Lessons From Above

As a pastor and one who pursues amateur astronomy as a hobby, I have been asked on occasion just why God bothered to make all that we can see in the universe. It is a reasonable question. Just why would God fill space with such a vast array of celestial objects when it is clear from the Bible that planet Earth and its inhabitants are at the center of His concern? One has only to look at the night sky to get a glimpse of His wonderful creation and we need only look at the Bible to begin to see why it is there. For our Creator throughout His Word uses the heavens as a means to teach us many lessons. These are lessons which we would do well to learn. Let us assemble in the classroom of the universe before the textbook of God's eternal Word.


The first sentence in the Bible declares God the sole creator of both heaven and earth. Thus the very fact that the heavens exist teaches us much about the creative ability of God. When we see the method of God's creation, however, we have an even greater appreciation for Him. The psalmist declared, "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made and by the breath of His mouth all their host" (Ps. 33:6). God merely spoke the universe into existence! He used no previously existing material (Heb. 11:3), and He did not exhaust Himself (cf. Isa. 40:28-29). We should remember that this same creative ability was involved in our salvation--"Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature (creation); the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Cor. 5:17).


The fact that the stars are from our point of view countless is assumed in the Bible (cf. Gen. 22:17) and born out by modern observation. Our sun is but one star in a vast galaxy of stars. Our Milky Way galaxy is estimated by astronomers to contain 300 billion stars, and our galaxy is just one of countless galaxies. There may be a billion galaxies within range of the 200-inch Hale telescope on Mount Palomar, and each of these may contain hundreds of millions of individual stars. In spite of the unfathomable number of stars, the Bible asserts that God not only knows the number of the stars but also calls them all by name! "He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord, and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite" (Ps. 147:4-5). What comfort it is to know that we of such limited knowledge and understanding are privileged to know and trust an all-knowing God.


God promised that His covenant with Israel will remain as long as the fixed order of the sun and moon and stars also remains (Jer. 31:35-36). As we see the sun continue to rise and set daily and the moon circle the earth monthly, we are reminded that the promises of God stand sure. God also said His promise will remain firm as long as the heavens remain unmeasured (vs. 37). The fact is we cannot comprehend the size of the universe, let alone measure it. To see just how amazing the distances are, we can look at the Voyager II spacecraft, the fastest spacecraft ever built by man. It was launched in 1977 and did not reach our eighth planet, Neptune, until the summer of 1989! And that is not even out of our own Solar System. To reach a nearby galaxy, such as the Andromeda Galaxy M31 (see illustration page 4), it would take the same spacecraft perhaps 150 billion years! There are only a handful of stars whose distance can be directly measured by triangulation and these are in our own "backyard" astronomically speaking. About the rest, we make assumptions, estimates and guesses. God's promises are still in effect, for the heavens remain unmeasured.


God's greatness is demonstrated by the fact that, unlike man, He has measured the heavens with ease. Isaiah 40:12 reveals that God has "marked off the heavens with a span." A span is a unit of measure from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger on an outstretched hand. Isaiah thus was stressing that God is far greater than the heavens! Paul also described the shining glory of the risen Christ as being brighter than the sun (Acts 26:13). His glory is beyond all the lights that He commanded to shine out of darkness. Just as in days past when the sun, moon, and stars were worshipped, people in our day still serve the "creature more than the Creator" (Rom. 1:26). It is profoundly sad that many who have devoted their lives to the study of the heavens worship at the altar of Humanism and elevate human wisdom rather than recognize the one who "hangs the world on nothing" (Job 26:7). The saying is true, "Today's idols are more in the self than on the shelf."

THE HEAVENS SHOW GOD'S CONDESCENDING CARE One cannot contemplate the lessons from above without feeling profoundly small. We begin to see ourselves from an entirely new perspective. We are tiny little beings on a small planet orbiting a rather ordinary star in a galaxy that is indistinguishable from a trillion others. David captured this point of view when he wrote, "When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and stars which Thou hast ordained; What is man that Thou dost take thought of him?" (Ps. 8:3-4). How glorious it is that God even notices us, let alone provides for us in this life and promises eternal life to all who believe in God's Son. God has crowned us with glory and majesty ( Ps. 8:5) and given us rule over His works (vs. 6). We should cry out as did David, "O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Thy name in all the earth" (vss. 1, 9).


On the fourth day of creation, God created the sun to rule the day and the moon to rule the night; then, in a most casual way, the Bible states that "He made the stars also" (Gen. 1:16). If we consider for a moment the energy that God imparted to the sun and other stars, we can capture a faint idea of His power; for His power is infinitely greater than the sum of all the stars that shine in the heavens. The estimated output of our sun's luminosity has been estimated to be equivalent to 5 X 1023 horse power. That would look like this: 5 x 1, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 horsepower. God's infinite power is seen not only in His creation but also in His sustaining of the universe (Col. 1:17) and in His one day destroying the heavens. "The heavens are the work of thy hands. Even they will perish, but Thou dost endure . . . but Thou are the same, and Thy years will not come to an end" (Ps, 102:25-27; cf. 2 Pet. 3:10-13; Rev. 21:1). Sometimes we think of ourselves as powerful. In terms of our accomplishments, however, we are incredibly weak. The furthest man has traveled has been to our own moon, a mere quarter of a million miles away. From 1960 to 1972, the United States spent $25 billion to have twelve men walk the moon's dusty surface. We left six American flags and assorted litter and scientific instruments. We brought back some dramatic photographs and about 850 pounds of rock and soil samples. How does that compare with the power of our God, who can "bind the chains of the Pleides" (an open star cluster in Taurus) "or loose the cords of Orion" (a winter constellation)" (Job 38:31). May we come to know "what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe" (Eph. 1:19).


Not only is our heavenly Father all-powerful, but He is also eternal. This can be seen in the Psalm 102 passage quoted above, as well as by the fact that He was eternally existent before the foundation of the world (cf. Heb. 1:10). His glory will blaze through the transparent structure of the New Jerusalem throughout all eternity, long after the sun and moon are but a memory (cf. Rev. 21:9--11, 22-25). We must also remember that everything we see, whether it is here on earth or in the farthest reaches of the universe, is only temporary. "For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18). We must always look with eyes of faith beyond the present and like Abraham look "for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Heb. 11:10). Our God is eternal!


I am convinced that one cannot look at the sky above, whether with the naked eye or with the most powerful telescope, without being overwhelmed with the size, beauty, power, and design of all he sees. These natural reactions to our observations lead us to understand something concerning the glory of the God who made them. Many has been the time that after enjoying some splendid sight in the heavens above I have repeated the words of David, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands" (Ps, 19:1). God desires that mankind know of Him and His glory, for "day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no language where their voice is not heard" (Ps, 19:2-3, KJV). If God has taken such care to display His glory by means of the lights above, should not we, who are "the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14), show forth God's glory to a world that has willfully chosen not to glorify Him as God (cf. Rom. 1:19-31)?

Since our God is the only true God, the creator of heaven and earth, He alone is to be worshipped. The worship of the lights above is strictly forbidden in Deuteronomy 4:19: "And beware lest you lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them." Likewise the ancient art of astrology is also explicitly condemned in Scripture ( Deut. 18:9-15). While these commands prohibit perversion, they should not discourage the legitimate study of the heavens. Such study should lead us to a fuller understanding of the glory of God. It should draw us to the Word of God and the God of the Word. The next time the sky is clear and dark, look up and examine the work of God and then praise the God that stretches out the heaven like a curtain (Ps. 104:2) and join in the chorus: "Be exalted above the heavens, O God; Let thy glory be above all the earth" (Ps. 57:11).

Jesse Waggoner
Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church

©1997 Calvary Baptist Church