Can You Count the Stars?

Recently I was reading a Bible story book with my three-year old daughter, Evelyn. God tells Abraham that his descendants would be as many as the stars in the sky. So, naturally, Evelyn started counting. She found 17 stars. How many stars can you count in the sky? None of us can count the stars. Based on the estimates scientists throw out there, I highly doubt any of them have taken the time to try. And yet, even though we fail that simple little challenge, for some reason we still buy into the lie that God doesn’t understand us, or know us, or care about us. Nothing could be further from the truth.

So far I’ve been talking in these blogs about what we learn from the fact that God is our Creator. Here’s today’s truth: God’s creation teaches me that God intimately understands me. As Creator, God knows everything and is everywhere. His great knowledge comes from his exalted position on high from which he sees all (Ps. 14:2). Meditate on this gem for a while, it’s one of my favorites:

“He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.”
~Psalm 147:4-5

God knows how many stars there are because he made them all! And he made you and me. God’s unlimited knowledge of us can be either a comfort or a conviction, depending on what kind of a person you are. The Psalms divide all of humanity into two simple categories- the righteous and the wicked.

God Knows the Wicked

God tells us he “notes mischief and vexation” and will act justly on behalf of the fatherless (Ps. 10:14a; 21:8). God has choice words for those who abuse other people, a topic I will write about in much further detail later on. God takes sin against other people seriously, and so should you. It is no laughing matter. God will not overlook sin; he will judge the wicked.

God Knows the Righteous

On the other hand, for those who come to God through Jesus Christ, in faith believing and confessing their sins, he gives them the right to be his children (Jn. 1:12-13). And it is a wonderful thing to be a child of God. Here’s why:

“As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
~Psalm 103:13-14

Psalm 139 develops this unique theme extensively. God’s knowledge of us is personal (vv. 1-2), thorough (vs. 2), unbound by time (vs. 4), providential (vs. 5), and beyond our ability to comprehend (vs. 6). As Jonah found out, God’s knowledge of us is inescapable (vv. 7-13).

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Photo by Aditya Romansa on Unsplash

Isn’t wonderful to know you are understood? In contrast, how awkward is it when you feel as if you can’t connect with someone? God understands you like no one else. He knows your weaknesses, temptations, limitations and frustrations. He knows how to compassionately bear with you during your greatest wins and biggest failures. That is a comforting truth for today, but it also offers hope for the future. In Christ, the righteous need not fear in the day of judgment (Ps. 1:6; 11:4c-5a; 17:2a).

A Matter of Life and Death

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Because God’s knowledge of us and plans for us are unbound by time, God tells us he has wonderful plans for us even in the womb (vv. 4, 15-16). God views life in the womb as his divine quilting project. Destroying his delicate and beautiful “quilts” is murder. We have no right to interfere. God even views us as taking sides with the wicked when we abuse life in the womb. Most of my readers would heartily agree with me on this, but if you disagree with me, I gently submit to you this question- can you count the stars? Do you call them all by name? If God created and named every star, how much more does he care about every baby in the womb? I encourage you to click on the passages I reference and see what God has said.

Childlike Trust

On a more positive note, God can deliver you from the “hidden traps” (Ps. 142:3) that lie in your path today. But, for him to show us the way, we need to turn to him like a child. We need to submit our plans and our way to his sovereign care. We need to confess any sin that has put us in the camp of the wicked. We need to relinquish our “rights” that we cling to, and instead trust God’s Word. Then we will find understanding, forgiveness, and grace. God’s creation teaches me that God intimately understands me. If he does, then I can trust that he knows what is best.

C.P.

Providence: Seeing God on the Mountaintop

Several years ago, I joined with a group of men to hike the Continental Divide Trail. We drove north from Denver just past the state border into Wyoming and backpacked with our tents, water, food, and equipment for three days. We ascended over 11,000 feet on Lost Ranger Peak in the Mt. Zion Wilderness, and a thunderstorm rolled in. After rain turned to sleet, then sleet to hail, and hail to snow, I think we were all ready to go home (see picture above).

During those long, gruesome days, I had plenty of opportunity to meditate on God’s providence. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines providence as “divine guidance or care” or “God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny.” In my big-city, metropolitan upbringing, I had very little reason to consider God’s providence (something, I am sure, is true of many of us).

But, in the Mt. Zion Wilderness, we filtered our own water from mountain streams and lakes that God created. We built fires and cooked bacon over branches God caused to grow and fall in the forest. And, when the lightning started striking above timberline, we huddled under a rock God had placed there for us and prayed to him for safety. I saw God’s providence at work in my life when I encountered nature up close. Providence affects all of us more than we know or are willing to admit.

God’s Providence in Nature

In the Psalms, the laws of nature are a witness to God’s providential character. The psalm writers meditate on this theme with some of the most beautiful poetry ever penned in the entire Psalter.

You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
~Psalm 65:9-10

The Psalms tell us that day after day nature continues its course; the waters turn from the oceans to the clouds to the mountains to the streams. Seasons ebb and flow with the rotation of the earth as it circles the sun.

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From our hike on the Continental Divide Trail

Through these laws, God provides daily for creation’s continued survival (Ps. 104:1-30). God’s dependability in regard to his physical laws points to his dependability in regard to his moral laws. His watchful care over creation, his providence, testifies to his ability to keep and preserve his people (Ps. 65:5-13; 74:12-17; 77:16-20; 78:13-16).

God’s Providence Towards Us

Do we really believe our Creator can be our Sustainer? Think of it this way—what would happen if God did not sustain his creation? Psalm 104:27-30 (cf. 145:15-16) gives us the answer.

“These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.
When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.”

All life depends on the Third Person of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit. God is sustaining every breath you and I take right now.

God’s sustaining power is also quite evident in his care for the animals. He provides water for wild donkeys, branches for birds to make their nests, grass for livestock, and many more good blessings (Ps. 104:10-18, 20-22). God provides for the great sea creatures that swim in the unsearchable depths of the ocean (Ps. 104:25-26). And, in the same way, God provides for our specific needs (Ps. 104:15). Because God sustains his creation, man has the privilege of going “out to his work and to his labor until the evening” (Ps. 104:23; cf. 136:25).

When I read these passages, I cannot help but think of the words of Jesus in Matthew 6.

“Our Father in heaven…give us this day our daily bread.”

“…do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’
or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things,
and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be added to you.”

Living in Light of God’s Providence

Seeking God’s kingdom first means we meditate on and acknowledge God’s ability to sustain and provide for us. Instead of complaining or worrying about what we do not have, we can thank him for all the good gifts we do have. We can share stories about his great provision in our lives with those around us (especially the next generation, as we will see later). In Christ, God has already provided for all our needs.

We also should ask God for grace to imitate his stable, dependable character. Are you a dependable person? In Christ, we are “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). Life ebbs and flows like the seasons and, sadly, so do people. We make well-intended promises and then forget or get distracted. We fail to help someone out when they really need it most.

Or, on the flip side, we know the sting of hurt when a friend fails to deliver on a promise or be there for us in a time of severe difficulty. We desperately need to ask God for the grace to be the kind of person who, like him, is dependable, predictable, and faithful. In the end, we get to play a part in showing God’s providential care to others. Hopefully those around us will not just see God’s providence on the mountaintop; they will see it in our own lives.

C.P.