Ever since the sun was created, it has been spewing forth a violent cocktail of energy. The energy expands outward through space like the ripples from a stone cast into a quiet pond. The ripples, however, could better be likened to a storm tossed sea, rather than a quiet pond. The sun would be more like a stone that is vibrating violently sending forth a spray of mist and tidal waves than the one-time “kerplunk” of a pebble. These waves of energy are powerful and destructive to the fragile life God has placed on earth, but the energy is also very necessary for life. God has designed the atmosphere to stand between the sun and His creatures as a shield and also a carefully crafted window that lets in exactly what we need.
The energy from the sun originates from the atoms within the sun. It is like a nuclear bomb exploding continuously. When a piece of coal burns, the molecules are simply broken and the energy that was at one time absorbed by a plant is released again. In a nuclear reaction, the atoms themselves are broken and changed to another kind of atom. Atoms are held together with a tremendous amount of energy, and some of this is released when the atoms break down. This energy is then carried away from the sun in the form of waves. The waves of energy that erupt from the sun race outward into the cold void of outer space forever until they slam into other atoms and are converted to other energy forms such as heat, light, or motion.
The living creatures on this earth need energy in order to live and move and do the things for which they were created. Only one particular kind of creature is able to take in the waves of solar energy and convert them into the energy we need for life. God has designed the plants so that they are able to use the energy from the sun to build sugar and other molecules that store energy. We call the process “photosynthesis.” The plant brings water and carbon dioxide together, and energy from the sun snaps them together into chains. The process could roughly be compared to setting up dominoes in a line or setting mouse traps. In either process, energy is applied and stored until a situation comes about that releases the energy for another purpose.
The living creatures that move about the earth then eat these plants. They have been given a digestive system that is able to break apart these plant molecules and release the stored energy for use in their bodies. The waves of energy from the sun finally move my fingers to type these words and push the blood through your body so that you can live and praise the Creator of it all.
Life on earth is dependent upon the waves of energy that constantly radiate from the sun, but the majority of this energy is lethal. Only waves of a certain length are safe. If you picture in your mind waves of water, the length of a wave is the distance from one crest to the next. The shortest waves of energy from the sun measure as short as 10 trillionths of a meter from crest to crest. These waves are called “gamma rays.” They are extremely energetic and dangerous. The energy is able to penetrate through the soft tissues of living things, break apart the molecules in cells, and destroy them. Waves a little bit longer are called X-rays. These also are powerful and are able to pass through our bodies. Wavelengths a little longer than x-rays are called “ultraviolet.” These waves do not penetrate as deeply, but quickly burn the surface of our skin.
Waves with a length in the range of four to seven hundredths of a millimeter are safe for living creatures, and are in fact necessary for life. These are the waves that we call “visible light.” Plants use this energy to make food and our eyes are designed to detect this energy as the waves bounce off things around us. Infrared waves beyond visible light have lengths up to one millimeter long. Wavelengths from one millimeter to 30 centimeters are microwaves, and wavelengths ranging from one meter to 10,000 kilometers are radio waves.
The earth is constantly bombarded with energy that would quickly destroy life but the atmosphere acts as a mighty shield to block and reflect it. The atoms of gas and molecules that make up the atmosphere are of such a size that they interact with the energy, absorbing some and scattering the rest. The most energetic and dangerous energy is blocked between 10 and 50 miles above the surface of the earth.
The gas molecules and particles in the atmosphere are just the right size, however, to let visible light, and only visible light, straight through with minimal scattering or reflecting. This is an amazing wonder of the atmosphere. Only a slight amount of ultraviolet light squeezes through to bring some sunburn, but the rest of the dangerous waves are blocked. The infrared waves penetrate most of the way through the atmosphere and reaches the tops of some of the tall mountains, but are blocked for most areas of the earth. Only when the wavelengths reach the radio waves and some of the microwaves do they once again pass completely through the atmosphere.
Through the natural eyes of man, this fact about the atmosphere is seen merely as a stroke of luck for living creatures. Man may attempt to explain the phenomenon in terms of evolution saying that if the atmosphere were different, then other life forms may have evolved. Perhaps they think that the only creatures that survived were those that could use energy within the range of visible light that happened to reach the surface of the earth.
Looking through the spectacles of Scripture we see the amazing wisdom of God who designed everything to work together for the creatures that He made for His own glory. The order in which God created things also follows the basic pattern for life. God reveals to us that one of His first acts of creation was the creation of light. He first provided the energy, and energy in abundance, for the life that would serve and give Him glory. He then created plants that would directly use that energy and provide energy for the other creatures.
When we look at the atmosphere through the spectacles of Scripture, we do not see much concerning the atmosphere as a shield from the powerful waves of the sun or letting only select portions of that energy through. God does, however, speak of the atmosphere as a firmament to divide and separate what is on earth and what is above (Genesis 1:7, 14; Psalm 148:4). He also describes the firmament as having windows. These windows allow that which the firmament holds up to pour through upon the earth. Sometime God opens these windows in judgment. Genesis 7 says that the windows of heaven were opened to release floodwaters upon the earth. Isaiah 24:18 also speaks of the windows being opened in judgment. “And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake.”
In other places, God speaks of these windows in terms of bounty and blessings. In Malachi 3:10 we read, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” When Elisha prophesied that the besieged city of Samaria would soon have plenty to eat, “a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof” (II Kings 7:2).
One thing that these passages make clear is the fact that God is the one who controls these windows of heaven. God is the one who so governs the atmosphere that it also provides what He wills for the earth. The prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Joel all speak of the sun being darkened in judgment. In Revelation 16:8 we read, “And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.” Whether God uses the atmosphere to control the power of the sun or not, the point we need to remember is that God will no longer provide the right amount of solar energy and life will be destroyed in judgment.
When we look at the shielding properties of the atmosphere through the spectacles of Scripture, we often see that light and the sun are pictures of Christ. We read in John 8:12 “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” Just as light in the form of energy from the sun is essential for physical life, so the glory and truth of God in Christ is essential for spiritual life.
We read in Psalm 84:11 that Jehovah God “is a sun and shield.” Like the sun, God is too glorious and holy for man to behold and live. Rev. Herman Hoeksema writes concerning this passage, “For He is a sun! And the sun blesses us and radiates glory and beauty upon us if we stand in the right relation to its light; but it can also scorch and burn and destroy by its unbearable heat. And thus it is with Jehovah our God.” (Standard Bearer, vol. 4, pp. 25-27) It is only in Christ that we stand in the right relation to the glorious light of our God. Here we see that Christ is in a certain way like the atmosphere. He stands between the holy God and His creatures to bring them the grace of God in such a way that they can begin in this life to enjoy eternal life with God.