For many years I worked at a company that designed, manufactured and sold electronic measuring instrumentation throughout the world. Measuring things is an exact science. It requires great care to quantify the uncertainty of measurement. In this verse, the LORD says that the nations are considered as “the small dust of the balance.” In other words, man is insignificant dust on the scales. man and his best works are insignificant compared to God and His righteousness (Isa. 64:6).
I was walking our dog this morning, feeling the rays of the sun on my insignificance. I began to think how we might measure our insignificance. One way is to compare the amount of the sun’s energy incident on our bodies to the total energy output by the sun. I did a quick calculation. Assume the energy emitted by the sun is proportional to the area of any surface upon which its rays shine. If you follow this thinking, imagine a bubble enclosing the sun, having a radius equal to the average radius of earth’s orbit around the sun. You can calculate the surface area of such a sphere. If you then compare the surface area of that bubble to the area of the average person’s body on which the rays of the sun shine, you get a ratio of the energy falling upon one person to the total energy emitted by the sun. What that calculation shows is that the average man on earth receives less than 1 part in 20 billion trillion of the total energy that the sun continuously produces. It is difficult to gain a sense of such a small number. A comparison can be made to the national debt of the U.S. That sum is somewhere around 20 trillion dollars. If there were a billion nations owing as much as the U.S. owes, then man’s significance would be $1 in comparison to that $20 billion trillion dollar debt. It turns out that this is roughly twice as large as the ratio of the mass of one atom to the total mass of all the atoms in one half ounce of carbon-12. One atom is an indescribably small mass compared to one half-ounce of atoms. No one would consider the mass of one atom to add significant error in the measurement of one-half ounce of carbon-12! The ratio of the energy of the sun shining on one person standing on earth, compared to the total energy available from the sun at the same distance, in some sense represents the insignificance of man and his works compared to God and His righteousness. But when further compared to the entire universe, it gives a more staggeringly small insignificance. If you take the estimate that scientists give for the size of the universe, man’s significance literally shrinks to nothing. The nearest star is thought to be 4.3 light years from earth, which is about 25 trillion miles away. Travelling through space at 186,000 miles per second, it would take 4.3 years to reach that star! Clearly, there is a lot of empty space between the stars! One estimate says there are 100 billion (100,000,000,000) stars in the milky way galaxy. Some say that the milky way galaxy, with its estimated 100 billion stars, is merely one of 3000 billion galaxies in the universe! (Don’t ask me how scientists come up with these numbers.) If you simply scale the number of stars in the milky way galaxy by 3000 billion galaxies, it means that there are 3*10^23 stars in the universe (0.3 septillion). That one half ounce of carbon back on our scales contains roughly twice as many atoms as stars thought to be in the universe. Our sun is but one of those stars. Recall, the energy output by our sun compared to the energy shining on you and me is merely one part in 20 billion trillion of the sun’s total energy. Factoring into this comparison scientist’s estimates for the number of stars in the universe, we find that man is a mere one part in 6 billion trillion trillion trillion, give or take. (That is a 6 followed by 45 zeroes.)
“As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him” (Ps. 103:11).
But the LORD says it much more simply. “The nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.” What?! Are the very hairs of our head numbered? Stand amazed! Can the LORD meet our needs? Is anything too hard for Him (Gen. 18:14; Eph. 3:20)?! Scripture says that the Lord Jesus Christ spoke this universe into existence, that He now upholds it by His powerful word. He stretched out heaven: from the minuteness of the atom, to the unfathomable immensity of space. This incomprehensibly great God made Himself of no reputation to save an insignificant, sinful people. He forever took our nature into union with His own. He served His Father and saved His people from their sins. He now rules and intercedes for these, who in themselves are nothing (Gal. 6:3)! “Will God indeed (in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ) dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee” (1 Kings 8:27)! The universe is vast beyond all measure. Though creation cannot contain its Creator, the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily in our Savior (Col. 2:9-10)! Believe it. Our Savior rules every atom in this universe, the space within every atom, the heavenly bodies and the space between the stars. Our great God made us joint-heirs with Him. He is our Mediator, our Surety (Heb. 1:2; 7:22; John 3:35; Col. 1:16).