Growing up, my Grandma and Grandad would come and see us every Friday night. My Grandad and I would go for walks on the country lanes north of Sheffield on the edge of the Peak District. During one winter—I must have been around eleven years old—he showed me the night sky and taught me to recognise some of the major constellations. It came out in conversation that the stars had first caught his attention during WWII, when he was stationed beneath the war-darkened skies of Jerusalem, and in possession of powerful, army-issued binoculars.
The constellation I best remember is Taurus, the Bull – a distinct arrow head, angled down. It moves across the southern winter sky, in neverending pursuit of the Pleiades. My Grandad let me look through his binoculars and I saw the full extent and depth of Taurus come to life. Through the lens, the arrow head was still shining but surrounded by hundreds of new stars, previously invisible to my naked eye.
When my Grandad died in October 2008, nearly twenty years had passed since our winter walks. During that time I had left home, lived in three different cities, got married and started my own family. And I had forgotten the stars. But not long after he died, maybe seeking some connection, I decided to look again at the constellations and finish learning what he had started teaching me. When I trained my binoculars on Taurus, I was in awe. It was exactly as I remembered it as an eleven year old boy, standing on those quiet country lanes. I knew, in my head, that the patterns of the stars don’t change (at least to the human eye), but to actually see it demonstrated over a considerable period of time was a powerful experience.
God in the Stars
In the stars, Job saw the power of God. In Chapter 9 Job says of God:
He speaks to the sun and it does not shine;
he seals off the light of the stars.
He alone stretches out the heavens
and treads on the waves of the sea.
He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.
In the stars, Job also saw the existence that—in his most difficult moments—he wished had never come to him. In Chapter 3 Job says of himself:
May the day of my birth perish
That day—may it turn to darkness;
may God above not care about it;
may no light shine on it.
May its morning stars become dark
Unsurprisingly, it was the will of all-powerful God that prevailed in Job’s life. God had every intention that Job would enter his creation, and so it was. “Brace yourself like a man,” God later tells Job–You do exist!
Indeed Job existed in a recognizably worthy way. He was a blameless and upright man, who feared God and turned away from evil. There was no one like him on earth. But this status did not make him worthy enough to challenge God. Even Job himself recognized this, saying later in chapter 9: “Though I were innocent, I could not answer him.”
God brought Job into his presence. He spoke directly to him. And in doing so God himself appealed to the stars. Not from below, not looking up in wonder and amazement as Job and his friends did, but as their very Creator, able to ask of Job:
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation….
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?“
God brought Job to a place of truth. He drew from him the words “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you,” and Job repented in dust and ashes.
The stars that I looked at with my Grandad are the same stars that Job looked at — a part of the backdrop against which Job wrestled with his own existence and his suffering, and later, a part of God’s rebuke and of God’s revelation of himself. And God blessed the second part of Job’s life more than the first. He doubled all that had belonged to Job. He gave him family and friends, silver and gold, comfort and consoling.
Life Under the Stars
As I look back on the life I have so far been given, I see how, through experiences of suffering—loss, grief, and depression—God has given me a better view of him and how he’s molding me into a person who trusts Him with my life.
My Grandad saw the old, wartime, Jerusalem, but one day the new Jerusalem, described in Revelation 21, will come down out of heaven from God and the dwelling place of God will be with us. In this new Jerusalem there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain”. It will “not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”
On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.
No night. No stars. Just God himself, and my eyes at last will see him.
Until then, my existence is beneath the stars.