Lie Back and Look Up

Okay, are you ready to have your mind boggled? If not, better shove this aside until you can handle it. It's too stretching to pass over with a yawn.

The germ thought struck me when I was deep in the redwoods some time ago. I lay back and looked up. I mean really up. It was one of those clear summer nights when you could see forever. So starry it was scary. The vastness of the heavens eloquently told the glory of God. The expanse silently declared the work of His hands.

No words would adequately frame the awesomeness of that moment. I remembered a statement one of my mentors used to say: "Wonder is involuntary praise." That night, it happened to me. I loved it!

What struck me deepest as I curled up in my sleeping bag was this: Everything I have seen belongs to this one galaxy. There are hundreds more beyond our own. Maybe thousands . . . some much larger than ours. Astronomers are now convinced there are twenty galaxies within two and a half million light years; there may be a billion galaxies within photographic range of the 200-inch Mount Palomar telescope.

Let's limit our thinking, for a moment, just to this one solar system . . . a tiny fraction of the universe above us. Because it is impossible to grasp the astounding distance about us, we need analogies, simple comparisons, to assist us. Hold on as we take a quick trip to the regions beyond.

If it were possible to travel the speed of light, you could arrive at the moon in one and a third seconds. But continuing that same speed, do you know how long it would take you to reach the closest star? Four years. Incredible thought!

If you've ever visited New York City's Hayden Planetarium, you've seen that miniature replica of our solar system showing the speeds and sizes of our planets. What is interesting is that the three outer planets are not included. There wasn't room for Uranus, Neptune, and the now "dwarf plant," Pluto. Uranus would be in the planetarium's outer corridor, Neptune would be around Eighth Avenue. And Pluto? Another three long avenues away—Fifth Avenue. By the way, no stars are included, for obvious reasons. Can you imagine (on the same scale) where the nearest star would be located? Cleveland, Ohio. Vast! And that's just our own local galaxy, remember.

A scientist once suggested another interesting analogy. To grasp the scene, imagine a perfectly smooth glass pavement on which the finest speck can be seen. Then shrink our sun from 865,000 miles in diameter to only two feet . . . and place the ball on the pavement to represent the sun. Step off 82 paces (about two feet per pace), and to represent proportionately the first planet, Mercury, put down a tiny mustard seed.

Take 60 steps more, and for Venus put an ordinary BB.

Mark 78 more steps . . . put down a green pea representing earth.

Step off 108 paces from there, and for Mars put down a pinhead.

Sprinkle around some fine dust for the asteroids, then take 788 steps more. For Jupiter, place an orange on the glass at that spot.

After 934 more steps, put down a golf ball for Saturn.

Now it gets really involved. Mark 2,086 steps more, and for Uranus . . . a marble.

Another 2,322 steps from there you arrive at Neptune. Let a cherry represent Neptune.

This will take two and a half miles, and we haven't even discussed Pluto! If we swing completely around, we have a smooth glass surface five miles in diameter, yet just a tiny fraction of the heavens—excluding Pluto. On this surface, five miles across, we have only a seed, BB, pea, pinhead, some dust, an orange, golf ball, a marble, and a cherry. Guess how far we'd have to go on the same scale before we could put down another two-foot ball to represent the nearest star. Come on, guess. Seven hundred paces? Two thousand steps more? Four thousand four hundred feet? No, you're way off.

We'd have to go 6,720 miles before we could arrive at that star. Miles, not feet. And that's just the first star among millions. In one galaxy among perhaps thousands, maybe billions. And all of it in perpetual motion . . . perfectly synchronized . . . the most accurate timepiece known to man.

Phenomenal isn't the word for it.

No God? All by chance? Whom are you kidding? I honestly cannot think of a more erroneous thought than that. Listen carefully to the truth:

They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (Romans 1:19–20 NLT)

The boggled mind leads to a bended knee.

A mentor once said: "Wonder is involuntary praise." It moves us to prayer.

Charles R. Swindoll Tweet This

Excerpt taken from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission. For additional information and resources visit us at www.insight.org.

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