GOD'S GLORIOUS FIRMAMENT
Psalm 150:1,2 says, “Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise him for His mighty acts. Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.” The parallel passage is Paslm 19: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork." We are told to praise Him ror mis great acts and one of his great acts was the making of the firmament. The text suggests that the firmament should motivate us to praise Gal and fill us with amazement at the creative power that brought the firmament into existence. According to Gen. 1:7 God created the firmament on the second day of creation. The firmament is referred to several tines in scripture. Job 22:14 says that God “walks above the circle of heaven.” The circle of heaven is a reference to the firmament. From the earth the sky appears to be an arched canopy. From horizon to horizon it appears to be dome—shaped, a kind of half circle. This is an optical illusion but so are the concepts of sunrise and sunset. Hence, it is quite acceptable to say that God lives above the dome—shaped sky, that He walks above the circular heaven. Another description of the firmament is given in Isaiah 40:22 which says that God “sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers...” The circle of the earth is the firmament which encircles the earth. The reference is to the roundness of the firmament and not the earth. This is evident fran the fact that Gal is not sitting on the circular earth but on the dome—shaped firmament and from that height the people of earth look like grasshoppers. To say that God sits above the circle of the earth is the same as saying he sits above the dome of heaven.
First, although the word “firmament” is used many tines in the Bible, there is a great deal of controversy about it. It is thought to be a mistranslation based on the erroneous view which the Hebrews had about the cosmos. The English word firmament is derived from latin and literally means a strengthening or support and suggests that the done shaped heaven above is a solid support or firm structure. It has been generally assumed the Hthrews considered the earth to be arched over by a solid vault or done as indicated by the word firmament. However there is no evidence that the Hebrews considered the heavens to be a solid arched done or vault. The Hebrews did not call it the firmanent, and Moses did not call it a firmanent in Get 1. The Hebrew word used by the Holy Spirit in Gen. 1:6 iteans an expanse, sanething stretched or spread out. That is a precisely accurate description of the heavens. If the Hebrew word neans expanse why did the translators use the word firmanent which means a solid support or vault? It apparently cane from the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. This was a translation out of the Hebrew into the Greek. So far as we know the Bible was the first book translated from one language to another. They translated this word in Gen. 1:6 by a Greek word which neans a firm or solid structure. Why they so translated it we do not know. Nevertheless the King Janes translators followed the Septuagint version and gave us the word firmanent. Now it is obvious the heavens are spherical,arched, done-shaped and rounded in appearance. However, the heavens are not a solid domed structure.
In view of this controversy and misunderstanding, I think the question is in order, “What is the firmanent?” When God created the firmament on the second day of creation, just what did he make? He made one of the greatest of all marvels in the natural universe. All that inspiration says about it is that God divided the waters which were under the firmanent fran the waters which were above the firmament. Thanks to the investigations of science we know what it is and what it does. If the Psalm writer had known as much about the firmament as we know, he would have used much more pariseworty language than he did in Psalms 19 and 150. We know that when God made the firmanent He nade air. The firmanent is air; it is the atmosphere. The word atmosphere comes from two words: vapor and sphere. Thus the atmosphere is a vaporous sphere of air which surrounds the earth. Webster's Collegiate dictionary says it extends to a height of 22,000 miles, but the part that most concerns people of earth extends about 300 miles high. The atmosphere is a gaseous envelcpe of air consisting of nitrogen, oxygen and small traces of other gases. The life sustaining atmosphere which surrounds the earth is found no where else in the solar system, and nowhere else in the entire universe, according to astronomical knowldege. If you travel more than five miles fran the surface of the )earth, you must take your air with you. Air is invisible and seems like nothing, but it really consists of several gases mixed together. Most of the atmosphere is restricted/to a thin layer of air extending only a few miles above the earth. In that layer of air closest to the earth, Nitrogen makes up about 78% of our air and oxygen ~counts for about 21%. The tops of the highest mountains are about five miles above sea level, and here oxygen is too rare to support life indefinitely or to retain a moderate tanperature. Not only does the firmament contain the gases without which we could not breathe, it also protects us from extreme heat and cold. When God made the firmament, He made it possible for life to exist on this planet. Without air we could not exist. People have stayod alive more than a month without food and more than a week without water, but a person can live only about 10 minutes without air. This is why children should never get into a discarded refrigerator or deep freeze and close the lid. Being air tight, there is no air in them, and children will die in just a few minutes.
The atmospheric firmament serves mankind in many other ways than simply breathing for us. It is also the cause of the beautiful blue sky. It is dust particles in the atmosphere that scatters sunlight and causes the blue color. If the earth had no atmosphere the sky would be black and the stars could be seen at all times, day or night. The atmosphere with the help of the sun causes all of air weather conditions, the highs and lows, winds and fronts. In addition air has weight and the atmosphere bears down on earth with a weight in the quadrillions of tons. When we suck on a straw we take the air out of the straw. The weight of the atmosphere pressing down on the liquid in the bottle forces it up the straw into our mouth. How marvellous is the firmament! Let God be praisal for His mighty firmament. Air makes sailboats move, kites fly, turns windmills and pumps water. If it were not for the firmament, the world would be silent because sound could not reach our ears. My first point is that when God made the firmament He made air, and it is in the firmament that we move and live and have our very being to a great extent.
My second observation on the firmament is that it serves as a dome—shaped roof to planet earth, poetically speaking. Poetically speaking, the term firmament is quite acceptable as one of the names of the atmospheric heavens. It is not a solid arch or dame, an idea that probably arose in the dark ages. However it serves much the same pirpose as a roof of a house. The roof of a house protects us from wind, rain, hail and snow. May I suggest to you that the firmament protects planet earth from elarents far more damaging than rain, hail and snow. Thanks to science, we have learned sone things about the firmament that are positively astounding. The firmament serves as a dane—shaped roof which protects us fran cbjects colliding with the earth. There are countless trillions of objects scattered throughout the solar system called meteoroids. They vary in size from a grain of sand to objects weighing tons. These thjects are being rained down on us by the millions every day. Although it nay seem incredible, between 50 and 100 million of meteoroid material fall on the earth every day. Haw do we escape from being destroyed by this falling rock and iron. The wonderful firmament saves us; our atmospheric roof shields us fran these fireballs. When these objects smash into our atmosphere so much friction is created that nost of than burn up in the atmosphere and are literally vaporized. Most of them are turned into dust.
Occasionally, sane of than are so big that they are not completely burned up and fall harmlessly to the ground. When this happens they are called meteorites. You can find samples of them in museunts all over the world. Let God be praised for His mighty firmament! What a wonderful dome we have over our planet. The firmament alone proves the exitence of an Almighty God. Now wonder the Bible says, "The fool has said in his heart, thee is no God." Each day millions of meteorites fall against the outer limits of the atmosphere and are burned to nothing by the friction. Without this protective canopy, the surface of the earth would have become like the pounded, pockmarked surface of the noon. the noon. The moon looks like it has been pounded with a giant jack hanuer. It is thought that one of these meteorites stuck the earth between Flagsaff and Winslow, Arizona in the distant past, and it created a crater thousands of feet across and thousands of feet deep. Even though our ears are not sensitive enough to hear it, the sound that is overhead at this very moment, and great objects are falling towards us and hitting the upper limits of the atmosphere. If we could only hear it, it would be sanething like the random noise of rain on the roof at night. However, we are in no danger. God is protecting us with an nvisible shield, the magnificent atmosphere called the firmament which He created on the second day of creation. Let God be praised for His mighty firmament!
I want to mention one more thing about the magnificent firmament, and I shall be done. Science has divided our atmosphere into four main layers, differing in oxygen content and other gases. The first layer extends to the highest mountains, and it is the only layer that has enough oxygen for life to exist. Just above this layer is the stratosphere where the Jets fly to avoid bad weather, and the air is so thin there is little air resistance. Just above this layer is the Ionosphere. This layer of air is a protective shield which protects us from dangerous radiation from the sun. Some of the light rays fran the sun are called ultraviolet and cause tanning and sunburn of the skin. Ultraviolet light is extremely dangerous to the eyes and doctors are continually warning us not to overexpose air skin to the sun. The ultraviolet rays can cause skin cancer. The Ionosphere in the marvellous firmament filters out these rays and protects us against lethal ultraviolet rays. Meteoroids and ultraviolet rays are continually bombarding the earth, striking the roof of this marvellous house in which we live. Call it an expanse or a firmament or the atmosphere, but because of it we are safe, well ventilated and incubated.
The firmament is no accident of nature, formed by blind forces. It is a miraculous achievement designed to permit earth life to exist and to protect that life fran great dangers coming fran the outside. Who had the intelligence to create such a magnificent structure? The only correct answer to that quewtion can be found only in the Christian relgion. Heb. 1:2 says that God in these last days has spoken to us by His son.. .by whom He made the worlds.” Col. 1:14 declares that “By Christ all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible..” Jesus created created erything in the universe, visible and invisible. One of those things on earth that Jesus created was air, invisible roof called the firmament. Before Jesus came to earth, He was the second person in he Godhead. He gave up all the glory and power He had in heaven to become a man to save mankind by dying on the cross as a sin offering. Let Gcñ be praised for His directing God the Son to create the mighty firmament, it is in Christ that we nove, live and have our being. Christ gave us the very air that we breathe. We owe Him our lives as well as our souls. His creative genius protects and preserves our lives from lives from the threatening forces in the solar system. The founder of the Christian religion, the Saviour of. the world and head of the church is the creator of the Universe. He saves us from many dangers in this present world, but there are greater dangers in the world to cane and only Jesus can save us fran the spiritual dangers beyond the grave.