1. The Heavens Declare the Glory of God (Psalm 19:1)
2. The Heavens Measure the Love of God (Psalm 103:11)

In the life of any church, there comes a time (and this time is often) when she needs to reorient herself toward the basics of the faith. This Sunday morning (and probably over the next several Sunday mornings), I want to help orient ourselves again to one of the most basic tenants of the Christians faith: the greatness of God. I want for us to reflect upon the strength and power and might of God. We serve a great and awesome God. My message is entitled, “The Greatness of God in the Stars.”

As we begin, I want to ask you, “Have you ever found yourself away from the city lights at night? Perhaps it was on a camping trip or on a lonely road. And when you have found yourself in this place, have you looked up, only to be blown away by the number of stars in the sky?” Have you had this experience? I’m sure that you have. I'm sure that you have had this on multiple occasions. And when you had that experience, what was your response? My guess is that you said, "Woah!” in amazement. I’ll bet that many of you even called someone else to join with you in the experience.

As most of you know, I just returned from 2½ weeks of vacation in California. During a portion of our time in California, we were at a camp, far away from any city. One evening, I happened to be walking down past our cabin into a clearing, where there wasn’t a light at all. I looked up and said, “Woah!” I then returned to get Yvonne and said, “Come here, you have to see this.” And so, we both waked down to the clearing and looked into the sky and marveled at the stars that we saw. They seemed to have filled the entire sky. They were so clear that is was almost as if we could reach out and touch them.

In Isaiah 40:26, we are commanded to have such an experience. Isaiah writes, ...

Isaiah 40:26
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.

In this verse, we are told to go outside at night and lift up our eyes and gaze into the heavens. And when we look at the stars, we aren’t merely to look at the stars. Rather, the stars are to stir our minds to think about the One who created the stars. We are to think about the One who has placed them in the heaven, who has led them through the heaven, who has given names to all of them, and who has so governed the universe that none of the stars are missing.”

Now, in Isaiah’s day, this would have been an incredible thing. In his day, there were no city lights to diminish the brightness of the stars. Anyone who read these words in Isaiah's could have stepped outside and witnessed what we see only when we remove ourselves a distance away from the city in which we live. And with the climate of Israel being much like the climate of California, with little humidity in the air to diminish the brightness of the stars, the scene would be breathtaking.

As we look at the night sky, there are about 6,000 stars that are visible to the naked eye (in both hemispheres). Half of these are visible in the northern hemisphere. And so, when someone in Isaiah’s day looked at the night sky, they would have been able to see thousands of stars. Considering this verse, they would have been able to say, “Woah!”

Worship could easily have been the result, “Great is the Lord! He has named thousands of stars! He can keep thousands of stars under his control. Not one of them is missing! What a great God we have!”

Now, we know a bit more about stars that the Jews did in Isaiah’s day. Since the invention of the telescope in the 1600’s, astronomers have discovered more and more stars in the sky. It’s not merely thousands of stars that God has created and named and now governs. Rather, we know that God created and now governs billions and billions and billions of stars.

Now, at this point in my message, I thought about attempting to describe for you a bit of what we know about the created universe, thereby, giving you a better grasp of the greatness of God. But, the exhortation here is to “Lift up your eyes on high and see who created these stars.” Isaiah's instructions are to look at the stars. But, for us right now, the sun is shining outside, so it’s difficult for us to see the stars this morning.

However, through the marvels of technology and video, we can “lift up our eyes” and see the stars. [1]

My first point this morning is simply this....
1. The Heavens Declare the Glory of God (Psalm 19:1)

This comes straight from Psalm 19:1, which reads, “the heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”

There are many ways in which the heavens are telling of the glory of God. I will merely pick out three.

a. Size of Universe

The shear size of the universe testifies to the glory of God. We cannot even begin to comprehend how large the universe is! The distances that they are describing are beyond anything that we can imagine. Here is an analogy that might help you to understand how large the universe actually is.

Suppose that the earth were the size of a pea, half a centimeter across. Then, the sun would be a beach ball about half a football field away. Pluto, one of the dwarf planets, would be a tomato seed a mile and a half away.

Now, if the entire solar system were the size of a pea, then the Milky Way (which is our galaxy) would extend some 500 miles.

If the Milky Way were the size of a pea, then the farthest object in the sky that we have seen is about a half a mile away. And within this half-mile radius (in all directions), there are hundreds of billions of galaxies (each one containing hundreds of billions of stars).

If this weren't enough to blow your mind, most astronomers believe that the universe is much larger than this. It may well be that the universe is the size of Rockford, filled with octillions of peas, each of which represent galaxies. We simply don’t know.

Our problem is simply that we haven’t seen everything. We haven’t yet built a telescope large enough to see the fullness of the creation. Every time a bigger and bigger telescope is made, we simply see more galaxies in the distance of our solar system. We have no idea where the universe ends, ... if it ends.

Then, in Isaiah 40:12, we read a most astonishing verse. It says that God has “marked off the heaven by the span.” That is, the hand of God is big enough to measure the entire universe. Let that sink in. God holds out His hand and spans farther than we can see with the largest of telescopes. This is the glory of God.

b. Number

Not only do the heavens declare the glory of God in it’s size. But also, the number of stars testify to the glory of God.

Our galaxy holds several hundred billion stars. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe, among which our galaxy is an average sized galaxy. If you do the math, you will discover that the universe contains more than 10 billion trillion stars. Do you know how much a “billion trillion” is? It is called a sextillion. This number is way beyond our ability to even understand, but we can try.

Do you know how long it takes to count to a billion? Counting one number each second, it takes 32 years to count to a billion. Taking that same rate, it would take 32 trillion years to count to a billion, trillion. Put another way, counting one million numbers each second (one million, two million, three million, four million, ...), it would take 32 million years to count to a billion trillion.

It is amazing that God numbers the stars. But, according to Isaiah 40:26, the Lord, “leads forth [the host of stars] by number, He calls them all by name."

God doesn’t merely number the stars. He names the stars. There is a big difference between the two. If you are reading this sermon, I'm sure that you can count to a hundred. Can give the names of a hundred people that assemble with you in your local church? Perhaps you can.

Let's get bigger. Given enough time, you could probably count to a hundred thousand. But, can you name a hundred thousand people? That is certainly way beyond your grasp. But, it’s not beyond the grasp of God. God has named each of the quintillions of stars in the universe.

Consider the following quote by Serge Brunier, who described the process of cataloguing all of the galaxies of the universe. Brunier wrote, ...

At one time, astronomers had an ambition to catalogue all the galaxies. Charles Messier, Louis XV’s astronomer, discovered about sixty, and at the end of the 19th century, the Danish astronomer Johan Dreyer recorded nearly 10,000, after three decades of observations. At the turn of the century, astronomers -- who were quite ignorant of the true nature of the small, indistinct patches of light they were finding in the sky -- still had no idea of the utter impossibility of the task they had set themselves. Nevertheless, as the power of telescopes increased, so too did the number of galaxies ... James Keeler, who studied them with the Crossley 91cm telescope at the Lick Observatory, estimated in 1900 that their total number was slightly more than 100,000. Between the 1950s and 1980s, astronomers at the observatories at Palomar in the Northern Hemisphere and La Silla and Siding Spring in the Southern, commissioned Schmidt telescopes (a form of powerful, wide-field camera), with the aim of mapping the whole sky. The sensitive plates that were obtained were so rich that scanners, linked to powerful computers running shape-recognition software had to be used to make a census of galaxies. Several tens of millions had been recorded on the photographic plates.
Since then, no further census of galaxies has been attempted. [2]

Even with the advent of computers, scientists can’t even number the galaxies, let alone the stars. We are always finding more of them. But, God has named all of the stars in the universe! If only we would listen to the Bible, we would let God do His job, while we do ours. Jeremiah 33:22 says that “the host of heaven cannot be counted.” But, God has counted them, which is a testimony to His glory.

But, the situation is even more incredible that this. Not only has God counted the stars, but He has insured that “not one of them is missing" (Is. 40:26). There’s even a bit difference between naming the stars and insuring that none of them are missing.

Take the books that you have in your home. How many do you have? A hundred? A thousand? Perhaps you even have ten thousand books in your home. All of those books have names. Are any of them missing from the shelf? Are you kidding me? Spurgeon once said that books have wings. You loan them out and they fly away.

Some of your books may be missing from your library, but, none of the stars are missing. God has named them and knows exactly where they are. This speaks of the wisdom of God.

c. Energy

Not only do the heavens declare the glory of God in it’s size. Not only do the number of stars testify to the glory of God. But also, the energy of the stars testify to His glory.

The energy that the sun produces is absolutely amazing. Converting 700 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second, the sun puts out 386 billion billion megawatts of power. [3]

I doubt that that number means much to you. So, let me try to put it into perspective. If you could harness all of the energy that the sun puts off in one second, you would have enough energy to sustain the world’s energy needs for 500,000 years! Do you want to solve the world’s energy problems? Figure out how to harness the energy of the sun.

In God’s providence, our earth is located 93 million miles away from the sun, so that we only receive only half a billionth of that energy that the sun produces. But, even this is amazing. If we would harness the energy that we receive every fifteen minutes, we would meet the world’s energy needs for an entire year.

That’s a lot of power. But, think of this: our sun is merely an average star in our galaxy. There are many stars that produce more energy than the sun. There are many stars that produce less energy than the sun. And now, just try to think of the energy produced by the stars in the Milky Way galaxy every second of every day. We can’t even begin to understand the energy contained in our galaxy. But, our galaxy is only one of hundreds of billions of galaxies.

And when you look to the Bible, you realize that God created it all. When He created it, he spoke it into existence. "by the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host" (Psalm 33:6). “He commanded and they were created" (Psalm 148:5).

You get the sense from the Biblical account that the creation of the universe wasn’t too much trouble for God. In the creation account, after describing the creation of the sun and the moon, we read the astonishing statement (in Gen. 1:16), “He made the stars also.”

In Psalm 8:3, the heavens are described as “the work of [His] fingers.” You do delicate work with your fingers. You write a note with your fingers. You fix your glasses with your fingers. You clip your nails with your fingers. With your hands, you do more difficult work, like cutting a piece of paper, or moving the mouse on your computer, or turning the pages of a book. With your arms, you do even more difficult work. You eat an apple. You put on your clothes. You open a jar of food. With your legs, you do even more strenuous work. You mow your lawn. You lift heavy furniture. You walk next door.

But, when God made the universe, He used His fingers. Jeremiah 32:17, “You made the heavens and earth ... nothing is too difficult for You.” When Job spoke of how God “hangs the earth on nothing ... and obscures the face of the full moon,” he described it as “the fringes of His ways (Job. 26:7, 9, 14).

Indeed, the heavend declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). The more we learn of the heavens, the more we learn of God's glory. The size of the heavens declare the glory of God. The shear number of the stars declare the glory of God. The power of God as displayed in the stars declare the glory of God.

This is all to say nothing of the beauty of God as displayed the heavens. I haven’t spoken anything about nebula. I haven’t spoken anything about the constellations or the shapes of the galaxies. This is all to say nothing of the goodness of God in the way that He created the stars for us, providing perfect light for the day, giving perfect light for the night. Enabling us to measure time by the sun and monthsy by the moon. This is all to say nothing of the wisdom of God in the way that He placed us perfectly in our solar system and in our galaxy. This is all to say nothing about the righteousness of God. Psalm 50:6 says that “the heavens declare His righteousness.”

Everything in the heavens displays the glory of God! Would I try even harder, I would fail to communicate it all. In fact, it’s impossible for anybody to exhaust the glory of God as demonstrated in the heavens. As Psalm 113:4 says, “His glory is above the heavens.” You need to get beyond the heavens to fully grasp His glory. We need to get bigger, more powerful telescopes to fully grasp His glory.

Job said it well in Job 9, where He speaks of God as the One

Who commands the sun not to shine, And sets a seal upon the stars;
Who alone stretches out the heavens And tramples down the waves of the sea;
Who makes the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades, [He’s talking about the constellations] And the chambers of the south;
Who does great things, unfathomable, And wondrous works without number. (Job 9:7-10).

Consider the reality of verse 10 again, "Who does great things, unfathomable, and wondrous works without number." And so, you ask, what is our response to these things? I believe that our most appropriate response is worship.

Several times in the Psalms, we hear the refrain, “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised” (Ps. 48:1; 96:4; 145:3). In other words, our praise of Him ought to be in direct relation to His greatness! The greater is the Lord, the greater He is to be praised! And seeing the size of our God today ought to stir your heart afresh to worship Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. [5] However, before we reach that time, I have one more point, which ought to sitr your heart all the more. Not only do (1) The Heavens Declare the Glory of God (Psalm 19:1), but also, ...

2. The Heavens Measure the Love of God (Psalm 103:11)

For this, I want for you to turn in your Bibles to Psalm 103:11. This verse ought to take everything that I have said this morning and turn it into amazement of his love. Psalm 103:11, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.”

We have seen this morning of the heights of heaven. And they are incredible. We have seen no end to their height! The heavens keeps going and going and going and going as if there is no limit.

But Psalm 103:11 brings us to an appropriate conclusion this morning: as the heavens are, so also is God's love. It measures high and deep. Just as it is impossible to fully comprehend the magnitude of the heavens, so also is it impossible to fully comprehend the magnitude of God’s love. Louis Giglio calls this, “Astronomical Grace.” [6]

There is no inherent reason why God has to love us. The Psalmist asked, "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 through of him? And the son of man that you care for him?" (Ps. 8:3-4). But, He does! And His love isn't a small love, it's an astronomical love.

If you go away from my message this morning remembering anything, I trust that you will go away feeling really, really small. Because, you are really, really, really, small compared to God. But, that doesn't mean that you are insignificant in God's sight.

The promise of Psalm 103:11 is that God's love is of the same magnitude that the heavens are. You have seen the heights of the heavens. Believe the heights of His love. The hymn writer says it well, ...

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky. [7]

God's love to us, who play a small part on an insignificant planet in a typical solar system in an average galaxy in a huge universe, is beyond our wildest dreams. God became like us. Jesus Christ became a man to bear our sins upon His shoulders. Do you believe it?

Such astronomical love, however, doesn't come upon all who walk the planet. It comes upon all who fear Him. This is what Psalm 103:11 says, "so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.”

How right it is that we ought to fear such an awesomely powerful, huge God! When you encounter a thug in an alley, you are afraid, because of how small you are. So also, when you think of encountering God, it ought to fill your bones with terror. And if you respond rightly to God, then His response to you is higher-than-the-heavens love. Do you fear Him?

What's amazing about this is that many people (like astrophysicits) who see the greatness of God, then continue on not fearing Him. God has made Himself clearly visible to all. "Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made" (Rom. 1:20). To whom has He made Himself most visible? To those who have studied the greatness of His creation. Paul continues to describe them with these words, "Professing to be wise, they became fools" (Rom. 1:22).

May it not be so among any of you. May you fear the Lord, that you may know His love..

This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on August 3, 2008 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.

[1] At this point in my message, I showed a twenty minute video entitled, "Created Cosmos." It was made by Jason Lisle, an astrophysicist in coordination with the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. It’s one of first videos exhibits that people who visit the museum can see. I believe that it does a great job of describing the stars and leading us to think about our great God.

You can obtain a copy for yourself to watch here. I highly recommend it. When I called the Creation Museum to obtain permission to show the video in our church service, I was very encouraged that they have no restrictions of any kind on displaying these videos. They want the message to get out, rather than royalties from showing the video.

[2] Serge Brunier, Majestic Universe, Cambridge University Press, p. 93, as quoted by Stuart Burgess in his book, “He made the stars also,” p. 109.

[3] http://www.nineplanets.org/sol.html.

[4] http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2005/09/05/how_much_energy_does_the_sun_produce/.

[5] At the end of my message, we enjoyed an extended time of worship and praise. It was a great opportunity for our congregation to worship the Lord greatly. Perhaps after reading this message, you might want to find a place where you can worship the Lord (by singing or praying or listening to praise music or meditating or some other way that focuses your attention upon the Lord).

[6] Here is a link to an outstanding video preached by Louis Giglio: http://268generation.com/videoplayer/player.php?videoid=Indescrwide1&quality=hi

[7] Written by Frederick Lehman.