“What is the chief end of man?” asks one of the Protestant catechisms. Its answer captivates me: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” What a privilege, what a beautiful and lofty purpose we’ve been given! For me, one of the best ways to enjoy God is to revel in the heavens He has stretched out like a curtain (Isaiah 40:22).
I was once so enthralled by an astronomy article that I announced over the dinner table, “Did you hear the latest about black holes?” I had inserted this statement into an Avengers conversation that had apparently been going on without me, much to my family’s amusement. I was forced to defend myself against their laughter: “Black holes are important! The more you know about the heavens, the closer you get to God.”
I actually believe that. The truest thing I know is the very first verse in the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” When I lose my way, it is the rock I return to. When my faith begins to capsize, it is the lifeboat that rescues me. In those times, no other theology will do. No other verse matters — only what I see in the stars.
“The Lord merely spoke and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. For when He spoke, the world began! It appeared at His command” (Psalm 33:6,9). I can’t get over this truth. It never loses its wonder for me. It is the splendor of creation ex nihilo, something out of nothing. This one thing I know for sure: He speaks, and creation begins. He speaks, and stars appear. He speaks, and we come into existence. Light, energy, mass – all were created at His command.
Throughout my childhood and into my twenties, I trekked yearly to my grandparents’ home in rural Iowa, where the stars are clearer, brighter, and more numerous than any other place I know. Some nights I would just stand in the yard, staring upwards, marveling at those celestial lights.
There aren’t that many stars above my hometown of Kansas City, and there certainly aren’t that many stars above Phnom Penh, where I live now. Here in the capital city you can see about five stars at night. But this April during the Khmer New Year celebration, my family and I left the capital city to travel to the highlands of Cambodia, where it’s cooler and windier. The sky is clearer up there, too, and at night we stargazed. That’s when I saw Jupiter for the first time.
The tropical sky looked vastly different than the sky I’m familiar with, farther north on the prairies of the American Midwest. Here the Pole Star, along with the Big Dipper and Little Dipper, lay closer to the horizon instead of up above, and Jupiter had moved to the zenith. I looked up and saw the biggest planet in our solar system, right overhead. And I am not kidding you, in those moments I felt like God had made Jupiter just for me. I couldn’t stop staring at Jupiter those nights in Mondulkiri, on a mountain made of red dirt.
I know Jupiter will move on from that place. She will progress in her orbit, further traversing the solar system. Earth will move on as well, and Jupiter won’t always be directly overhead, even in the tropics. But at that time, and in that place, she was. I will always treasure the few nights I spent in the highlands of Cambodia, enjoying Jupiter from afar, marveling at the Cosmos and the majesty of its Maker. It was a gift from my Heavenly Father, and I relished the unwrapping.
May I never lose my wonder at the stars. May I never recover from this debilitating awe of the universe. We mortals cannot even see all the galaxies God has made; may I always worship the One who not only ignites their stars but also counts them and knows them by name (Psalm 147:4).
Scientists haven’t been able to detect the dark matter that keeps galaxies from flying apart, yet we know it is Christ who holds all creation together (Colossians 1:17). It is He who sustains everything by the mighty power of His command (Hebrews 1:3). It is Him in whom we live and move and have our very being (Acts 17:28). May we forever enjoy this God of ours.
What helps you enjoy God? What are the night skies like where you live?