Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Celestial Bible

I mentioned in my last blog that I spent Labor Day weekend in the Texas Hill Country--in a rather remote area, actually. One thing I like about remote areas--besides being out of cell phone and e-mail range, safe from people who consider it everyone's duty to be "on call" 24/7--is the overhead view on clear nights. Those of us who live in major metropolitan areas see only a smattering of stars through the city lights and haze; there is just no comparison to the brilliantly spangled sky in the country.

In Bible times, when there were no electric lights and few large cities, the view must have been, if anything, more spectacular. It must also have offered comfort to people who had only fire to push back the dark where wild animals (and who knew what else) lurked; shining on against the black sky, growing all the brighter as it grew blacker, the stars must have represented assurance that darkness would never overcome light.

Small wonder that most ancient peoples worshiped the stars as gods. The Bible warns against such practices (e. g., Dt. 4:19), but never forbids admiring the stars. Indeed, many Scripture verses use that as a take-off point for worship of the stars' Creator:

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" (Ps. 8:3-4, NIV).

"He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name" (Ps. 147:4).

"Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars" (Ps. 148:3).

The opposite of worshiping the stars is to become so used to them as to no longer appreciate them. When I was a college student in a small town, I was surprised at how many of my rural-raised classmates seemed completely blind to the beauty of the night sky. Once one starts taking Creation for granted, it is only a short step to denying the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:18-21); if the stars aren't all that great, who's to say it took a great God to make them?

Whether you live in the wilderness or in a Manhattan high-rise, pause this evening to admire some small part of Creation--be it the brightest stars, the moon, the ocean, or a tree on the corner--that you pass every day but have been ignoring. Take time to really see it in all its splendid design.

Then praise the God Who made it!

God's glory shines forth from the heavens
So even pagans know
A mightier Power than human
Set all of the stars aglow.
God formed all space and the heavens
And lit the fires of the sky
That shine through centuries of nighttimes,
Proclaiming Him to each eye.

Earth is but one tiny island
In the universe's sea,
And I am but one speck of life--
Yet God cares so much for me.
Every life is a mere instant
In the span of time's great whole;
But in eternal worlds beyond,
God will keep each faithful soul.

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