Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Psalm 8 is an intriguing Song of Praise to God. It begins and ends with the words that inspired a popular worship song: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth”. This Psalm was written by the shepherd boy whom God made into a king. A boy who became the man known as the man after God’s own heart. A young man that we know by the name of David.
You can almost imagine him as a young man laying on a hillside. His father’s sheep are bedded down for the night, and David looks up into the night sky and begins to be filled with wonder. Abraham Lincoln once wrote about the heavens filled with stars:
I never behold them that I do not feel I am looking in the face of God. I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up, into the heavens and say there is no God.
We Realise How Small We Are
There’s something about a clear night filled with a huge moon and bright shining stars that creates a sense of wonder in most people. The stars are clearer when away from the city lights of course. My wife and I noticed that when we were one time in the Northern Territory. And this is probably what inspired David to write:
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 – NIV))
A father told of taking his family to the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. He said the sky seemed more brilliant than they had ever seen it, and the stars were so close you felt as if you could touch them. Their three boys decided that they would put their sleeping bags out on the ground so they could go to sleep watching the stars. The man and his wife had just settled down for the night when their youngest came into the tent, dragging his sleeping bag with him. What is the matter? we asked. Is it getting too cold? No, he answered. I just never knew I was so small. (Reader’s Digest, 9/81 p. 126)
Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way? (Psalm 8:4 – The Message)
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And so we can imagine David looking up at the majesty of the night sky and being filled with awe—and suddenly he feels really small. How could a God who has created all this beauty be concerned with him? How could such a God be mindful of him or care what happens to him? It doesn’t make any sense!
And, David was right—that didn’t make any sense! That’s what Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, thought when he said: “If there are any gods whose chief concern is man, they can’t be very important gods.” He was saying: we’re so insignificant that any God worth the name wouldn’t give us a second thought.
Our Sun Is a Really Small Star
And that sentiment was echoed in a different way by one of the leading astronomers and atheists of the past century, Carl Sagan. On his popular science program Cosmos he said: “We live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star, lost in a galaxy, tucked away in some forgotten corner of universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.” Sagan painted a portrait of a trivial planet—inside of a dismal solar system—located in a backwater galaxy that was dwarfed by bigger and more impressive systems throughout the cosmos. Sagan not only asked why would anyone be impressed with mankind? He asked why would anyone even be impressed with our planet, our sun or our solar system? And why would Sagan say that?
Well, he was an atheist. He didn’t believe in our God, so he had no reason to believe that our world would have any significance at all. But also he’d seen and heard a great deal about the universe. And what he’d seen and heard made him scoff at our galaxy having any importance. As an astronomer he knew that there were billions and billions of stars, and many of those stars are 1000s of times brighter than our sun.
And of course he would know that our sun was called a yellow dwarf star. Do you have any idea why our sun is called a ‘dwarf’ star? It’s because it’s a really small star. It is literally dwarfed by the size of other stars in the known universe. The fact that our sun is dwarfed by so many other stars in the universe has caused some scientists to say: “The Sun is a rather commonplace celestial object. It is a star of ordinary dimensions and of ordinary brightness.” (http://solar-center.stanford.edu/vitalstats.html)
Lord, we know that some of these people are wrong. You created the heavens and the earth. We thank you as we look at the stars. Amen
(To be continued in The Majesty of God – Part 2)