Stars and Salvation
What does a clear, starry night have to do with our salvation? Quite a lot, really. In fact, there are passages in the Bible which connect our hope of salvation with the wonder which fills us when we contemplate the majesty and magnitude of the heavens. We begin with two separate but related passages in the book of Romans which connect faith with an appreciation of God’s power expressed through creation.
In the first chapter of Romans, we read about a Gentile world that forgot the Creator and turned to evil, animalistic behavior:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Rom. 1:18-21)
Beginning in verse 18, Paul proceeds in a logical, orderly manner in order to explain why Gentiles stand guilty before God. Why is God’s wrath revealed? Because no one can live in this wonderful world, no one can see design in everything, and be excused for not acknowledging the God who made it all. Notice also how Paul connects the failure to appreciate creation with a lack of gratitude, which results in a sinful way of life. Indeed, taking time to marvel at the design, magnitude, and intricacy of nature should, and can, lead to thankful living and protect us from the temptation to love the world more than the God who made the world.
There is a subtle, yet powerful connection between the first and fourth chapters of Romans. After Paul establishes the sinfulness of even the Jews in chapters 2 and 3, he shows in chapter 4 that Abraham was justified, or declared innocent, through faith in God’s promises, not obedience to the Law (which had not yet been given). God promised Abraham that he would be the ancestor of a great nation and that through that nation everyone in the world, for all time, could be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3). Why should Abraham believe that? Remember, as Paul points out in Rom. 4:19, that both Abraham and his wife Sarah were childless and advanced in years, far beyond the age of child-bearing: And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. Why then was Abraham so sure and steadfast in his faith? As it is written:
He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore it was accounted to him for righteousness. (Rom. 4:20-22)
The Scriptures indicate that Abraham’s amazement at the natural world contributed to his faith. Let’s go back to Gen. 15, the passage that Paul quotes in Rom. 4:22. By the time we come to Gen. 15, God had already made the promises to Abraham (Abram) in chapter 12. Chapter 15 begins as God reminds Abraham of the promises (verse 1). But Abraham, because of his old age and childless condition, asks how God will fulfill the promises. After God reassures him that he will indeed have his own biological son, He leads him outside:
Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. (Gen. 15:5-6)
Why did God tell Abraham to look at the starry, night sky? What did Abraham see that night? He saw the knowledge, wisdom, and power of God in the stars. The same God who made the stars from scratch by Himself and with His own hands also made promises to Abraham. It was nothing for the God of the stars to make a nation out of one man. God was able, God was willing. What, or who, could prevent Him from keeping His promises? No wonder then that Abraham believed in the Lord. Abraham avoided the mistake of the Gentile world as described in Rom. 1:18-21. Because he saw the Creator in creation, he was found faithful and because of that faith found salvation.
Haven’t we all on a clear night marveled at the vast expanse of the heavens, the innumerable host of stars and planets, and because of that marveled at the One who made them? When you feel your faith weakening, when you lose confidence in your salvation, when you feel overwhelmed by anxiety, before you yield to temptation or think of giving up, remember that the same God who made the stars also made promises to Abraham, and kept them. Almighty God has promised you wonderful blessings and He can, and will, keep His word.
“To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One. “Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing.” (Isaiah 40:25-26)
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:2-4)