"Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these?"#85-23
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on February 4, 2018
By Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer, Guest Speaker
(Q&A Topic:Who created these?)
Copyright 2018 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Isaiah 40:21-31 (The almighty God of all creation)
O God, our Creator and Redeemer, as science expands our understanding of the universe, we pray Your Spirit will lead us to be obedient to Your Word, lest we make science our idol. Amidst all the blessings that come to us from science, focus our faith on You and the Word of our Lord Jesus. "By faith we understand that the universe was created by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible." For Jesus' sake and to Your glory. Amen.
I thank you for listening. In these next minutes, I want to invite you into Isaiah chapter 40. It's a magnificent chapter in the Bible, one that never fails to inspire me, and one reason it captivates me is because it extols the great God of creation. What are the very first words of the Bible? "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." From those very first words, the Bible continually directs you and me to marvel at the greatness of the Creator. Thus Isaiah 40:26 says, "Life up your eyes on high and see: Who created these?"
It wasn't until Diane and I arrived in Venedy, Illinois, in late 1973 that I began to look up at the magnificence of the nighttime sky. Venedy today has about 130 residents, quite a change from Chicagoland! Not many man-made lights in that little village, but oh, the lights God made! Here's how the book of Genesis reports the fourth day of creation: "And God made the two great lights-the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night-and the stars."
Have you lifted up your eyes from the mundane things of life to marvel at creation? Several reactions are possible. You can feel insignificant. The Moon, our closest neighbor, is about 240,000 miles away from Earth on average. Our Apollo astronauts took about three days to get there. And that's close! One of the brightest stars seen in the Northern Hemisphere is Betelgeuse, about 640 light years away. If Betelgeuse were in our planetary system, that is, if it were to replace our Sun, it would be so big that it would engulf all the planets up to Jupiter, Earth included. When you lift up your eyes and see, you can feel so very small and insignificant. You can also feel meaningless. In a universe so vast, with so many unknowns, so many dangers, what do you matter? And the notion that all this evolved by chance, which I and my seminary colleagues totally reject. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." The notion that all this evolved by some strange chance, oh, that can leave you feeling even more meaningless. You're deceived into thinking you're not significant-your life has no purpose, you're a cosmic speck, and one day soon you'll be snuffed out. That's why Isaiah 40 is so wonderful. It's a great corrective to our feelings of insignificance and meaninglessness. The Creator of all is also your Creator and the great Creator sustains little you and little me.
Listen to Isaiah 40. "It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness."
Did you hear the contrast? The greatness of the Creator-and what are we like? Grasshoppers. The greatest among us are nothing. Earlier in the same chapter Isaiah says, "All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass." But this Word of God doesn't aim to leave you feeling insignificant and meaningless. The Word of God brings good news to pick you up with faith and hope.
Dr. Charles Arand is a colleague of mine at Concordia Seminary. He wrote a Bible study to help people see the great American eclipse last August through the eyes of faith. Many churches used his study, and it's still available on the seminary website. One section of the Bible study is titled, "A Sense of Wonder for the Creator." Dr. Arand writes, "It is a natural human reaction to respond with wonder to events that we did not cause and that we do not control." ... "We know who created it. In other words, it is one thing to know that it was created or even that some divine being that we call 'God' created it. But it is another thing to know the identity of the One who created it." Then Dr. Arand asks this interesting question: "Have you ever thought of Christ as both our Creator and our Redeemer, or have you only thought of Him as our Redeemer? What difference might it make to see that it is not just God the Father but also Jesus the Son who participated in creating the world we experience all around us?"
He makes an excellent point. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the eternal Son of God who participated in the creation of all things. From the Gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:1-3). From Hebrews: "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:1-3). Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of God, can transform our feelings into significance through faith and hope.
Why is it that we can we feel insignificant and imagine our lives are cosmic specks? It is because we have alienated ourselves from our Creator. For that matter, we are often alienated from one another, from our fellow human creatures made by God. During the first five days of creation, God spoke, and his powerful Word called sun, moon, stars, vegetation, animals, birds, fish into being out of nothing. Then on the sixth day God said, "Let us make man in Our image?" (Genesis 1:26). Although God had called everything else into being by His Word, God personally fashioned our first parents Adam and Eve in His image. But when Adam and Eve fell into sin, when they did not submit to His Word, they alienated themselves from their Creator. Genesis 3, verses 8 and 10 say, "They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God" and Adam said, "I was afraid." And in alienating themselves from their Creator, they became alienated from each other. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent, and we continue to play the blame game to this day. That's why we can feel insignificant and imagine that we are meaningless cosmic specks. We have lost the image of God. You and I need to be recreated.
Enter the Son of God; enter Jesus the Christ. St. Paul writes that Jesus Christ recreates us. This is from 2 Corinthians 5. "He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. ... For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."
Jesus Christ is your Savior, your Redeemer, your Creator, and Re-Creator. Sent by His Father into our world, His death on the cross for your sins and mine, His resurrection and promise of everlasting life, and His Spirit given in the Word of God recreates us. When you trust Jesus Christ and His words, the image of God begins to be renewed in you. And the image of God that our first parents lost in paradise will be fully renewed in you and me when we are taken to heaven, the eternal paradise for all who believe. Psalm 17:15 says, "I shall behold Your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with Your likeness." So, for us who believe, the vast universe narrows down to Jesus Christ. St. Paul says, "God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). Thus, we confess in the creed, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord."
Now we can look at Isaiah 40 through the lens of faith in Jesus Christ, the all-powerful and all-compassionate Son of God who came into our world so that we might truly know our Heavenly Father. Let's pick up Isaiah 40 again. In the verses I read earlier, God contrasted His greatness with our smallness. "Grasshoppers," God called the inhabitants of the earth. Now, beginning at Isaiah 40:25, the Creator promises that His power is present to help all who wait on Him with faith. "To whom then will you compare Me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of His might, and because He is strong in power not one is missing."
Next, God speaks to His ancient people. They had alienated themselves from God and had been carried into exile as punishment for their sins. They felt insignificant, a cosmic speck. Hear how God picks them up with hope, and through faith in Christ will pick you and me up as well.
"Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God.' Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted, but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."
How can you experience this uplift, this hope? Isaiah promises, "They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength." We learn about waiting for the Lord from the creation account in Genesis. Genesis says, "And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus, the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. So, God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that He had done in creation"
God made that 24-hour day the basis of the Old Testament Sabbath commandment. From Exodus 20, "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work. ... For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."
The Old Testament Sabbath is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The Son of God invites us to be recreated by spending time with Him. "Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," He promises in Matthew 11:28. Waiting for the Lord means getting outside and marveling at creation. "Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these?" Tomorrow morning I'm going to step outside and look up, and I hope you will, too. Then I will go back into the house, sit down and wait on the Lord with the Word of Christ. I hope you'll do that, too. "Who created these?" Jesus says, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. ... And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18, 20). Wait on your Creator and Redeemer! St. Paul says in Colossians 2, "You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator." And when you do, "They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Amen.
Reflections for FEBRUARY 4, 2018
Title: WHO CREATED THESE
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. That was Dr. Dale Meyer, and now Pastor Ken Klaus joins us from him home in Texas. Hello, Pastor Klaus.
Ken Klaus: Hello, Mark. Our good doctor opened quite a can of worms today, didn't he?
Mark Eischer: Oh, you think so. From what I heard, he's saying that many of the conflicts, the supposed conflicts between science and the church, are not as contradictory as many people, especially younger people, might believe.
Ken Klaus: I agree. But this is one of those topics where everybody has an opinion, and sometimes those opinions are pretty strongly held. It is my hope and prayer that people actually listened to what Dr. Meyer had to say, rather than responding with some kind of knee-jerk reaction and turning him off without actually hearing.
Mark Eischer: And I suppose that's a problem for preachers-that people don't always hear.
Ken Klaus: Far more common are those folks who think the Gospel message is written for an audience living a long time ago and from a place far, far away. They believe the Bible is out-of-date, and almost irrelevant to modern people in modern times.
Mark Eischer: Apparently, Paul was right on the money then when he told the people in Corinth, "For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ (is) the power of God and the wisdom of God." And he continues, "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." If we hear these words rightly, that would mean this discussion concerning authority is nothing new.
Ken Klaus: That's true. The discussion has been going on for a long time. And if you want to see one of those stumbling blocks Paul talked about, you need go no further than the 11th chapter of Hebrews, where it reads, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen ... By faith we understand that the universe was created by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible."
Mark Eischer: I think problems arise when non-Christians hear those words "by faith." People believe that having faith demands that followers of Christ shut off their brains.
Ken Klaus: Yeah, which is not the case at all. No matter what a person holds to be true, ultimately his choices are based on faith. I remember when Pam and I were living in Hot Springs, South Dakota, they discovered mammoth bones. Subsequent excavations found this to be the largest collection of mammoth bones in the world. Along with mammoths, they also found fossils of camel, llama, giant short-faced bear, wolf, coyote and prairie dogs. It is really quite the place.
Afterward, I came across a simply written booklet for children, which explained how the mammoths would come down to drink, and then died when they couldn't get out because of the slippery grass there. As they were dying, various predators came to feed on them and a few of those predators also died.
Mark Eischer: Wow! sounds like quite a mess.
Ken Klaus: It is!
Mark Eischer: But how did they know all of that?
Ken Klaus: That's just it. They didn't know. Nobody is around today who saw what happened way back then. What the booklet does is gives an explanation for the jumble of bones. It does not, however, give the only explanation of the site. In short, the book is based on the author's beliefs. There is only one difficulty.
Mark Eischer: What's that?
Ken Klaus: The book, primarily written for young readers, is not presented as a belief, or one of a number of explanations. It is presented as fact. And young readers who are really excited by dinosaurs and mammoths and such, will read it that way.
Mark Eischer: But there's no way of proving his explanation or any other, for that matter.
Ken Klaus: Not until time travel becomes a possibility.
Mark Eischer: All right. This discussion about the foundations of belief systems-that's been going on all the time.
Ken Klaus: In the 1800s, there was a German philosopher-theologian by the name of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. Now, like most German philosopher-theologians, Nietzsche wrote a lot of stuff. But he is really remembered for just one line. He's the fellow who came up with the idea that "God is dead."
Mark Eischer: There was even a Time Magazine cover that talked about that.
Ken Klaus: Yeah, do you remember why Time ran that cover?
Mark Eischer: I think some of it had to do with scientist Carl Sagan had said. He said that in all probability, the universe had intelligent life all over the place, so why did you need God.
Ken Klaus: And how did he come to that conclusion?
Mark Eischer: It was a consideration of the odds. Sagan said that for a planet to support life, there had to be two prerequisites: one, the star-the sun-had to be the right size and type, and the planet had to be the right distance from that star. And he figured since there were about an octillion planets or so in the universe, at least some of them ought to qualify and sustain life.
Ken Klaus: How much is an octillion?
Mark Eischer: That's a 1 followed by 27 zeroes.
Ken Klaus: Well, as science got smarter, they realized there were more preconditions necessary than the two Carl Sagan talked about.
Mark Eischer: Well, how many preconditions have they identified since then-10, 20, 40?
Ken Klaus: Well, right now, the scientific world has said there are more than 200 preconditions necessary before a planet can support life. All must be there, or no life. And that's where some scientists started to wonder: what calls for more faith? Believing a creation this complex calls for a Creator or thinking earth managed to beat some absolutely incredible odds?
Mark Eischer: What would be the odds?
Ken Klaus: Did you ever flip a coin, and have it come up heads ten times in a row?
Mark Eischer: Well, no, maybe three or four at the best.
Ken Klaus: Okay, for the universe to accidentally happen would have the same odds as flipping a coin and have it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row.
Mark Eischer: And how many zeroes in a quintillion?
Ken Klaus: A quintillion is a 1 followed by 18 zeroes.
Mark Eischer: Quite a lot.
Ken Klaus: Yeah, it's so much that Fred Hoyle, that's the scientist who coined the term "big bang," said his atheism was "greatly shaken" by those numbers. He later wrote something which stated, those numbers almost force a person to believe someone, some super-intellect has played around with the physics, with chemistry and biology, to make what we see around us. Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox said, "The more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here."
Mark Eischer: So, in this sense, it seems that science and Christianity are actually coming together.
Ken Klaus: Yeah, it's a beginning, and you will note not even once did we shut off our brains. All we did was trust Scripture which says, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork."
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Hail to the Lord's Anointed" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)