“O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!”
If the distance between the earth and the sun (93,000,000) was just the thickness of a piece of paper, then the distance between the earth and the next nearest star would be a stack of papers seventy feet (70’) high; and the distance of the earth and the next nearest galaxy would be a stack of papers 310 miles high; and our galaxy, the Milky Way, is comparatively a speck of dust among the hundred billion galaxies! (That we can see)
I don’t know, personally, if these comparative figures are accurate. I am quoting Tim Keller, who was quoting someone else. I do know that the universe is mind-boggling in its immensity and complexity. As much as we have learned about the vastness of the universe and the macro and micro complexities of the world it demonstrates, we uncover more questions than answers as our knowledge grows.
When the Psalmist penned the words above, he didn’t know the half of it, but what he did know (and did not know) inspired in him the awe of God. He wasn’t much different from us in that respect, though we are tempted to treat our vastly superior knowledge from the Psalmist (as minimal as it it still is) as something that warrants discounting the knowledge of God.
Yet what is our knowledge that we raise more questions with every answer?
And what of a God who made it all?
I think the Psalmist got it poetically right when he “consider[ed] [the] heavens… the work of [God’s] fingers….” (Psalm 8:3) He attributed the world to a Creator God. In describing the universe, the work of God’s fingers, the Psalmist certainly knew that God had no fingers like a created human being. The Psalmist was describing God as best he could attempt to describe God in language insufficient for the task.
That the Psalmist ascribed the work to God’s fingers, rather than His whole body, or even just His arm, conveys the idea that God is so vastly greater than the universe He made that He only needed his fingers to create it. As Tim Keller observes, the Psalmist also recognized that God is an artist, a Creator.
This is a departure from the other creation narratives in other Near Eastern religions that viewed the creation story as one of war and conquest. The God of the Bible is perceived as an artist, not a conqueror.
Keller says, “There is no fact about God that has more implications than ‘God made all things….’” The primary implication is this: If God made all of the vast universe “with his fingers”, with merely His word (Genesis 1, John 1, Hebrews 1), “Do you ask … a God like that into your life to be your assistant?” (asked Keller, remembering the question posed to him when he was young).
What makes us think that God exists for our benefit? When we presume to live as we want, inviting God in only to bless and protect us in our ways, we have failed to “see” God as He really is. We have minimized Him.
To this point I am reminded of CS Lewis’s great admonition that God is “not a tame lion”. The sublime nuance of an artist God who created all things and is infinitely greater than all that has been created cannot be understated.
In this 21st Century many of us have become like the fly on the back of a chariot saying, “What a dust I do raise?” We have climbed to such a seemingly lofty station in our knowledge that we have swallowed the delusion that we are alone in the universe, a creator in our own right, as if the universe exists simply as our oyster.
We err when we fail to see the greatness of God in all of His inexplicable grandeur, and we err when we think that our human knowledge and achievements have done away with the necessity of God.
Yet, though we might see ourselves exalted over the concept of God, we take a giant step back at the same time to insignificance in the eons of time and cavernous expanse of space. We only have to consider that the universe existed billions of years before the first human and will exist long after the last human takes a breath… if “this” is all there is.
We have discounted, minimized and done away with God in our minds, and we have reduced our own significance infinitesimally at the same time.
Is it any wonder that suicide rates exceed record levels and gun violence seems to grow exponentially? What significance does a human life have? What does it matter whether any of us live or die (unless we want to delude ourselves into thinking there is purpose and meaning without God).
But the Palmist’s affirmations ring true and relevant even today, thousands of years after they were conceived. And if you consider the implications that God is infinitely greater than the greatness of the universe, you might be tempted to the same kind of feelings of insignificance that the materialist must logically admit. Maybe even more so!
“[W]hat is mankind that you are mindful of them”!
But then the Psalmist perceives another truth that changes everything!
“You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.”
Man is NOT insignificant after all, even in the ever expanding emptiness of space because God created man, and He created man with glory and honor.