The moon is about one quarter the size of the earth. It orbits the earth at a mean distance of 238,866 miles and at an average speed of 2,287 miles an hour. It takes the moon a little over twenty-seven days to complete one orbit of the earth. Its temperature can vary from 260°F in the sun to -280°F in the shade. The moon has fascinated mankind from the dawn of time. People in their ignorance have worshiped it. Abraham, before he met the true and living God, dwelt at Ur, a center of moon worship in his day. Possibly he once worshiped it himself.
The moon was doubtless created “in the beginning” when God created the heaven and the earth. According to the Genesis creation narrative, the moon was appointed to function on the fourth day of creation. It is from the movement of the sun that we get our concept of the year and the day; it is from the movement of the moon that we get our concept of the month.
The moon is of interest to us theologically. It can be viewed, for instance, as a type of the church. Consider, first, the origin of the moon, a matter that has been the subject of considerable debate. One view is that it was spun off from the surface of the earth and that the vast cavity, now filled by the Pacific Ocean, was one result of this. If that is so, then the moon was once part of this world but is now seated on high in the heavens and, as such, gives us a picture of believers who comprise the church. The church is made up of people who once belonged to Earth but are now seated with Christ in heavenly places, far above the restless world that wars below.
The function of the moon is to rule the night. It is seated on high to cast light upon the earth during the period when the sun is absent. It has no light of its own. The only way the moon can shine is by reflecting the light of the sun; but even at that, it can reflect only 7 percent of the light that strikes its surface. In astronomical terms, the magnitude (i.e., the scale of brightness) of the full moon is very small. By contrast, the brightness of the sun’s light is more than 400,000 times as great as that of the moon.
Similarly, the function of the church is to shed light upon the earth during the dark period covered by the absence of Christ. The light the church spreads is very dim, however, as compared with the light of Christ. But pale as it is by comparison with the light of Christ, the light believers bring to bear on human affairs is better than nothing at all. The church does not generate light; for, like the moon, it has no light of its own. It reflects the light of Christ. That in itself is a most important role.
The moon waxes and wanes, all the way from a full, bright disk down to a small crescent and even into darkness itself. Moreover, it can be eclipsed. This happens when the earth comes between the moon and the sun. In like manner, there are times in the history of the church when revival comes and the church shines very brightly indeed. The world benefits greatly from its light at such times. There are other times, however, when the testimony of the church grows dim and darkness reigns. Tragically, too, there are times of apostasy when the church succumbs to the philosophies and errors of the world, and its light is eclipsed.
Then, too, the moon exercises power over the seas by causing the tides. Every day it pulls the waters of the oceans up along the shore lands and into the mouths of rivers. The seas are powerless, great as they are, to resist the tremendous influence of the moon, though it seems so remote and far away. In the typology of Scripture, the seas represent the troubled, storm-tossed nations of the world, just as the earth represents the nation of Israel. The moon reminds us of the enormous influence the church has had throughout history over the affairs of humanity. People discount the influence of the church, but that does not change the fact. The prayers of God's people and the preaching of its ambassadors in the power of the Spirit has its effect on every shore.