across the landscape. God is not like that. He does not change” (Burdick).
James is stressing the dependability of the Father because He alone never changes. In a world of ongoing fluctuation and change, things seem to be becoming more volatile, the Father who created it all, is the one constant, the firm foundation, the rock upon which we stand, the infinite reference point. Everything changes except Him. He alone is absolutely trustworthy and dependable.
When I did not know the Father, I had nothing permanent and lasting to trust in. I truly wandered in darkness. But then He found me!
O what a wonderful, wonderful day, day I will never forget
After I’d wandered in darkness away, Jesus my Savior I met.
O what a tender, compassionate friend, he met the need of my heart
Shadows dispelling, with joy I am telling, he made all the darkness depart.
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul
When at the cross the Savior made me whole
My sins were washed away, and my night was turned to day
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.