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Psalm 8 Part 3: God’s Universe
Psalm 8:3. Our hearts are satisfied only by an infinite God.
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;”
Psalms 8:3 NASB1995
Verses 3 through 5 of Psalm 8 are some of my most-loved verses in all of the Bible. I’m doing this verse by verse, so we start with considering the works of God as seen in the heavens in the phrase that constitutes verse 3. One of my favorite hobbies over the years has been astronomy. My parents bought me a basic Tasco reflecting telescope when I was young and I spent many hours observing the moon, the planets and a few night sky objects. Steve and I have continued the hobby together with a variety of telescopes and we love to go to dark sky parks so we can enjoy views of the Milky Way.
When David wrote this Psalm around 1000 BC, no optical devices like telescopes existed. The night sky was what was observable by the naked eye and on a moonless night, you might be able to see (and count, if you were patient) around 10,000 stars plus a few brighter objects that appeared to move differently and a moon that had different phases and was useful to roughly measure a time interval called a month. People looked at the night sky and were afraid, they wondered, they were in awe; God saw that it was good.
When I first contemplated how to write this devotional, I started down a dry, dusty path of the history of astronomy and cosmology and realized that I would lose my audience in a heartbeat. Suffice to say, we can fast forward to 2023, when we now know from observations by light spectra-gathering powerhouses like Hubble Space Telescope, James Webb Space Telescope and myriad earth-based systems that it is estimated that the universe contains at least two trillion galaxies, with those galaxies containing an average of 100 billion stars each (using the estimate for our very own Milky Way), resulting in a rough order value of one septillion stars (a one followed by 24 zeroes or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) according to NASA. It’s interesting to note that this number is disputed by some cosmologists who believe it is too high by an order or two of magnitude.
The scale of the known universe is beyond comprehension, with light from the furthest objects that humans have observed being about 13.5 billion light-years away (a light-year is a distance measurement that is the distance traveled by light in one year; light travels at 186,000 miles per second, so the light-year is 5.9 trillion miles of distance). But this number as the limit of the universe is also being disputed and the arguments fly around the cosmology internet about such arcane ideas as dark matter and dark energy to make the numbers “work”. The shape and size of the universe are also matters of discussion that go WAY over my head and even the popularly-theorized Big Bang theory of universe origins has some detractors, or at least some theorists who speculate that we are in a multiverse of many universes (this theory helps unbelieving cosmologists discard the ideas of a single universe being “just right” to have gravity and light and the conditions that can lead to life because that sounds too much like intelligent design).
So where does God fit into all of this? If you ask the typical cosmologist, he/she would say nowhere, because most of them are atheists. They sneer at the Biblical story of creation and a God who watches over His creation on this tiny planet in a typical galaxy in a ginormous universe. Like me in the wandering years, I rolled my eyes at the story of Adam and Eve and an Earth that was special and a “little” God who wanted us to be redeemed; how could He have created this vastness? But here’s the thing I have learned since coming back to God: The theories are fascinating and the observations are enthralling and I enjoy reading about them, but in the end, they don’t matter! What matters is what is etched in our hearts. We have a hole in our souls and people are searching for something, anything to satisfy that longing. Knowing the size of the universe or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin does nothing to solve that longing but only serves to distract us from the ultimate love. Here is what Blaise Pascal had to say (the real quote from his Pensees , not that one you find in a casual search that might also be attributed to C.S. Lewis):
What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.
God is infinite, which makes this vast universe that He made less than a blade of grass or a gem sparkle in front of His throne. Believe in Him and you get the universe thrown in, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis. Our imaginations are the limits, not billions of light years, trillions and trillions of stars, dark energy and dark matter, and complex quantum equations on a dusty chalkboard. The great I AM has ordained it, Amen!
Coda: As is usually the case when I do one of these, another devotional website will publish something that echoes my thoughts. Here is a link to a Desiring God devotional that is marvelous. We are like cows looking at grass and other distractions and not up at the throne of God!
My next devotional examines Psalm 8 verse 4.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Thank you for creating the wonders that we see in our Universe and for giving us minds with curiosity and seeking. May we be led on a path of spiritual understanding to fill our hearts with your love, which is the only thing that satisfies. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org