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Supernova explosions are among the most dramatic events witnessed in the night skies. In the throes of death, a massive and expanding star suddenly collapses. Gravity forcefully slams the star’s celestial substance into its stellar core to produce a high-energy shock wave and grand, explosive finale. A brilliant light suddenly appears in the sky, rendering our usual assortment of evening stars dim in contrast. A once giant star goes out, quite literally, with a bang. Its starlight will only linger a few months but its stardust will be distributed over great distances in the vastness of space, interacting with worlds far away for unknowable eons of time.
When visible from Earth, a supernova arrests the attention of those who realize its significance. Even those supernovae that go unrecognized, however, distribute various heavy metals to other planets. Most of Earth’s inhabitants do not realize that nearly the full complement of naturally occurring elements found in our periodic table were deposited here by multiple supernovae, each occurring at a particular time and place in relationship to our developing planet. The ashes of once giant stars provide the atomic building blocks for the life we experience and the advanced technologies we employ.
In Scripture, we find a similar phenomenon. Sometimes a person transitions from being merely massive in their impact on the world around them to shining as a ultra-bright light with eternal influence. Samson is an example. He was renowned for the great military feats of his youth, but he also suffered greatly as he bore the consequences of sin. Yet he did not bear these consequences forever. He still had time to “go supernova.” He will ever be remembered for his final strategic attack on the Philistines (Judges 16: 28-30), and he is recorded among those who are known for their lives of faith (Hebrews 11:32).
In the New Testament we find other characters with different stories but similar stellar testimonies of faith in their final days and moments. Paul, for example, was the quintessential Pharisee, keeping every letter of the Law, minding every jot and tittle — yet struggling against the One he claimed to serve (Acts 9:1-19). He was a big star in his little world but yet to actually ignite. Eventually Paul was to be consumed by a ministry that would explosively shine the light of the Gospel beyond the world he knew and divinely distribute the inspired letters he penned throughout the Earth for millennia to follow.
Stephen, on the other hand, seemed to have lived a respectable and admirable life all along. The early church made him a deacon, but God made him a supernova light in the darkness around him. His face glowed with a transcendent radiance as he testified (before an unconverted Paul, still known as Saul) in his final, mortal moments (Acts 6:8-7:60). A larger-than-life character collapsed, reduced to ink on paper, but even now his story bursts forth from the pages of Scripture into the awareness of its readers for all time.
Throughout the Bible, many other “stars” have shone brightly for a brief time then quietly distributed their life-essential messages to far away places. They permeate not only space but also time for their words disseminate spiritual elements that edify the faith of those who come after them.
Even a guilty and dying thief made his way into the Holy Scriptures as he confessed the deity of Christ from a cross (Luke 23:32-43). Regardless of what our lives have yielded to this point and irrespective of the wrongs we have committed, let us pray to go supernova in the end — demonstrating God’s brilliant glory to a watching world even with our final breath.
Make your own tracks…
Learn more about your world and others in “Why the Universe Is the Way It Is” by Hugh Ross. “Starkindler” by Michael Card provides the perfect soundtrack as you start your exploration.
Copyright © 2016. The Literate Lyoness. All rights reserved.
Composed of icy cold dust and gas, comets are sometimes called the “dirty snowballs” of space. More recently, they have been characterized as “icy dirtballs.” Irrespective of monikers, one will occasionally streak into our solar system within view of Earth’s observers, and the show begins. As the comet bears in, the Sun heats its surface and a plume of jettisoned matter spews forth, glowing in the light that has unbound it and leaving a long trail of debris behind. A comet’s head may shine brighter in the sky than planets and stars, and its tail may stretch out for millions of miles behind.
In Genesis 2:7 we read that “God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” Inorganic matter was enlivened to make a man; dust of the earth was infused with an essence from beyond it. Was this man, Adam, a “dusty spirit” or “spiritual dust”? Divinity had interfaced with dirt, and an image of the Trinity had transferred to a creature bearing body, soul, and spirit.
But to be the only creature taking on such grand characteristics of the transcendent Creator must have been too heady a proposition. Mankind found it difficult to believe that the full capacities of God were beyond his reach. Indeed, in a very mortal act of rebellion, something immortal died within. Now, rather than words of creation, words of judgment echoed in Adam’s ears: “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19). Sent beyond the boundaries of the bounty, dust was ever in sight before him as he trod from Eden with his head hung low.
How Adam wanted once again to sense that sweet breath that had filled, not just his lungs, but his very being from the beginning! For though he still drew breath, a different kind of Life within him was no longer sustained. Surely without it, he was not fully alive. The dust particles that had coalesced now seemed disparate, lacking integration, insufficiently cohering. The gravitas of his identity now seemed to wane as if something ethereal had effused from him. Eternity was in his heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and it was that Life-giving breath that had given weight and substance to everything he had been or ever could have become.
Thousands of years later, David spoke words of comfort befitting all those like Adam:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:8-14)
David knew well his substance and pleaded for mercy. But he pleaded as a son. A son of dust.
Redemption would ultimately come through one called the Son of Man. Among many miracles, he gave sight to a man born blind. The same One who had breathed into dry dust now spat to moisten it, and mud applied to staring, blank eyes reconfigured creation gone awry. Light once again penetrated darkness. The imagery evoked by this act was not lost as the man proclaimed to those still spiritually blind that “never since the world began” had such an act been heard of. (John 9:32)
O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.
O tell of His might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space,
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.
Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.*
Several times in Revelation we read of men who, in the wake of judgment, respond with increasing rebellion. They are subsequently characterized as those who “dwell on the earth.” They embrace their earthiness, and it consumes their identity as they outgas the breath of God within them. But “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14) They increasingly jettison their dustiness to become more and more breathy. And they find their citizenship elsewhere (Hebrews 11:16), a place where they must be changed to enter. (Isaiah 35:8, Revelation 21:27)
As the Son makes his face shine upon our substance, may we reflect brightly his glory and leave a heritage of words, works, and worship trailing behind for all to see. For “those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)
*”O Worship the King.” Original lyrics by Robert Grant, in Christian Psalmody, by Edward H. Bickersteth, 1833, alt. This version is a reworking of lyrics by William Kethe in the Genevan Psalter of 1561.
Copyright © 2016. The Literate Lyoness. All rights reserved.
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