A few weeks ago, NASA released some of the first photos from the James Webb telescope from 932,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) above the earth. Have you been as captivated by those pictures as I am? The photo above shows a portion of the night sky hidden behind a grain of sand held at arm’s length in front of you. The sheer vastness of the universe, the stunning glory of billions of galaxies flung out farther than is possible to perceive, is impossible to comprehend.
God is not a stingy creator, painting with browns and grays, sprinkling the night skies with a few pinpricks of light.
“Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them,” God invited Abram, knowing that his limited vision couldn’t begin to discern the implications.
“What is mankind?” the Psalmist sang in awe, overwhelmed by the ancient skies. How much more should we, who view his glory from satellites and telescopes, stand in awe? We, who invent ever better technology to find the beginning of it all, only to discover that the bright display stretches into infinity?
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?PSALM 8:3-4
In Bible times there was no light pollution. Nothing to compete with the vast, dazzling array spread across the night sky. It was enough to bring them to worship; to lift their praises to the Creator of such wonder.
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 reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.PSALM 19:1-4
Now we can see that these bright and shining heavens contain uncountable trillions of whirling galaxies spread beyond the limits of science and imagination. And yet, we no longer worship. Somehow, such magnificence is no longer enough.
When God created these stars on the fourth day, he called it good. But we are desperate to find an explanation – any explanation – to bolster our belief that the universe, instead of being breathed out by a loving Father, is a coldly random place. Dazzling, yes, but ultimately, empty – not in a physical sense, obviously, but devoid of meaning.
So we build our Babel towers to heaven, thinking to bring God down to our size. Explainable. Containable.
But when we arrive at the summit, we are stunned to find not the faint whisper of predictable beginnings, but instead, an overwhelming extravagance glowing and spinning above our heads.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.ROMANS 1:20
This is an extravagance that both bursts our tight little theological boxes and humbles our overweening scientific hubris to declare that there is indeed a God, and he is so much more than we can imagine.
And yet….and yet! This God sees us. Comes to us. Loves us. Invites us to a future where we’ll no longer need computers and telescopes to catch a glimpse of the hem of his garment.
What more will it take for us to exchange our theories and formulas for simple wonder? To trade in the pride we cling to so tightly, for worship? To accept both the extravagance of such a universe and the extravagance of such a love?
For this is what the high and exalted One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”ISAIAH 57:15