This week it was my (Pat's) turn to do Sunday School, and the Lord just switched me on to Genesis 1:16 - He made the stars also! I knew virtually nothing about the stars before this, but wow, God has opened my eyes.
Since we have only one room for Sunday School and the class consists of children from baby age up to 11 years old, it is not easy, but it can be fun. We always start with a prayer that our heavenly Father will help us to learn more about Him and His Son Jesus.
Next we sing a song or two. For the 'stars lesson' we sang 'My God is so big so great and so mighty' because it contains the line 'the stars are His handiwork too.' Then the kids sit on the floor to hear Bible story or the Scriptures we will be looking at.
For this lesson I read Genesis 1:16 and also the fascinating scriptures about stars in the Book of Job chapter 38, verses 31 and 32. That is where God is upbraiding Job and asks him: 'Can you bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades or loose the bands of Orion? Can you bring forth Mazzaroth (the constellations) in his season? Can you guide Arcturus with his sons?' By the end of the lesson, some of the kids should be able to go out that night and recognize Orion, and maybe even the Peiades and Arcturus. It's not even hard to find them, once you know what to look for.
I told the children how they could find their way around the night sky by recognizing constellations. I only knew the Big Dipper before I researched this lesson! Some of the children 'acted out' Orion' by standing in the right formation to give them the idea of that constellation. You need two children for Orion's shoulders, three standing in a diagonal line for his belt, two for his knees and another three for the sword hanging from his belt. Orion is a winter constellation, so I told them to look for it that evening.
Once you find Orion, you follow the diagonal line of his belt to the right until you come to a tight and cloudy group of stars called the Pleiades. They are known as the Seven Sisters, but actually consist of up to 500 stars which some scientists now believe form the gravity which holds our whole galaxy together. Can you bind them? No, but God did!
You can easily find Arcturus, known as a 'runaway star'. Just find the Big Dipper and follow the arc of the handle down. Arcturus is the very bright star you come to. Follow the arc to Arcturus! Could Job guide Arcturus? Of course not! It is travelling at about 900,000 miles per hour! No one but God could ever guide Arcturus!
Then we got to their favorite part, the artwork. They love art, so I gave them sheets of black paper to 'make Orion.' We keep it very simple, so we put two blobs of glue for the shoulders, three in a diagonal for the belt, three hanging off the belt for Orion's sword, and two for the knees. Then we put glitter on the glue to make it look like stars. The 'stars' were silver or gold glitter, but one shoulder was red glitter and one knee was blue. This is because those are the true colors of the Orion stars in the night sky. The red shoulder is Betelguese, a huge 'red giant' star, and the blue knee is a star called Rigel.
I also took some paper plates in and they used those to make our own Milky Way spiral galaxy. To do this, they rubbed Pritt stick glue in a spiral and then shook gold and silver glitter all over it, with just a sprinkling of red and blue glitter. This is because most of the stars are white or gold, with a few red and blue.
We talked about the incredible beauty of the galaxy, the graceful spiral shape and the wonderful sparkling colors, like a huge gold and diamond brooch sprinkled with rubies and sapphires, slowing turning to show off the wonder of it all.
Another bit of craft work was making crowns. We cut some of the black paper into strips about 1 1/2 inches wide (3cm) and stapled the ends together for a simple crown. On the strips we wrote 'Gen 1.16' in glue and put glitter and painted some little stars on the crown. We also used sticker stars to decorate the crowns
All this time, we were chatting about the Lord and the stars He made. I brought four A4 pages of print outs for the older children.
I also put together a newspaper page of star facts and pictures, and they all got copies. That was done in Quark, which hardly anyone has. If any readers have it, I will be happy to send you the page.
Below are the print-outs which the older children took home to remind them of some of the things we talked about:
v14 ‘Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years;
15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth’; and it was so.
16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.
17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth,
18 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.
19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
There are three heavens – the ‘first heaven’ is the sky we see, the ‘second heaven’ is outer space, and the ‘third heaven’ is what we call Heaven, God’s dwelling place. The stars are in the ‘second heaven’ – outer space.
There are billions and billions of stars, and they all came into existence in an instant when God commanded it. Ps 33:9 ‘For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.’
Earth is the most important body in the whole universe. God spent three days making it ready to support life, and only one day for the rest of the entire universe. The universe was created for the benefit of the earth – to give light, to show order and beauty, declaring the glory of God.
Ps 19:1 ‘The heavens declare the glory of God.’ (and Ps 8:3)
Ps 147:4 He tells the number of the stars; He calls them all by name.
Dan 12:3 ‘And they that be wise shall shine … and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.’
Our sun is a medium size star and it is about 93 million miles or 150 km away from the earth. It is made of about 75% hydrogen gas and about 25 % helium. The diameter of the earth is about 8,000 miles, and the diameter of the sun is 108 times bigger. That makes the sun a million times bigger than the earth!
The stars are clustered into galaxies. There are so many that the most advanced computers could not count all the stars in even one slice of the sky. The more advanced our telescopes become, the more billions of stars we find. They are there in the daytime as well, but we can’t see them because there is too much light.
The stars are mostly yellow and white. Our star is the sun, and it is yellow. Some stars are blue or red. So in our galaxy, the Milky Way, most stars are yellow and white, glittering like gold and diamonds, and scattered around are some blue and some red, like sapphires and rubies in a beautiful brooch. The whole thing is like a wonderful jewel, slowly turning in space. Amazing.
Going 27,000 miles a second it would take 76,000 years to reach the next nearest star, Alpha Centauri.
There are 88 constellations in the night sky. The constellations are patterns made by joining stars together. Of those 88, there are 12, some say 13, special constellations which form the Zodiac, the path of the sun through the sky. Some people think that in ancient times, the Zodiac was like a Bible in the Heavens, and that the Hebrew names of the stars in each constellation told of the coming of the Messiah.
In the sky now, March, you can see the constellation of Orion the Hunter. Look for three stars close together in a diagonal line. That is his belt. Two bright stars above mark his two shoulders. Two bright stars below mark his knees. Sometimes you can see his sword hanging from his belt. Also below his belt is a cloudy area, which is the Orion nebula – a huge gas cloud billions of miles away.
There are two very bright stars in Orion – Betelgeuse and Rigel. Betelgeuse, one of his shoulders, is a red giant. Our sun could fit inside it, with the earth in orbit round it, and still have a million miles to get to the edge! Some think Betelgeuse is going to explode in a supernova – but even if it does, it is much too far away to hurt us, and it would be nothing more than a good firework display for a few weeks.
The immense size and the beautiful patterns and colours of the stars, and the wonderful order of their movement through the heavens all speak of the wonder of the greatness of God.
Tonight if it is not too cloudy, have some fun by trying to pick out Orion, leading his two dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor, along on a hunt.
You can also look for the Big Dipper (The Plough). It is not an actual constellation. It is in Ursa Major, the great bear. The Little Dipper is in Ursa Minor, the little bear. The dippers actually look like their names, but the bears do not, like most of the constellations.
Some of the constellations are mentioned in the Bible, including:
Orion is mentioned three times (Job 9:9, 38:31 and Amos 5:8). God asks Job if he can loose the belt of Orion, those three stars that we see as a belt. Well, no. This was to show Job how puny and weak he was - and us as well - in comparison to God, the Creator of the stars. It also makes me wonder if maybe God is Himself going to display His power one day by actually loosing that belt, causing those three stars to move away from each other. I think our world would start to sit up and take some notice of that!
Pleiades ( the Seven Sisters) are also in Job 9:9 and 38:31. You can find the Pleiades by following the line up from Orion’s belt. Some scientistTs now believe that the Pleiades is the source of the gravity which holds our galaxy together. Although it is known as the Seven Sisters for seven bright stars, it contains up to 500 stars altogether. How remarkable that God asks job if he can 'bind the sweet influences of Pleiades' - thousands of years before anyone on earth knew that it might be the 'gravity glue' holding the Milky Way together!
One star mentioned in the Bible is Arcturus, God asks Job if he can 'guide Arcturus.' Amazingly, it turns out that Arcturus is a ‘runaway star’ which travels at 257 miles per second. That is about 900,000 miles per hour! And God asks Job if he can guide Arcturus! Well, actually, no! Good thing God has His hand on it!
What is our star called? The ___________ . (it doesn’t have a proper name)
How far away is our star? About _____ million miles.
What is the sun made of? About 75% ________________ and 25% _____________..
What colours are the stars? ___________ _____________ ______________ ____________
Answers: The sun; 93; hydrogen, helium; white, gold, red, blue
How many stars are there?
NASA says there are 200-400 billion in our Milky Way galaxy alone. That is such a big guess, you can see that they have no idea how many are even in our own galaxy, let alone the whole universe. Nasa admits that the stars cannot be counted, and yet God has a name for each one.
You can name a star for £50 – but God has already named them, so it would be a waste of your money.
What is the nearest star to our solar system? Alpha Proxima in the Centauri galaxy, sometimes called Alpha Centauri.
How long would it take to get to that star? Nasa says: Travelling at 37,000 miles an hour it would take 76,000 years to reach the nearest star.
Conclusion: Our God is AMAZING! He has indeed done WONDROUS THINGS! And although He can make the entire celestial array of the universe just by commanding it to be, the most amazing thing is that – He cares for you and me!!!!!
Go to www.kidsastronomy.com to see a great moving image of our solar system - and lots more.
To see a celestial mystery, type 'Saturn mystery hexagon' in a search engine and see the six-sided formation thousands of miles across which is mystifying the experts at NASA! It is moving, actually turning round and round, on one of the poles of Saturn! God has His secrets, and how glorious it is when He allows us to find out about some of them!