Read with Me

 Genesis 1:6-8 (HCSB)
Then God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters, separating water from water.” So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above the expanse. And it was so. God called the expanse “sky.” Evening came and then morning: the second day.

 Listen with Me

On day two God began the process of making the earth habitable for the creatures He would create on days five and six. As a first step, He created an atmosphere for the earth.

The word God used to describe this atmosphere has sometimes been translated as “firmament” or even “dome”, indicating something hard, possibly even metallic. That is because the word is related to a Hebrew term that describes hammering out metal. But God’s emphasis is not on hardness, but on the idea that as metal is hammered out to make it thinner, it also spreads out and becomes much greater in horizontal dimensions.

Thus, he is not describing a hard dome covering a flat earth as some ancient cosmologies taught. Instead, as a word “expanse” implies, He is describing a thin, spread-out atmosphere. And the atmosphere of the earth is remarkably thin. It gets thinner the higher one goes above the earth. Above 20 miles in altitude it is so diffuse that it is nearly undetectable, and it cannot be effectively breathed. And it gets even more diffuse at higher altitudes until it is completely undetectable.

But even though the atmosphere is proportionally thinner than the skin on a baseball, it is a miracle of engineering. It not only provides the exact mixture of gases needed for life, 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen, to sustain life on the earth, that ratio is also extremely stable. A much higher concentration of oxygen would make the whole atmosphere flammable, liable to completely burn up at the first lightning strike.

The atmosphere God created also protects the earth and its inhabitants from debris from space. Even though the atmosphere is very thin, it is thick enough to burn up all but the largest objects that are drawn down by earth’s gravitational pull, whether those objects are natural or manmade.

The ozone layer that God created as part of the atmosphere shields the earth’s inhabitants from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. And He made the earth’s magnetic field to protect that ozone layer from being stripped away by both cosmic rays and the solar wind. Instead of being allowed to simply sweep through the earth, they are diverted by the magnetic fields and channeled away from the populated areas to the north and south poles, where they are diffused as the light shows known as auroras.

Pray with Me

Father, if I was to design a world, I wouldn’t even think of providing all these layers of protection until after multiple failures or tragedies struck, forcing me to design solutions. But You designed our planet with all these things from the very beginning. How amazing You are! Lord, thank You for Your love and Your care for us, even though we don’t usually even consider all You do for us each day, and even though we fail to express our gratitude even more often. Amen.