Summary: Can we know God? Yes, we can, but only because he has chosen to make himself known to us.
When our daughter was in Junior High School, she made friends with a group of girls from Olney, Texas, a community about forty minutes to the south of us. And they invited her to a function their school was having on a certain Friday night. So, I drove her over, and, when the time came, I went back to get her.
As we headed for home, she fell asleep, and I had my thoughts to myself. It was a crisp, clear winter night, and there was a stretch of highway where I noticed there was absolutely no light: no approaching cars, no farmhouse vapor lights, no nothing. It was pitch black. Now, I have always had a little interest in astronomy, and I knew that, on a clear, cold night in the country with no light around, you could see stars that wouldn’t be visible in the city and sometimes not even in the country. I pulled the car into a roadside park, turned off the lights, and, as quietly as I could, I slipped out of the car so as not to wake our daughter. It was cold, and I stood there in the night air shivering, but I didn’t mind. My eyes were lifted up to the heavens, and – I’m not kidding you – it was like someone had spilled a saltshaker on a black tablecloth. For a few uninterrupted minutes, I took in the vastness of the night sky. I was in awe, unaware of the hour, unaware of the cold, unaware of anything…until I heard this tiny voice from the darkness in the direction of the car. It said, “Dad, what are you doing?”
I didn’t tell her at that moment, but I was worshiping…not the stars, mind you, but God. I was worshiping God. Psalm 19 says, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (v. 1). And it’s true, isn’t it? When you and I consider the vastness of the universe, it takes our breath away. We can’t help it. Space is big. Space is huge. And space is the creation of God.
I have read that the nearest star to our sun is called Proxima Centauri, and it’s about 4.22 light years away. As you know, a light year is not a measurement of time; it is a measurement of distance. Light is the fastest thing we know of, and a light year is how far it takes light to travel in a year. So, how many miles is a light year? About six trillion miles, give or take! That means that the closest star to our planet besides our sun is over 25 trillion miles away. What about the most distant stars? Among those stars that astronomers have identified, the farthest from us are some 900,000 light years away. Now, think about that. Any one of those stars could have disappeared from space almost a million years ago, and we would think it was still there because we would still be seeing its light.
Consider what that means for the immensity of space…. And now, consider what the immensity of space means for the majesty of God. “To whom will you liken me and make me equal,” God asks, “[or] compare me, as though we were alike?” (Isa. 46:5). There is no one like God.
Or, is there? Views of God abound in our society. Some say that God does not exist, that, in fact, it is dangerous to believe that God does exist. Religion, they say, is behind such heinous phenomena as war and hatred. They tell us that convictions about God lead to intolerance and animosity. It is interesting that we should blame God for such things, rather than blame the sinful heart, which Scripture ascribes to the human condition. Could it be that the religious motivations that lead to conflict and contempt among our kind have their source in a misrepresentation of God?
We live in a fallen world – by which I mean that evil and sin are a part of the very fabric of human life. We see it when we look at individual people. We see it when we look at the organizations and institutions they have formed and of which they are a part. And we see it in the web of complex interrelationships that we call systems. The truth is: We have been infected by sin. We have all been infected by sin. We are “prone to wander,” as the hymn puts it. And we are naïve to think that it’s only a simple matter of doing away with God if we want to do away with war and hatred and intolerance.
Not everybody, of course, is an atheist. There are people who believe in God, to be sure, but they have customized him to suit their own tastes. They have redefined him to comply with their own preferences. A typical tailor-made god in our day is usually soft on sin, always on stand-by – genie-like, you might say – to grant us our wishes. Such a god has been domesticated to the point that, or it, has no standards, no expectations, no agenda – except, of course, our happiness.