The skies in the Davis Mountains of West Texas are among the darkest found anywhere in North America. At least that’s what we had been told, as my son Cole and I left Big Bend National Park and made our way toward McDonald Observatory and “The Star Party.” Countless stars splashed across the ink-blue sky were waiting to be seen—a vision of the world before light pollution and city sprawl. It turned out to be a spectacular evening as we, along with hundreds of other spring-breakers, sat in a kind of outdoor amphitheater star-struck with the wonders of constellations and galaxies in God’s creation.

We learned there are approximately 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe, spreading out over a span of some 45.7 billion light-years. Our own galaxy—the Milky Way—has, for its part, some 400 billion stars. That means, if we multiply the average number of stars in each galaxy by the number of galaxies in the observable universe—and carry the billion, etc.—we find that there are a septillion stars in the observable universe. That's 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. To put it mildly, that’s a lot of stars! 

My mind went to a psalm probably written in response to an even darker and more starry night over three thousand years ago—Psalm 113. There the writer described the God of the Hebrews as possessing a glory higher than the heavens (Psalm 113:4). Some theologians refer to this as the “transcendence” of God. But that is not what left the psalmist in awe. No, he was amazed that the transcendent God of the Universe humbled Himself to enter into His creation and care for even the neediest of people. This is the God who “stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth; He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; He seats them with princes, with the princes of His people. He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD” (Psalm 113:6-9). 

The psalmist recognized the God of the Bible to be both transcendent and immanent. He is exalted and beyond understanding, but He is also accessible and relational. Friends, more than anything else, THIS is what amazed the psalmist.

Of course there’s more to this story than even what the psalmist fully understood. Because in the light of the New Covenant, we learn the identity of The One about whom this psalm was truly written—the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the transcendent Creator of the Universe (the Maker of a septillion stars!) who humbled Himself to enter into His creation to take on the sin and brokenness of His people. 

Whatever you face in the coming year, know this: Jesus is exalted, but He also deeply cares for you and earnestly desires to enter into your plight. You are not alone. The Creator of the stars is also your loving Redeemer and Friend.

David Rea is the pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church. He and his wife Stefani have been married for 24 years and are parents to Virginia, Cole ‘19 and Jack (12th).