The Heavens Declare the Glory of God
I appreciated the mockery of one of my Facebook friends who wondered why she had to put mosquito spray on her children just to get into the van!
Another friend quipped that he regrets saying in January that he could hardly wait for the first mosquito bite.
Someone else wrote, “Let’s see.....thick socks – check; long pants – check; fully zipped jacket - check.......mosquito season, here I come!!!!
Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” How do we see the glory of God through the dense layer of mosquitoes?
Of course, mosquitoes are not the only cause of suffering, difficulty and trial. There are many much more serious things which we struggle with. There is all the rain and disease and conflict and tornadoes and evil and the list goes on. These things blur our vision so that we are not able to see the glory of God. But if we see the glory of God, what difference will it make? Will seeing the glory of God take away the mosquitoes? What will seeing the glory of God do for us while we swat mosquitoes?
This verse says “The heavens declare the glory of God.” What does glory mean? Glory refers to that which is the best. It refers to that which is so amazing you can hardly describe it. So when this verse says, “The heavens declare the glory of God” it invites us to look into the heavens and see how amazing and wonderful God is. I invite you to look to the heavens.
I. The Heavens Declare the Glory of God’s Power
Look up to the heavens and see the clouds. The clouds in the heavens declare to us the glory of God’s power.
I want to ask for a volunteer, a strong young man who thinks he can hold up this glass of water for a long time. On the second day of creation we read in Genesis 1:6, "And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.’ So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse ‘sky.’" I have wondered about this passage. I understand the meaning of the water under the expanse, but I wasn’t so sure about the waters above the expanse. But because of the great rain storms we have had recently, the waters above the expanse have come to make a lot of sense. ________ is holding about 8 oz. of water which weighs about ½ a pound. How long would he be able to hold it up? My yard is 2 acres. If half an inch of rain fell on that yard the rain collected would weigh 226,645 pounds. What is most amazing is that all that water is held up by air in the “expanse above the heavens. Can you imagine the weight of water held in the clouds which roll across the sky from the Pacific Ocean all the way to Rosenort and Riverside?
Psalm 77:17-19 says, "The clouds poured down water, the skies resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen."
Isaiah 40:12 says, "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand…?"
You tell me, do the clouds not declare the glory of God’s power?
II. The Heavens Declare the Glory of God’s Wisdom
Look up to the heavens and see the weather systems. They speak to us of the glory of God’s wisdom.
When I went to university, I began with the intention of taking a major in economics and a minor in philosophy. During my second year, I had to take a science course and took a course which mostly studied weather and climate. I so enjoyed the course that I changed my minor to geography and most of the courses I took in geography were in weather and climate because I was so fascinated by the way the weather system works.
For example, did you know that at the equator and at the poles the prevailing winds go from east to west. In the whole rest of the world the prevailing winds go from west to east. That is why when Sylvia describes the weather systems, she always shows us what is coming from Colorado or Alberta. The reason for this weather system is that the earth is warmest at the equator. If there was no way to move all that hot air away from the equator, all that lived there would soon burn up and the cold at the poles would move even further south. The earth is really a big engine which moves air from the equator to the poles and so cools the equator and heats the poles.
Another fascinating part of the weather system is the way in which low pressure systems create enormous lift so that huge amounts of moisture are lifted off the surface of the oceans and lakes. They form clouds and travel thousands of miles to drop rain far inland where there is little surface water.
How did God ever conceive such amazing systems? Job 36:29 asks, "Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds, how he thunders from his pavilion? Proverbs 3:19, 20 answers that question when it says, "By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew." So as we consider the wonder of the worldwide weather systems, we are introduced to the glory God’s wisdom.
III. The Heavens Declare the Glory of God’s Goodness
Look up to the heavens and see the sun and the rain. The provisions of both declare to us the glory of God’s goodness.
What is the right amount of sunshine and rain? If you listen to the weather forecast on TV, you get the impression that sunshine is necessary all the time, especially on the weekend so that people can enjoy the outdoors. Right now we would be quite happy if it did not rain for a long time. We have gotten a little tired of the rain and all the damage it has caused. But I have lived in places and visited places where people desired rain with an even greater desperation than we now desire sunshine. In Israel I saw the barley crops in the Negev. The Negev is a desert region southeast of Jerusalem. In the lowest valleys the farmer had planted his crops hoping that any rain that came would find its way to these low spots. But the crop was very poor. It was a small patch and there were few stocks of barley. The shepherds spoke of it as a disaster. Last year when I was in Paraguay, all the people were speaking of the desperation they had for water. Their only source of water is the rain. They have huge roofs on their houses that collect water into cisterns and their cisterns were getting empty. Their cattle didn’t have water to drink and they didn’t bother planting crops because they wouldn’t grow anyway.
These things happen and we either long for rain or for sunshine, but over the whole earth and over the years, we find that there is a balance between rain sunshine. God doesn’t send only rain or only sunshine. Both are needed. Plants need moisture to draw nutrients from the ground and they need sunshine so photosynthesis can take place. Both are needed for plants to grow and God provides both. Because He does, we have a picture of the glory of His goodness.
Psalm 147:7-9 says, "Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make music to our God on the harp. He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call."
IV. The Heavens Declare the Glory of God’s Infinity
Look up to the heavens and see the sun and beyond the sun, the stars – which are all out there twinkling brightly, even though they are not visible to us right now. They tell us of the glory of God’s infinity.
I would like to have a few volunteers. I need someone to hold this globe, which represents the earth. We are going to do a little representative math. Suppose that 1cm = 1 million miles. If this represents the sun, how far away from the earth would the sun be? Sun is 93 cm away. The nearest star is Alpha Centauri which is about 4.2 light years away. If 1cm = million miles and this is the nearest star, where should we send _____________ so that he/she would be the right distance away? Start walking and when you think you are far enough you can stop. Remember that the speed of light is 186,000 m/sec. It would be about 250 km away which would be somewhere near Clear Lake, between Grand Forks and Fargo, Boissevain, Hecla Island.
Job 22:12 says, "Is not God in the heights of heaven? And see how lofty are the highest stars!" God is the creator of all the stars and holds them all in his hand and knows the name of every one of them. We have only talked about the nearest stars. The farthest stars are so far away that we can’t even imagine the distances and God is greater and far beyond even them.
If we can begin to wrap our head around these great distances, we can begin to get a little idea of the infinity of God. That infinity extends not only to the furthest reaches of the universe, but also to the furthest reaches of time. Truly the heavens declare the glory of God’s infinity.
V. The Heavens Declare the Glory of God’s Faithfulness
Look up to the heavens and see how day follows night and night follows day and see the glory of God’s faithfulness.
Many years ago Carla and I were guests at someone’s home. We had gone to their place to see if their church would hire us to be their pastor for the summer. This was between my second and third year of seminary. We arrived at their place in the afternoon and enjoyed their kind hospitality for supper and met some of the people of the church. When it came time for sleep, they took us down into the basement of the house and showed us into the bedroom. By this time it was dark and we didn’t notice much about the room. The bed looked comfortable and we were glad to get to sleep. We didn’t have a clock, so we didn’t know what time it was. When morning came, we had no idea that it was morning. The room had no window in it and no light came through the door. For all we knew, day had not yet come. We wondered what time it was, we wondered if we should get up, we wondered if we should go back to sleep. What we did not wonder was if day would come. Eventually they came and knocked on the door and we knew it was morning. Morning came, like it comes every day. Morning came, like it has come every day since God set days in place at creation. The cycle of day and night is something we can count on. Weather may be unpredictable, winter may come late or early, sunrise times change through the year, but there is no doubt that the cycle of day and night will always come.
Jeremiah 31:35, 36 says, "This is what the Lord says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord Almighty is his name: ‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’ declares the Lord, ‘will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.’"
As we see the regular rotation of the earth and the regular cycle of the sun and moon, we see in the heavens something of the glory of God’s faithfulness.
VI. The Heavens Declare the Glory of God’s Greatness
Look up to the heavens and see the vast expanse of the heavens. They declare the glory of God’s greatness.
When we look at the sky it looks pretty big. We can see from the western horizon to the eastern horizon. Have you ever tried to measure the sky by stretching out your arm and seeing how many hand widths it is from horizon to horizon? That seems doable, but we know that it isn’t an accurate measure of how big the sky is. The circumference of the earth at the equator is 40, 076 km. If we were to define the heavens as the layer at which airplanes fly, most jets fly about 10 km up in the air. The circumference at that level would be about 40,110km.
The Bible tells us in Isaiah 40:12, "Who has… with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?” God didn’t measure the heavens with his hand from a vantage point on earth. He actually is able to measure the heavens, whether at the level of the earth at the equator or the level at which airplanes fly with his spread hand. How big is God’s hand? Does He measure 5000 km at a time? This kind of thinking invites us to think about the greatness of God.
When we speak of the heavens, we are not talking about a two dimensional thing. The heavens have layers. The levels of the heavens, which actually begin at the surface of the earth, are made up of five layers – the troposphere, the stratosphere, the mesosphere, the thermosphere and the exosphere. The thermosphere ranges from 350 to 800 km above the earth’s surface. At this level the circumference of the earth would be about 45,000km.
Whichever direction you think of it, God is greater than all these and is above all of these. Isaiah 40:22 reminds us of this when it says, "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in."
How awesome is God. How glorious in His majesty and greatness!
VII. The Heavens Declare the Glory of God’s Sovereignty
Look to the heavens to see the weather, which reminds us that although we have no control, God does.
On Thursday when I was writing out this message, I looked at the forecast for today. Then it was to be a high of 23 with 80% chance of isolated showers. When I returned on Friday, the forecast had changed a little to a high of 22 with 60% chance of showers. One of the common topics of conversation at the coffee shop is the weather. We talk about what we would do if we could control the weather. We talk, with mockery, about the failure of the weather forecasters to get it right. Human beings have even tried to manipulate the weather and one common method has been cloud seeding. By introducing substances like silver iodide into a cloud from an airplane, some suggest that it is possible to increase the amount of rain. Wikipedia also suggested that cloud seeding was done before the Beijing Olympics to induce rain so that it would not rain during the Olympics. The article admitted, however, that the results were disputed. It seems hard to imagine that if we can’t even predict weather, how can we control the weather?
In contrast to that, we know that God can control the weather. Jeremiah 10:13 says, "When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses." In Psalm 148:7-9 we read, "Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars…"
These thoughts remind us of the glory of God’s sovereignty. God is over all and by His hand is in control. Sometimes we wish the weather was different than we had hoped for our event, but I also know that at times we have prayed for particular weather, and God has answered. I remember hearing about a gospel crusade which took place in a South American country. The weather was terrible, but people came. The whole time that the service was going on, the weather was threatening. But people had prayed that the gospel would not be stopped because of the weather and the rain held off as long as the service was on. As soon as it was over, the rain poured down. For those who experienced this, it was a clear example of the sovereignty of God.
Have you ever had this experience? It is one of those weeks. It’s not that everything goes wrong, but enough things to begin to set discouragement in your heart. There is a feeling in your stomach of discomfort, a choking feeling in your throat and your shoulders are tight which is beginning to give you a headache. In the evening you have a chance to go for a walk and since mosquito season is over you decide to take a hike down the river trail. As you walk along the green of the trees in the light of the setting sun is brilliant. As the sun begins to sink it produces many hues of pink and orange on the clouds. As you walk along, you notice that your shoulders are beginning to relax and the choking feeling is getting less. What is happening? In the presence of the natural text you are reminded of the glory of God in His power, wisdom, goodness, infinity, faithfulness, greatness and sovereignty. This realization leads to peace which gives you hope.
Because God is glorious we have hope. We have the hope of benefiting from His power, the hope of living under His wisdom, the hope of being blessed by His goodness, the hope of a glorious eternity, the hope of confidence in His faithfulness, the enjoyment of His greatness and the confidence of resting in His sovereignty.
So whenever you look up to the heavens, I invite you to see the glory of God and be reminded that you are under the care of One who is very great and very good.