How God Speaks through Signs in the Heavens

Two “heavenly” phenomena happened this spring here in the US: a complete solar eclipse and a solar storm that caused widespread northern lights.

"How God speaks through signs in the heavens" with image of solar eclipse

I didn’t travel to the “path of totality” for the April 8th eclipse. And May’s northern lights were just barely visible at our house.

But during the eclipse I hopped from livestream to livestream of several cities in the path while it was happening. And the northern lights were faint in my neighborhood but they still kept me up long after my normal bedtime. I couldn’t get enough!

A couple things stood out to me from these recent events:

  • The wonder and joy we humans experience when we get to witness them firsthand
  • Learning that Earth is a very special place that enables us to see them

Since then I’ve looked for more information about both these heavenly events and what they mean for us. Specifically for followers of Jesus.

It’s pretty exciting!

Total Solar Eclipses

This is my favorite eclipse meme I saw later that day:

"An eclipse is a cosmic reminder" of God quote by RL Solberg, with image of a solar eclipse

Wow! “The cosmos is so finely tuned that we can know precisely where every heavenly body will be 200 years from now, down to the minute.” And for this eclipse, astonomers knew exactly how long totality would last in each city—down to the second!

That’s crazy!

Does that sound like random chance and undirected processes to you? Me either. Heavenly bodies seem to be precisely ordered and predictable. Like systems designed for purpose by an intelligent agent.

The Unlikelihood of a Solar Eclipse

Not only that—Earth is the only place in our solar system where a perfect solar eclipse can be seen.

Here’s a tidbit from To Understand the Meaning of a Solar Eclipse by Jay W Richards, PhD (Discovery Institute): The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun. But the moon is also 400 times closer to us than the sun is.

So from our perspective, they match in size. When the Earth, the moon and the sun all line up, the moon perfectly blocks the sun from the Earth. That causes a total solar eclipse.

Dr. Richards says, “There are 65 major moons in our solar system and many smaller ones. But only we enjoy perfect solar eclipses when a moon just barely covers the sun’s bright photosphere…So the best place to view total solar eclipses in our solar system is just where there are observers to see them.”

Isn’t that amazing?

I took a ton of screenshots while I was watching NASA’s live streams in various cities on April 8th. These from Cleveland, Ohio turned out the best (the clearest video images):

screenshot of the total solar eclipse as seen in Cleveland, Ohio
Screenshot of NASA’s live stream during totality in Cleveland, Ohio
screenshot of the "diamond ring" as the sun begins to re-emerge from behind the moon
Screenshot of the “diamond ring”—as the sun starts to re-emerge from behind the moon

Precision Design

Dr. Richards goes on to explain how the precise positioning of sun and moon to earth allows life to exist. And how total solar eclipses have allowed scientists to “unlock the physics of stars.”

It reminds me of Proverbs 25:2. The Message version says it in a fun way: “God delights in concealing things; scientists delight in discovering things.”

When God made the heavens and the earth, He hid all kinds of discoverable things. Then He made people with both the ability and the desire to discover things.

As the centuries have gone by, people have discovered more and more of those things God hid in creation. And the more we learn, the more we realize how fine-tuned and complex it all is!

Northern (and Southern) Lights

Aurora borealis (northern lights) and aurora australis (southern lights) are caused by the interaction of electromagnetic radiation from the sun with the earth’s magnetic field.

(I’m referencing In Aurora Borealis, Scientific and Aesthetic Design Arguments Meet by Casey Luskin, PhD, also Discovery Institute)

They can normally be seen best in the very north and the very south because of the shape of the magnetic field.

In May we experienced a major solar storm that produced these heavenly lights that could be seen across a vast area of North America. Places far south of what’s normal.

northern lights © pamela wright
Northern lights during May’s solar storms (photo © Pam Wright, used by permission)

Again, we have a situation where Earth is unique among the planets. A strong magnetic field is vital for life to exist—to protect us from solar wind and other radiation from space.

Earth is the only rocky planet in our solar system that has a strong magnetic field. And Earth is the only place with life able to observe and wonder at such a light display!

Like I said earlier, we could just barely see them from our house.

Here’s one shot I got, actually facing east (not north):

faint northern lights
The northern lights were barely visible from our backyard—but they were visible!

My friend Pam got much better photos from her home across the river in Wisconsin. She’s graciously allowed me to publish a few here (including the one above):

spectacular red and green northern lights
Pam’s photo looking up overhead—gorgeous! (photo © Pam Wright, used by permission)
brilliant northern lights
I love how we can see the stars through the brilliance! (photo © Pam Wright, used by permission)

Why Do We Experience Wonder and Joy?

At the very beginning I mentioned something that really stood out to me, especially during the eclipse—the wonder and joy people were experiencing while they witnessed these heavenly events.

As I was watching NASA’s live streams, I could clearly hear the cheers of the crowds where they were broadcasting.

It was incredible! I was getting goosebumps and choked up just watching the live stream and listening to all the people.

It made me wish I HAD made the effort to drive to the path of totality! (Now I have to wait ’til 2044)

And the day after the northern lights were so spectacular for so many, there were photos ALL OVER social media.

People respond to these things. To eclipses and northern lights and gorgeous sunsets and brilliant rainbows.

sunset and clouds over a lake
Sunset over a lake in northern Minnesota

In his northern lights article, Casey Luskin says, “An evolutionary psychologist might say it results from some ancient vestigial neural module which made your ancestors seek colored fruit on trees or deep blue/green water for hunting fish. I’m sorry but an explanation like that falls very short of explaining the moving emotional experience you have upon seeing the aurora.”

Or when seeing any of these incredible “signs in the heavens.”

I agree with Casey when he says we appreciate these phenomena because we weren’t created by random-chance evolutionary processes.

Romans 1:20 says: “Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power.” (TLB)

We can be like those who ignore the obvious and insist God had nothing to do with it. Or we can embrace the wonder and the Creator and worship Him for it.

So how does God speak through these signs in the heavens?

I think He’s saying: “These demonstrate My reality, My power, My wisdom. And I made it for you—enjoy!”

The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Sharon Brodin