Psalm 147—God Knows the Names of All the Stars

Psalm 147—God Knows the Names of All the Stars

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Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
He (the Lord) heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars, He gives to all of them their names.
Psalm 147:3-4
If you’ve never done it, I hope you will have the opportunity to experience a moonless, cloudless night when the sky is filled with stars. It is not only a beautiful sight but a magnificent one. There are thousands upon thousands of stars, more than one can count. To our eyes, they appear small. However, many of them are bigger than the earth. Imagine that many planets and suns, bigger than ours, more than the eye can see, more than the mind can comprehend. And God made all of them. He put each in its place. According to Psalm 147, “He gives to all of them their names.” (v.4) If God is so majestic that He knows the name of each star, then He certainly knows the name, and the heart of each person. He has a plan for each person, and that plan provides a unique path to salvation for each person. That path might be painful, it may be difficult to understand why certain people walk down a very painful path and others do not. Just as it may be difficult to understand why some people walk down an affluent path while others walk a path of poverty. And still others walk a path of perfect health and others walk a path of medical challenge. Some walk the path as a doctor, others as a teacher, some are single while others are married. There are as many paths to salvation as there are people, as there are stars in the sky, and God knows the name and path of each person, and has given each person a path that leads to salvation.
I have always been interested in space exploration. I’ve read every astronaut biography I can get my hands on. When the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded in 2003, like much of America, I was glued to the TV. Later that day, President George W. Bush addressed the nation, quoting first Isaiah 40:26 and then Psalm 147:4. He said:
“In the words of the Prophet Isaiah, ‘Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He Who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.’ The same Creator ‘who names the stars’ also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today.”
I’m not sure if it was part of God’s grand plan for a foam strike to destroy the space shuttle, killing all the astronauts on board, or if that was a human error that God just didn’t stop. Tragedies like these are part of the great mystery of life. What I do find comfort in were the words that since God knows the names of all the stars in the heavens, He surely knows the names of the seven souls that perished, and the families they left behind. Just like He knows the names of cancer patients, and the families who support them; and the children that have died and the parents who mourn them; and all the people in the world today who are suffering, or in any kind of need, sorrow or distress. God knows us all.
I will forever believe that God has a path for the salvation of each of us. For those astronauts, perhaps that tragedy was the final step on their path to salvation. For their families, that tragedy was one of many painful steps. The stars that God created are not more beautiful than the human beings that God created. Because even if the stars are big and beautiful, they do not have souls like we have. They will not exist forever, as we can. If God has made them beautiful and majestic, how much more so has He made us.
We cannot possibly comprehend the mind of God, so therefore we cannot possibly fathom the plans of God, or the piece we play in the great puzzle that is human history. God doesn’t expect us to understand, only to do the best we can to make our contribution to the tapestry that is humanity.
People often wonder how can we believe in the face of unspeakable tragedy or incomprehensible challenge. If we had knowledge of everything, then there would be no faith involved. If we had the power to control every outcome, there would be no faith either. Faith is not about intellectual knowledge or about control. Faith is not knowing and not controlling but trusting. Psalm 147 is about God’s care for Jerusalem, His holy city. Yet we know that Jerusalem would fall, then rebuild, then fall again, and rebuild again, etc. Just because it was the “holy city” did not make it immune from conquest. We are God’s people, holy people set apart to do holy things. However, this does not make us immune to tragedy or mistakes or struggles. God cares for us, and just as He knows the names of all the stars, He knows the needs of each of us and will walk with us both when unspeakable tragedy happens, as well as when unbelievable triumph happens for us. God put each of us here, like He put the stars in the heavens. However, unlike the stars, He has a plan and a path for each of us that will lead us to our salvation. The challenge is to continue to have faith to walk the path, even when it is beset with tragedy and difficulty.
Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for He is gracious, and a song of praise is seemly. The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars, He gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure. The Lord lifts up the downtrodden, He casts the wicked to the ground. Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God upon the lyre! He covers the heavens with clouds, He prepares rain for the earth, He makes grass grow upon the hills. He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens which cry. His delight is not the strength of the horse, nor His pleasure in the legs of a man; but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His steadfast love. Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For He strengthens the bars of your gates; He blesses your sons within you. He makes peace in your borders; He fills you with the finest of the wheat. He sends forth His command to the earth; His word runs swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters hoarfrost like ashes. He casts forth His ice like morsels; who can stand before His cold? He sends forth His word, and melts them; He makes His wind blow, and the waters flow. He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and ordinances to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know His ordinances. Praise the Lord! Psalm 147
Walk your path of life as best as you can today!
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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0