Numbering the stars is no easy task. Astronomers, however, have made a determined effort to do so and have come up with an estimate. They calculate that there are approximately one hundred thousand million stars just in the Milky Way, not to mention the stars to be found in the millions upon millions of other galaxies in the universe. Any way you look at it, that’s a whole lot of stars.
And that makes even more wondrous the beautiful biblical claim that God, who created the heavens, has also numbered the whole host of stars and calls them all by name, assuring that not one is missing. (Isaiah 40:26) This claim stands as a reminder that the same God whose creation is vaster than our limited understanding also attends to infinite detail with caring attention.
With the earth’s ever-increasing population now standing at approximately 7.3 billion, that’s a comforting reminder, isn’t it? If any of us is worried about getting lost in the shuffle, we can remind ourselves that if the stars are all numbered and known, surely so are we. In God’s creation every star counts, every sheep, every sparrow, every human.
We couldn’t help thinking of that reality when we read recently about the group called the White Helmets. This dedicated band of volunteers in war-ravaged Syria stands undaunted by the staggering death toll of approximately 500,000 combatants and civilian men, women and children. Determined not to allow even one life to end which might be saved, the White Helmets perform urban search and rescue missions in response to bombings. Approximately one in six White Helmet volunteers has been killed or seriously wounded while attempting rescues, mostly through the Russian and Syrian forces’ practice of “double tapping,” or second bombings at sites where a first wave of bombs has recently exploded.
According to Rev. Victoria Curtiss, the While Helmets have been known to dig through rubble in highly dangerous circumstances without interruption for hour after hour, aware that with time’s passing, the likelihood for the survival of victims decreases. More than once they’ve followed the faint whimpering of a small baby, trapped somewhere deep in the debris, and hours later have pulled the child out, still alive. And with each such rescue, there is relief and joy and celebration. The White Helmets seem to have adopted the divine perspective that not one will be forgotten.
Interestingly, while the biblical record talks of numbering and naming, so that none are forgotten, it says more. It also speaks of a divine concern for humanity so vast that tallying its scope and size would be as difficult as counting the stars. We are assured that all God’s people are not only named and numbered, that are precious in God’s sight, and honored and loved. (Isaiah 43:1-4) That makes us wonder if we might adopt a divine perspective, as the White Helmets have done.
Whether we risk life and limb in rescuing victims of bombing raids, or whether we seek and serve the lost and desperate close to home, we could share a sacred mission of concern.
There might be difficulty or even danger involved in assuring that each person is acknowledged as precious, each is honored and loved. But imagine the rescue scene. Wouldn’t helping even one floundering life to a new start be cause for relief and joy and celebration?