The Heavens Declare the Glory of the Lord (Psalm 19)
I want to talk this morning to you about the fourth day of creation: “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also (Genesis 1:16).”
I’ve always been interested in the sun, moon, and stars, ever since I can remember. A few years ago I bought a telescope; it’s allowed me to see all the planets, as well as many other objects in our night sky. I’ve seen Saturn’s rings many times; it never gets old.
It always gotten my attention when I read that verse, to see that God “made” the stars; and the phrase “he made the stars also” is possibly the biggest understatement in the Bible, almost as if it’s a side note that God then made 99.9 percent of all the matter in the universe after making the earth and sun and moon.
It’s also interesting to note that the fourth day of creation is the only one where what was created stays constant; light and darkness come and go, clouds come and go, animals and people come and go, but the sun, moon, and stars are always there, and are not going anywhere. We know the sun will rise tomorrow in the east and that it’s there even if we can’t see it.
Psalm 19:1-5: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.”
The first three verses are saying that we don’t need anyone to tell us, or we don’t need words on a page, for us to know that there’s an almighty creator; we see his creation and that in itself is evidence enough.
God has given such an order to the universe that scientists can predict when certain things will happen: I know on August 21 of next year, we’re going to have a solar eclipse here, where over ninety percent of the sun will be covered by the moon. Many people in this world went crazy over the “blood moons” between April 2014 and September 2015; the world didn’t end as they thought it would, but sure enough, the blood moons happened as planned. And every year, each planet comes to “opposition,” where it rises at sunset and sets at sunrise, so it’s visible all night, and astronomers know exactly when that date will be for each planet every year. And if you look up on any given night, you’re bound to see a few constellations where the brightest stars form an image in the sky. I’ve even heard theories that say that God uses the constellations to write his message into creation.
David writes, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him (Psalm 8:3-4)?”
Imagine David writing this Psalm back in his day when there was no light pollution from the city lights, or when God took Abraham out into the night sky and told him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars (Genesis 15:5). He certainly would have seen the Milky Way, something that most people in this country have never seen.
A few weeks ago, I was at Bro. Phil’s house in Blackstone before going to the Virginia Youth Camp the next day. I asked him for a good location I could go to see the night sky; he pointed me to a little country club a few miles south of town, in the middle of nowhere. I went down there, and turned off the car and got out; I don’t remember ever seeing as many stars as I did that night. The Milky Way was clearly visible, as well as Mars and Saturn; same thing the next week at Bible School under a moonless sky. It was so dark, and so quiet; it reminds me of that verse that says, “Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10);” there’s one aspect of knowing about God, that doesn’t say “go to Sunday morning meeting and know that I am God” or “do your daily readings” or “sing hymns” or “listen to classes and know that I am God,” but to “be still and know that I am God.” Abraham would have very well understood that concept.
There’s a line in one of our hymns that says, “I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed; then sings my soul, my saviour God to thee”…“then.”
I sometimes wonder when I look up at the sky: “what if every single star that we see has a planet like earth and there’s life on each one of them?” If God is from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:2), I doubt he’s only been active in this one tiny part of the universe. Who knows what else is out there? At the same time, maybe we really are the only ones in the universe. That could be; it doesn’t really matter. We know at least that God has chosen Earth, and we know he’s going to do something really great with it; he has had this in mind since the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34).
Job says that God stretches the north over the empty place, and hangs the earth upon nothing (Job 26:7). A few verses later, Job asks, “But the thunder of his power who can understand (Job 26:14)?”
If you could scale the universe down so that the sun and earth were one inch apart, the sun would be maybe the size of a grain of sand, and the earth would be about a hundred times thinner than that; the nearest star would be four and a half miles away. If the sun was the size of a six-inch ball here in Richmond, the nearest star would be somewhere in the Yukon, way out on the west coast.
There’s a star out there called VY Canis Majoris, and it’s so big that it could hold seven quadrillion earths, yet it’s so far away that it cannot be seen with the naked eye; you need binoculars or a telescope to see it.
The nearest star is about four and a half light years away, which means it takes light four and a half years to reach us from the star. That equates to around 24.8 trillion miles. If you traveled at one mile per second to the nearest star, it would take 130 times the amount of time that has gone by since Adam and Eve.
The Andromeda Galaxy is the furthest object we can see from earth with the naked eye, although it’s very dim. It’s twice as big as our Milky Way; it’s so big that if you could see it all with the naked eye, it would appear to be six times than the full moon, even though it’s 2.5 million light years away.
Scientists estimate that there are over seventy sextillion stars; that’s more than all the grains of sand on all the seashores on earth.
In 2004, the Hubble Space Telescope fixated itself on one point in the sky that made up one thirteen-millionth of the total area of the sky. The telescope held its position for almost eleven days, continuously gathering light into one photograph. The picture is named “Hubble Ultra Deep Field,” and has been called “the most important picture ever taken.” It showed galaxies as far away as 13.2 billion light years. The picture shows around 10,000 galaxies of billions of stars each.
Yet, God tells the number of the stars; he calls them all by their names (Psalm 147:4). He commands the sun, and it rises not; and seals up the stars; he spreads out the heavens, and treads upon the waves of the sea; he made Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south (Job 9:7-9).
The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth (2 Chronicles 16:9). If we see and hear about what goes on in the world, how much more of it does God see every day? But on the positive side of that, the second part of that verse says, “to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” He’s not unrighteous to forget what you do, how you show love; he’s not blind to your efforts (Hebrews 6:10); it doesn’t just blow past him. He searches us and knows us; he knows our downsitting and uprising, and understands our thoughts afar off. He is acquainted with all our ways. There is not a word on your tongue, but he knows it altogether. Such knowledge is too wonderful; we cannot attain unto it. Where can we go from his spirit, or flee from his presence? If we ascend up into heaven, he is there. The night shines as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to him (Psalm 139:1-4, 6-8, 12). Nothing is hidden from him (Hebrews 4:13); nothing is impossible for him (Matthew 19:26).
Turn to Joshua 10:12-14–“Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the Lord fought for Israel.”
This was an astronomical miracle; we sometimes call it “the day the sun stood still,” but it also says the moon stood still. I might be mistaken, but I think that would require the Earth to stop revolving around the sun. If that happened, it would actually affect the orbit of all the other planets—in fact, the way Neptune was discovered is that they were observing Uranus and they noticed that something was affecting its orbit; they figured something further out had to be pulling at it; and sure enough, soon after, they discovered Neptune, within one degree of where they thought it would be. Each planet’s orbit and gravity affects all the others. So on the day the sun stood still, it’s quite possible that the entire solar system stopped in its tracks for a day, yet God did it as soon as Joshua said it; he made it look easy. That’s how much attention God pays to his people. He’s willing to stop the earth dead in its tracks; he’s able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20), and there’s nothing too hard for him (Jeremiah 32:17). It’s never an inconvenience to God for us to ask for something really big. If you ever thought you had to “wait in line,” or that God is too busy doing other stuff to bother with your little concern, remember that he made the sun stand still that very day, right when it was needed, not the next day or the next week, or the next month, or the next year. Verse 14 says, “for the Lord fought for Israel,” his people, and he does the same for us. God is never delayed, and sometimes he does the incredible, all because of one person on earth asking him for help. He is a sun and shield, he gives grace and glory, and will withhold no good thing from them that walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11).
Heavens and earth in scripture are sometimes figurative; they represent the governments and the people and the order of things. Jesus tells us that there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars; he may have been referring to literal signs, although we don’t know what those signs might be, but he also may have been referring to the political heavens; and if this past year is any indicator, we’ve seen a lot of “signs” in the sun, moon, and stars.
We read in Isaiah that sometime soon, God will create a new heavens and a new earth, a new world order: “But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her…and it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord (Isaiah 65:18-19, 24-25).”
John was shown what the final heavens and earth will be like: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Revelation 21:3-4).”
While we’re still mortal, we’re to be like the moon, reflecting the light of Jesus; that’s all we can really do in our mortal state, is to reflect some light onto this dark world; when there’s a full moon, it’s bright enough here on earth that you can see your way around, but even so, you’d still rather have the sunlight.
We’re also told that one day we will be like the stars; Daniel says those that are wise will shine like the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:3). Stars shine best in darkness; you can’t see them when the sun is out, even though they are still there. As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of stars; the promise to Abraham is that his seed would be as the stars; if we get into the Kingdom, we will be a part of that great promise.
Jesus is referred to as the “Sun of Righteousness” but he also refers to himself as the “morning star (Revelation 22:16).” The “morning star” in our sky is the planet Venus, which is so bright that it can cast shadows. It has a smaller orbit than the earth, and because of that, it always appears relatively close to the sun. It’s called the “morning star” because when it comes out in the very early morning, you see it and you know the sun is on its way, that the night is almost over. Then you see a glow on the horizon, the stars and planets disappear from view, and finally the sun comes out and dispels all the darkness, and lights up the world. We’re at that place in history, where the night is almost over, and soon, the light of the world, the Sun of Righteousness will arise with healing in his wings (Malachi 4:2), and there will be no more darkness. The righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father (Matthew 13:43).
We have a great hope; God calls us to be the stars of the coming age, and if, by his grace, we get into the Kingdom, we will shine as the sun, to bring light to this dark world. But if we want to be the light of the world then, we have to be the light of the world now (Matthew 5:14). There’s relatively little we can do now, but if we’re faithful over a few things, we will be made ruler over many things then (Matthew 25:23), to enlighten this world instead of just those around us. The glory of the Lord will fill this earth (Numbers 14:21); the heavens declare the glory of the Lord now, and this earth will in the very near future. In closing, Peter writes: “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless (2 Peter 3:13-14).”