The James Webb Space Telescope is delivering dazzling images. Nearly 100 times the resolution of images from the great Hubble Space Telescope, they are providing a sensational look into the far reaches of our universe. How extraordinary that while life on our planet is descending into terrible darkness, we are being given our clearest and brightest glimpses ever into the heavens!
Hubble has inspired us for 30 years as it brought faraway galaxies home to Earth. The 1995 Hubble Deep Field exposure focused on about a 2-millionth section of the night sky in the constellation Ursa Major for 100 hours. The area was chosen because of how dark and empty it was. When the images appeared, astronomers were shocked. In that pinprick of space, they could count nearly 3,000 galaxies! The 2004 Ultra Deep Field image showed the farthest galaxies that are possible to see in the human-visible spectrum and led astronomers to estimate the total number of galaxies in the universe at 120 billion.
The James Webb telescope is even more complex, costly and risky than Hubble. After decades of delays and billions of dollars, it finally launched in late 2021. As it hurled through space at a mile per second, nasa administrator Bill Nelson pointed back in time and said: “A shepherd grazing his sheep would look up at the night sky. He became a poet. And he penned the words, The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament shows his handiwork. That shepherd, that poet, became king. And those immortal words in Psalm 19 encapsulate the expressions that we have today—the handiwork of God—as we peer back in time, over 13 billion years ago, [and] capture the light from the very beginning of the creation.”
Pillars of Creation
The first images of the James Webb telescope were shared with the world on July 12, 2022. We saw stars being formed in the Carina Nebula, the Southern Ring Nebula and a large, detailed exposure of a galaxy quintet. Since then we have seen the creation of new stars inside the famous Pillars of Creation nebula, direct images of exoplanets that orbit other stars, a planetary atmosphere, a moon’s atmosphere and, through infrared light, the most distant, most ancient galaxies ever.
What incredible scientific discoveries! But what does it mean?
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1). Looking at the night sky, David celebrated the fact that God has revealed Himself in designing, creating and sustaining the universe. God’s glory and handiwork are out there for everybody to see. The heavens truly do reveal God! The more that science discovers, the more obvious this becomes.
“Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge” (verse 2). The Hebrew for “uttereth” means to pour out or send forth. One translation says, “Day after day it prophesies.” What a fascinating word. The heavens constantly pour forth prophecy! What are they saying? What is their prophecy?
This is truly an inspiring subject to study in order to better know the Creator behind that prophecy. We must be able to see the great God. Especially as times grow more violent and chaotic, we need to know God and His purpose.
God asks: “To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? … Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth” (Isaiah 40:25-26). Man worships the creation, but God says, Lift up your eyes and behold who created these things! The universe is impressive, but we must see God behind it. Sadly, man rarely does.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold [this should read suppress] the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). Yes, here on Earth, men suppress the truth, even when it is as real and inescapable as the Earth they are standing upon and the universe itself!
“Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them” (verse 19). As Psalm 19 says, He has shown it to them in His creation. But this may be even more specific, pointing to direct revelation about astronomy God gave us through Seth, Abraham and other great men of the Bible!
The Witness of the Stars author Ethelbert W. Bullinger argued that God revealed a great deal more about astronomy in the past than we realize. There are indications of this in the Bible.
Psalm 147:4 says God has all the stars and celestial bodies not only numbered but even named. Job knew some of those names. He said that God “spreadeth out the heavens …. Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south” (Job 9:8-9).
God was trying to bring Job into the universe. He was trying to bring David into the universe. And He is trying to bring you into the universe!
God can name 120 billion galaxies and each of their hundreds of billions of stars! (But even that is nothing compared to the full scope of what He is doing with the universe.) He has given us some of those names to help us set our minds on the cosmos in a practical way. He is trying to get you to understand your true potential, which extends far beyond Earth!
Job must have been quite an astronomer. But he made the mistake men usually make: He got his mind on his own projects and works and off what God was building and the laws of God that sustain His great project.
God confronted Job directly to correct his perspective. He asked Job: “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?” (Job 38:31-32). Job, do you recognize the influence the Pleiades star cluster has on the universe? Can you somehow stop that from working like a clock? Can you break up the great constellation Orion? Can you ensure that the brilliant stars of Mazzaroth appear when they ought, or lead those in Arcturus, with all the smaller stars attached to that system, across the sky?
These questions overwhelmed Job. He had been acting like his building projects were equal with God’s. But he had no power over these heavenly bodies. God does! God was impressing on this pitiful man’s mind that the universe does not operate by mere happenstance. There is a great Being behind it all. Lift up your eyes!
Rather than seeing how the heavens declared God’s glory, Job was focusing on his own glory. But he was left speechless as he more vividly saw the laws of God and the power of God at work. I’m not trying to humiliate you, God told him, I’m trying to educate you! Don’t be overawed by some building project on Earth—get your mind on the building project I plan to give you for eternity in the universe! (Hebrews 2:8). God wanted Job to see his potential. He wants the same for you!
Looking to the Heavens
Astronomy is a wonderful subject to study. God revealed some understanding of it to Job. Other men He worked with also considered the heavens. According to the Babylonian historian Berosus, Abraham was “a man righteous and great, and skillful in the celestial science.” He was a great astronomer and mathematician. Josephus said he analyzed “phenomena that were visible both at land and sea, as well as those that happen to the sun and moon, and all the heavenly bodies.” The Prophet Amos spoke of the “seven stars,” or Pleiades, and Orion (Amos 5:8).
Josephus wrote that astronomy was, at one time, revealed by God. He believed that one reason God gave people before the Flood lives of several hundred years was “the good use they made of it in astronomical and geometrical discoveries, which would not have afforded the time of foretelling [the periods of the stars] unless they had lived 600 years; for the great year is completed in that interval” (Antiquities of the Jews, 1.3.9). He referenced several ancient authors (whose works have since been lost) to corroborate this view. Consider why God allowed people like Adam, Seth and Methuselah to live such long lives (Genesis 5:5, 8, 27). Perhaps it was because He wanted to develop this system of astronomy to encourage man if he were inclined to look into it.
Historians often credit the Babylonians and Chaldeans with being geniuses in science, mathematics and even astronomy. But as Bullinger wrote, “Sir William Drummond says that the traditions of the Chaldean astronomy seem the fragments of a mighty system fallen into ruins.” So even the understanding the Chaldeans had, which would have come from Abraham, was mere fragments of “a mighty system.” I’m sure that “mighty system” came from God—and it fell into ruins because people never value what God gives!
When Josiah ruled as king of Judah, “he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets [margin: 12 signs or constellations], and to all the host of heaven” (2 Kings 23:5). How typical of rebellious mankind: God creates the great universe to reveal Himself to them, but man just worships the creation rather than the Creator! (Romans 1:25). Human beings never seem to see the God behind it all!
We must not get distracted by material things. We must see the great God who wants us to think about those stars and their names and to recognize His awesome, limitless power! We must see God—the God of the Bible—as He truly is.
The Sun Prophesies
Psalm 19 continues, “There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world …” (verses 3-4). The heavens are delivering their message, and the whole world should hear it.
The hidden part of these early verses in Psalm 19 is man himself. This is about man’s place in the universe. God wants us to focus our minds on our future and on Him, the Creator.
The psalm continues, “… In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof” (verses 4-6). What is God saying here about the sun? It is the most prominent body or symbol illustrating God’s eminence. Is this too a prophecy?
Malachi 4 supplies the answer: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall” (verse 2). This is God speaking to those who fear His name—the only ones who hear what He is revealing.
The capital “S” shows that this Sun is a type of Jesus Christ. This is a prophecy of how He is about to bring light and growth to all the world. Righteousness will fill the Earth. Everybody will be touched, just as they are by the light of the physical sun. You can step outside on a sunny day and feel the sun’s heat. The Sun of righteousness is about to fill this Earth! We live in dark times, and they will get even darker for a while. But the Sun is about to come out and fill this Earth with the righteousness of God. That is a prophecy you can see in the heavens every day! The whole world is about to see this prophecy fulfilled.
“For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch” (verse 1). This is reality: Those not in harmony with the Sun will be burned up by it! The lake of fire awaits them. There is no future for the wicked (verse 3).
But for those who fear God, there is “healing in his wings.” Let this Sun into your life, and you will receive true healing!
That will also make you “grow up as calves of the stall.” When a baby calf is born, once he can get on his feet and stagger around, he starts jumping around, thrilled to be able to explore the new world. It will be that way with you: Align with that Sun, and you will be prancing and celebrating the thrills and joys in your life! Is your life that way today?
When you grasp what it symbolizes, the sun is itself a prophecy about what will happen to the world in the future.
As we will see, the second half of Psalm 19 is about the law. And in Malachi 4, after talking about the Sun, it discusses the law (verse 4). In the universe or anything else God is involved in, there is always law. The universe declares God’s glory because God rules it! It wouldn’t otherwise!
God then explains how we bring this plan to fruition: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (verse 5). Do you know who this man is? God has already sent this man, and he delivered a message about the Sun of righteousness and about the law.
“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (verse 6). You must bring the law of God—who also authored the laws of the universe—into your life and your family. The great God is telling you how to make your life and your family work. If you don’t do it God’s way, they are guaranteed to be a wreck every time. Yet the created think they know better than the Creator!
Whether out in the universe or here on Earth, if you don’t keep the law, it always fails. If you don’t use God’s government, it always crashes. If a planet got out of orbit, it would create a spectacular collision!
The sun is the most dominant element in the solar system—everything revolves around it. Spiritually, look to the Sun—look to God—not to the bits of matter around Him. Lift up your eyes! Always see God in the picture.
Those families who believe God and are working diligently to implement His law today experience beautiful results. Their success is a prophecy of what is about to happen with families all over the Earth. When God’s law is implemented, the harmony, joy and happiness that follow are truly wondrous!
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. … Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. …” (Psalm 19:1, 4). The King James margin says “their line” could read “their rule or direction.” The heavens declare God’s glory because their rule, or their direction, is from God! It wouldn’t declare the glory of God unless God directed it.
If you are going to give glory to God, it is only because God rules and directs you. We need to learn this deeply. If we don’t, then we will have to go through an experience like Job’s. The Bible prophesies of a “great tribulation” about to descend on a world that is fighting God and acting like the created knows more than the Creator!
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (verses 7-8). This is a prophecy about what the law will do in your life. The law of God is more perfect than the universe. It converts people and brings joy and happiness into their lives!
Some Bible scholars believe the subject changes in verse 7. But it doesn’t! The reason the heavens declare God’s glory is because of the law! This is what man refuses to understand.
God assures us that the same principle that makes the universe work will make your life work. If you are going to declare God’s glory, it will be because you apply the law!
It rejoices the heart to keep God’s law. It makes people happy in a marriage. It makes children happy in a family. It really works. And that rejoicing and harmony helps you know you’re keeping the law! If you are unhappy and bitter, something is wrong with your law-keeping. God isn’t ruling you.
Again, Psalm 19:4 says, “Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon says the word line is a “measuring cord [or] rule.” Strong’s Concordance describes it as “a musical string or accord,” or harmony. People may say you can’t have both interpretations, but you can—because if you have God’s rule and direction, then you have accord, or harmony.
There is harmony in the universe, and it is produced by the law and the direction of God. The fact that it all runs so precisely shows that someone is conducting the orchestra. The whole universe moves like a great orchestra God is conducting!
Sadly, on Earth today, you see a lot of disharmony! People are rioting, splintering families, exploding bombs, suffering horrific “natural” disasters, breaking peace pacts. Satan and his demons are now confined here (Revelation 12:7-9) with rebellious human beings.
If you find harmony any place on Earth—true harmony—it is never an accident. And wherever you find disharmony, you always find a breaking of God’s law.
The Earth doesn’t declare God’s glory—because God doesn’t rule it yet! But He certainly will. If you understand the mind of God—who is behind all the harmony in the universe—you know He yearns to bring that harmony to our planet as well. In fact, this is all a prophecy of what is going to happen on Earth! The universe is prophesying that God will rule Earth and all its inhabitants just like He does the universe!
The Apostle Paul quoted Psalm 19:4 in Romans 10: “But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world” (verse 18). The Greek word for sound means a musical sound. Paul understood the spiritual application of David’s statement about the wonderful harmony in the heavens. To produce beautiful music in our lives, we must follow God’s rule and direction.
Paul used the same Greek word in 1 Corinthians 14:7: “And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?” To make a pipe or a harp give a beautiful, distinct sound, you must play it according to specific laws. Paul is saying if you don’t tune your harp according to God’s Word, you will be talking nonsense spiritually! God has given us the instruments—but He’s the Conductor, and He must teach us how to play them.
Your life can have beautiful music. You can declare God’s glory by the way your life works.
There is a harmony in the law of the Creator and Ruler of the universe, and if we obey that law, our lives will be transformed! When your life produces the harmony God wants, you are declaring God’s glory. You become part of a prophecy of the heavens declaring God’s glory!
How God Can Teach You
The word line is also used in Isaiah 28: “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (verses 9-10).
Is God able to teach you? If you want to be in harmony with God and what He’s doing in the universe, you must be able to study properly, line upon line. For God to really be able to teach you, you must really get into your Bible! You have a responsibility to take line upon line, and you have to know this is God speaking to you and not a man.
Line upon line—there’s no other way God will be able to build in our lives. We have to build based on the laws of God. We must learn how to declare the glory of God!
Look at this universe and the great God behind it, and it really does have an emotional and spiritual impact on your life, as it did Job’s. It can turn you around quickly from errors in your thinking.
When you recognize how the universe declares God’s glory, it shows God’s purpose in creating man. You have no other purpose than to declare God’s glory. That is why we were created.
The only way we can declare God’s glory is by upholding God’s rule and direction. It doesn’t matter how much ability you have or how great your achievements. Unless you can begin to see the glory of God and the power and the might of God, you’ll never stop challenging and questioning Him, and you’ll never declare His glory!
Man would totally destroy himself if God didn’t intervene (Matthew 24:21-22). That shows how far out of harmony he is with his Creator! People have utterly failed to learn what God is doing and what His creation is prophesying.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day after day utters prophecy! If you know God, you know He is a God of law, and you know it is only a matter of time until He corrects our problems. He will never stop until everything is in harmony.
The heavens are pouring forth a prophecy of glory and harmony! They are telling us that, very soon, the whole heavens and the whole Earth are going to declare God’s glory!