The conclusion of my finished exegesis paper:
Throughout my paper I have made it clear that one of the purposes of the creation account was to subvert the beliefs of the nations surrounding Israel. But it is no less true that these verses retain their subversive edge in our own age. For where the ancients thought too highly of the celestial realm, modern man thinks far too low of it. In their university-level textbook, Astronomy: A Beginner’s Guide to the Universe, authors Eric Chaisson and Steve McMillan opt for this opening:
“Of all the scientific insights achieved to date, one stands out boldly: Earth is neither central nor special. We inhabit no unique place in the universe. We live on an ordinary rocky planet called Earth, one of nine known planets orbiting an average star called the Sun, a middle-aged star near the edge of a huge collection of stars called the Milky Way galaxy, one galaxy among countless billions of others spread throughout the observable universe.”
They go on to say, with barely disguised relish, that “humankind has been torn from its throne at the center of the cosmos and relegated to an unremarkable position on the periphery of the Milky Way galaxy.” They are not clear on what exactly it is that makes one position in the universe more remarkable than another, but neither is that their point. Theirs is a project of de-enchantment, and ultimately, of de-humanization. Their pronouncement is the arrogant pronouncement of man, noted more for its anemia than for its accuracy. It is, essentially, an attempt to strip the universe of meaning, to speak it back into the void from whence God called it.
Indeed, the attitude behind the above quotes is shown to be all the more stark, but especially rebellious, when compared with the true nature of the universe as presented in Genesis 1. For the universe in which we live is a storied place, first spoken into existence by God, and then ennobled by its service to the image of God. The ancient peoples who saw stories in the stars had achieved an understanding of the heavens that modern man is blind to. If the position of Chaisson and McMillian can be taken as foundational to the materialist conception of the universe, then it truly is a foundation built upon sand.
For it is true that Earth is not central, but that is because crowns never are. On the other hand, Earth is special; and not only is it special, but nowhere else in the universe does “special” even have any meaning. We do inhabit a unique place in the universe, for it is the only place on which the rest of the universe was commanded to bequeath its light. And even more important is that our star is anything but average. Which other star can claim the privilege of having shared its life-giving warmth with God Incarnate?
But above all, man can never be “torn from his throne” in the sense meant above. We might do our best to abdicate, but what God has spoken cannot be undone. That, and there is nothing humble about a king abdicating his throne in favour of anarchy. The truth is that the heavenly lights, all the innumerable multitudes of them, exist to serve us. This may sound arrogant to modern ears, but it is the story of Genesis 1. The celestial lights govern the very rhythms that in turn govern life on Earth. They inform us what time of year it is and warn us when the seasons change. And in their simple and inexhaustible loveliness they teach us of the inexhaustible and uplifting beauty of our great Creator and Redeemer God. What a joy it is to both contemplate the heavens, and to contemplate what their origins reveal!