December 6, 2010
Pale Blue Dot
John UpChurch, Editor, Jesus.org
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; (Isaiah 40:22, ESV)
In the image, you're hard pressed to find the pale blue dot. Dusty bands of gold and green and crimson streak across the black background. A hazy glow mutes and granulates the picture quality to the point of distortion. For those of us living in the day of cell phone cameras with megapixels to spare, missing a tiny speck of blue in this reconstituted and magnified image isn't that surprising.
But it's there, a wan glimmer near the right side, a few specks of blue in the gold band. That dot, which could easily be mistaken for an imperfection of the film, is something familiar and bizarre at the same time—familiar because we live there, bizarre because we rarely get such a view of Earth.
When the Voyager 1 spacecraft turned back from roaring out of the solar system in February of 1990, it found our tiny planet to be at such a distance that barely anything showed up on film. A single blip was all that proved we exist—our lives, our buildings, our cities, our world—all in a dot.
What about God? Is His vantage point like that of Voyager 1? When He sits enthroned above our blue globe, does He simply see an insignificant speck that's easy to ignore? To Him, are we simply a nameless mass of people who swarm and crawl over the earth?
Many people live that way—Christians and non-Christians alike. They think of God—if He exists—as some sort of white bearded being that glances impotently at our puny blue dot and generally ignores whatever's there. God is a watcher, a powerless observer who flips through channels of Earth TV.
But when Isaiah pictures God as sitting above the circle of our world, the prophet does not reveal a passive eavesdropper more interested in Himself than our pain. Instead, God is the One who created each star and knows them all by name. That's not impotence.
It's easy to think, "Yeah, He's big. But does He see me?"
The people of Israel hoped He hadn't in Isaiah's day. They figured He couldn't be troubled with a sin here or there. Unfortunately, for them, He doesn't get tired or sleep or miss things. They couldn't hide. Neither can we. And that's good.
Intersecting Faith & Life:
Living on a tiny planet that easily disappears in the blackness of space can seem deflating. But God's not like us. Our most distant spacecraft can barely make out the rock we call our home, but He has no such trouble. He sees each of us with perfect clarity.
More amazing is that He loves what He sees.
He doesn't sit and stare or get a kick out of human suffering. He gives power to the faint, strength to the weak, and flight to the fallen. And at one point in human history, He zoomed in on this pale blue dot, getting close enough to walk over the dust and taste the sting of death.