God of Heaven
“5) And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O Lord: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints. 11) The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them.” (Psalm 89:5,11)
God’s glory and handiwork are declared and preached in the heavens and in the earth. There is no speech nor language where the voice of God’s creation does not preach to man of his Creator God (Ps. 19:1-6). The heavens and earth are so huge and vast we cannot comprehend them with our mortal minds. Our God fills heaven and earth (Jer. 23:24), but we are nothing and yea less than nothing. How could God take notice or be mindful of such insignificant parts of this universe? God was not just mindful of us but even sent his only begotten Son to die for our sins. “3) When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; 4) What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Ps. 8:3-4) We have to see how amazing God is and how worthless we are for only then we can stand properly amazed that God could love and die for us!
This earth and this universe are so vast we can’t even fathom it. Our earth is huge in our minds at 24,900 miles around in circumference, but then 1.3 million earths could fit inside our sun. The biggest star in our universe is UY Scuti with a radius 1,700 larger than the sun. God created the sun and moon and all the firmament of heaven on the fourth day and created all the stars as an afterthought – “he made the stars also” (Gen. 1:16). God created the sun, moon, and stars with just the power of his voice. God made Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south (Job 9:7-9). Jesus is figuratively described as having “seven stars in his right hand” (Rev. 1:16,20). Which this is figuratively describing the seven churches of Asia as these stars, but I believe we can also confidently say that God holds all the stars in his hands.
The Milky Way (our home galaxy) alone is estimated to contain over 100 billion stars. The most current estimates by scientists conclude that there are about 2 trillion galaxies in our universe and estimate that the average stars per galaxy is 100 million stars. If those numbers are reasonably correct, then the number of stars in the known universe would be somewhere around 10 to the 19th power – or a 10 followed by 19 zeros, too much to write out here. God described the seed of Abraham (the elect) as a vast multitude as innumerable as the stars of heaven or the sand on the sea shore (Gen. 22:17, Heb. 11:12). Astronomers estimate there is roughly 10,000 stars for each grain of sand on earth. Despite the unfathomable number of stars in the universe, God tells all the stars and calls them all by their names. “He telleth the numbers of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.” (Ps. 147:4) What an amazing display of God’s omniscience to know all these billions of stars by name!
From one end to the other, it is estimated that the universe is 46 billion light-years wide, or a diameter of 93 billion light-years. Light travels 186,000 miles per second or 671 million miles per hour. There are 31.5 million seconds in a year. Therefore, the distance light travels in a year (or a “lightyear”) is 5.8 trillion miles per year. The miles that make up this universe are too many to write, and certainly too big to fathom – 5.8 trillion miles in a light-year times 46 billion light-years. It has been estimated that traveling to the end of the known universe would take 225 trillion years. Those numbers are just too big for us to comprehend.
The universe is unfathomably big to our mortal minds but yet the heavens are described as “the work of [God’s] fingers” (Ps. 8:3). God “meted out heaven with the span” (Isaiah 40:12). A span is the distance between an outstretched thumb and pinky finger (generally about six inches). God created the heavens with just his fingers and his hand. “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:” (Isaiah 40:22). When God created the heavens, he stretched the heavens out like we would stretch out a curtain in our living room or a camping tent in our back yard. God created this incomprehensibly vast universe in the same simple, regular way that we would hang curtains in our home! If God was using a human scale to describe his size (which is figurative because God is a Spirit), then the whole universe would be equivalent to just his fingers. If the universe is equivalent to his fingers, how big would God’s entire body be? God is so big he “fills heaven and earth” (Jer. 23:24). God fills the magnitude of our incomprehensible universe. Our God is too amazing, too vast, and too immense for our little mortal minds to fathom! Wow!
Sometimes we get concerned about all the wicked people or nations of this world getting out of control and encroaching upon God’s people or even God’s authority. We need to see just how amazingly big and powerful our God is in comparison to this world! “15) Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. 17) All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.” (Isaiah 40:15,17) All the nations of this world are nothing, just dust in the scale, just a drop in a bucket, and less than nothing and vanity in sight of our sovereign, omnipotent, holy God! God is even able to hold all the waters of this world in the hollow of his hand. “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?” (Isaiah 40:12) This earth and the people of this earth are so insignificant compared to the magnitude of God. We are nothing! That makes the gospel of our salvation even more amazing! We are nothing and yea less than nothing, but yet God still died for our sins!
God created and established the sun and the moon on the fourth day of creation (Gen. 1:14-19). After the flood of Noah, God affirmed his commitment that “day and night”, along with the seasons and temperature fluctuations, would not cease until his second coming (Gen. 8:22). God has established the natural laws that govern day and night and the sun and the moon. God even made a “covenant” with the sun and moon in the heavens for the earth to keep rotating for us to have day and night. “Thus saith the Lord; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth.” (Jer. 33:25) God has set the ordinances for the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens for day and night. “Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is his name:” (Jer. 31:35). These natural ordinances are so strong, upheld by the Lord, that there is just as much possibility of the sun and moon’s covenant ceasing as there is that the people of God would be forsaken by the Lord. There is just as much possibility of us measuring the heavens (which is impossible) as there is for God to break his covenant to his chosen people (Jer. 31:36-37). Since we cannot even fathom to measure the heavens, that gives us some very comforting eternal security of God’s covenant to his people!
Stopping Heaven and Earth
“12) Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. 13) And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. 14) And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the Lord fought for Israel.” (Joshua 10:12-14)
Sometimes to show the sincerity of our commitment to a task, we might colloquially say we will “move heaven and earth” to get that done. Well, clearly, we don’t literally have the ability to move heaven and earth to get that done. We just mean that we will give it our very best effort to complete that task. However, our God actually does have the ability to “move heaven and earth”, according to his will. A few times in the past, God even stopped the natural laws of heaven and earth for a period of time to help his people. God stopped heaven and earth for just a few of his little children, for Joshua and Israel in battle and for Hezekiah in recovery from his terminal illness.
The Israelites were in a fierce battle with the Amorites led by their general, Joshua. The five kings of the Amorites had allied together to fight Israel. God gave Joshua confirmation to not fear the Amorites because God had delivered them into his hand (Josh. 10:8). The Lord discomfited them and chased them out of Gibeon and the Lord even cast down great hailstones on their head as they fled. However, Israel needed one last push to defeat the Amorites in battle. Then, Joshua boldly asks the Lord before all the people of Israel for the sun and moon to stand still. Just that Joshua would even make such a bold (and apparently ridiculous) request unto the “God of heaven and earth”, might seem crazy to us. Joshua is asking for the Lord to stop the rotation of the earth until they had finished defeating the Amorites in battle. Just as shocking as Joshua’s request is, maybe even more shocking is God’s answer to Joshua’s prayer. God caused the sun and moon to stand still in the midst of heaven for a whole day.
The sun does not actually move in the sky to go up or go down. The sun remains static, in the same place, while the earth rotates around the sun. The earth rotates around roughly one time in 24 hours (actually 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds). Even though the earth appears stable and not moving to us, the earth is actually rotating at almost 1,000 miles per hour. Despite the earth actually rotating at 1,000 miles per hour, for some reason we are not flung off the surface of the earth like anyone would if they ever moved at that speed. The natural law of gravity pulling us towards the center of the earth keeps our feet on the ground instead of flying off into space at 1,000 miles per hour. Therefore, in answer to the prayer of Joshua on behalf of God’s people in distress, God stopped the rotation of the earth for a whole 24-hour period!
From a natural, scientific perspective, this might appear to be impossible. Imagine how stopping a 1,000 mile per hour rotation immediately would create whiplash for the entire globe, but nothing changed for the people on the earth. They continued in battle just like normal. Think about all the ripple effects of the earth ceasing to rotate for a full 24 hours. The gravitation force of the moon controls the tides of the ocean. All the tides would be messed up and erratic from the earth not rotating for 24 hours. I don’t know enough science to even list all the effects the earth not rotating would have, but we would think it would literally mess everything up. However, the same God that is in control of the rotation of the earth is in control of everything else in heaven and earth, and he handled all of the corresponding secondary problems as well. This is just an amazing even that God paused the rotation of the earth for a whole day and nothing catastrophic happened. Actually, it was just like another regular day for people on earth, except the sun didn’t go down. It is God who is in control and even “commands the sun to rise” (commands the earth to spin). God “commandeth the sun and it riseth not, and sealeth up the stars” (Job 9:7) God is in sovereign control of all of his creation, so he commanded the earth to stop spinning for a little bit.
What is possibly even more astounding than the fact God did this, is that he did it at the request of a regular man, just like me and you. “And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the Lord fought for Israel.” (Josh. 10:14) Can you imagine the boldness of Joshua and faith in God’s power to request for God to make the sun and moon stand still for a whole day? I’m sure Joshua didn’t know the scientific facts of the earth’s rotation and that the earth was actually spinning at 1,000 miles per hour. I’m sure he didn’t know the scientific magnitude of what he was requesting. None of that mattered. He believed in his God and prayed boldly unto God to help his children in their time of need. We need to have that kind of boldness to pray unto God for things that are beyond even the realm of possibility. We need to pray for miracles. We need to pray for things that are contrary to nature. Always praying nevertheless not my will but thine be done but praying with boldness and faith in the power of our God. We need to pray remembering that our God is able to do even more than we can comprehend. “14) For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… 20) Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” (Eph. 3:14-20) Our God might see fit to move heaven and earth to bless us, but as is usually the case, we have not because we ask not.
As a side note, consider the seasons and the earth’s rotation. The earth is not perfectly vertical in space but is actually tilted on its axis at 23.5 degrees. Our seasons of the year are determined by the axis tilt of the earth in relation to the sun. When one part of the globe is tilted closer towards the sun for a period of time, their weather will be warmer, corresponding with summer. When another part of the earth is tilted away from the sun, their weather will be colder, causing winter. The transitional seasons from hot to cold weather would be spring and autumn. Therefore, as long as our earth remains tilted at 23.5 degrees on its axis, there will still be seasons on the earth. God promised as much in the aftermath of the flood of Noah. “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Gen. 8:22) Many people have promoted the false idea of global warming that will supposedly eventually melt the polar ice caps and flood the earth. The earth is not perpetually just getting warmer, just like with the whole history of the earth, temperatures continue to fluctuate up and down. Our seasons of “cold and heat” and “summer and winter” are determined by the axis tilt of the earth, and it’s evident no events on the earth will be able to change the earth’s tilt. There is just as much chance as “summer and winter” ceasing as there is for “day and night” to cease (Gen. 8:22), which is zero chance. Therefore, as long as our earth remains at its 23.5 degree tilt – which it always will – we shall still have revolving seasons of “cold and heat” and “summer and winter” in this world, not prolonged global warming that will destroy the earth.
Now, let us consider not just God pausing the rotation of the earth, but God making the earth to spin backward. In 2 Kings 20 (and Isaiah 38), God has told King Hezekiah by the prophet to set his house in order because he is about to die. Hezekiah turns to the wall and prays fervent unto God for mercy. God hearkens to his prayer and tells the prophet who hasn’t left the palace yet to turn around and now tell Hezekiah God has added to him 15 more years and will deliver Judah out of the hand of the Assyrians. God answers Hezekiah’s prayer just minutes after Isaiah has delivered him this dreadful news of his coming death. Hezekiah apparently did not believe God’s promise of his recovery and victory, so he asks God for a sign to confirm God’s word. God gives Hezekiah the option of the sun dial going backward or forward 10 degrees. “9) And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees? 10) And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. 11) And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the Lord: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz.” (2 Kings 20:9-11)
Hezekiah thought it wouldn’t be as big a deal for the sundial to go forward, but he knew it would be naturally impossible for the sundial to go backward and the earth to rotate backward. This was not just a visual trick on the sundial, but “the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down” (Isaiah 38:8). The word “returned” here literally means “to go back”. For that to occur, the earth must have spun in the opposite direction for a period of time. We don’t know the metric for “ten degrees” on this sundial. Does that mean the earth went back half an hour, two hours, four hours? We don’t know. However, the sun spun in the opposite direction, corresponding to the ten degrees. Could you imagine centripetal force on the whole earth stopping spinning 1,000 miles per hour in one direction and then spinning back the other direction immediately? However, there was no disturbance in the natural earth when this occurred. God just turned the earth back ten degrees, just like we would turn back the dial on our watch. Something this scientifically impossible was no big deal to the God of heaven and earth.
What makes this account even more astounding than just the natural effects of this event, is that God did this just to confirm the faith of one of his children. God rotated the earth backwards to just confirm the faith of King Hezekiah who was on his death bed and was doubting God’s promise. Hezekiah had just prayed to God in the chapter before asking for God’s deliverance from Assyria. “15) And Hezekiah prayed unto the Lord, saying, 16) O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth.” (Isaiah 37:15-16) He affirmed in that prayer that God has “made heaven and earth”, but yet he doubted just a few days later that his God had the power to heal his sickness. Especially consider that right after Hezekiah was healed, he was lifted up with pride in his heart, showed all the kingdom to the Babylonians and is condemned by the Lord for it. God not just confirmed the faith of Hezekiah, but God did that knowing that Hezekiah was right about to stumble from God blessing him with 15 more years. Despite Hezekiah’s shortcomings, God answered Hezekiah’s prayer and gave him a sign just to strengthen his faith. Isn’t it amazing what God will do for one of his little children! God will move heaven and earth just to bless one of his little children in need!
Some scientific people might read these accounts and say it’s absolutely impossible for the earth to stop spinning for a day, or the earth to spin backward. I would say they are generally right in a natural sense. It’s not possible based on the natural laws of this universe, but nothing is impossible to the God of heaven and earth. “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26) What is so amazing about these two events is that God answered the prayers of just two of his children! God stopped the rotation of the earth at the fervent prayer of Joshua. God spun the earth backward a little bit just to encourage one of his children on his death bed. Our God hears and answers prayers today. We might think that this situation is too big to be resolved from our natural eyes. That’s when we need to look at that situation from eyes of faith, from the vantage point of the God of heaven and earth.
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