I love looking up at the stars. I love going to remote places where the skies are clear to see them better. As my cameras have got more sophisticated I have tried with increasing success to photograph them (and I’m quite pleased with someone of my latest efforts, from the deserts of Utah), but sometimes there’s nothing else to do but just look up and gaze in awe.
I’m struck by the laconic way in which Genesis 1:16 mentions God’s creation of the stars: “He also made the stars’ – it’s almost an afterthought, a throwaway comment to describe a masterpiece that should easily fill reams of praise on its own. Psalm 147:4 is slightly more effusive: “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name”, and in the book of Job God Himself speaks of the way in which He commands the stars:
“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?” (Job 38:31-32)
I’m not alone in my marvelling. People have always drawn inspiration from the stars, and always will. Looking up, amazed at the beauty and immensity, and maybe hoping for a better world than this one up there somewhere, religion and mythology have always been intertwined with the stars. The phrase ‘written in stars’ appears in many songs, Tinie Tempah and Eric Turner’s rendition being a recent and particular favourite of mine. But before all the legends were written up and before all the lyrics were penned, God put His own message in the stars. A message for Abram, but also for us.
“Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:4-5)
It’s a touching scene which simply yet vividly conveys the personal intimacy with which God can reveal His plans. God used the night-time sky to demonstrate just how expansive His promises to Abram were, and it must have been a bit too much for Abram to take in at the time, given that he didn’t yet have even one child. More subtly, I think it also shows how all the vast glory of the universe is less important to God than His relationship with us.
That’s why I really love looking at the stars. As well as the beauty and transcendence, there’s an enduring message up there for all of us. A message of love, a message of belonging, a message of promise. Despite being such tiny specks in such a gigantic universe, we matter to God. He pursues us, loves us, and reveals Himself so that we can know Him. All of creation is designed to point us to God (Romans 1:20), and if, like me, you’re someone who looks at the stars and gives God the credit, then you’re one of those countless offspring that God promised to Abram. We are His promise. And He is our ‘very great reward’ (Genesis 15:1).