The sun over my head seared upon me, blinding and hot. I had been on an extended walk and was nearing home where I lived in Venezuela, but crossing an open soccer field at noon was more than I could endure at the end of my journey. As I made my way across the turf, I noticed that the town had recently erected huge poles around the field, the bases of which were nearly two feet in diameter. These were the poles on which workers were to later place lights to illuminate the field at night.
I had been hiking under the cloudless sky and in the full sunlight all morning long. Now, crossing this field, I felt what little energy that I still had drain away from me. After enduring the heat of the sun for some hours; I decided that when I reached the other end of the field, I would sit with my back resting on the shady side of one the poles for a few
minutes before taking
the last leg of my return trip to our home.
These are not the light poles
but you can see what I mean
Much to my dismay, however, as I approached my intended resting spot, I could see no shadow. I walked completely around the pole and was disheartened to find that every side of the light post was being heated by the sun. Squinting my eyes, I looked up at my tormenter above my head and realized that it was noon, and I was in the Torrid Zone at the equinox.
The equinox is that time of year in the tropics when at noon, the sun is directly overhead. The light pole on the soccer field, which was at least fifty or sixty feet high, cast not a single shadow. The sun shone down directly on the smaller tip of the pole and sent its burning rays flowing down every side of the post’s growing diameter all the way to the base. It offered no respite for a weary traveler. I looked down at my own feet. I saw that I also cast almost no shadow. Indeed, if my shape had been that of the light pole, there would have been absolutely none.
At any point between the Tropic of Cancer, which runs
parallel to the Equator a
bit more than 23 degrees to the north, and the Tropic of Capricorn, which runs
correspondingly south of the Equator, there are two dates during the year when
the sun is directly overhead at noon.
The area in between these northern and southern limits is known as the “Torrid Zone.” “Torrid” describes well how I felt at that
moment. It means, “Parched with the heat
of the sun.”
Antipodes is another interesting word
I have written about it somewhere
The English language has another interesting word regarding this phenomenon. It is the noun “ascian.” This word is a derivative two Greek words that mean “without” and “shadow.” Ascian is used as a descriptive noun that means, “One that has no shadow: an inhabitant of the Torrid Zone where the sun is vertical at noon twice a year.”
17th-century British philosopher and author Nathanael Carpenter wrote of the inhabitants of Torrid Zone.
“They are mysterious to me, these Ascians,” he said, speaking of the people of the tropics, “for twice each year, at the very instant of noon on the equinoxes, their shadows vanish, and they appear to me to be enchanted.”
I was one of those inhabitants of the tropics who cast no shadow, but did not feel enchanted. I felt depleted and wretched and driven to continue my journey without refreshment.
THE WEARINESS OF THE TORRID ZONE
As any farmer who works in the open field can tell you, one does not need to live in the Torrid Zone to feel this way. I specifically remember one day as a boy when I was loading hay bales onto a wagon with my brother Paul. My throat was so dry and parched I could not work up any moisture in my mouth. I tried to moisten my tongue enough to see if I could whistle, but I had no reserve within me to make any sound at all, just the blowing of the dry air between my scorched lips.
Neither did the prophet Isaiah live in the Torrid Zone. Nevertheless, when he wrote of the kingdom of the coming Messiah as “the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” (Isaiah 32:2), he painted a picture for us that we all can understand, even if we are not the mysterious inhabitants of the Torrid Zone. In our lives, we all come upon times of extreme weariness.
Perhaps weariness comes because of one in whom we
have invested much love and effort
has turned his back on us and rejected us.
Or, we see that the righteousness in which we believe has become a
mockery to the world, and evil seems to have become victorious. Sometimes in the midst of our weariness, it
becomes very difficult to find refreshment.
Our lives are dry and parched and we have no reserve for song.
One year I kept track of the length of
the shadow cast by the stick at noon.
It looks like I figured the sun reached
its Zenith on April 9 where we lived.
(we lived about 7.7 ° N)
Indeed, these are exactly the circumstances for weariness that the prophet Isaiah felt along with the people to whom he was writing. The people of the nations of Israel and Judah had placed their hope in kings who would lead them in righteousness. Instead of this, however, the kings had mostly been influences to lead the people away from what was right. They instead led them into wickedness and idolatry.
“Alas sinful nation,” Isaiah laments, “People weighed down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the Lord. They have despised the Holy One of Israel. They have turned away from Him!” (Isaiah 1:4 NAS).
The people who sought righteousness felt as if they were on a wearisome journey. They were seeking shade but could find none. Nevertheless, any journey, no matter how difficult and toilsome, becomes bearable when we know that there will be renewal and refreshment at the end.
It was to these wearisome travelers that Isaiah continued to write, “When he Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst…there will be a shelter to give shade from the heat of the day and a refuge and protection from the storm and the rain” (Isaiah 4:4a,6 NAS).
REFRESHMENT IN THE TORRID ZONE
As for righteous leaders, Isaiah tells his people that God Himself will be their leader. “For you,” Isaiah speaks to God, “have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm [and] a shade from the heat” (Isaiah 25: 4 NAS).
Then, to give hope to the people who have become weary – hope that there will be refreshment at the end of their journey, Isaiah says this: “The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of the wine of the sheltered place, choice pieces with marrow, and (he repeats this to stress the point) refined wine, aged in the sheltered place” (Isaiah 25:6).
“Behold, a king will reign righteously and princes will rule justly. Each will be like a refuge from the wind and a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry country, like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land” (Isaiah 32:1-2 NAS).
Any journey, no matter how difficult and toilsome, becomes bearable when we know that there will be renewal and refreshment at the end (I repeat this to stress the point).
It is for this reason that the Bible speaks so frequently of the coming kingdom. Jesus had this in mind when He said, “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places… for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3 NAS).
When we are weary of the journey and need refreshment, He says this: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NAS).
There are times that weariness comes to the laborer. Toil produces fatigue. It is in these times that it is important to remember the words of the writer of Psalm 91: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!’” (vs. 1-2 NAS). It is the joy of the Lord that is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
“Behold, I am making all things new…Then He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son.’”
“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me” (Revelation 19:9; 21:5-7; 22:12 NAS).