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The pale blue dot

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The wonder of the universe

There are many things in the natural world around us that make us realise the greatness of God. But perhaps the greatest natural thing to make us completely awe struck is the heavens above us. Think about the moment when we walk outside, look up and see that great expanse of sky full of stars. How can there be those who deny the existence of God when we look at the heavens.

And those who live now have such a privilege to see the heavens so thoroughly and clearly. In our era, we possess powerful telescopes which look deeper and deeper into space. And we also possess the invention of photography so that, what the astronomers see, we can see also, through the photographs taken.

Anyone living in ages beyond the last 100 or so hundred years just would not have seen the heavens like we can.

Have a look at this photograph of the Sombrero Galaxy. Over the past six thousand years, only those who have lived in past fifty or so years have had the privilege of seeing these stars so deep in space.

Photo: courtesy of NASA

If we had talked about galaxies prior to two or three hundred years ago, most people would have not known what you were talking about. And they definitely would have had no idea what it even looked like.

The Cassini photo of Saturn

But out of the many photos of the universe now available, one of my favourites is this photo. I will tell you why it is my favourite in a minute.

Photo: courtesy of NASA

This picture may look like a painting or drawing but it is, in fact, an actual photo. It was taken by the spacecraft Cassini on 15 September, 2006. The photo was taken as Saturn came in between the Cassini spacecraft and the sun. So, in other words the sun is directly behind Saturn which is why there is a halo effect around the planet and also why the rings are so brightly lit.

So it is an amazing photo which shows once again the great power of God. It is a wonderful testament to His power that he could create this universe with all these huge planets and stars in it. But it also shows all the powerful natural forces like gravity that he created. This photo is a great example of the force of gravity. Have a look at all that dust, rock and ice revolving around the planet Saturn in those rings. This is only happening because God created laws of nature.

So, it is a good photo especially with the sun directly behind Saturn.

But this is not the reason I see this as one of my favourite photos of space. There is also something else very special about this photo. If we look very carefully, we can see a small pale blue dot just outside the left side of the rings. That small dot out in the middle of huge black immensity of space is the planet Earth.

The planet earth was not added to this photo later in some sort of trick photography. At the time of the photo being taken, that is literally the earth passing behind Saturn, with some 1.2 billion kilometres between them. So it’s a great photo to get a close up of Saturn but it is even better to also include earth in the photo even though it is some 1.2 billion kilometres behind Saturn.

So that small dot out in the middle of huge black immensity of space is the planet Earth.

The pale blue dot

On that small pale blue dot there is life. There is water, there is oxygen, there is warmth, there are fish, there are birds, there are land animals.

Also, on that small pale blue dot are 7 billion human beings. It is hard to imagine that there are so many people living there. It is even more staggering to think how much life is on that small pale blue dot when you include all the other living creatures like the land animals, birds and fish. But it is a fact. All these billions and billions of different types of creatures, only living together because God decided to place this planet at a certain distance and angle from the sun.

When the photo was taken on Friday 15 September 2006, anyone currently older than nine years was busy doing something on that small pale blue dot. Perhaps you were driving to work, or maybe doing housework at home. But that’s certainly where you were on that day.

Another amazing thing to consider is that God created this whole eminence universe and yet his most valuable possession is on that small pale blue dot. He picked that seemingly insignificant small planet as the place for a possession which he loves and values deeply. This is why I find this photo so amazing.

The history of mankind

Six thousand years ago, God chose that small planet to be the place where he would create a man and then soon after a woman. Six thousand years ago doesn’t sound like much, does it, when you consider the scientist’s estimates for the age of the universe.

6,000 years ago that first man and woman had children, and those children had children and so on. So over time and after many generations the population of the earth started to grow. But around 2300BC it all came to a grinding stop with a worldwide disaster which wiped out all human kind with the exception of eight people. At that time only 8 people were alive on that planet.

But from that time of around 2300BC until now, some 4700 years later, that eight people has grown to seven billion people.

If we look at graphs of population growth we see a lot of that growth appears to be in the past two hundred years. The estimate is that there was about one billion around the year 1800 but this has grown to 7 billion now.

When you really think about it - over the past six thousand years many, many people have lived on that pale blue dot. Some have made estimates of the number of people born since the beginning of time of Adam and Eve. Those who believe in the Bible record of the earth, as opposed to the evolutionist record of the earth, estimate the number born to be around 51 billion since Adam and Eve. That estimate allows for the flood and is based on a number of assumptions about size of families, etc. For this article, let’s assume that the 51 billion figure is correct. 51 billion have lived on the earth since Adam and Eve.

Why did God create mankind?

So what is it all about? Why did God create two living creatures known as man and woman on this small pale blue dot out in the middle of space.

Isaiah chapter 45 and verse 18 gives us the answer:

For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited:
“I am the Lord, and there is no other.

So even though this planet earth is a remarkable zoological garden full of absolutely impressive beauty – this was not the reason he created it. He created it so that he could place men and women on it. The earth was just a backdrop like you might see in a theatre stage. It was the men and women who would take the centre of the stage.

So God wanted men and women and their offspring to share the wonders of this world with Him.

But God had one great reason for creating this earth and placing men and women on it and that is:

but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord Numbers 14:21

So this is the big overriding reason God created this earth and then placed men and women on it.

God’s purpose in creating man in His “image” and “likeness” was so that man would come to understand the glorious character of his Creator, and try to develop that character himself. God’s desire was that men and women might willingly reflect His character in all its glory.

Jesus – the perfection reflection of God’s character

During those 6,000 years of the existence of man on this small pale blue dot, we have seen two sides to this –

Adam was an example of one who failed to reflect the character of God because he was disobedient to the laws of his creator. At the other end of the spectrum – Jesus is one who was completely successful in reflecting God’s character.

Colossians 1:15 says these words about Jesus:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

So Jesus reflected the character of God perfectly. He was the image of the invisible God. The first part of Hebrews 1:3 says:

who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

As this verse makes clear, Jesus was the exact image of His father. So, because he was the exact image of his father in character, Jesus could quite easily say to his disciples:

He who has seen me has seen the Father John 14:9

Jesus very clearly showed God’s character.

The instructions for us

So for those who live on that small pale blue dot who want to truly serve and love the one who created, not only them, but the world they are standing on, the instructions are very clear - You must be committed to the same main objective as God. Which is:

filling the earth with the glory of God

As just one human being on this world that God has created, how do you become part of that big objective of the creator:

You do it, by being conformed to the image of his son.

In relation to this, Romans chapter 8 and verses 28 and 29 says:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

God wants us to be fully conformed to the character of Jesus. This is very important to God. For Jesus, is in turn, fully conformed to the character of God. We must be conformed to Jesus, as he is to God. For this is the only possible way that God’s great purpose for this earth can be achieved. This will be the only way that all creation will ultimately be in harmony with Him.

Revelation 4:11 has these words:

You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”

Mankind exists and was created to give glory to our great creator. And the best possible way we can do that is by trying to reflect His character….trying to be in perfect harmony with His character….this character that can be seen in his son.

This is our great objective day after day. Our daily ultimate goal is to the best of our ability make our character in perfect harmony with the character of God and Jesus is the example for us to follow.

The two great motivators inside us that should drive us relentlessly forward to complete harmony with God, are faith and love. With these two great motivators we not only believe in God but we want to be obedient to his wishes.

The problem on the small pale blue dot

It all sounds great but there is a problem. During the past 6,000 year period on that small pale blue dot called Earth, everything hasn’t gone perfectly. God purposely gave it’s human inhabitants free will. When he did this, the question was –

Would men and women give faithful and loving obedience to their Maker or would they disobey His command?

Would they be united with God to achieve his one great objective for this earth?

Romans chapter 3 and verses 21 to 23 has these words:

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

God’s one great objective is to fill this pale blue planet with his glory. Yet as this verse says: mankind and its endless sinning has caused it to not be united with its creator in his one great goal. All have fallen short of the glory of God.

The solution to the problem

Yet, this will not ultimately stop God achieving his goal of filling his earth with his glory. In the future, the earth will be a place where mankind will be in harmony with their great creator. So how will this happen? When we sin we are not in harmony with God. But we are very fortunate in that God has mercy. God is willing to count a man of faith as being “righteous” and is therefore willing to forgive his sins.

Romans chapter 4 and verses one to three speaks about this:

What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

So from these verses God, in his grace, judges us on a different basis. He judges us on our faith. God will attribute righteousness to us on the basis of our faith. And there is this amazing blessing which comes to us when we are counted righteous. It is the blessing of forgiveness of sins.

The man of God, David, wrote these words in Psalm 32:1-2:

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit.

In God’s great mercy He was willing to forgive David, because David was a man of outstanding faith who confessed and repented of his sins.

The forgiveness of sins is a great privilege we receive if we come to God in faith.

In part two of this article

Part 2 of this article concludes our look at the pale blue dot with consideration of God’s great personal call to each one of us.

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Last Updated: Friday, 10 April 2015