Science Spotlight | More Glorious Than the Galaxies
The magnitude and splendor of the heavens testify to the power of God in a way that other aspects of creation cannot. In Isaiah 40:25, God puts forth the challenge “To whom will you liken Me That I would be his equal?” In response to this question, we are commanded to “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.” The heavens stand as a testimony to the uniqueness of God. Not only has He created each star, but He knows each of them by name and upholds them by His power!
Scripture is replete with praise for God according to what He has made in the cosmos. Among the many references to the display of God’s glory in the heavens, Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Although the writers of Scripture did not have a complete knowledge about the intricacies of the cosmos, they could still praise and glorify God by looking at the stars. These godly men found it sufficient to believe God at His Word in Genesis 1:16: “God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also.” It is almost comical that God’s creation of the majority of the universe out of nothing is summarized in these last five words almost as an aside within the creation account. Today, we have the opportunity to appreciate the extent of what God accomplished in these words in a way that previous generations did not. Our current understanding of the heavens now shows the size and magnitude of the universe which only can make God’s challenge in Isaiah 40 ring all the more true: there truly is none like God.
Modern astronomy has led us to measure how infinitesimally small we are compared to the vastness of the universe. Less than 100 years ago, the predominant view of the universe was that it consisted entirely of our sizeable Milky Way Galaxy. It was supposed that all stars in existence were clumped together in our galaxy, which is about 120,000 light-years across. This perspective would change in 1919 when Edwin Hubble determined from studies at Mt. Wilson Observatory that what was thought to be a nebula—clouds of dust and gas—was actually a neighboring galaxy. Since Hubble’s pioneering work, modern advancements in telescopes have given us a more complete picture of the universe. We know today that our own Milky Way Galaxy contains approximately 100-400 billion stars; and not only do other galaxies exist, but the Milky Way is just one amid a galactic sea of millions to billions of galaxies!
One of the most striking observations of the magnitude of the universe has been recently captured in a series of extended exposures made over the course of ten years by the Hubble Space Telescope. This single image called the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF) is a compilation of over 23 days of viewing time into a region of outer space that appears to our eye no larger than a small grain of rice held at an arm’s length (or approximately 1/25 millionth of the sky). The image reveals that approximately 10,000 galaxies are contained with- in this speck of the sky. Some of these galaxies are so distant, measured to be 13 billion light years away, that they are ten billion times fainter than what the human eye can perceive.
In addition to marveling at the power God uniquely demonstrates in creating such a vast universe, we should appreciate our own humble state before the Almighty. Images such as the HUDF should lead us to wholly agree with David’s words in Psalm 8:3-4: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” Through David, the Spirit of God points to the heavens to show how small we are compared to what God has made. Yet miraculously, God is mindful of even the smallest of His creation and cares intimately for us. This love is demonstrated in the truth of the gospel: that the One who spoke all of these galaxies into existence condescended to take on human flesh, live the perfect life, give Himself on the cross to bear the punishment for our sin, and rise again to provide us with eternal life.
With the large view of the universe we now have, we might ask which was easier for God to do: creating the vast universe out of nothing, or coming to be the perfect sacrifice for our sin? The story of Jesus healing the paralytic man in Luke 5 demonstrates that as miraculous as creation is, God’s power and authority are more victoriously proclaimed in the forgiveness of sin! So next time you look to the night sky, let the size and magnitude of the universe inspire awe and glory for our God in a way the only the heavens can. But let this glorious demonstration of God’s unique power further gird your appreciation for the more glorious and amazing victory Christ our King declares through the gospel which saves sinners—a truth more glorious and powerful than the majestic galaxies of our heavens.