- Rev. Mark Burkill
The Morning Star
I have recently moved from a big city (London) to a smaller city (Sheffield). I grew up in Sheffield and in returning I have been reminded how much easier it is there to see the stars at night. This is where I learned to identify some of the constellations and planets when I was young. It is not surprising that the Bible has various references to the lights of the night sky. However the most prominent reference is probably that of the Morning Star, which is plainly identified with the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Revelation 22:16 Jesus says ‘I am the Root and Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star’. The first expression testifies to the way Jesus must be identified as the Christ from the line of David, something which Matthew and Luke make much of in the events surrounding of Jesus’ birth. Yet he is also the originator or Root of King David since ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God’. But what about the Morning Star?
In Revelation 2:28 the believers in Thyatira who persevere with Christ and do His will in the face of the false teaching of ‘Jezebel’ are promised that they will be given the Morning Star. Since the Morning Star is identified with the Lord Jesus Christ, this appears to be a promise of participation in the light and glory of Christ’s future kingdom. But why the Morning Star?
In ancient times the Morning Star was a term used for the planet Venus. Venus appears as a bright shining light in the evening just after sunset, or in the morning just before sunrise. There is a good astronomical reason why this is the case. A planet like Venus can never be found high in the night sky because the planets travel round the Sun in something approaching a plane, and Venus is nearer to the Sun than the Earth. The consequence of this is that if you see a really bright star towards the end of the night then you know it is very likely to be Venus and that dawn cannot be far away. This explains why it was called the Morning Star in New Testament times.
And the point of the identification of the Morning Star with Jesus Christ is that his presence is a sign that the full glory of his coming kingdom is not far away. The sole remaining reference to the Morning Star in the New Testament is found in 2 Peter 1:19 and there Peter provides us with a significant practical application of this identification of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Morning Star. That verse reads ‘We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts’.
Peter reminds us that the identification of Jesus as the promised Christ is not a cleverly devised story. Christmas for example is not a cleverly devised story – a made up myth like those found in so many religions. The identification of Jesus as the promised Christ is based on the utterly reliable word of the Old Testament.
In a world full of darkness we must pay attention to the word which tells us that Jesus is the promised Christ and Saviour and the one who can therefore also be viewed as the Morning Star. He is the one whose unexpected arrival in a Bethlehem manger tells us that before long the day of Christ will dawn and his longed for kingdom will arrive.
Paying attention to the Old Testament promises of Christ and his kingdom involve Christians being confident of who Jesus is in the face of the darkness of our current times. Sometimes we can feel that darkness very keenly and perhaps the shadow of the Covid pandemic continues to reinforce that this Christmas. And 2 Peter 1:19 also calls Christians at Christmas to tell others to pay attention to who Jesus really is. In knowing that he is God’s promised Christ, all may find real hope when times feel dark and gloomy. Jesus Christ is the Morning Star who reliably speaks to us of the great Day that is dawning. And so we say in confident faith: ‘Come, Lord Jesus’.