The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world…
I sometimes wonder what the earth was like in those first days, or months, or however long it was before Adam and Eve ate the fruit and died. I wonder about that too – their “dying”. Didn’t God say, “for when you eat of it you will certainly die.”? And yet, it seems that they didn’t die when they ate the fruit. At least not physically. But there is more than one kind of death in this world, and physical death is perhaps not the death that we should be the most worried about. Our innocence can die. Our joy can die. Our love, also, can die. Hasn’t God, through the prophets, warned us about that, just as He warned Adam and Eve? But it seems, by and large, that we too, choose death over gardens. In Genesis 3:24 we’re told that “After he [God] drove them out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden a cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life”. What was it like to have known the world as it was meant to be, and than live “East of Eden”. Did Adam shed any tears as he worked the dry ground, remembering how rich and easy the soil used to be? Was his face as wet as Eve’s as she birthed their children, knowing he had a part to play in her pain? Sometimes I picture Adam sitting up at night, back against a tree, remember how things were before The Death. It’s a bitter remembering, one that knots the stomach. Sometimes when we bring ourselves to remember certain things we feel it too. But for all of the death that he saw and felt, I wonder if he ever lifted his head and wept when he realized that a million lights still shined in the night sky. “Night after night they display knowledge…no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth…”. And I wonder if what their soundless voice spoke to Adam and speaks to us is that despite our dreadful choices and bitter deaths, all is not lost – God still loves us.
The people of Israel were once exiled to Babylon. It was one of the worst moments in their history. “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps…How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137). They lost there houses, their land, their identity. They even lost their song. And the worst part is that it could have all been avoided. Moses warned them, the prophets after him warned them – obey God and live; do your own thing and die. And there they sit, backs against the poplars, faces wet with the mist of the river and with tears, thinking of all they had lost. They were living in a land of death. But I wonder, did they ever look into the night sky and remember the words that God had spoken to Abraham:
I swear by myself…I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me. (Genesis 22:15-18)
Was the message in the heavens to the exiles similar to the message of Paul to Timothy: “If we are faithless He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13)?
What is the message in the heavens to us? Isn’t it that despite the various deaths that we have died, despite the pain of loss that we have know all too well – the sky has not fallen. The very same stars that Adam and Eve, Abraham, and the exiled Israelites sat under, still shine on us. And maybe, if we listen really closely, they will tell us that the Maker of the stars not only knows about our deaths, but has died them for us, and lives. Frederick Buechner puts it like this, “What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup”.