Today there is an image circulating around the internet that has captivated my interest. Sometime recently NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope took the largest, clearest picture of space that has ever been captured.
The image of our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy is 60,000 by 22,000 pixels, a total of 1.5 billion pixels total, and is 4.3GB in size. It is supposedly 1000-times sharper than high definition and the stars it clearly captures are more numerous than any other photograph of space. The image I posted above is only a small representation of the real thing.
“It’s like photographing a beach and resolving individual grains of sand,” NASA said in a press release.
Scientists have calculated (I’m not sure how) that in this one image alone there are over 100 million stars. One hundred million. Can you fathom it? Maybe you’re not impressed but I sure am!
When I saw NASA refer to the stars as “grains of sand” my mind was immediately drawn to God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 15.
(God took Abraham) outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:5-6).
This was perhaps the preeminent moment in Abraham’s life. Sure, God had already appeared to him and told him to leave home and go to Canaan (which was a big deal, Gen. 12) but this is when God promises to work his biggest miracle in the elderly Abraham’s life: to provide him a biological son. As a wealthy man, Abe and his wife Sarah had no children to carry on their estate once they passed away. A loyal servant was next in line but the servant was not a son. But God promises Abraham that a son would be born to him. Abe wondered how this could happen.
So God took His friend outside and showed him one hundred million stars. Or a bunch of them, anyway! As Abraham looked up at the living high-resolution picture in front of him he was struck with awe. And he believed in God’s word and that faith that justified him as a righteous man.
I also find it hard to look up at the stars and not be filled with a strangely intoxicating mix of awe, wonder, smallness, fear and glory. King David also looked at the one hundred million stars and said, “What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty (Psalm 8:4-5).”
David, I can relate to that feeling! I used to drive out to the country outside of Gainesville, Texas, late at night and just park my car somewhere. I would either roll down the windows or lean against the hood of my Chevy Cavalier and gaze up at the stars. As I looked into the light-pollution-free skies I would become filled with an amazing sense of awe. One hundred million stars can do that to an impressionable heart!
Ever since I moved into the metropolis of Dallas-Fort Worth I have dearly missed seeing the stars. Oh, sure, we can still see some stars inside the light bubble but I swear that about half of them are moving at a steady pace with red and green lights flanking them and a strobe flashing on the bottom. (I live next to the airport!) Artificial stars just ain’t like the real things.
I love Isaiah 40. It is perhaps the deepest bit of poetry in the Bible, save for Psalm 23, that describes the vastness of God and His space but also the intimacy of His care and concern for you and me. In the oracle, Isaiah sees this vision of the future and foretells the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. But he also takes mankind into the “cosmic scope of reality” to show us how God sees our countries, our planet and our universe.
God sits above the earth and, from that view, we are the size of grasshoppers and our rulers are like dust that God scatters ends away when He turns on his desk fan. Our countries (including America)? Drops in the bucket. Then the prophet says,
“Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.” (Isaiah 40:26)
God knows each orb of plasma and has named them! He knows how many stars there are — at least 100 million — and can account for the whereabouts of each and every one. Wow! God walks among his stars and maybe even having conversations with each one! And people laugh when I talk to squirrels….. sheesh.
Isaiah continues to put things into perspective. It would be easy to think of the God of stars as being distant, but God isn’t ignoring your issues in order to take an exhausting census of them!
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:28-31)
The One who created 100 million stars and sits enthroned above the earth cares about you. He isn’t too busy with the heavens! Nor is He a watchmaker who just lets the world’s cogs run their course. No, He gives strength to weary people and rewards those who wait on Him (an act which involves seeking Him).
He who walks among 100 million stars walks with you and me. He cares. And He helps. Thank you, Hubble, for helping to remind me of that.