Chapter 2: The Heavens Declare God’s Glory
Scientists in recent years have accumulated evidence showing that specific features in creation—Earth, in particular—must be extremely fine-tuned in order to support life.
One well-known example is the Earth’s distance from the sun. It is just right to keep temperatures here hospitable—somewhere between 30 below zero and 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If we were farther away, we would freeze; if we were closer to the sun, we would roast.
“The values of the physical constants (not to mention the laws of physics) seem to be spectacularly ‘fine tuned’ for life as we know it—indeed, almost ‘tailor made’ for humans,” write astronomers Jay Pasachoff and Alex Filippenko. “In many cases, if things were altered just a tiny amount, the results would be disastrous for life, and even for the production of heavy elements or molecules” (The Cosmos: Astronomy in the New Millennium; emphasis added throughout).
Each year, we recognize more of these finely tuned features that allow for life here. In 1988, Dr. Hugh Ross’s team of astronomy researchers counted 15 features that had to be just so for any life to survive. By 1991, they had counted two more. By 1995, they had come to see yet nine more features that had to be exactly right. By 1998, the total number had risen to 34 features. Any significant change in any one of these conditions, and none of us would be here.
By 2001, this research team had found 41 features. By 2004, 77 features. By 2005, 93 features. By 2006, they’d come to recognize 140 features—all perfectly lined up so life can exist on this planet.
And all these features must align precisely for any physical life to survive, even just a single-celled organism. For an advanced human civilization to exist, the features that scientists have realized must be in place are far, far more numerous. In Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, Dr. Ross says it would take “at least 10700 times more fine-tuning precision” for a high-tech civilization like ours than for just single-cell life that survives 90 days or less. “To put this number (10700) into perspective, the total number of protons and neutrons in the entire observable universe amounts to 1079.”
Our planet is an incomprehensibly fine-tuned precision machine!
“Some people use these and other ’cosmic coincidences’ to argue for a divine Creator,” write Pasachoff and Filippenko. “But this theological conclusion is not testable by the methods of science. Therefore, here we will not consider it further, though perhaps it is true” (op cit).
It is true—infinitely more than perhaps. This is incontrovertible proof that there had to be a Designer!
As King David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament [or the expanse of heaven] sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1). David was celebrating the fact that God revealed Himself to us in the universe He created. Perhaps he knew more than today’s astronomers would give him credit for.
The Foundation of the Earth
Did you realize that the vast majority of the universe in its present form is uninhabitable? It is too hot or too cold—too dense or too vacuous—too dark or too bright. It has too much radiation or too few of the heavy elements required for life. Gravitational forces are too intense—environments are too unstable.
Scientists have come to recognize just how remarkable and fortuitous our cosmic location is. We are far enough from the center of the Milky Way so we’re not bombarded by radiation. We are nowhere near dangerous star clusters or quasars or nebulae. We are right next to this very stable star called the sun. A whole host of factors make our planet’s position just perfect. “Earth is quite a charmed planet,” write Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee in Rare Earth.
And it is “charmed” in more than just its location. Earth is 7,913.1 miles in diameter, and even though it just “floats in space,” it weighs about 6,000 million million million tons. Scientists have learned several reasons why this is the ideal size and mass. For example, if it were less dense, it wouldn’t have enough gravity to retain an atmosphere, like the planet Mercury. If it were larger and more dense, we couldn’t live in its thick atmosphere—it would be like Jupiter’s.
Humans need almost 30 elements to live: hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, calcium, iron, sodium, potassium and so on. Earth has just the right mix of all of them, with a rich abundance of rare but vital heavy elements in its core and sprinkled through its crust and mantle.
Earth’s distances from both the sun and the moon are also perfect to ensure it has a stable, predictable orbit with 24-hour days. Thus, the planet doesn’t get too hot or too cold; the entire surface of Earth is properly warmed and cooled every day. (If, for example, the sun were smaller and Earth had to be closer to it in order to prevent water on its surface from freezing over, the planet’s rotation would be dangerously affected by the sun’s gravity: Rotational synchronization could lock the same side of Earth into facing the sun at all times—as the moon is to Earth—thus baking half the planet and freezing the other.)
Thanks to our single large moon (its mass compared to the Earth is an incredible 50 times greater than any other moon-planet combination we know of), Earth is tilted at a nice, gentle 23.5-degree angle. Planets that have no moons or a relatively small moon have a rotation axis that tilts chaotically. Without our moon, Earth would experience catastrophic climate changes. But as it is, that tilt gives us predictable, pleasant seasonal changes that provide variety and facilitate annual food production all over the planet.
These are extraordinary features. Recognizing this, scientists have concocted elaborate explanations of how they all came about through indiscriminate natural forces over billions of years. But the book of Job provides a more plausible explanation.
Job was a great builder. Historical evidence shows that he supervised construction of the Great Pyramid—and biblical evidence shows that he grew somewhat self-impressed. God helped correct his perspective.
In Job 38, God provided an extraordinary picture of a moment in the universe’s history: when He built the Earth. “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding” (Job 38:4). Our planet didn’t come to inhabit its perfect place in the cosmos haphazardly. God says in this verse that He actively set the Earth in this precise location.
“Who determined its [Earth’s] measurements?” God asked Job. “Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?” (verse 5; New King James Version). Our planet’s size and extraordinary elemental composition are not the product of arbitrary forces. They were measured and precisely surveyed—perfectly prepared to suit God’s purposes.
“Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof,” God continued (verse 6). The physical forces that anchor our planet and stabilize it, so crucial to its ability to host life, aren’t luck. Our Creator established them. In Isaiah 45:18, God says that He formed the Earth to be inhabited!
Everyone who sees that kind of meticulous and stunning handiwork should be shouting God’s praises! The heavens are declaring God’s glory!
After hearing God’s speech, Job was humbled. His appreciation for God’s creative genius and power had multiplied, and his perspective on himself had shrunk to far more realistic proportions.
Today’s scientific revelations are telling us the same basic truths, confirming the biblical record. Surely we should be similarly awed and inspired.
How the Sun Is a Prophecy
King David’s ode to the cosmos continues, “Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge” (Psalm 19:2; rsv). The Hebrew word translated pours forth could also be translated prophesies.
The universe is prophesying! Do you know what it is saying? Verses 3 and 4 show that its wordless message is going out through all the Earth. The Hubble telescope and other modern scientific instruments are actually making it possible to discern that message more clearly.
What are the heavens communicating to us? They are speaking about the past. They are teaching us about what is and what should be happening right now. And as we will see, they are also prophesying about the majestic future.
Here is one of those prophecies.
“… In them [the heavens] hath he [God] 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” (verses 4-5). Our sun is like a strong man, or a powerful athlete.
A 1-megaton nuclear bomb has the explosive power of 1 million tons of tnt. The sun produces the same amount of energy as a trillion of those bombs—every second! That’s 400 trillion trillion watts. In one second the sun produces more energy than the entire human species has consumed throughout its entire history!
God positioned that furious nuclear furnace relative to our planet just perfectly to be our main source of energy. “[T]here is nothing hid from the heat thereof” (verse 6). We can enjoy sunny days outside, we can see by its light, we are warmed by its heat, plants can absorb its energy, and dozens of other processes can occur that make life not only possible but extremely pleasant here.
But that star is also preaching a deeper message.
Malachi 4:2 tells us that “the Sun of righteousness [shall] arise with healing in his wings ….” There the sun specifically points us to Jesus Christ. Though it is spelled s-u-n, it is capitalized because it is talking about the Son of God! (see also Psalm 84:11; Isaiah 60:19-20; John 1:9). This verse is a prophecy of how, very soon, Christ is going to bring light and growth to the entire world!
When Jesus Christ returns, that will be the most glorious “sunrise” ever! Everyone will be touched by His presence, just as they are by the light of the physical sun today.
Yes, the sun itself is a prophecy! Its Creator designed it to illustrate a spiritual reality. When you look at the sun, you can think about the dawning of the day of Christ’s rule on Earth.
You can’t even look at the sun directly because it is too awesome and brilliant. It is so enormous that it accounts for 99.9 percent of all the visible matter in our solar system. You could fit 1 million planet Earths inside of it. It dominates our solar system—in the same way that God should dominate our lives.
It illustrates some wonderful attributes of the Son of righteousness! That is where we get our spiritual light and heat. Our lives should revolve around God the way our planet does that sun.
Our Obedient Universe
The entire material realm operates in accordance with physical laws. You can be thankful that is the case. The speed of light never changes. You know that each day will have 24 hours in it because of the predictable rotation of the Earth. You can trust that the sun will keep firing the equivalent of a trillion megaton nuclear explosions per second. Our planet—thanks to its motion within our solar system, galaxy and galaxy cluster—travels through space at a blazing 435 miles per second, over 1.5 million miles per hour. Yet we never go flying off into space because, thankfully, the law of gravity anchors us to this planet.
Astronomers and cosmologists recognize and accept this order and precision as an article of faith in their studies. In fact, the laws of physics form the basis of most of their hypotheses—certainly the ones that can be tested and verified. They observe how energy and matter behave—what makes a star burn—how things are born and how they decay—how gravity and other forces affect matter. And then they theorize and speculate about the details of the universe’s composition and activity—as well as its history and its future—based on their confidence that everything always has and always will operate in predictable accordance with those physical laws.
Even the circular reasoning used by evolutionists assumes the existence of certain laws. Gerald L. Schroeder, an mit-trained scientist, explains it this way: “Essentially all of scientific inquiry is based on fundamental ‘givens,’ values that just are what they are for no discernible reason, such as the electromagnetic charge. These facets of nature are observed as being intrinsic to the workings of nature, but arbitrarily set by the laws of our universe” (The Hidden Face of God).
But what established those “values” in the beginning? How did these “facets of nature”—laws—become “intrinsic to the workings of nature”? What is it that “arbitrarily set” these “values”? Where did “the laws of our universe” come from? Even evolutionary scientists believe in cause and effect. What caused the universe to come into effect?
Isn’t it astonishing that scientists can have such faith in those laws—and yet fail to recognize the Power that set them in motion?
The existence of unchangeable, absolute, yet unseen laws demands the existence of a supreme Lawgiver. God declares in His written Word that He is that Lawgiver (James 4:12). It is by those laws that He governs the entire material universe and makes everything orderly and reliable.
In the context of this sun prophecy is an important link. We are commanded to remember God’s law (Malachi 4:4). The same God who created the physical laws that regulate matter also gave the statutes and judgments to Moses. Everything God is involved in, He does according to law.
“The greatest scientists have been struck by how strange this is,” writes author Dinesh D’Souza. “There is no logical necessity for a universe that obeys rules, let alone one that abides by the rules of mathematics. This astonishment springs from the recognition that the universe doesn’t have to behave this way. It is easy to imagine a universe in which conditions change unpredictably from instant to instant, or even a universe in which things pop in and out of existence” (What’s So Great About Christianity).
The whole material universe—everything out there—is perfectly submitted to God’s rule. This is another remarkable way in which the heavens declare God’s glory.
What an extraordinary message the heavens are preaching, if only we would listen.
The Harmony of the Heavens
Look at how King David made this point within Psalm 19. Verse 4 says that the heavens’ “line is gone out through all the earth.” The Hebrew word translated line refers to a measuring rule or cord; it is the same word used in Job 38:5, where God says He “stretched the line” upon the Earth to measure it. Metaphorically the word means a rule or law (as in Isaiah 28:10, which says we must come to understand God’s Word “precept upon precept; line upon line”). The universe complies beautifully with God’s rule, His measure, His law.
This word also refers to a musical string or accord or harmony. When the Apostle Paul quoted this verse in Romans 10:18, he actually used the word sound. He likened the harmony in the heavens to a musical sound.
These concepts are closely linked, because wherever you have God’s rule, you have accord, or harmony. Everything works together like an orchestra playing in harmony. If you find true harmony anywhere on Earth or in the heavens, that is no accident! And wherever you find disharmony and friction, you find the breaking of God’s law!
This psalm says that there is harmony in the glorious universe. Those heavenly bodies are like a great orchestra God is conducting. What produces that harmony? David continues, “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” (Psalm 19:7-8). That harmony comes from God and His law!
Some commentaries say Psalm 19 changes subjects here—but it doesn’t. The reason the heavens prophesy traces back to the law. And if we apply God’s law in our own lives, in our jobs and relationships and families, it will produce order and harmony that will rejoice our heart.
This is really a prophecy about what the law will do in your life. If you allow God to rule you—if you get in sync with the Creator and Conductor of the harmony of the universe and submit to His spiritual law in the same way that matter submits to His physical law—then that will bring you into harmony with God and other people. Just like the heavens themselves, your life will also begin to declare God’s glory. Your marriage and family will show His handiwork. You will make beautiful spiritual music—just as the sun does as it spreads its glorious light and warmth all over the Earth in perfect harmony with the laws of God.
You will be a prophecy about the harmonious music that this whole world will be producing very soon, when God’s law is implemented.
Hear what the heavens are saying. They are pouring forth evidence of a Designer and Sustainer. And as we will see, they are also prophesying about the wonderful future God is offering to mankind.
Abraham the Astronomer
When you think of Abraham’s time, do you think of dusty tents, whistling wind and bleating sheep, uneducated men and hardscrabble living? If so, you might be surprised at the real history. Abraham’s was not a primitive, ignorant world. In fact, it possessed advanced astronomical knowledge that would take thousands of years to rediscover!
Abraham lived in Ur of the Chaldees, a city in Babylon at the heart of the civilized world. Archaeological evidence reveals that the Babylonians “had detected the precision of the equinoxes. They knew the cause of the eclipses, and … could predict them. … They had correct views of the structure of the solar system and knew the order of emplacement of the planets” (John William Draper, History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science). Other history books corroborate that when the Greeks conquered Babylon, they discovered advanced astronomical observations and even a map representing the world as round, with Babylon near the center. Babylonian priests knew where the sun, moon and planets were positioned, recognized their orbits, and calculated where they would appear at any given time in the future.
But how did they know?
Berosus, a Babylonian historian, wrote, “In the 10th generation after the Flood, there was among the Chaldeans a man righteous and great, and skillful in the celestial science.” This man was Abraham.
Not only was he a giant of faith and obedience, but he was also a wealthy and influential world leader and an intelligent, well-educated scientist, mathematician and astronomer. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus confirmed that this great Chaldean was Abraham and that the Greek Hecataeus wrote an entire book about his accomplishments. Other secular historians add that Abraham was a scholar renowned throughout Ur. Josephus tells us that 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 Babylonians received their advanced understanding of the heavens from Abraham. Abraham taught them the nature of the sun, moon, eclipses, the planets and their orbits inside our solar system, and the stars that lie beyond—far-flung heavenly lights that they and other pagan believers had thought were an assortment of gods. Abraham showed that these “gods” had no minds or power of their own and that he could predict exactly what they would do and where they would be ad infinitum because they had to obey specific laws.
Later, when Abraham left Ur, he traveled in Austria and Egypt, spreading the knowledge of arithmetic, astronomy and culture even beyond Babylon.
How could a man standing on the surface of the Earth without advanced scientific instruments understand that he was on a round planet orbiting the sun alongside other planets? How could he recognize a star versus a planet in the morning sky? Where did he learn the mathematical laws of how to predict eclipses and other astral events? How could he know these heavenly bodies were not gods?
He had been taught by the true God, the one who authored the laws of astronomy and physics that govern the heavens.
Abraham wasn’t the first astronomer. Josephus said the study of astronomy originated in the family line of Seth. He wrote, “God gave [those who lived before the Flood] such long life that they might perfect those things which they had invented in astronomy.” Job too had advanced astronomical knowledge, such as the understanding—unknown except by divine revelation for many centuries to come—that Earth hangs “upon nothing,” floating in space (Job 26:7). Ancient histories indicate that Noah had knowledge of maritime laws involving navigating by the stars. That ancient and elderly patriarch likely brought knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, agriculture and other sciences as well as the arts from one side of the Flood to the other, which passed down from generation to generation to Abraham.
What is most certain is that Abraham’s scientific knowledge came through his connection with the Creator God, the one Source powerful enough to create stars and galaxies and suns and moons and planets, brilliant enough to set them all in order according to perfect laws—and loving enough to teach those laws.
The world traces its astronomical knowledge to Babylon. Babylon traces it back to Abraham, the servant of God.
So why did God teach a tiny human living on a tiny planet the undiscoverable systems and laws of the cosmos? Why did God teach Abraham astronomy? Several reasons. The Bible’s description of God’s creation says that He set up the lights of the sun, moon and stars “for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” (Genesis 1:14). True knowledge of astronomical laws preserved the measure of the week, the months and the years by which to measure time, as well as the day of the week that God set apart for worship. In addition, without that knowledge, today we would have no idea of the ages of the ancients who dwelled on Earth prior to Moses, nor duration of events such as the Flood. Yet Moses recorded detailed ages and histories in the Pentateuch.
In addition, God clearly used that revelation to inspire and motivate His servants. When He promised Abraham he would become a great patriarch, He compared his descendants to the stars (Genesis 15:5). He also revealed to Abraham the Holy City to come, which will serve as the headquarters of the universe (Revelation 21)—a vision that fueled Abraham his whole life (Hebrews 11:10).
God designed and created the universe for His purposes. We should hardly be surprised that, as Amos 3:7 says, He revealed its secrets to His servants.