46 Billion Light-Year Love
How big is the love of God? How far does it reach? Would it surprise you if I suggest 46 billion light-years? Probably not if you’re a physicist, astronomer or science enthusiast, and familiar with the words of Psalm 36:
Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,Psalm 36:5,6, NIVUK
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
The righteousness of God is compared to the highest mountains. David would have seen the highest mountains of Israel, and some of those in neighbouring countries, so he is perhaps thinking of Mount Hermon’s 2800m or Mount Ararat’s 5100m (less likely as it’s in eastern Turkey). Of course the very highest mountain, Everest, is 8800m (or about 5 miles) high. So God’s righteousness is massive, and His justice is similarly enormous, being compared to “the great deep”. The deepest ocean is comparable in depth to the height of the highest mountains at around 11000m (or 6.8 miles).
Naturally these are figures of speech, making a simple point that the righteousness and justice of God are as big as the biggest things on earth, whether it be the largest and most massive mountain structures. or the most colossal expanses of ocean or sea.
But when it comes to describing the love and faithfulness of God, David takes it up a level. The faithfulness of God reaches to the skies, while the love of God reaches to the heavens. The Hebrew word for skies is shachaq, which is also translated elsewhere as clouds. I like to understand this as the visible skies, the sun, moon and stars we can see with our eyes. And the furthest we can see with the unaided eye is the Andromeda Galaxy, around 2.5 million light-years away. This is David’s measure for the faithfulness of God, and it’s utterly beyond and outside of our comprehension. For comparison, the Earth is about 8 light-minutes from the Sun, and our whole solar system has been estimated as a couple of light-weeks across. I would argue that we lack any point of reference to understand even what 1 light-year is.
Now when it comes to describing the reach and extent of the love of God, David uses the Hebrew word for heavens, which is shamayim. This word refers to the whole of creation, and is used in Genesis 1:1 where “God created the heavens and the earth.” So now we are talking about the entire universe, stars, galaxies, local groups, superclusters, filaments and so on. Cosmologists’ latest figure for the furthest part of the universe from us is 46 billion light-years, hence the title of this blog. Of course this is only the visible universe, ie the part of the universe from which light has reached us here on Earth. There may be a colossal number of galaxies beyond this visible area, but the light from them will not reach us for a few million or billion years yet!
This blog is a bit of science fun. But the serious point is that the love of God is infinitely, unsearchably, unknowably gigantic and colossal to an extent that is completely beyond our finite human understanding. One day we will know Him fully, as we are promised in 1 Corinthians 13:12. For now all we can do is marvel, worship, praise and adore Him.