Ever gone star gazing? I mean not just stepping out into the night and casually noticing the stars, but really intentionally star gazing. There is something extraordinary about the stars that turns our gaze up.
Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to spend some time living on a sheep farm on the coast of New Zealand. During the day, we spent our time on shepherding excursions, but at night, when the sun went down and the stars came out…and so did we! Led by a professional New Zealand star gazer, we were taken to the pinnacle of a cliff on the coast and what a magnificent display of God’s creation we saw! Against the dark of night, millions, if not billions of stars were visible to the eye as our gaze was fixed up.
Our guide pointed to the sky, naming constellations and connecting their stars with a very high powered laser pen. I watched, amazed, as I considered the stars. Each constellation seemed bigger, or clearer than the next as he drew across the sky in front of us. When he came to the final constellation to our right, our guide set his laser on a set of very bright stars. He said, ‘Do you see these five stars that are shining the brightest?’ It was not difficult to see these stars. He used his laser pen to connect the dots…to connect the stars…into a very familiar, powerful picture. One by one, these stars created a cross shining brightly in the dark New Zealand sky. And then he went on….
‘This constellation is called the Southern Cross. It is the brightest of all the constellations in the southern hemisphere and it shines year round. While other constellations seem to fade or appear more distant depending on the rotation of the earth, the Southern Cross is always visible. It never goes away’.
I was immediately in awe. A cross in the sky is the brightest constellation and regardless of how our earth rotates, it never goes away. That right there was enough to leave me in wonder as I gazed up at these stars God had aligned in such a beautiful way!
But there was more. Our guide went on to say, ‘To the people of the southern hemisphere, the Southern Cross is their compass…
…and as a compass, the Southern Cross has shown many a weary traveler the way home.’
The Southern Cross always points true north. For those on stormy seas in the dark of night, one look to the Southern Cross would show them the way to the shore. Gazing on the cross gave travelers direction and when their gaze was fixed on the cross, their compass, they would find their way home.
Pointing TRUE north, the Southern Cross gave travelers direction they could not get anywhere else when out to sea. The Southern Cross never stopped pointing TRUE north. When travelers gazed upon the cross in the sky, they knew that the Southern Cross never changed direction. It was always constant. When their gaze was fixed on the cross, their compass, they would find TRUE north.
I was overwhelmed as I listened to our guide and gazed upon the Southern Cross. The brightest constellation never changes and gives direction, always pointing to what is true. God put in the sky a picture of the very thing that 2,000 years ago would become our compass, our guide to true north, our constant, our salvation, the cross of Christ.
As we turn our gaze on the cross, our compass, we find our way home. Many weary travelers have found their salvation, their peace and rest at the foot of the cross.
And as we turn our gaze to the cross, our compass, we find the truth. The cross always shows us what is true. Always. If we keep our eyes on the cross, on that true north, it will always show us which direction is pleasing to God, and which is not. So we keep our gaze up, focused on the cross.
But what happens when we turn our gaze to something else?
In Joshua 7, we meet a man named Achan. Achan was in the army of the Lord and had entered the Promised Land. He had crossed over the Jordan River exactly as God commanded, he had done exactly what God had said. His gaze was on the compass. From the Jordan River, the Israelites traveled to Gilgal where the people reaffirmed their covenant with God. Every man in the camp was to be circumcised that day. That means that Achan, a soldier in the Lord’s army, submitted to circumcision. Achan’s gaze was on the compass. At Jericho, the army was commanded to walk around the city walls in silence for six days, and to shout when commanded on the seventh. There is no report of a man named Achan talking on the second day, or third day, not one report of one man shouting on his own. Achan obeyed God’s direction. Achan had his gaze upon the compass. He followed the direction the Lord gave and Achan saw the walls fall down.
Before the battle, Achan had his eyes on the compass, but what happened after the victory?
Achan took his gaze off the compass and fixed it on something else. Joshua 7 tells us that Israel experienced defeat at Ai as a direct result of the disobedience of one man to God’s command regarding the devoted things in Jericho. Achan was the one. A man who had experienced great victory was now named the one who caused Israel’s first defeat. He had taken his eyes off of God’s direction, and saw something else.
“When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” Joshua 7:21
Achan disobeyed. He saw. He coveted. He took. He hid. He took his eyes off of what God said, he took his eyes off the truth, and the progression of sin began. It all started with his eyes, it all started with a misplaced gaze. He took his gaze off of God’s compass, God’s direction, and put it on his own and that misplaced gaze led to death. Achan, his family and all he owned, along with the robe, the silver and the gold, were taken outside the city to the Valley of Achor. There they were stoned and burned. Death was the consequence of sin. Until the one who committed the sin had died, Israel would continue to live in defeat. Nothing good starts with a misplaced gaze.
The Valley of Achor was known as the Valley of Trouble. It was there that the one who sinned died in order for the people to live in victory again. We might think that would be the end to such a story, that a place marked by sin, death and hopelessness would be forgotten, but the story doesn’t stop there. God had a plan. In Isaiah 65:10 we find the Valley of Achor mentioned again, but this time it is called a place of rest, and in Hosea 2:15, God says He will take the Valley of Achor, the Valley of Trouble, and He will make it a door of hope.
The place of trouble would become a door of hope. Many years later, on a hill outside of Jerusalem, a cross was raised to the sky. On it hung Jesus, the perfect, sinless Son of God. All of our sin, all of our trouble was placed on Him and He was put to death. We might think that would be the end to such a story, that a place marked with sin, death and hopelessness would be forgotten, but the story doesn’t end there. God had a plan. The One Who bore our sin was put to death…so we could live. With Christ’s death, our sin was forgiven and this place of trouble has become for us a place of rest and a door of hope! Christ rose from the grave, defeating death and we were provided a way to live in victory again! The cross, the very thing that led to death, for us has become a door to hope!
So we gaze upon the cross and fix our eyes on the One Who took our trouble on Himself so we could have life, rest and hope.
Many weary travelers in this world have turned their gaze to His cross and found their way home. Many weary travelers have turned their gaze to His cross and found direction, many have found the Truth. His cross is our compass. The cross shows us the way.
Are you in need of a Savior today? Gaze upon the cross. Are you in the valley of trouble? Gaze upon the cross. Are you looking for direction? Gaze upon the cross. Have you come through a great victory? Keep your gaze upon the cross! After the victory it is more important than ever to keep our eyes on Him.
Our amazing God has given us a cross in the heavens to remind us that His cross covered it all. So keep your eyes up, sisters, gaze upon the cross! Let’s fix our eyes on Him!
‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…’ Hebrews 12:2