Just as today, ancient man was fascinated by the heavens. This appeal is well-placed since its purpose from the beginning was to benefit the earth-bound observer. In the Creator’s accounting of the events He expresses that the host of lights inset against the deep blackness of space (as diamonds enhanced on velvet), were “for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years (Genesis 1:14).” Universal time measurement was ordained on Day 4.
While standard time measurement was obviously an expressed purpose of heaven’s luminaries, the book of Job bears out a deeper stellar appreciation related to the “signs” denoted in history’s opening record.
In Chapter 9, Job credits God with the placement and design of pictorial star groupings (vv.4-9). Later on in Chapter 38, God Himself references these “heavenly congregations” (vv.31-33). God intimates that these groupings are more than just random clusters of plasma smattered across the heavens. Though tens-of-thousands of light years apart, they have been divinely manipulated with an assigned place and purpose in order to affect the terrestrial occupant.
The “ordinances” of verse 33 are interpreted literally as order or arrangement, rendering the following as a reasonable paraphrase: “Job, can you fathom the order and arrangement of the stars and their relevance to the observer?”
We are instructed in Scripture that the priority or role of Creation is to declare the magnificence of the Creator and direct the observer to Him.
Psalm 8 – “Oh Lord our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth! Who (not a question but an allusion to His prime seating and interest in His investment) hast set Thy glory above the heavens…When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy finger, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man, that Thou art mindful of Him…Oh Lord our Lord, how excellent is Thy name.”
Psalm 19 – “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork.”
Acts 17 – “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though He needed any thing, seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;…That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel (grope) after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us…”
Acknowledgement of this profound direction offered in the heavens and relevance to the observer is found in the dialogue between Job and his friends. Zophar uses the observable yet incomprehensible expanse of the heavens to stress the infinitude of God. “Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection? It is as high as the heavens…what canst thou know (11:7-8)?” Eliphaz uses the height of heaven to illustrate God’s unobstructed perspective of all man’s activities; particularly those which he assumed Job was trying to hide. “Is not God in the height of the heaven? And behold the height of the stars, how high they are! And thou sayest, How doth God know (22:12-13)?”
Dr. Henry Morris believed that it is most “significant that this oldest book of the Bible contains more specific references to the constellations than any other book, suggesting that God-fearing men of that age were very much aware of the divine significance of these God-ordained star groups.”
When David wrote the 19th Psalm, what was the declarative extent of the handiwork to which he referred? Was the appreciative “knowledge” (v.2) general and declaring of His glory or specific and directing to His person?
Concerning these heavenly declarations, Dr. Morris suggests the following in his book The Remarkable Record of Job (p. 45).
“In some way…these constellations must have symbolized to the ancient patriarchs God’s purposes in creation and His promises of a coming Redeemer. This primeval message has been corrupted satanically into fantasy messages of the astrologers, but, since we now have God’s written Word, it is no longer needed. To the early generations, however, it may have served as a memory device, perpetually calling to mind the primeval promises given to Adam, Enoch, and Noah…”
Genesis 15 relates an encounter between the Lord and a likely contemporary of Job, the man Abram. The result of the encounter was a declaration of a righteous credit to Abram’s spiritual account after believing something clarified by the Lord in the night sky.
“Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be (v.5).” In order to understand this passage, two words must be defined. The words “tell” and “number” are translated from the Hebrew word sāpar which has multiple usages in Scripture primarily determined by context. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon favors two definitions – to count things (as in learning the number) and to take account of or to reckon (as to carefully observe and consider). Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words also assigns contextual meanings – to number, count, proclaim, declare, to take account of (as being aware and concerned about each detail). While most commentators interpret a redundant definition of “counting to learn the number” for both words, this does not satisfactorily answer how righteousness was imputed to Abram as a result of his faithful agreement.
A well-reasoned, biblically consistent interpretation of this passage could read like this. “Look now toward heaven, and take account of the stars, if thou be able to recognize the declaration in their appointed sequence: and He said unto him, I will accomplish this through your lineage. And he had faith in what the Lord told him; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
Most scholars agree that this was Abram’s faith-defining moment. “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness (Galatians 3:6-9). And the scripture (affirming the canonical authority of Genesis), foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with (in the same manner as) faithful Abraham.”
Perhaps Abram’s faith was initiated “before the gospel,” at the Lord’s direction, upon recognition of God’s curse-defying redemptive plan as depicted in the star groupings. Similarly, it may be that Job’s awareness of the constellations carried much deeper meaning for him and may have been instrumental in his faith as well.
Salvation is and has always been by grace, through faith in the sacrificial, shed blood of our innocent substitute, Jesus Christ. Old Testament believers looked ahead. New Testament believers look back. We find the account in the pages of Scripture (see Scripturosity article “The Gospel Message”). Perhaps to the ancients, it was revealed in the stars.