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COVID-19 and the Doctrine of God’s Immensity

volume 19, number 18, April 23, 2020

“Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number. He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.” -Isaiah 40:26

For teaching purposes, in the hope of making complex theological issues as simple as possible, most Systematic Theologians speak of God’s communicable and incommunicable attributes.[1] They put God’s immensity into the incommunicable category. What do we mean by God’s immensity and what difference does this make? The word immensity comes from the Latin word immensus. The Latin root is mensura which means “to measure.” The im prefix is negative so the meaning of immensus is “something immeasurable, that which cannot be measured.” The immensity of God is closely tied to His omnipresence. While it is most definitely true that God’s immensity transcends spatial limitations, it is also important to remember that He is present in every point of space with His whole being (Psalm 139:7-10, Jere.23:24, Job 34:21, Is.29:15). 

In chapters 1-39 of the prophet Isaiah we generally see a message of impending doom on the nations of Israel and Judah due to their idolatry and apostasy from the true and living God. However, beginning in Isaiah 40 to the end of the book the message is one of hope in the coming promised Messiah, the Suffering Servant, the Man of Sorrows, the Father’s Chosen One, the Holy One of Israel their Savior, the Anointed One. In seeking to comfort God’s people, the prophet proclaims God’s immensity, telling them to lift up their eyes into the heavens and see who created the stars and the vastness of space. This One, the Holy One of Israel their Savior, leads the humanly unfathomable amount of stars by number. He controls them. He knows them all. In fact He has a name for every one of them. And due to His sovereign control, not only in creation but also in the sustaining of that creation, not one of those stars is missing. Not one will be lost. God never forgets where He places them. They are always completely under His control and direction. 

Think for a moment of the immensity of our universe. The sun in our solar system is so large that 1.3 million earths would fit inside it. There may be as many as three sextillion stars in the universe, that’s 3 followed by 23 zeros, more than all the grains of sand on the earth. Neutron stars, formed by a massive star exploding, are so dense that just a teaspoon of their material would weigh more than Mt. Everest. The explosion can spin a neutron star at speeds of more than six hundred rotations per second.[2] Estimations from the Hubble Space Telescope have led astronomers to believe that there are at least one hundred billion galaxies.[3] Our universe is estimated to have a width of 93 billion light years.[4] Remember that one light year is the distance light travels in empty space in one year, and since light travels at the speed of 186,000 miles per second, then one light year is six trillion miles.  

Okay, that’s all pretty amazing, but what does this have to do with COVID-19? The immensity of our Triune God ought to be a great comfort to you when you are facing your own death or that of a loved one. It should be a solace to you as you look to the immediate future and see a very possible impending financial ruin due to your small business having to close. You have money you owe. You have employees who need their jobs. They have financial liabilities that they may not be able to cover. Perhaps you were looking forward to retirement in the next year or two but since you have lost thirty or forty percent of your retirement fund in the last month, you are not sure you can retire at this time. Maybe you already have retired and now must think about getting a job at Walmart or Home Depot. Perhaps you recently bought your first house and lost your job last week. You are lying awake at night in fear. 

What, dear Christian, should you do? You must do what Isaiah is commanding Israel to do in the face of their uncertain and devastating future. You must take your situation in hand and argue from the greater down to the lesser. That is precisely what Isaiah is calling God’s people to do. It goes like this—look at the vastness of the universe, the immensity of our galaxies, the width of our universe, the array of stars we cannot number and say, “Yes, it is true that I am in big trouble at this time. I do not know what will happen next week or next year. I could worry, but wait. If God created the vastness of space, and He most certainly did; if He keeps it under His control, and He does; if He fills up every inch of the unfathomable depths of space, and I know He does; if He marks off the expanse of the vastness of heaven with the span of His arms, and I know this is true; then surely He can and will take care of me. In the greatness of His immensity, as He sustains His creation then He will surely provide for me.” 

Take this truth to the bank, fellow Christian. If, however, you are not yet born again to a living hope, then you must understand this comfort does not apply to you. You are all alone in your doubt and fear. You are whistling in the dark, hoping nothing is out there to devastate you. But you have no hope in yourself. What must you do? You must run to Christ for grace, asking Him to give you a new heart, one which loves God and hates sin. Then all these glorious truths about the true and living God can be yours as well. _______________________

1  These categories are contrived and not found in Scripture, as Robert Reymond aptly observes in A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, page 163. They nonetheless can be helpful. Communicable attributes refer to those characteristics of God which can be said, in a much more limited fashion, to be present in men—love, grace, patience, wrath, etc. Incommunicable attributes refer to those characteristics which are incapable of being in man—omniscience, sovereignty, omnipresence, eternity, and immensity. 
2  . . . “Facts to Put the Universe into Perspective,” <” August 23, 2016
3  “How Many Galaxies Are There?” <> Elizabeth Howell
4  “Observable Universe,” <>

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