For my first splash into watercoloring, I painted a sunset. After the paint dried, I thought to paint a sunrise opposite the sunset, because at every sunset, the sun rises for people on the opposite side of the world. What a thought! Those twin events are distinguishable only by differing perspectives.
Could they be different in other ways? They awaken different emotions in me. I asked friends which they preferred, sunrise or sunset and why. I also researched the Bible and scientific literature and learned some interesting things.
Friends attributed sunrise with a new start: great way to start my day; Jesus making all things new; the promise of a new day; new mercies every morning. Then this, “light breaking into the darkness while the stars remain,” and “The sun gives light and life- a picture of our eternal Father. No one makes light like God, light, colors, the illusive rainbow.” The artful descriptions squeeze with joy, don’t they?!
For sunsets, common themes were beauty, rest, and completion: reflections of the sky, the day, and God’s greatness; hug from God after a busy day; good night, sweet dreams painting of I love you; reminder that it is well with my soul; imagining God taking a giant paintbrush to fill the sky with long strokes of blue, reds, pinks, and oranges. Then this, “There are times when the colors are so brilliant that my neighbor calls me and says ,’You have to step outside and see this. God outdid Himself this evening!’”
In an age where we create fantastical images with digital tools, God’s paintbrush still evokes oohs, ahhhs and awed muteness, no matter how many sunrises and sunsets we’ve seen.
The whole earth is filled with awe at Your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, You call forth songs of joy. Psalm 65:8
Why does there seem to be a difference in the colors and brightness between the sun’s entrance and exit? Particles such as dust, pollen, and pollution, float in the air. When light hits them, it bends, causing us to see different colors in its spectrum. When the sun approaches the horizon, we view it through more volume of air than looking overhead, so we see light’s colors more at the beginning and end of the day.
At sunset, people’s activities, especially transportation and factories have accumulated and stirred more particles than after a night of people sleeping. This may increase the refraction of light and create more colors at sunset than sunrise, but if too many particles are swirling, they may block or dull the light to haze. The morning sun, by contrast, seems brighter.
Also, weather contributes to spectacular colors at sunset. Hours of the sun heating the air causes wind and clouds. Wind stirs particles and clouds reflect light. In general, wind dies at night and air cools, so fewer particles and clouds are present by the time the morning rolls around.
God rules the sun, because He is the one who called it forth and set its boundaries in Genesis 1. He commanded it to stand still in Joshua 10 and to move backwards in 2 Kings 20. He hid it from noon to 3 PM when Jesus was crucified. In Acts 2, God declares that He will turn the sun to darkness. Jesus’ face shown like the sun at full strength in Matthew 17. God, Himself, will be the only light we need in Revelation 22.
God created the sun to give light and mark time for us. He designed the sun to open the day with light, which fills us with hope. The daily dawn reminds us of God’s steadfast love in a tangible way. We see it and feel its heat. The brightness, unbearable and dangerous to gaze at, is an object lesson of the glory, power, and purity of God.
God closes our days with rich, velvet color, then extinguishes light. This eases us into putting away the day and succumbing to unconsciousness in His capable hands, so that when the sun wakes in the morning, we feel the newness of a day’s glorious birth.