We have been reading the Genesis account of Creation in Mass, and so I’d like to ponder with you the awesome mystery of size and numbers as we look outward to all creatures great and inward to all creatures small.
Outer Space: As we look out on God’s universe, we cannot even fathom how huge and magnificent it is; we cannot comprehend its immensity. If one were to make a scale model of the Milky Way galaxy and reduce each star in it to the size of a grain of sugar, the model would have to be about 2000 miles wide and 1000 miles high—and that’s just one galaxy! There are billions of galaxies in the universe, which is ever expanding. Even the nearest star in our galaxy is about 25 trillion miles away from us.
And we are whirling around and outward! Earth rotates at a speed of about 1000 miles per hour (at the equator) while itself revolving at roughly 67,000 miles per hour around the sun. And our entire solar system is rotating around the center of the Milky Way galaxy at more than 500,000 miles per hour. And the Milky Way galaxy is flying outward and away (according to Doppler shift) at 1.3 million miles per hour! All creatures great … praise the Lord, for He has made them all!
Inner Space: What is equally amazing is the universe that exists, hidden from the naked eye, in what we might call “inner space”: that tiny, almost invisible world of microbiology. In just a drop of pond water there may be hundreds of thousands of bacteria and microorganisms, a veritable universe unto itself. Indeed, in every human body there are trillions of microorganisms in a kind of microbial fauna. About 80 different types of microorganisms live in the mouth alone. Every square centimeter of the human bowel contains as many as 10 billion organisms. Every square centimeter of our skin contains about 10 million individual bacteria. Even on our eyelashes are colonies of helpful bacteria and microorganisms that help keep the harmful ones away. These massively numbered civilizations—universes, really—of microorganisms are only recently known to us, thanks to the invention of powerful microscopes. To those in this “micro-world,” our bodies must seem as massive as outer space seems to us. If a microorganism could think, it would consider our bodies a universe too large to comprehend. Just as there are trillions of stars, there are trillions of microorganisms. To a microbe on our eyelash, a bacterium on our toe seems light-years away.
All creatures great and small – Outer space is magnificent (from the Latin magnus meaning large or great), but “inner space” is also a vast world—tiny to us, yet massive in its numbers. The abundance of life in these tiny worlds boggles the mind. To the microorganisms that accompany me, I am a universe too large to comprehend, yet I am only one of over seven billion humans on this planet. And I (even we, collectively) am not big at all. I am an infinitesimally small speck on a larger speck of dust called Earth, rotating around a fiery spark called the Sun, in a galaxy of over 200 billion other fiery sparks. And the Milky Way is just one galaxy (about 100 million light-years in diameter) of over 125 billion galaxies in the known universe!
It’s time for wonder and awe! We’ve moved between contemplating inner space and outer space in a matter of moments, but really, we cannot comprehend numbers like these. God does all this with a simple word—and it is so. He knows the depths of our souls and the details of the tiniest forms of life that cling to us. Every hair on our head is numbered and known to Him. He knows the farthest fringes of the universe. He made the stars and calls them by name. Ah, the Lord!
He who dismisses the light, and it departs, calls it, and it obeys him trembling; Before whom the stars at their posts shine and rejoice; When he calls them, they answer, “Here we are!” shining with joy for their Maker (Baruch 3:33-35).
As the old hymn says,
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
Another of the great hymns says, O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder, Consider all the works Thy hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee. How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Do not forget to meditate on God’s wonders. It is a great antidote to pride. God has done indescribable and marvelous things, some of which we can see and more which we cannot.
Beyond these, many things lie hid; only a few of his works have we seen (Sirach 43:34).