Psalm 19:4b-6 “In them He has placed a tent for the sun, 5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. 6 Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.”
Introduction: Today will conclude our study through Psalm 19:1-6. We have spent the last five posts walking our way through Psalm 19:1-6 with the express purpose of exploring God’s general revelation in creation. We have attempted to view some of the latest discoveries in astronomy through the lenses of this text. Today’s post features Psalm 19:4b-6 and what we can learn of God’s glory being revealed through the most familiar celestial object in our daytime skies – the sun.
Understanding the sun’s place in the universe, both as a created object, its local relationship to the solar system and its galactic movement within our Milky Way Galaxy.
When we proceed through Psalm 19:4b-6 line by line, we begin to see God’s revelation of the sun’s role in both the “local” and “galactic” neighborhoods. To begin, the first line in 19:4 reads: “In them He has placed a tent for the sun…”. The focal illustration of David’s presentation of God’s general revelation in creation is the sun, and so we will first of all consider what exactly the sun is and why it reveals the glory of the Creator. Then in Psalm 19:5 we see the term “them”, taking us back to the word “heavens” in Psalm 19:1. The term “heavens” can refer to both the sky and the universe – respectively called the “first” and “second” heavens. Thus we can refer to the sun “locally” in relationship to our planet and the solar system. Then thirdly we see reference to the sun making its “circuit” at the end of 19:6 and thus enabling the reader to understand how the sun “galactically” relates to rest of the much larger Milky Way Galaxy.
Understand what the sun is, and how it reveals the glory of the Creator
Astronomers who study the life cycles and structures of stars are called “astrophysicists”. Dr. Jason Lisle, an astrophysicist and a Christian, describes what the sun is in his book: “Taking Astronomy Back – The Heavens Declare Creation”, page 16 – “The sun (like other stars) is a glowing hot ball of hydrogen gas. It derives its energy from the fushion of hydrogen to helium in the core. The sun is effectively a stable hydrogen bomb. It is an extremely efficient source of energy, placed at just the right distance to provide the right amount of light and heat for the earth.”
The sun itself is the largest astronomical body in our solar system. According to the Smithsonian’s “Universe, The Definitive Visual Guide”, pages 104-107: “It is a huge sphere of exceedingly hot plasma (ionized gas) containing 750 times the mass of all the solar system’s planets put together. In its core, nuclear reactions produce colossal amounts of energy. This energy is gradually carried outward until it eventually escapes from the sun’s surface.” The sun itself is over 860,000 miles in diameter and could easily fit roughly 1 million planet Earths inside of its cavernous space.
The way in which God made the sun reveals an entire system of transporting the extreme 30 million degree temperature heat from the fushion of hydrogen to helium in the core to its surface. The sample video below shows what the sun looks like close-up in its daily activity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PnFxljoznQ
The atomic processes within the sun are converting 600 million tons of material a second. Such activity transport the heat and energy from the core through the sun’s second major layer, the convective zone. The chemical and atomic reactions produce photons which come to occupy the third major layer which we see from the earth – the photosphere. From an internal temperature of 30 million degrees to a surface temperature of just under 10,000 degrees, the sun’s structure and activity represent an efficient system of utilizing various forms of energy. Far from being a stationary ball of energy, the sun utilizes two other froms of energy – gravity and electro-magnetism, to shoot out vast amounts of energy into space that enable the sun to warm our planet some 93 million miles away. In photographs of the sun, violent solar storms can be commonly scene and the magnetic fields of the sun trap heat and energy that can suddenly heat the shot out energies from 10,000 to 1 million degrees. All of this activity and complexity reveals the creative nature of the God of scripture.
How the sun’s “local” relationship to the solar system reveals the glory of God
Psalm 19:5-6a then appears to cover more of the “local” arena of the sun as it lights the sky from sunrise to sunset. The imagery of a groom speaks of what would had been commonplace in David’s day. In a Jewish wedding the groom, rather than the bride, was at the center of festivities. Following the ceremony the guests would assemble with the groom and his bride for an entire week-long celebration.
Among the highpoints of any given Jewish wedding festivities was when the groom and the bride would consummate the marriage. The emergence of the groom from the bridal chamber was one of the signs of the marriage’s consummation. Such a scene was cause for celebration for all since the joy of the new husband and wife signified the covenant ties between God, husband and wife. Amazingly David uses this imagery to depict the stellar activity of our planet’s journey around the sun.
Astrophysicists have pointed out in times past that the sun’s mass represents over 99% of the solar system’s overall mass. When we realize how large our solar system is in comparison to the sun, we get a sense of how much is packed into an object such as the sun. Roughly speaking, our solar system is 4.5 billion miles in diameter, with another 4.5 billion miles full of small objects. The sun is over 860,000 miles in diameter, and yet even with all the planets, asteroids, comets, moons and other assorted objects put together, the sun still outranks our large solar system in terms of mass 100 to 1.
The sun’s “galactic” relationship to our home galaxy – the Milky Way
Psalm 19:6 states – “Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.” As we noted earlier, the solar system itself stretches for 9-10 billion miles in all. When David writes:
“and there is nothing hidden from its heat”, he is talking about the sun’s relationship to its surrounding stellar environment. The extreme limits of the sun’s heat and gravity are what astrophysicists term the “heliopause”. In the our Milky Way Galaxy, stars are separated by an average distance of 10-30 trillion miles (2-4 light years). Even in those vast distances, the solar activity of each star interacts with the vast solar activity of other stars, producing “shock waves” in between, as seen in the diagram below:
Truly what David writes has been confirmed by astronomical observation, literally that the sun’s activity ultimately affects other objects in our immediate neighborhood of stars.
In our “neck of the woods” in the Milky Way, our sun is in a gravitational relationship with roughly 30,000 stars, stretching across a pocket of space that is roughly 300 light years across. How does this reveal the glory of God? Most of our Milky Way is full of vast clouds of dust and only a few portions give an unobstructed view of the cosmos. Furthermore, of those areas, ours is the only one that we know of that gives us a nearly 360 degree view of the untire universe. It is as if God’s placement of our earth and solar system in the Milky Way has given us the ability to behold His glory being revealed in the entirety of the universe as described by David.
Conclusion: The goal of these last several posts have been to introduce the reader to the Biblical teaching of “general revelation” and to explore how we see His glory in some of the latest astronomical observations. Soli dei gloria! (To God be the glory!)