DayBreaks for 12/09/19: When I Survey the Heavens
Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up [God’s] dominion over the earth?” – Job 38:31-33 (NIV)
I suspect that we don’t contemplate the greatness of God nearly enough. Of course, it is difficult to do so. When we think of great things, we might think of an aircraft carrier, Mount Everest, the immense Pacific Ocean and the like. We tend to think of greatness many times in relation to size. The bigger it is, the greater it seems to be. And, since none of us really have seen God, we don’t know how big He is. He may be the same size as a human, smaller, bigger, or big enough that He fills all space. He probably can change sizes if it suits His purpose. But God isn’t impressed with size, is He?
Well, no, He’s not. He’s not impressed with size or the amount of skill a human has or the size of someone’s bank account. He does, however, seem to want us to be impressed with His greatness (as we should be anyway!) The problem is this: since no one can see Him and live, how can He demonstrate His greatness to us in ways we can even begin to comprehend? Of course, there’s what happened in the Incarnation and the life of Jesus that tells us about God’s character (mercy, love, grace, forgiveness, humility, etc.). Those are things that we must be impressed by if nothing else. But He also points us to the heavens – to something visible – that we can literally see and then we can stand back in awe.
Bill Bryson did a great job in his book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, to begin to help us grasp the size of one part of God’s creation: space. Let’s let him educate is for the purposes of understanding God’s greatness as witnessed by this one part of His creation:
The universe that we know and talk about (which by the way is probably not all there is since we can’t see the end of the universe, is 1 million million million million (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) miles across. According to at least one astronomer, the size of the meta-universe (the superset of the universe we can presently see and know) most likely isn’t written with “10 zeroes, not even with a hundred, but with millions.”
Those numbers are so large that we can’t even begin to embrace their meaning. So, let’s settle down to just our solar system. Our solar system is most likely the liveliest thing for trillions of miles, but all the visible stuff in our solar system (sun, planets, moons, asteroids, comets, etc.) fills less than 1 trillionth of the space available in the solar system. Remember those maps of the solar system you saw in school? I hate to tell you this, but they’re all wrong – exceedingly wrong. But in order to be able to show them so we could learn the names of the 9 planets (I know, Pluto is not considered a planet anymore, but I’m old school!), they put them all on one piece of paper. If you were to draw the diagram of the solar system to scale with earth at the size of a pea, the planet Jupiter would be over 1000 feet away from earth and little cold Pluto would be 1.5 miles from earth (and about the size of a bacterium so you wouldn’t be able to see it at all). Our nearest star, Proxima Centauri, would be nearly 10,000 miles away. Even if everything was shrunk down so that Jupiter was as small as the period at the end of this sentence and Pluto was no bigger than a molecule, Pluto would still be 35 feet away.
Proxima Centauri is 100,000,000 times farther from earth than the moon. To make the trip by modern spaceship would require 25,000 years, and once you got there, you’d still be in the middle of nowhere. It has been estimated that the average distance between stars that are visible is 20 million, million miles. Anyone up for a hike?
Is it any wonder that when God wanted Job to understand His greatness He referred Job to the heavens: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. – Psalms 19:1-5 (NIV)
In this season of wonder regarding the Incarnation of Jesus, let’s not lose sight of this aspect of wonder, too!
PRAYER: May we ponder Your greatness and give You alone the praise of our hearts! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple. ><}}}”>