Red sky at night, shepherds delight…

Most of the family holidays we took as our children were growing up were camping holidays – we had a tent big enough for the family and off we would go to see some new area of Scotland or England, and occasionally Wales.

One summer we went to Ireland. Our children were in their teens and it had been a particularly wet week. They had been wanting to go to the beach and we were camping within easy reach of several nice sheltered beaches. (Keep in mind that the north Atlantic feels like it has ice in it in the middle of summer!)

Finally one evening, toward the end of our holiday and on a day that had been extremely wet, we had one of the reddest sunsets I have ever seen (see photo). I remarked to our children that we could go to the beach the next day, that it would be a nice day. How, demanded our teenaged daughter, did I know this, because it had been wet for days. I simply pointed at the sunset and quoted, “Red sky at night, shepherds delight; red sky in morning, shepherds take warning.” (When I learned this in the USA it was sailors, but in Scotland I learned they quote it slightly differently.)

I must admit my children weren’t impressed until the next morning when we got up to a beautiful, clear day and we enjoyed a wonderful day at the beach (one of the textbook beaches surrounded by low cliffs, which proved to be a treasure trove of fossils!).

Did you know that this saying is actually found in the Bible? The Pharisees and Sadducees seem to have been always trying to test Jesus and for some reason they seem to have been constantly asking for a sign, to see something miraculous. Notice Jesus’ reply to them in Matthew 16.

“Now when the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He said, ‘When evening comes you say, “It will be fair weather, because the sky is red,” and in the morning, “It will be stormy today, because the sky is red and darkening.” You know how to judge correctly the appearance of the sky, but you cannot evaluate the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.’ Then he left them and went away” (Matthew 16:1-4 NET).

Jesus commented that they could read the sky and know what the weather would be, but they could not evaluate the time in which they were living. There were more than enough signs to identify that this was the time of the Messiah and that he was here! But they ignored those signs. They always wanted one more. And Jesus gave them one more: the sign of Jonah. Although not explained here, Jesus on other occasions said that just as Jonah had been three days and nights in the belly of a fish, he would be three days and nights in the earth before being resurrected.

Jesus’ signs proved who he was: the long awaited Messiah. We have these signs recorded for us that we can believe (John 20:30-31). Beyond any doubt, God made Jesus who was crucified both Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:36). The question for us: have we accepted Jesus for who he is and given our lives in trusting obedience to him or are we still looking for a sign?

Readings for next week:
16 February – Matthew 20
17 February – Matthew 21
18 February – Matthew 22
19 February – Matthew 23
20 February – Matthew 24

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