MARTIN L. CAREY
What does it mean for the heavens to declare the glory of God? Even with only a vague idea of what God’s glory is, we sense His greatness under a star-filled sky. In the Bible, both David and Paul direct us to look to the skies and learn of Him. There is something deep and fundamental about God’s glory that the stars teach us, but how can we hear their message? Specifically, what attributes of God’s glory do they declare?
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Rom. 1:19, 20).
From the texts above we see that God’s glory contains the following attributes:
His Eternal Power
The stars tell us of vast distances, sizes, and energies that have existed for a long time. Stars have immense power and longevity, and they are constantly forming. Comprehending a star is challenging in itself, but when we begin to understand the immensity of a single galaxy, we gain a tiny peek into eternity. In spite of what we can observe, however, most of the stuff of the universe is made of unknown material which is expanding at an accelerating rate, and we don’t know why.
His Divine Nature
God is just. The stars show us that His universe operates by laws. These laws operate everywhere—at enormous distances, and inside ourselves. In fact, the deeper we look, the more we see that the universe has one origin. His laws rule it all. Natural law tells us that He is just in everything He has made, and He will be just in dealing with us.
God is faithful. He watches over His creation, for “He upholds the universe by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3). He loves to make all heavenly bodies stay in their orbits. He is like an exuberant little child with His supernova fireworks, making the worlds orbit their stars again and again. Because of His joyful faithfulness, we can practice good science because we can take for granted the predictability of God’s natural laws sustained by His constancy. Not only can we depend on His faithfulness to uphold the universe, but those who trust Him find that the joy of the Lord is their strength, upholding them through life’s storms and shoals.
God is infinitely wise. Most of the universe is extremely hostile to life. In contrast, our earth was created in a habitable zone that supports liquid water and is friendly to life. This bio-friendly environment is controlled even by the type of star we orbit and by our optimum position in our galaxy. Many factors must be right for earth to be habitable, and these reveal the wisdom of our Creator. Only His wisdom could create life in a hostile place and there make a beautiful home like ours.
On the other hand, the impersonal brutality of nature constantly reminds us that we need to hang our hopes on something much greater than natural law. Natural laws without God are not our friends, for the universe is a place of decay, predation, and death. The doctrine of karma believes that nature will ultimately give us what we deserve, and karma thus makes “everything good.” If karma, however, rules nature and us, even though it may seem just, in reality it offers no hope but condemns us all to a meaningless death. The cruel justice of nature eventually grinds us all down into powder.
Since creation reveals all this knowledge of God’s power and divine nature to us, we have no excuse (Rom. 1:20). Nature points away from itself to its true End, and if we are listening, we will find that we desperately need something that is above all nature, something that is good and will finally overpower all else. We realize we don’t need karma; we need grace. But there’s good news; something greater is already here! Are we listening?
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” Rom. 10:16
Paul here is quoting Psalm 19, yet he is writing about the gospel. How can he say that the word has gone out? What has been heard? The word from the stars is about God’s great justice, faithfulness, and wisdom, and when we are able to listen to them, we feel our painfully intense need for Him. When we pay attention to the heavens, we’ll want to hear from Him personally and to know His grace. All the works of God have this end: to point us to Him so that we will seek His grace. We need the “testimony” of the Lord to convert our souls and rejoice our hearts (Ps. 19:7,8). Nature proclaims His unbreakable laws, but oh, how we need words of grace and truth (Jn. 1:17). When we seek Him, He will speak to us and show His greatest act of grace in the gospel.
When Jesus was teaching a very hostile crowd ready to stone Him (Jn. 10:37,38), He knew that His words were not enough for some of the listeners. In His mercy, He pointed them to the works He was doing which testified that He was one with the Father. He told His disciples,
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves (Jn. 14:11).
Piper and Spurgeon comment
Jesus is saying here, “If my verbal testimony is leaving doubts in your mind about who I am, look at my works. Let the works join with my words and lead you to faith.” (John Piper, www.desiringgod.org/ resource-library/sermons/doing-the-works-of-jesus-and-greater-works).
Those stars are also the works of Jesus Christ, just as His miracles were 2000 years ago when He was on earth. His sparkling works testify of Him and of our vast need for Him. Without Him, the stars speak of laws that only beat us down. Their message tells of terror and death. With His testimony, however, they are lesser lights to rule our nights as faithful beacons of hope. Let us hear their silent words beckoning us to the bloody cross of Christ to find His grace. His gospel is for the losers in nature’s lottery, for the condemned, the broken, and the defective—for each of us. Those that are whole have no need of a Physician, but we who have been condemned must bow before the divine nature and eternal power of Jesus Christ the Creator.
Spurgeon understood very well how the awesome beauty of nature can lead us to seek mercy:
Science has a foundation, and so has religion; let them unite their foundations, and the basis will be broader, and they will be two compartments of one great fabric reared to the glory of God. Let the one be the outer and the other the inner court. In the one, let all look, and admire and adore; and in the other, let those who have faith kneel, and pray, and praise. Let the one be the sanctuary where human learning may present its richest incense as an offering to God, and the other the holiest of all, separated from it by a veil now rent in twain, and in which, on a blood-sprinkled mercy-seat, we pour out the love of a reconciled heart, and hear the oracles of the living God (CH Spurgeon, www.bible.cc/psalms/19-1.htm). †
Meanwhile in an alternate universe: “Mommy, why do we keep watching this stuff? We already KNOW that Jesus never fails!” (by Martin Carey)