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What the Heavens Declared to a Young Jewish Astronomer

In a recent issue of CT Magazine, Astronomer David Block tells how he learned that the same God who numbered the stars knew and loved him personally:

I grew up a Jewish boy in a South African gold-mining town known as Krugersdorp. I remember sitting in (synagogue), enthralled as our learned rabbi expounded how God was a personal God—he would speak to Moses, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to many others. Growing up, I often pondered how I fit into all this.

By the time I entered the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, I was deeply concerned that I had no assurance that God was indeed a personal God. I was confident that he was a historical God who had delivered our people from the hands of Pharaoh. But he seemed so far removed from the particulars of my life. Where was the personality and the vibrancy of a God who truly could speak to me?

I became friendly with Professor Lewis Hurst. He had a great interest in astronomy, and we would discuss the complexities of the cosmos for hours at a time. I remember attending a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society graced by Stephen Hawking. The atmosphere there was intellectually stimulating, but inwardly I could tell that something, or someone, was missing. To be brutally honest, I did not know God.

Back in South Africa, my friendship with Professor Hurst grew, and I started sharing with him my thoughts and feelings about the cosmos. I said, “The universe is so beautiful, both visually and mathematically.” The idea of the universe being designed by a Master Artist continued to resonate with me, but I struggled to find evidence that this artist had any interest in knowing me personally.

I shared further doubts: “Are we,” as Shakespeare said in Macbeth, “just a fleeting shadow that appears and then disappears? What is our reason for living? What is the purpose of life? Is it possible to have a personal encounter with the creator of the cosmos?”

Hurst listened intently. He said, “There is an answer to all the questions you are asking. I am well aware that you come from an Orthodox Jewish family, but would you be willing to meet with a dear friend of mine, the Reverend John Spyker?”

My Jewish parents had taught me to seek answers wherever they might be found, so I consented to meet with this Christian minister. Taking the Bible in his hands, Spyker turned to Romans 9:33 where Paul affirms that Y’shua (Jesus) is a stumbling stone to the Jewish people but that those who freely choose to believe in him will never be ashamed.

By divine grace, suddenly everything became perfectly clear. Y’shua was the stumbling stone—my stumbling stone! Jesus had fulfilled all the messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures (where the Messiah would be born, how he was to die, and much else besides). While most Jewish people today are still awaiting the Messiah’s coming, I knew I had found him and that all I had to do was respond to his free offer of grace.

Immediately, I asked Spyker to pray for me, which he did. And on that day, at the age of 22, I surrendered my heart and my reason to Christ Jesus. His Spirit spread through every cell of my being.

(Reflecting on my early days), I realize they had been infused by God’s grace. He had been planting spiritual seeds every time I gazed up into the heavens. And I still marvel that a God so majestic and powerful would know my name—and love me as intimately as his own begotten Son.

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