If I Had to Bow to an Idol, It would be the Sun: No Other Created Object Tells Us more about the Real God
by Andrew Wilson, edited by Bobby Price
I have never been able to understand why anyone would worship a wooden statue. Or a tree or an Asherah pole, a cow or an elephant, or a god who looks like a frog. I think I get it at an intellectual level--they represent fertility or what-ever-but I cannot get my head around people being spiritually drawn to adore them, rejoice before them, or sacrifice to them. If I had been born an ancient pagan, I wouldn't have been the idol-fashioning, maypole-dancing type. (At least, I struggle to imagine myself that way.)
But I can see why people used to worship the sun. I'm not saying they should have, obviously, but I can relate to the instinct. So far as anyone knew until quite recently, the sun was by far the largest thing in the sky and the source of all light, heat, power, and life. Especially in Northern Europe, where I come from, the difference between sunshine and darkness, summer and winter, is so great that it must have been tempting to rush outside in the springtime and prostrate yourself before the giant yellow ball of fire. Were it not for Christianity, I suspect many of us still would.
Unsurprisingly, this presented a challenge to ancient Israel. Moses had to urge the people not to worship the sun, with fairly drastic legal consequences for anyone who did Deut. 4:19;17:2-5), and the prophets revealed that it was still a problem many centuries later Jer. 8:2; Ezek. 8:16). The risk of idolatry is partly why Scripture keeps pointing out all the things the sun is not. It is not eternal: The Bible's opening chapter makes clear that the sun was not created until day four, and its last chapter tells us that the sun is no longer needed, "for the Lord God will be their light" (Rev. 22:5, ESV throughout). It is not inevitable and can be darkened (and dethroned) at will by the one who created it (Ex. 10:21-29). It is not in control; it can be made to stand still (Josh. 10:12-14) or to move shadows in the wrong direction (Isa. 38:8). These might look like random potshots at the sun, but they are ways of protecting Israel from turning a gift into an idol. The sun had the potential to be a huge theological problem.
Yet it also had the potential to be a huge theological opportunity. So long as people could use the sun as a way of meditating on and worshiping God, rather than as something to be meditated on and worshiped itself, they could learn a great deal about him. The psalmist is very happy to use the sun to shed light on the nature of God: The Lord God is a sun and shield" (Ps. 84:11).
There are numerous attributes of God we can see more clearly by thinking about the sun for a moment, and in a way that is true of nothing else in creation. Glory, for instance. Fire and the fear it produces. Otherness. The mysterious combination of great distance and felt presence, transcendence and immanence. The all-seeing, all-illuminating orbit, bringing heat and revelation to the entire world (Ps. 19:4-6). The fact that the sun is always shining, even when its light is concealed from us by the position of the earth or the covering of the clouds. Radiant brightness. Sheer power. When the apostles want us to see the splendor of Christ, sunshine is the only metaphor they need. "He was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light" (Matt. 17:2; see also Rev. 1:16).
Bobby Price was born and raised by Christian parents in Perrin, Texas. Bobby decided early in life to become a preacher of God's word. He attended the Sunset International Bible Institute in Lubbock, Texas where he graduated in 2015 with his Bachelors of Biblical Studies with a focus in Congregational Ministry. Afterwards, he interned for a year at the valley view Church of Christ in Jonesboro, AR. He is currently working on his Masters of Biblical Studies, through the Sunset International Bible Institute Graduate School.