Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Isaiah 40:26
People have experienced Van Gogh’s Starry Night in different ways, so it has been interpreted in different ways. One interpretation suggests that the painting is related to Joseph’s (in the Old Testament) description of his dream that he shares with his jealous brothers:
“Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” Genesis 37:9
There are eleven stars in the painting, so maybe Van Gogh was thinking of Joseph’s 11 brothers as he painted. To his brothers, Joseph was a dreamer and an outcast and spent several years in prison. Van Gogh considered himself an outcast and dreamer in the world of art, and painted Starry Night from an asylum. Maybe he could relate to Joseph.
Whether or not Starry Night is a direct reference to Joseph’s story, we can see contrast in both. The stars contrast with a gloomy village, the light contrasts with darkness, and hope contrasts with despair. Joseph provides an example of living in bright contrast during dark and difficult experiences.
The church is a contrast society. As individuals we can live in contrast to people who lack hope, understanding and joy. We can be that light on a stand (Matthew 5:13). As a church, we can live in contrast to the division, anger and isolation that are prevalent in the world. We can be that “town built on a hill that cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).