Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! (Romans 11:33)
Today I was listening to an astrophysicist talking about the expansion of the universe. He said that as the universe continues to expand, the speed at which it is expanding grows faster. This is because as stars and other heavenly bodies grow apart from one another, the gravity attracting them to each other weakens, somehow releasing the restraints on the expansion rate of the universe. If that sounds complicated to you, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
The fact of the matter is, when we consider the heavens and the vast distances between the stars and galaxies, we quickly run into numbers that are so enormous that we lose perspective and fail to truly appreciate just how enormous they really are. A simple illustration might suffice to begin to help us understand the kinds of numbers we’re talking about. The nearest stars to ours are the three stars in the Alpha Centauri system. From a cosmological perspective, they are very close: only about 4.4 light years away. It even sounds kind of close, doesn’t it? However, a light year, of course, is the distance one travels at the speed of light for one year. So, a light year is approximately 5.88 trillion miles. Yes, that trillion with a T. So, if you decide to visit, take a big suitcase and plenty of snacks, because our nearest neighbor is somewhere in the range of 24 trillion miles away.
The galaxy that is on record as being furthest from us is 13.3 billion light-years away. Since it takes light from these distant galaxies so long to reach us, looking into our giant telescopes is literally like looking back in time to the very beginnings of our universe. No wonder the Psalmist said,
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)
These cosmological realities tell us something of the might and knowledge of God. He is omnipotent, or all-powerful, and omniscient, or all-knowing. However, these are not the greatest, or even the most descriptive, attributes of God. They are impressive, to be sure, but they don’t really help us to truly know what God is like. For example, if you asked someone about a particular person and they said, “Oh yes, I know him. He can really bench press a lot,” or, “Oh yes, I know him. He’s really smart,” that would tell you something about that person, but you wouldn’t really know him. We’ve all heard stories about our favorite actor or athlete. We can see them on television so much and know their stats so well that we think we really know them. But in reality, knowing all these things about these people doesn’t mean we really know them. In fact, people are often disappointed to find out that the image of the person they idolized is a far cry from what the actual person is like.
God is great, but even more to the point, God is good. The Bible is not so much a revelation of the might or wisdom of God, as it is a revelation of His love. In fact, the Bible really is a love story. It’s a story of love found and lost and found again. It tells of how man enjoyed perfect communion with God in paradise only to lose it through his own folly. However, though man was sundered from God by so great a chasm, God was not willing to lose him forever. From the very beginning, the Bible is clear that man is the object of God’s love. When God refers to the vastness of the cosmos which He created, He passes it off in the creation account with the simple statement, “He made the stars also” (Genesis 1:16). Yet He goes into detail about the creation of man, whom He made in His image, according to His likeness” (see Genesis 1:26), placing them in a perfect world where they would have dominion over creation and walk with God. Even in our exile after the fall, God cared for us, working His great redemption plan over the centuries until that moment in which it was consummated through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
No distance in the heavens can compare with the distance He spanned to reach us in our brokenness, for to reach us God Himself entered the very creation He spoke into existence and became one of us. The Eternal stepped into time and space, and the Immortal took upon Himself flesh and blood. The Almighty became a baby, and the Sinless took upon Himself our sin. The God to whom all creation gives glory bore our shame and was rejected by sinful men. The guiltless Son of God died an ignominious death to pay our ransom.
God is great, but more important to me is the fact that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). He loved us so much that we cannot fully comprehend in our finite state the degree of love that motivated God to pursue us in our brokenness. But He loves us still, fully and completely. In one of those paradoxical statements in scripture, the apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesians that they would “know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). If one can know the unknowable and comprehend the incomprehensible, it is through understanding something of the depth of his fathomless love, for it is that love which is truly incalculable.