who has set your glory above the heavens! Psalm 8:1b
(click for podcast version)
Legend has it that earth's first orbital traveler Yuri Gagarin, toeing to his nation's atheist party line - looked out of his spaceship and announced he didn't "see God" in the heavens. Whether he really said that, any believer ought to reply that if you can't find God's presence on earth, you'll not find Him anywhere else in the cosmos.
David extols the wonders of God and looks up, singing out that the LORD has put his glory above the heavens. In Hebrew the term is "shamayim," from a root meaning to be lofty. The term, when used to indicate the "heavens" shows up over 100 times in the Bible. For the KLV I've used "chal," the Klingon word for "sky."
The heavens, shamayim or chal are what we call the realm that our planet's star travelers - cosmonauts, astronauts or taikonauts - move through. It is an inspiring realm - though not the realm of eternity. But it is a place of beauty that can inspire us to recognize the power of the one who created it all.
Heaven and earth is a phrase that does more than describe a specific location. It is a way of encompassing the whole of creation. Whether we call it shamayim v'eretz in Hebrew or chal tera' je in Klingon - when we think of heaven and earth, we are considering what God has made. When scripture speaks of heaven and earth (over 160 verses have those two words together) we're drected to the totallity of creation. It is a poetic way to say EVERYTHING, starting in the very first verse of Genesis when we read:
Daq the tagh joH'a' created the chal je the tera'.
David directs us in this psalm to see God's name as transcendant on earth and his glory above the heavens. In that way he underlines the fact God is above, beyond, all places we can see or name.
This is surely how Bible speaks of chal, the heaven. God created these things and they are wonderful, but we should not be distracted, to overlook the creator for his creation.
For Psalm 102 reminds us (as do our astronomers) these heavens are not eternal:
Of old, you laid the foundation of the earth. The heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will endure. Yes, all of them will wear out like a garment. You will change them like a cloak, and they will be changed.
But you are the same. Your years will have no end. (Psalm 102:25-27)
Our hope, our ultimate destiny is beyond chal, beyond the heavens, with that one who created them, and will endure long after they are gone.
As you travel the heavens - whether in a spacecraft or from this globe we call spaceship Earth - there will be NO one coordinate where you will "find" God.
But don't worry - as he tells us through Isaiah - you can count on him to find YOU!
Don't you be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness. (Isaiah 41:10)