#427: Immensity

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Reflections by the Pond
December 28, 2009


Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens by the span,
And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure,
And weighed the mountains in a balance
And the hills in a pair of scales?
Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;
Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.

Isaiah 40:12,15

During the next forty-eight to seventy-two hours we are to expect fog, drizzle, rain, sleet, ice, snow, then strong winds—in other words, a wet, sleety mess capped off by another blizzard.

Right now the temperatures are warm enough for the rain to melt some of the residual foot of snow upon the ground. But already ice is forming on the barren trees on our property, and in a few days our daytime highs will be back down to the teens.

So the roads are fast becoming treacherous, and the counsel is to quickly get to where you want to be, then stay there.

° ° °

Weather is a funny thing. Some people love it, some people hate it. My otherwise intelligent friend in California is not the least bit jealous when I report to him of our blizzard conditions. Nor is he envious of the hours I spend in frigid conditions plowing and shoveling out drifts from our drive.

Odd fellow, he.

Some of his ken apparently attend our church, since my Sunday School class—which consists primarily of the retired, the aged and decrepit—is down to about half its normal size with so many having departed to spend their winter in sunnier climes. Indeed, every year Linda's own parents are almost frantic to leave the state before the first virgin snowflake wafts gently down upon their driveway. They, like so many others, accept the fact that being unable to change the weather to their liking, they must, during the colder months, travel to a place where the weather is to their liking.

° ° °

Though man has existed on earth for a mere blink of an eye, in cosmic terms, he has lived here long enough to think he is more important than he really is. He has adopted the rather bizarre philosophy that he has been systematically destroying the planet, and that if he but switch from a gasoline to an electric means of conveyance, a canvas bag for his groceries, and stop cutting down trees, then the weather will change, the destruction will stop, and all will be well.

Such folly. Such arrogance.

"Have you ever in your life commanded the morning,
And caused the dawn to know its place,
That it might take hold of the ends of the earth,
And the wicked be shaken out of it?
It is changed like clay under the seal;
And they stand forth like a garment.
From the wicked their light is withheld,
And the uplifted arm is broken.
Have you entered into the springs of the sea
Or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Have you understood the expanse of the earth?
Tell Me, if you know all this.
Where is the way to the dwelling of light?
And darkness, where is its place,
That you may take it to its territory
And that you may discern the paths to its home?
You know, for you were born then,
And the number of your days is great!
Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
Or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
Which I have reserved for the time of distress,
For the day of war and battle?
Where is the way that the light is divided,
Or the east wind scattered on the earth?
Who has cleft a channel for the flood,
Or a way for the thunderbolt,
To bring rain on a land without people,
On a desert without a man in it,
To satisfy the waste and desolate land
And to make the seeds of grass to sprout?
Has the rain a father?
Or who has begotten the drops of dew?
From whose womb has come the ice?
And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth?
Water becomes hard like stone,
And the surface of the deep is imprisoned.
Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades,
Or loose the cords of Orion?
Can you lead forth a constellation in its season,
And guide the Bear with her satellites?
Do you know the ordinances of the heavens,
Or fix their rule over the earth?
Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
So that an abundance of water will cover you?
Can you send forth lightnings that they may go
And say to you, 'Here we are'?"

Job 38:12-35

As for this storm heading our way, every day the meteorologists have changed their forecast for its scope and effect. They not only are helpless to halt its progress, they are unable to accurately predict its behavior just twenty-four hours in advance. Just one storm system, in a small part of one country, over a period of just a few days.

To think that man can alter, decades into the future, atmospheric conditions on a global scale is the height of conceit.

° ° °

This week we begin a new year. Perhaps for each of us it will go better than the last if we remember that even on this small blue ball we are not God. It is possible that we may be the most intelligent species dwelling here—although even that is arguable—but that does not mean we possess the sort of power we think we do.

We would do better to be more humble before the immensity and might of the One who created this pretty blue globe. For only He can destroy it.

And one day He will.

° ° °

I was captivated recently when I came across this elucidation of God's infinite domain from Dr. William Blair, an astrophysicist and research professor at Johns Hopkins University.

Blair wrote: "Today we know that galaxies are as common as blades of grass in a meadow. The Hubble Space Telescope recently completed a particularly deep (faint) census of a tiny 'pencil beam' extending far out into the Universe. This survey, called the 'Hubble Deep Field,' was targeted on a region of the sky that was nearly devoid of known objects, so as to be (hopefully) representative of conditions in the distant Universe. The resulting images are truly amazing. Strewn across this tiny piece of the sky are perhaps 1500 or more galaxies of all shapes, sizes, and colors! Because this survey pertains to such a small piece of the sky, the implications are staggering: if the region of sky demarked by the bowl of the Big Dipper were surveyed to the same depth, it would contain about 32 million galaxies! And the estimate for the entire visible Universe is that there are upwards of 40 billion galaxies, each containing tens to hundreds of billions of stars!"

To put the vastness of creation into perspective, Blair uses a sheet of paper: "Imagine that the distance from the earth to the sun (93 million miles, or about 8 light minutes) is compressed to the thickness of a typical sheet of paper. On this scale, the nearest star (4.3 light years) is at a distance of 71 feet. The diameter of the Milky Way (100,000 light years) would require a 310 mile high stack of paper, while the distance to the Andromeda galaxy (at 2 million light years one of the most distant objects visible to the naked eye) would require a stack of paper more than 6000 miles high! On this scale, the 'edge' of the Universe, defined as the most distant known quasars some 10 billion light years hence, is not reached until the stack of paper is 31 million miles high—a third of the way to the sun on the real scale of things!"

from an essay by Mark Alexander, The Patriot Post