by The Old Scot
When we think about big things, the Earth we live on seems to be about the biggest thing we can imagine. It is made up of great forests, wide grasslands, lofty mountain ranges, and seemingly endless oceans-and that's just on the surface.
If our Earth wore a belt, it would have to be 25,000 miles long. But if we could stand so far out in space that Earth looked as small as a bowling ball, it would appear perfectly smooth. Our mighty mountains would be so insignificant that they would not show up at all.
Another way to think about Earth's size is to weigh it-and scientists have found a way to estimate Earth's weight fairly closely. It turns out that our home planet weighs six thousand million tons, times a million millions. That's six, followed by 21 zeros, or in mathematical shorthand, 621.
That's a pretty husky figure to try to get our minds around-but actually Earth is pretty small-potatoes compared to the giants of space. In fact, Earth seems puny even compared to other planets in our solar system. Jupiter, for instance, is about 1,300 times the size of Earth.
And then there's the Sun: It is so vast that you could lose the Earth and also our Moon-including its quarter-million mile orbit out from Earth-inside the Sun. To put Earth in perspective, imagine the Sun as a ball two feet thick. Now walk 215 feet away and put down a dried pea. That's Earth.
But now let's look outside our "local" Solar System: If you have a star-finder, locate the Constellation Orion, and in it the bright star Betelguese (sounds like "beatle-juice," or better, "beatle-jooz"). Betelguese could swallow up the Sun and the entire orbits of Mercury, Venus, and Earth, with 15 million miles to spare, and hardly burp!
And of course there is Antares, in the Constellation Scorpio. It's nearly twice as big as Betelguese. And there are millions and millions of other stars in the heavens, most of them larger than our Sun. Any way you look at it, there's an awful lot of material in our "material universe"!
Thinking about all this should lead us to two other thoughts. The first is about ourselves: I well remember the summer night I first really thought about the stars. I was about eight years old, and was lying on the soft grass of our country home, with all the glory of God's heavens spread out above me. I hope you have had, or can have such an experience. It made me feel very, very small, I can tell you!-especially the Milky Way enthroned on velvety blackness.
Then, thinking about how huge everything in space is ought to help us realize how great God is, to manufacture all this by speaking it into existence! (see Gen. 1:3: "...And God said Let there be light,' and there was light" (Gen. 1:3). Truly, our God is a MIGHTY GOD!
But there is a third wonderful thought connected with our viewing the heavens: Insignificant as we seem by contrast with the mighty works in space, we are precious to God nonetheless. So highly does God value us that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you and me, as well as the rest of mankind. As Judge, God must judge sin and wickedness; but as Father He provided the Lamb of God to pay with His own blood for those sins, for all who will come to Him in belief and repentance.
It's good to demote ourselves from the center of our universe; but it's also grand to know our Father loves us, isn't it?
Immensity, by Clarence H. Benson, Van Kampen Press, Chicago, 1937.