I love pondering the magnitude of the Universe. The gigantic size and beauty of Space.
I love standing out on my back patio at night, maybe with a wind blowing through our huge maple trees, and just looking up at the stars and the moon and contemplating the vastness of what God accomplished when He said, “Let there be”. And there was.
Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
When I was a new Christian back in the late ’70’s, I visited the Planetarium in my home town of Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’ve forgotten the regular Planetarium show that night, where you sit back in your seat, looking up at a huge white ceiling, and some astronomy lesson is projected out on the ceiling “sky”. I’m sure it was a good presentation.
But I still remember vividly, over thirty-five years later, the experience I had in the foyer of the Planetarium, as I was looking at some blown-up photographs of the sky, taken through high-power telescopes. Huge expanses of outer Space with too many stars to count printed on my brain, and I was struck with the awesomeness of the God Whom I’d just come to know.
Tears came as I realized that this awesome God, this Creator who cast not just millions of stars, but billions of galaxies out into Space by His Word alone, had created a little planet called Earth, and had come here in love, to give His only begotten Son, to save us from our sins if we would believe in Him.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, it’s important to not just take time to smell the roses, but take time to inhale the aroma of a God who by His Word made the star Antares.
Antares is a giant star, so much bigger than our sun that if it was placed where our sun is, 93 million miles away, the Earth would actually be inside of the star!
And Antares is just one of 500 billion stars in our galaxy called the Milky Way.
From America there is only one other galaxy that can be seen at all with the naked eye. That galaxy is called Andromeda, and is 2 million light-years away. That means that light, traveling at 186,000 miles per second, would take 2 million years to reach Earth.
And yet that’s a very very short distance in Space.
Until recently in human history, Andromeda was just thought to be another star. But with powerful telescopes, we came to know that Andromeda was actually a galaxy(!) twice the size of our Milky Way, and contains hundreds of billions of stars.
And the Milky Way and Andromeda are just 2 of 100 billion galaxies, each with billions of stars.
Which brings me to the second time I got tears in my eyes at the Lord’s creation of the heavens:
I think it was the early 90’s when National Geographic published some photos taken by the Hubble telescope. The Hubble is a very powerful telescope which was put into Space orbit, so that the earth’s atmosphere wouldn’t interfere with or distort what the telescope could see.
By the way, a side note. Did you know that if you took a globe — you know, a globe like you might have at home, that spins around and let us see the maps of the world in their actual shapes — if you took that globe and sprayed a coat of varnish on it, that coat of varnish would be the equivalent of about the actual thickness of the atmosphere on the earth, the air we breathe? Isn’t that amazing?
Anyway, back to the National Geographic photos from the Hubble telescope.
One of the sets of pictures showed a part of Space which we had previously only seen as a black empty spot of Space from our Earth telescopes. Then another picture showed that same black spot that we previously thought was empty, and Hubble had shown us that that black empty spot of Space actually contained whole new beautiful astounding galaxies of stars and worlds that we didn’t even have a clue existed.
I was stunned, and the immense power and majesty of the Lord who became our Friend, once again shook my heart with gratitude.
Philip Yancey tells the story of how he was visiting a refugee camp in Somalia, just below the equator. He writes,
“I had spent all day interviewing relief workers about the megadisaster of the moment. Kurdistan, Rwanda, Sudan, Ethiopia -– place names change, but the spectacle of suffering has a dreary sameness: mothers with shriveled, milkless breasts, babies crying and dying, fathers foraging for firewood in a treeless terrain.
“After three days of hearing tales of human misery, I could not lift my sights beyond that refugee camp situated in an obscure corner of an obscure country on the Horn of Africa. Until I saw the Milky Way. It abruptly reminded me that the present moment did not comprise all of life. History would go on. Tribes, governments, and whole civilizations may rise and fall, trailing disaster in their wake, but I dared not confine my field of vision to the scenes of suffering around me. I needed to look up, to the stars.”
The Lord asked Job, in the midst of complaining about his suffering, “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in the 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?”
Amazingly, Job was helped by these somewhat sarcastic questions from God.
Job had been focusing on earthly things, as horrible as they were. And the Lord lifted his eyes to the heavens. And Job was changed.
I’m changed too, when I contemplate the heavens.
The heavens declare the glory of God.
Don’t ever lose your sense of wonder at the God who created you. Step outside, day or night, and look up at the heavens. I don’t mean to be spooky about it, but just relax, just wait and let the heavens declare His glory.
It will fuel the sense of wonder that God wants you to have.
Here are some of the actual pictures from the Hubble, accompanied by Loreena McKennitt beautifully singing some words I can’t understand most of 🙂