Here we are, groping our way through the promised Age of Aquarius, constantly bombarded with images of kids snorting prophylactics or swallowing detergent, college professors gloating over the dead, and young people committing random, mass shootings. Ignorance and arrogance vie for first place in our national personality. We’re uprooting our past in the irrational belief that it will improve our future. We literally roll out the red carpet for those whose ideology is idolatrous, murderous, seriously abusive. Not a day goes by without us finding out some additional skullduggery committed by people high up in government. It’s just mind boggling – and I think I know one reason why this is happening.
Yes – the education system is partially responsible.
Yes – most churches do more to entertain us than they do to teach us.
Yes—we’ve removed God from the public square. All these are part of the problem, but there’s another underlying cause. Stars.
Or the lack thereof. We have lost sight of the stars.
Stars are useful. We need to be able to see them – all of them spread out against a black velvet sky, trillions of little pin-pricks of light reminding us of who we are, of how little we are, how lucky we are to live on this tiny jewel of a planet, out on the edge of an ordinary galaxy where we have a magnificent view of places so far away that they no longer exist. We need constant reminders that we are not self-sufficient, that something is not only bigger than we are, but so good, so gorgeous, so dynamic that we can’t begin to wrap our brains around it. We need awe. We need wonder. We need humility.
But today our cities vie with the stars, blocking them, drowning them in a light that we think is of our own making, homogenizing the night with neon signs and hydrogen street lights, with spotlights strafing the heavens, with flood lights on a football field, with millions of miles of headlights snaking through our cities. We’ve come to the subconscious conclusion that we make the light.
We have, it’s true, found ways to transfer the light from the day into the cosmic darkness of night, and that is wonderful. We’ve all admired the lights of a city laid out before us, been grateful for the split second that it takes to flip a light switch and illuminate a room, a stage, a baseball field. Our ability to do that reminds me of God’s words as He watched Nimrod build the Tower– “…nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them,” (Genesis 11:6b). It’s true that the human mind and our opposable thumbs have done a cracker-jack job of subduing the Earth in spite of the linguistic barrier the Lord created at Babel. We live so much more comfortably than even kings were able to do just a couple hundred years ago.
But, we have forgotten the stars.
According to Genesis 1:14-19, stars were created on the 4th day.
Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
God created them for “signs and seasons.” Ancient people used them for just that – the heavenly bodies told them when to plant, told them when winter was coming, when the days would get longer again. The Zodiac, many scholars say, tells the story of the Gospel – from the Virgin, to the judgment of Libra, through the feeding of the 5,000 with a handful of Pisces, to the sacrifice of the Taurus. I’m not arguing that ancient man read it that way, but we do know from the book of Job, written c2500 B.C. that men had already named the signs of the Zodiac, the Mazzaroth,
Job 9: 8 & 9 --He alone spreads out the heavens,
And treads on the waves of the sea;
He made the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades,
And the chambers of the south;
Job 38:32 -- Can you bring out Mazzaroth in its season?
Or can you guide the Great Bear with its cubs?
This is God telling Job the same thing – don’t get arrogant here, Job. I made all this; you didn’t. Look at the stars and re-align your thinking, fix your perspective. I am in control here.
Job had forgotten that. We have too.
Recently I ran across an article about a newly developed map of the universe. The images were startling – as if the galaxies had just been flung outward like a woman tossing feed to her chickens. Another image was color-coded and looked like someone had just slung a handful of glitter and some of it had doubled back on itself, some arched, some curled, some still headed straight out from the center. It was gorgeous. And then when I realized that these specks of light were entire galaxies, and we live in a non-descript, ordinary galaxy, in a not very extravagant solar system on a small sphere in exactly the right place, with exactly the right minerals and gases and liquids, exactly the correct gravitational force, exactly the right temperature variation. Earth is unusual only in that we live here, that we can live here.. And who are we? Was all this for us?
Then, “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” We are nothing in the face of the vastness of this universe, and yet, this universe seems to be for us. And if so, then our lives are about much more than getting the next promotion, or a date with the girl at the coffee shop. The stars tell us that – their vastness, their distance, their sheer multitude, their beauty, the messages in their arrangement, the clocklike order of their movement, their utter dependability.
Stars, like all sparkling things, draw our attention. They pull our gaze away from contemplating our navels. They carry us out past this world and up into eternity. They take the lid off of our imaginations and raise our awareness of God. We need stars.
Maybe we need to institute a holiday for the stars. Once a year we would shut down all the lights everywhere so we could all go outside, lie out on old blankets spread on the grass in our backyards, or stand with our neighbors in the middle of the street and look up. Just for an hour, once a year. Maybe that would help us keep our heads from swelling, keep us in touch with reality, keep us humble.
We are in desperate need of humility – not humiliation – just the ability to realize our rightful place in the order of things, to realize that there is an order to things and that order is not of our making. He who made those stars and flung them across the heavens is in charge – whether we like it, or not.