The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them. (Psalms 89:11)
(Note: This article was originally posted in 2015 for our congregation)
As I write this article three weeks before you read it, CNN has just released a story about NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. Launched about nine years ago, the spacecraft is nearing the planet (?) Pluto which is the farthest outpost of our solar system. When I say “nearing” I do not mean “near” as in Rohnert Park is near Santa Rosa. This is “near” in the vastness of space terms as in 126 million miles near. The spacecraft traveled about 3 billion miles from earth when it woke up and started to take its first pictures of Pluto. From the time I wrote this to the time you are reading it, about 16 million more miles have been traversed which adds a little more clarity to the pictures. These first pictures were of two small moons that are orbiting the dwarf planet.
The mission of New Horizons is to get better pictures than those of the Hubble Telescope of the planets and territory beyond our solar system. In the coming months, scientists expect to learn more about the mysteries of the universe. While I believe the greatest truths of the universe are lost on scientists, each of these amazing pictures ought to remind us of the immensity of God. Without looking at the heavenly bodies, just the measurement of distances is mind boggling.
The elliptical orbits of the planets makes nailing down a distance figure difficult, therefore average distances are used. The distance from earth to Pluto averages a little less than 4 billion miles (less as in 10,000 times around the earth) and the speed of the spacecraft is now about 31,000 miles per hour. This is just slightly less than I was clocked by the CHP south of Novato about a year ago. At this speed, it takes about 45 seconds to get to LA, but actually a little longer coming back because you have to stop for the toll. So, the spacecraft would take 45 seconds to get to LA but about 14 years to get to Pluto. Thankfully, they shifted into fifth gear part of the way because they made it in 9 years. I keep telling my wife such things are possible if you do not stop at the rest areas.
What are we learning from these adventures? I would say we learn more about God than anything. We learn the Bible is true that no one but God could have laid the foundation of the world. We learn no one but God has the power to uphold all things by the word of His power. We learn that impersonal forces could never make all this work. But more surprisingly, we learn how gracious God is that in the vastness of the universe He cares what happens on this tiny speck of space dust called earth.
Scientists are on their quest to prove how the universe began. They have spent years developing the technology and spent billions of dollars to make the trip, when all they needed to do is read Genesis 1 or Psalm 19 or 89 or Romans 1 or Colossians 1. If they would just read a $3.50 King James Bible they would have discovered they do not have to leave earth to prove it was God who did it all. The heavens declare the glory of God—just the visible parts seen with the naked eye and without telescopes and spacecraft. Does God exist? Ask a housefly with two compound eyes of 4000 lenses each that can see in all directions—a fly that its practically impossible to swat—if God created him. Isn’t an annoying fly enough to tell you this stuff does not happen by accident?
The universe with its immensity and the creature with his complexities are proof of the immeasurable wisdom and knowledge of God. Yet the more evidence we see, the dumber we get. If there is one point I would argue with God, it is this—man is a rational being. Every day at school our children are taught to be irrational. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every NASA image was captioned: “More proof our God is real?” I know He is without seeing the photos. He is real in my heart, which is the most rational thought I ever had.
Pastor V. Mark Smith