The World of Astronomy
April 21st, 1991 @ 10:50 AM
THE WORLD OF ASTRONOMY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-21-91 10:50 a.m.
We welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. These four Sundays in April, I have been asked to preach on the creation, in keeping with the marvelous program the last Sunday of this month. The choir and orchestra presenting Haydn’s "Creation," and this day, from the fourth day of God’s remaking this world, Genesis 1:14:
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
And God made two great light holders – luminaries – the greater light holder to rule the day, and the lesser light holder to rule the night: He made the stars also.
And God set them in the expanse of the heaven to give light upon the earth.
And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
I take just one little part of this glorious revelation. God said, and He put those great luminaries in the skies, and said, "Let them be for signs," mowed, mowadim, "Let them be for signs" [Genesis 1:14]. The ancient mariner navigated the sea by the stars; the boast of the Elgin Watch Company, for the years, they set their time by the stars. The one hundred fourth Psalm, verse 19: "God appointed the moon for mowadim," translated here "seasons," for signs [Psalm 104:19].
God set them in the heavens for signs: the autumnal equinox, the first full moon after the evening of the day and the night, the equinox, the Jewish New Year. Four days later, the Feast of Tabernacles. Ten days later, the wonderful, precious Day of Atonement. The winter solstice, Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights, and our Christmas, set by the stars. In the vernal equinox, the first full moon after the evening of the day and the night, their Passover, our Easter – set by the stars. And seven times seven, seven weeks later, the fiftieth day, Pentecost.
God set them in the heavens for mowadim, for signs. He put His rainbow in the sky for a sign [Genesis 9:13], "I will never destroy the earth by water and flood" [Genesis 9:11]. God took Abraham under the skies and said, "Look, you cannot count the stars. So will your seed be" [Genesis 15:5]. And they are no longer luminaries in the sky, but they are promises of God, signs from heaven. And the magi came from the East saying, "We have seen His star, and have come to worship Him" [Matthew 2:2]. And God said, "This will be a sign unto you: you will find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" [Luke 3:12]. God’s signs in human life.
God’s signs confirm His promises of victory and triumph. And Gideon said to the Lord, "O God, how would it be that I am the least in my father’s house, am called to address the force of the Midianites? [Judges 6:15]. How can I?" And the Lord said, "Set a fleece, and when the world is dry, it will be wet; and the next day set a fleece, and when the world is wet, it will be dry" – a sign from God [Judges 6:36-40]. And Isaiah said to Hezekiah, remarkable, this is in the twentieth chapter of 2 Kings; and the identical story repeated in Isaiah 38. Isaiah said to Hezekiah, "God has seen your tears, heard your prayers, is adding to your life fifteen years and giving you triumph over the Assyrians" [2 Kings 20:5-6; Isaiah 38:5-6]. And Hezekiah said, "What sign could it be that I know God will do this?" And the prophet Isaiah said to King Hezekiah, "On the sun dial of Ahaz, you choose: ten degrees it moves ahead, ten degrees it moves behind." And Hezekiah said, "For it to move ahead would be natural. Let it fall back ten degrees." And God took the sun in the heavens and turned it back ten degrees, a sign from God He would keep His promise, and Hezekiah would live, and the Assyrian would be delivered into his hands [2 Kings 20:8-11; Isaiah 38:7-8]. The signs of God, His presence, Jehovah God, the Father, in the daytime a pillar of cloud, and in the nighttime a pillar of fire [Exodus 13:21], a sign of the presence of God.
Because of a translation here, you do not see it. In the twentieth chapter of the Book of John, translated correctly, "Many other semeia, signs truly did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, not written in this book: but these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ . . . and believing you might have life in His name" [John 20:30-31]. Now, you do not see it because it is not translated correctly. After the Lord had done the first glorious repast, giving to His apostles and His people there what we are going to share at the marriage supper of the Lamb, this beginning of you, have it translated "miracles" – the same word, semeion. "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed on Him" [John 2:11]. The Gospel of John is a presentation of the deity of Christ substantiated by seven semeia, seven miracles. The presence of our Lord, incarnate God, affirmed by seven signs from heaven. The presence of the Holy Spirit affirmed by signs from God: a great rushing sound of a mighty wind, lambent flames coming down on the head of each one of the apostles, and the miracle of the speaking in other languages – the signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit of God [Acts 2:1-4].
And the Lord always sends His signs when a judgment is pending. What a tragedy we cannot see them. God never sends judgment until first He warns us by a sign from heaven. In the seventy-fourth chapter of Psalms, the Asaph singer is saying, "We no longer see, we do not look for the signs of God, consequently there is no prophet among us to tell us how long" [Psalm 74:9]. God never sends a judgment upon us until first He sends the sign of His wrath and fury. Do you remember the story? The unnamed prophet sent to Samaria when Jeroboam built those shrines of two golden calves? And the prophet raised his hand to heaven, and God answered by a lightning fire that cleaved asunder the sacrificial altar of Jeroboam. And when Jeroboam sought to seize the prophet, his hand withered [1 Kings 13:4], the sign of God, of His judgment upon northern Israel. And Jeremiah wore for a year a yoke around his neck [Jeremiah 27:2]; a sign, he said from God that the Southern Kingdom Judah shall be carried away into Babylonian captivity. And Hananiah, a false prophet, took Jeremiah and tore that yoke from off of his neck, saying, "God has no thus intention of judgment for His people in Judah" [Jeremiah 28:10-11]. And Jeremiah turned to Hananiah and said, "The sign of God: this year you will die" [Jeremiah 28:15-16].
In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew, the disciples ask, "What is the sign of Thy coming?" [Matthew 24:3]. And the whole chapter repeats for us the signs of the return of our Lord. I am teaching at our college the Book of the Apocalypse. They are the signs of the return of the Lord Jesus. The signs of God: they confirm His choice and His will for us in our lives. Eliezer was sent by [Abraham] to Nahor in northern Mesopotamia to find a wife for his son [Isaac] [Genesis 24:2-10]. And Eliezer said, "How am I going to know? How am I going to know – this is for the son Isaac – how am I going to know which one of the daughters of this northern Mesopotamia, how am I going to know that this is the one God has chosen?" And Eliezer asked God for a sign, "Let it be that when I come to the well of water with my camels that the daughter that offers to me water and offers to water my camels, let it be that that is the one God has chosen for my master Isaac" [Genesis 24:12-14]. And there came out Rebekah, and she offered to Eliezer water to drink, and offered to draw from the well to water his camels [Genesis 24:15-20]. And God said, "This is she" [Genesis 24:21-27]; always a sign from heaven confirming His will for our lives, always, always.
Let me take briefly a leaf out of my own life. Dr. Naylor, when I was finishing my doctor’s degree at the seminary in Louisville, I made a covenant with God. "Lord, I will not speak to anyone that I finished my doctor’s degree, and I will receive as from You a sign from heaven that the first church that calls me will be God’s choice for my beginning ministry." It never entered my mind. I never had any other thought than that. The pastor of the First Baptist Church of one of the great cities in the South, becoming ill and having no longer ability to continue his ministry there, with his men said, "Within these next few days we are going to invite you to be pastor of this church."
I never thought anything about it. I just took it for granted that would come to pass. And it did. In just a little while after, the pastor had asked me to come to visit with him and some of his men standing by, they asked me to become pastor of that great First Baptist Church in one of the great cities of the South. But between the time that I made that covenant with God, that it would be a sign from heaven where I was to go, where I was to pastor, between the time I made that covenant with God and the time of the call of this great church in the South, I was asked to be pastor of a small county seat church in southwestern Oklahoma. We cried for a week. Never in my life have I had such a crushing, indescribable hurt as during those days. I made that covenant with God, "Lord, You let it be a sign. You let it be a sign. And the first church that calls, I will go to be the pastor and undershepherd of the flock."
I kept that covenant. It was a sign from heaven. And God led me through that commitment to be pastor of this precious church here in Dallas. Two days ago I was preaching east of the Mississippi River, and there was an old preacher there, an old preacher. And he had known me through the years and the years and knew of that church in the great city of the South and my being called there.
And he said to me, "Did you know God never did a finer thing for you than when he sent you to southwestern Oklahoma?" That First Baptist Church in this great city fell into an indescribable confrontation and bitterness. It ruined the pastor who was there. The church decimated into nothing, and finally was abandoned, and the little handful that remained left and went to a suburban section of the city there to start a new assembly for the Lord. And he said to me, "Had you gone there, that tragedy would have overwhelmed you." God has His signs always, and if you will see them, and if you will look for them, and if you will obey them, God will have a blessing and a providential remembrance and care for you. There is no exception to that in your life. God set the very stars in the heavens for signs. Dear God, that we could listen and follow after, and obey.
And that is our appeal to you, in His grace and in His goodness. And to the throng of people on this lower floor, and in the balcony around, to give your heart to the Lord, to come into the fellowship of the church, to obey the call of the Spirit in your life; on the first note of the first stanza, come. While we stand and while we sing.