Monday, January 17, 2011

Psalm 19 – How Big is Your God?

Psalm 19:1-6

How Big is Your God?

Arno Penzais was PhD physicist working for Bell Labs in New Jersey in the early 60's with Robert Wilson to make an ultra sensitive microwave antenna for astronomical observations. In 1964 when testing the new device they detected radio "noise" which they could not explain. After eliminating every explanation and fine tuning their antenna to eliminate local radio interference, they concluded that the "noise" was real microwave radiation from the deepest darkest parts of space. This cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR), confirming some of Einstein's theories, was the leftover energy from the Cosmic Creation Event (CCE) more commonly called the Big Bang. This evidence shifted the scientific view from that of a self existent eternal universe, to a temporal one with a definite beginning and a transcendent cause just like the one described in the Bible

The psalmist David was familiar with the sky. Growing up as a shepherd on the Bethlehem hills he had gazed at it often enough. The blazing sun by day and the beautiful stars by night were constant companions of the one who penned the nineteenth Psalm. The circumstances of David's life took him from the fields of Bethlehem, to caves (hiding from Saul); from battlefields, to the roof-top of a palace. When the circumstances and settings of David's life had changed, the stars and sun remained the same. They were (and are) an unmistakable, untiring, and understandable witness of the glory of God!

I. An Unmistakable Witness (v.1)
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork."

The heavens are God's oldest testament. They witnessed the creation and fall of man, Abraham's call, the exodus, the rise and fall of kingdoms, the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ; every human being that has ever existed on planet earth has lived beneath them! They guide our travel and point us beyond to the One Who is the Source and Sustainer of all things.

The "heavens" space, time, matter and energy, were created on the first day of creation (Gen. 1:1). The first celestial bodies that existed in the firmament called the heavens (sun, moon, and stars) were created by God on the fourth day of creation (Gen. 1:14-19). God made them "for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth" (Gen.1:14&15).

It takes only a moment gazing at these "signs in the sky" to realize just how small we are and how big God must be! If you ever find yourself doubting God's sovereign wisdom or immeasurable power, look up!

People have always been fascinated by the stars and many have tried to count them. When God promised Abraham that he would have innumerable descendants, He drew a striking comparison: "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them…so shall your descendents be" (Gen. 15:5 NKJV).

The total number of individual stars that are VISIBLE in both the northern and the southern celestial hemispheres is about 6,000. So, on a clear night one can see at most 3,000 stars at the same time (try and count them sometime).

With the advent of telescopes, a lot of previously unknown stars were discovered. Galileo (1564–1642), using his homemade telescope, saw a ten-fold increase in the number of visible stars, up to 30,000. Today, the local Milky Way galaxy (of which our sun is a part) is thought to contain between and 200 and 400 billion stars. All of the individual stars you can see in the night sky are just from our one galaxy.

Not only does the Milky Way contain an unimaginable number of stars, but the size of it is also astounding. Its diameter is said to be 100,000 light-years! Astronomical distances are too large to be measured in miles, so light-years are used instead. One light-year is the distance that a light ray travels in one year, at a speed of 186,000 miles per second Can we really grasp such an immense size? And this is not the only galaxy. With the naked eye we can see three more, namely the two Clouds of Magellan near the southern celestial pole, and the Andromeda galaxy in the constellation of the same name. The Andromeda galaxy is thought to be 2.25 million light-years from us (R. Humphreys, Starlight and Time)!

Numerous other galaxies have been discovered by means of the prolonged exposure of photographic plates. The total number of galaxies is probably around 100 billion, based on the observable universe, but could be as many as one trillion.

The total number of stars in the observable universe is estimated to be between 100 billion trillion (or Sextillion 1021) and One trillion trillion (or Septillion 1024). The most recent estimate based on the discovery of more red dwarf stars in elliptical galaxies, puts the number at 300 Sextillion.

What does the Bible say about the number of stars? Jeremiah writes: "As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David My servant" (Jer. 33:22 NKJV). Even though he lived before the age of telescopes Jeremiah turned out to be an amazing astronomer and cosmologist. He knew the laws of physics were fixed and unchangeable (Jer. 33:25) and that the universe was ever expanding (Jer. 31:37)

Isaiah also spoke of an expanding universe (Is. 40:22) and wrote that God's thoughts and ways are far higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8–9). Not only are His thoughts higher than ours, His abilities are far superior. He can actually count the stars! And He has done exactly that; He even gave each one a name: '"He counts the number of the stars; He calls them by name" (Psalm 147:4 NKJV). The very next verse emphasizes His greatness: "Great is our Lord, and mighty in power!"

The heavens are an unmistakable witness of the glory of God, yet He is concerned about each and every human being. This is clearly expressed in Psalms 8:3-6, "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet" (NKJV).

II. An Untiring Witness (v.2)
"Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge"

As far as man is concerned, the sun and the stars have always been there; and they never get tired declaring by their existence, "We were made by the hand of God!" Man's energy fails and his witness fades but the testimony of the heavens marches unmistakably and untiringly through time!

The sun and the stars are essentially hot and burning fires with massive stores of energy to consume. Our sun, for instance, which is only a star of moderate temperature, brightness, and size, is a giant powerhouse of ceaseless energy, a huge ball of very hot hydrogen fired by an extremely complicated chain of events. Astronomers report that the sun is capable of burning for billions of years without noticeable reduction of heat or mass, in fact the way Hydrogen fusion works stars actually grow in volume and burn hotter the older they get. What that means is that in less than a billion years the sun will expand to the point where its circumference will be larger than the earth's orbit, and it will literally swallow and dissolve our rocky planet, just like it says in 2 Peter 3:11-12

Every morning, the sun shouts the sovereign hand of God; every evening the stars share a glimpse of His glory. In Psalms 113:3 David expressed, "From the rising of the sun to its going down The Lord's name is to be praised" (NKJV). He goes on to say in verses 4-6, "The Lord is high above all nations, His glory is above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and the earth?"

The next time you see a blazing sunrise, that paints the sky will glorious color, realize that God's glory is ABOVE the heavens; so much so that He has to figuratively HUMBLE Himself (stoop down) to behold what leaves us standing in awe! The next time you look at the night sky, with the glowing moon and twinkling stars, remember the One Who cast them into space and named them for His pleasure.

Not only are the heavens an unmistakable and untiring witness of God's glory but they are also…

III. An Understandable Witness (vv.3-6)
"There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world."

Some scholars have had trouble with verses 3&4 of this passage. In the King James Version three words are in italics, signifying that they have been supplied by the translators and are not in the original text. They were inserted to help bridge the gap between the Hebrew and the English languages: "There is
no speech nor language where their voice is not heard." Strip off these three words and you get a different sense of the original Hebrew text. Instead of a positive statement you get three negative statements: "No speech! No language! Their voice is not heard!" What we know as sound is made by energy waves that vibrate the air. That means in the space around stars and even planets which have no atmosphere there is complete silence. Even astronauts on the moon have been struck by the silence where they can only hear what is in the false atmosphere of their own space suit. Of course David has no knowledge of outer space or atmosphere, yet by the Holy Spirit he testifies that the heavens have a "silent witness" testifying to the glory of God, and giving us knowledge about his power and eternity.

The apostle Paul spoke of creation's understandable witness in Romans 1:18-21, "For the wrath of God is REVEALED FROM HEAVEN against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened" (NKJV).

All of mankind will stand before God "without excuse" because of the unmistakable, untiring, and understandable witness of the heavens!

In Psalm 19:1-6 David is elated by God's revelation of Himself in the sky. But there's an even greater revelation. The stars have their place, but in Genesis 1 God dismissed the creation of all the suns and stars and galaxies of space in five short words, "He made the stars, also." We have an even greater revelation of God's glory – His Word – the Scriptures!

The witness of the stars tells us about God's power, sovereignty, and eternity, but if we are to ever know God Himself – what He is like in nature, person, and personality – then we must discover that through His spoken Word. The stars say, "God is almighty, He is eternal, He is omniscient, He is a God of infinite order and immeasurable power". The Scriptures tell us "God is a Person who loves and feels, Who knows and cares and rules". In verse 7 of Psalm 19 David turns from the skies to the Scriptures; he shifts his focus from what God has wrought to what God has written. God's Word speaks to life's greatest areas of need. It speaks with more authority and with greater insight than any social scientist or behavioral psychologist, the materialistic philosopher or the world's religious systems. It speaks the voice of God!

If you want to see the glory of God look up to the inspiring sky, but don't stop there; look down into His infallible Word! "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17). "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul" (Psalm 19:7).

This God, Whose glory is above the heavens, has revealed Himself to us in His Word. The Bible in your lap contains the character and majesty, the composed mystery, of God!

I opened with the story of Arno Penzais and his discovery which won him the Nobel Prize for Science in 1978. Listen to what he says about the origin of the universe. "The best data we have concerning the Big Bang, are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the 5 books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole." Arno Penzais has obviously learned from both of God's books; the book of Nature, and the Holy Scripture. Look at the picture of his discovery . This is the artifact of Genesis 1:1, God's creation, God's fingerprint. If this is God's fingerprint, how big is your God?

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