It’s a strange and exhilarating thought to gaze into the night sky and think of King David looking up at those same stars, and pondering the ways of the Lord. When I think about this, I have a sense of the connection that exists between us and these seemingly-legendary figures in the redemptive story of Scripture. It reminds me that I’m part of the story, and that helps me.
When David looked at the stars and planets in the sky, he wrote,
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man, that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Indeed, few things can give us a sense of perspective as the vast expanses of the heavens. Consider: the sun, which is the nearest star to Earth, is a massive burning force emitting photons, which take just over 8 minutes to reach us. So if the sun suddenly poofed out of existence, you wouldn’t know it until 8 minutes later. Look into a clear night sky, and you can see Alpha Centauri, the third brightest star in the sky. Alpha Centauri is actually a solar system, the nearest to our own. Light from this cluster of stars (which appears to be one star to the naked eye) takes over four years to reach us. So the light I see with my own eye today is almost like looking back in time to the energy a star expelled when my son was first born, over four years ago. Mind-blowing. But mighty Alpha Centauri is only one solar of more than 500 (that we know) in our Milky Way galaxy. The Milky Way (just one galaxy, mind you) is so vast that it would take a 100,000 years to travel across its breadth at the speed of light.
What is man, that you are mindful of him?
The psalmist of Psalm 113 tells us that the Lord “looks far down on the heavens on the earth” — far down on the heavens. So this massive expanse of solar systems and galaxies, the end of which we could never hope to even observe — the distance of the heavens is nothing compared to the distance between us and God. This is called the “transcendence of God,” his high-aboveness.
How beautiful, what a grace, that the Lord who spun galaxies we don’t even know about to existence, the unknowable transcendent God, has clothed himself in the likeness of sinful flesh, and made a way to draw near to us. We simply could not be further from him, but he has in Christ gently stooped down in meekness and love, not counting equality with God a thing to be clung to, but taking upon him the very vileness and guilt that keeps us from partaking of the life that the Living God, the God of aseity, of transcendence, has in and of himself. He has self-disclosed himself to us, revealing himself to us in the pages of a book, in the annals of history, and in the recesses of our heart.
I’m thankful. Who could ever know God if God did not first draw near?