A TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART
Unless you have been secluded in a monastery, you know that there will be a solar eclipse on Monday, August 21. If you are very lucky and planned ahead, you could be on Royal Caribbean’s Total Eclipse Cruise in a position on the ocean to see the total eclipse and hear Bonnie Tyler sing her 1983 smash hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart” at the peak of the eclipse. Here, in Big Sandy, Texas, we will see only a 77.3% eclipse at 1:14 p.m. Central time on Monday.
All the hoopla about this significant celestial event brought to mind Romans 1:21 [ESV] For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Emphasis mine) You might say, for lack of honoring and thanking God, these folks had a total eclipse of the heart.
A total eclipse is rare. Sadly, a totally eclipsed heart, seems less rare in this sin-darkened world. And we who believe are not immune. Note that Romans 1:21 is not talking about people who have never heard of God. These are people who knew God, but, shockingly, failed to honor Him as God or even to give Him thanks. Then they became futile or foolish in thinking and that resulted in foolish hearts that went dark.
On the Website LiveScience.com, you can find a wealth of knowledge about the August 21, 2017 eclipse and history of man’s reaction to the solar eclipses that have been marked throughout time. You can follow this link to read about how eclipses were viewed as omens in the ancient world: https://www.livescience.com/60084-eclipses-were-omens-in-ancient-world.html
But, in our key scripture for this blog, we are focused on the events that are an omen of an eclipse to come, not the other way around. It isn’t surprising that failure to honor God and unthankfulness are listed together here. They are really two sides of the same coin. One leads to the other. If we don’t honor God, why would we thank Him? If we are unthankful for God’s blessings, why would we give Him any honor?
How can someone who knows God fail to give Him the honor He deserves? Don’t we believers acknowledge that He alone is the Almighty, Creator, Ruler of the Universe? Perhaps the temptation to begin reducing God to a being less than “God-sized” begins with disappointment in unanswered prayer. Or anger at a broken marriage, the untimely death of a faithful loved one, or undeserved persecution.
This Satan-led world will beat us up. For our own good God will say “no” to some requests. Persecution is a guarantee for most Christians. Yet, knowing that does not take the sting or struggle out of dealing with it. And sometimes we can be tempted to take our natural pain and anger a step too far and decide that maybe God isn’t as loving or merciful or just or powerful as we have previously thought Him to be. This could be a slippery slope that leads to a darkened heart. I must honor God as the Potter who has the responsibility and the only authority to do with this lump of clay what is best for me – for the work He will do in me and through me in this life – for that work that will successfully lead me to glory in the next life. [Isaiah 64; Jeremiah 18; Lamentations 4:2; Romans 9:21]
Alternately, I might be tempted to honor myself over God when I am rolling in blessings. Maybe I feel like I alone earned that raise or I might think that an encouraging prayer that really helped a hurting friend came out the wealth of my own great wisdom. Maybe I’d be tempted to take full credit for that fabulous blog that inspired women the world over. (I hope you read those sentences with tongue in cheek – just as I wrote them.) It is a sad irony that we, God’s most prized creation, would find ourselves tempted to take honor upon ourselves when times are good and also dishonor God when times are bad. It is something we must passionately fight back on when Satan whispers that temptation into our minds and hearts.
Let’s keep in mind that unthankfulness is a sign of the times, as we are warned about in 2nd Timothy. 2 Timothy 3:1-2 [KJV] But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, We believers have to be careful not to let the world rub off on us. We have to live and work in this world, but we are to keep ourselves “unspotted from it” [James 1:27].
To me, being thankful and expressing thankfulness to God, privately and publicly come under the categorization of “just do it.” In other words, there are no excuses for not expressing thanks to God, whether we feel it or not. We are told to do it at worship services (Psalm 100:4 [NKJV] Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, [And] into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, [and] bless His name. And the Blue Letter Bible (www.BlueLetterBible.org) came up with 44 verses with the exact words “give thanks.” Four of those versus follow with “for His mercy endures forever.”
Notice that 2 Timothy 3 says that “perilous times” include being unthankful. Romans 1:21 outlines some of that peril that lies in failing to give God thanks and honor, by outlining the chain of results that occur of we don’t heed that caution.
The Greek word, translated “foolish” or “vain” or “futile” at the beginning of Romans 1:2 means “to render foolish (passively).” This would seem to indicate that if I fail to honor and thank God, I’ll just naturally, with no other effort on my part, start being a foolish, vain, futile thinker. From there, I move to a foolish heart that goes dark. This word translated “foolish” means without understanding, unintelligent, stupid. Makes sense that foolish thoughts lead to stupidity.
This progression from failure to honor and thank God, to foolish thoughts, to a stupid heart, seems like the kind of backward, de-evolution experienced in the fictional movie “War for the Planet of the Apes” that Wes and I watched last week. In the Planet of the Apes movies, the apes become more intelligent, due to use of an experimental drug designed to treat Alzheimer’s in humans that was tested on apes. The humans are almost wiped out by a resulting ape-born virus, which came about as a side-effect of that drug. In this third installation of the latest version of the Planet of the Apes story, the virus has mutated and instead of killing humans, it just robs them of their ability to speak and of any higher-order thinking. In this scenario, their brains sort of went dark, eclipsed by the work of the virus.
For us Christians, it seems like it works similarly. If dishonoring God and lack of thankfulness can be thought of as a virus or viruses (and I believe this is a reasonable metaphor), then it works first on our minds and thoughts and then moves to our hearts, making them a dark place where the light of God cannot penetrate. This should be truly frightening for believers.
The word translated “darkened” in Romans 1:21 is from the Greek skot-id-zo, meaning to obscure (literally or figuratively) – just like an eclipse – a total eclipse of the heart. Ephesians 4:18 tells us They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. [ESV] Ignorance, darkness and hard hearts go together.
Unlike Bonnie Tyler’s hit, which says, “There’s nothing I can do. Total eclipse of the heart.” we do have some things we can do and they are outlined in Romans 1:21. We must honor God as God and give thanks to Him, so our minds do not grow foolish and our hearts cannot become dark.
Luke 11:36 [ESV] If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.
Sisters, we cannot allow our hearts to be eclipsed.
I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org.