Herodotus records that on May 28, 584 BC, a solar eclipse occurred, having been predicted by the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus. This happened during the sixth year of a war between the Medes and the Lydians and so impressed them that they stopped their fighting and immediately began to work on peace plans.
On August 2, 1133, a solar eclipse lasting nearly five minutes occurred in England and was taken as a sign of an important upcoming evil event, possibly an important death. Sure enough, King Henry I, who had traveled to Normandy around that time, died the same year on December 2. Despite being four months removed, it was immediately connected to the eclipse.
All this superstition and fear led Columbus to use it against the Arawaks in Jamaica. He had run out of food for his crews and he "foretold" a lunar eclipse, using an almanac he had studied. He told the chief that his Christian God was angry with them for not sharing their food with him and that in three nights He would obliterate the moon and it would be "inflamed with God's wrath." On March 1, 1504, his "prediction" came true. Needless to say, the Arawaks were terrified and readily agreed to support Columbus and his men with all the food and supplies they needed.
But some good things have come from eclipses too. On May 29, 1919, an eclipse occurred, viewable in a path across South America that included Brazil. Sir Frank Watson Dyson conducted an experiment there that proved a portion of Einstein's theory of relativity because during that eclipse, several stars that were too close to the sun to be seen and their distance measured, could be while the sun was dark. Somehow it involves bending light rays, and while it is far too complicated for me to even understand much less explain, I am told it was the most important eclipse in the history of science.
But there are even more important eclipses than that.
In a study of faith I did, I found this passage: I made supplication for you that your faith fail not…Luke 22:32. I looked up “fail” and found this Greek word, ekleipo.
I’ll have to admit—I saw nothing at first. Finally I looked up other uses of the word and found, just a page over in my Bible, Luke 23:45: the sun’s light failing. The context was the crucifixion when, according to the verse just above that one, darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.
“Aha!” my feeble brain said, “an eclipse,”--ekleipo. The light of the sun failed because something overshadowed it. Now how do I use that in my study of faith “failing?”
Twenty years ago I woke up with what I thought was an earache. I called the doctor and he prescribed an antibiotic. The next morning some of the ache was gone, but enough remained for me to discover the true source of the pain—it was a tooth. I had developed an abscess and the pain had simply radiated to my ear, but the medication at least knocked it back to its original source. This time I called the dentist and left a message. It was late on a Friday afternoon and I needed to see someone before the weekend.
By that time, nearly 48 hours into this, I was moaning on the couch, totally unable to function. I hadn’t even thought about dinner, much less started cooking it, even though I expected Keith home within the hour. I hadn’t finished putting the clean sheets on the bed, or washed any dishes all day long. I hadn’t accomplished any bookkeeping, or filled out the forms that were soon due for my students to enter State Contest. Nothing mattered but that aching tooth and the sore lump now swelling on my jaw line.
A few minutes later the phone rang, and I eagerly snatched it up, expecting a dental assistant. It was an ex-Little League coach of my sons’. Keith had suffered something resembling a seizure while riding his bike the thirteen miles home from work, and was lying right in front of his house, in the middle of the rural highway.
“The ambulance just arrived,” he said. “I think if you hurry, you can be here before it leaves.”
What do you think I did? Lie back down and moan some more? I was out of that house in a flash and did indeed beat the ambulance’s departure for the hospital. I sat in that hospital for five days.
You can think your faith is important to you. You can think you would never let anything “eclipse” it. You can be positive that you are strong enough to handle the most intense trial or the most powerful temptation. You can be absolutely wrong.
I have seen men who stood for the faith against the ridicule of false teachers commit adultery. I have seen women who diligently withstood the long trial of caring for a sick mate become bitter against everyone who ever tried to help them, and ultimately against God himself. I have seen families who were called “pillars of the church” leave that very group when one of their own fell and was chastised.
Look to that passage I found: I made supplication for you that your faith fail not. Jesus was speaking to Peter, who subsequently declared, “I am ready to go both to prison and to death,” but not many hours later, denied the Lord when those very things confronted him. He was not prepared, and his faith was eclipsed by fear.
Just as surely as my worry over my husband’s health totally eclipsed a very real and intense pain in my physical body, just as certainly as fear eclipsed the faith of a man like Peter, the events of life can eclipse your faith, causing it to fail. Carnal emotions can overshadow you—lust, bitterness, resentment, hurt feelings among them. It’s up to us to keep those things in their proper place, to allow nothing to detract from our faith in a God who promises that none of those things really matter because of the spiritual nature of the life to come. It is, in fact, up to us to be spiritually minded, instead of carnally minded, to put the physical in the shade and let the light of the Truth shine on the spiritual.
With a spiritual mind-set, nothing can eclipse your faith. Your faith should, in fact, eclipse everything else.
If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth. For you died, and your life is hid with Christ in God, Colossians 3:1-3.