LIGHT POLLUTION

I love the stars. Tyla and I usually walk our dog, Madison, at night and one of the pleasures of that pastime is looking up into the night sky. Despite the urban "light pollution" we can see the major stars, a few constellations and one or two of the planets. But nothing can compare to the sight we behold when we get away from the city. On our anniversary we were staying near Mendocino, on the coast, and saw a fantastic night sky with the Milky Way clearly discernable; also, more recently, while we were in Haviland, Kansas.

The November edition of the National Geographic magazine contains an article called "Our Vanishing Night". While everyone realizes that the lights from our steadily expanding urban areas diminish or obscure our view of the heavens at night, the author of this article reveals how very few places remain, especially in the northern hemisphere, including the United States, where the sky is unaffected by artificial lighting. She presents a "map of nighttime Earth created from satellite and ground data" gathered in 1996-1997. The eastern half of the United States appears to have no truly "Dark Sky" (DA) places. The western half still contains a few large patches of Dark Sky country but you would have to go far out into the mountains or deserts to find them. Everywhere else the full glory of the night sky is diminished, more or less, by light pollution.

In Psalm 19:1-3 we read, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. [Yet] their sound has gone out through all the earth and their utterances to the end of the world." The Psalm goes on particularly to emphasize the glory of the sun as it makes its circuit of the sky during the day. But when it says, "night to night reveals knowledge" it is speaking about the God's glory being displayed in the moon, stars and planets of the night sky. What a tragedy that fewer and fewer people are able to see the glory of God's heavens with their own eyes!

The irony of this is that man's lights are really nothing as compared with God's. The amount of energy needed to produce our lights is nothing compared to the vast energy that produces the lights of the night sky. Daylight reveals this clearly. For when the closest star to us, our sun, slips over the horizon each morning, it quickly obscures not only the light of the moon, stars and planets but also the lights created by men. A 300 watt bulb could be blazing but if it is out under the light of the sun, you would have to look very closely to tell if it is on. What is the principle in this? It is that it is that the lights we create only have their illuminative power when they are much nearer to us than the lights God created. But when God's light (the sun) draws near (even if it is 93 million miles away) it easily overwhelms our feeble lights.

This truth of the natural world holds also in the spiritual world. Man's wisdom and goodness appear great to us only when we place them in front of God's glory and goodness. Thus we see God's wisdom and goodness only faintly, though they are infinitely greater than ours. It is this exaltation of our own wisdom and goodness that has led to the darkness of human history. As the night sky above many cities today, obscured by the pall of our electric lighting, appears like a leaden vault, with hardly a star and barely a moon to be seen, so the glory of God's spiritual Light has been suppressed by a ludicrous pride in our self-generated wisdom and understanding. Psalm 19 goes on to speak of the "law of God", that other manifestation of God's glory. God's law, in its broadest sense, is His revelation to us of His nature, His character and His will for us. His will includes His desire that we should be saved from our sins so that we might inherit His eternal kingdom of love and life. God has revealed these things by His Spirit and they have been preserved for our benefit in the Holy Scriptures.

When human beings think that they are capable of living a good life or of constructing a good and just human society apart from the wisdom of God, they are like the false prophets of old, whom God warned: "Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with firebrands; walk in the light of your fire and among the brands you have set ablaze. This you will have at My hand: you will lie down in torment." (Isaiah 50:11) As the Apostle Paul writes, "Professing to be wise, they became fools… for they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." (Romans 1:22, 25) Then Paul shows the terrible consequences that befell human society because of this as you will see by reading verses 26-32.

As humans have dimmed their sight of God's glory revealed in the physical heavens, so we have obscured our perception of God's goodness in His revealed word. We have done so by exalting a self-generated, artificial wisdom to replace God's infinite wisdom. Light pollution, whether outward or inward, ultimately leads to darkness. Let us therefore resolve to draw near to God's wisdom through the contemplation of His word and acting upon His will. Then the feeble and failing wisdom of man will no longer obscure the infinitely glorious light of the wisdom of God.