More wisdom from my dear friend and colleague… Dr. Ken Chant
The Cords of Orion
Some star-studded thoughts on living well
“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion?
The most majestic constellation in the summer night sky is known as Orion – The Hunter. Each year in Australia its rise in the eastern sky marks the beginning of Spring, and its setting in the western sky, the approach of Winter. We, of course, see Orion upside-down in relation to the northern hemisphere, so it is difficult for us to visualise the “hunter” as the ancient Greeks saw him.
The most prominent star in Orion is Betelgeuse, a red supergiant, nearly as large as the orbit of Mars. It is about 400 light years distant, and is on the verge of going supernova, although, apart from providing a spectacular display in the night sky, the event, when it happens, will not significantly affect our planet.
In Greek mythology, Orion was a giant huntsman who was stung to death by a scorpion in punishment for his boastfulness. Hence, as Orion sets in the west, its nemesis, the constellation Scorpius, rises in the east, endlessly pursuing the Hunter across the night sky.
The cluster of bright stars known as The Pleiades were thought by the ancient Greeks to represent seven sisters and their parents who had been turned into stars by Zeus. The cluster actually consists of more than 1000 stars, but nine are commonly visible to the naked eye. Almost every ancient culture had some kind of myth or legend attached to The Pleiades, and so did Israel (our text and Amos 5:8), although the prophets saw them mainly as brilliant symbols of divine power.
Scripture insists that there are lessons for us in these things –
The Lord Rules the Skies
In the year 1016 Canute of Denmark became King of England. He enjoyed such phenomenal success as a ruler that his courtiers began to credit him with godlike powers. This so exasperated Canute (who was a firm Christian) that he set up the famous test in which he sat in front of the advancing tide and showed that he was powerless to stop it! Then he went back to his palace, rebuked his courtiers for their folly, hung up his crown on a peg, and never again wore it.
Yet since then humans have shown that they often can control, or at least harness, even the roaring seas and the howling wind! But the great constellations above us follow their serene path, utterly indifferent to human affairs and vastly beyond our reach! Indeed, as scripture says, we cannot unravel the cords that bind together the blazing stars of Orion.
But God can and does! He rules the vast heavens with consummate ease!
What then is there to fear? Our Lord governs the limitless skies – he easily cares for you!
So step outside tonight, and gaze upon Orion (or any constellation), and say to yourself, “Just as the Lord governs the unalterable pathway of the stars above me, so he is the sure guide of my own pathway through life!”
You are a Free person
You cannot unleash Orion. But neither can “the chains of the Pleiades nor the cords of Orion” imprison you! That is what Paul had in mind when he wrote . . . .
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, ESV)
By “height” and “depth” Paul is referring to the Zodiac, and the theory held by astrologers that our lives are influenced, even controlled, by the movement of the stars. But we are under the governance of the love of God, not some mythical astrological force!
So let us set ourselves to live as the freeborn sons and daughters of God, with a God-given freedom to forge our own life-pattern within the framework of his larger will.
We are Everything and Nothing
I often think about the heavens your hands have made, and about the moon and stars you have put in place. Then I ask, ‘Why do you care about us insignificant creatures?’ (Psalm 8:3-4)
Step outside tonight, look up at the starry sky, as the psalmist did, and reflect on how little we are! Indeed, measured against the immense universe, spanning 15 billion light years of space, and numbering at least 100 billion galaxies, we are tiny beyond comprehension!
Does that make us utterly insignificant, like a mote of dust briefly suspended in a beam of light, or a fragment of an autumn leaf falling to the ground? Is it true that
like a ship that sails through the billowy water, and when it has passed no trace can be found, nor track of its keel in the waves; or as, when a bird flies through the air, no evidence of its passage is found; the light air, lashed by the beat of its pinions and pierced by the force of its rushing flight, is traversed by the movement of its wings, and afterward no sign of its coming is found there; or as, when an arrow is shot at a target, the air, thus divided, comes together at once, so that no one knows its pathway. So we also, as soon as we were born, ceased to be! (Wisdom 5:10-13)
No! It is not true, because our planet has been visited! Christ has come, so that now, as the psalmist cried also (verse 5), we have been made only a little lower than God, who has himself vested us with honour and glory!
I too am awed by the splendour of the starry heavens above me, and in a sense must say that I am nothing – like an infinitesimal speck on a microscopic mote on a miniscule flea on a diminutive mongrel dog! But in a much stronger way the seemingly limitless skies should encourage us to say that we are everything and to rejoice in the incredible greatness of our wonderful God and in the lofty status he has given us as his own children in Christ.
So never allow anyone to belittle your value or importance. Each time you gaze heavenward, or whenever your eye catches Orion or the Pleiades, say to yourself that as a man or woman in Christ you will gloriously surpass all that heavenly splendour! We are a royal priesthood, a chosen people, a holy company, the redeemed church, the Bride of Christ, confirmed by his resurrection from the dead, glorified by his ascension to heaven, made in his image, and destined to reign with him over all creation!
And this is all as indestructible as the cords by which our Lord God binds together great Orion and holds in place the dazzling glory of The Pleiades!
Dr. Ken Chant