Wisdom of History

The Webb Space Telescope: God’s Unfolding Plans

It took more than 300 steps to unfold the Webb Space Telescope to take on the final form intended by NASA—the intended form that will enable the telescope to operate at full capacity for the next ten or more years. God’s plans for our lives, for Israel, and for the Church Universal unfold like an origami—like the Webb Space Telescope. “[W]e know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28). But our experiences—and the experiences of Abraham, Moses and Jesus—teach us that the unfolding of God’s plans for our lives, for Israel, and for the Church Universal doesn’t come all at once. Or easily.

NASA used “origami” to solve the problem of unfolding the Webb Space Telescope in space after it had been crammed into the tiny tip of the Ariane rocket.

When first created, an origami is flattened. Then, it is unfolded into the intended form to look like a bird, butterflies, flowers, or whatever other form its builder intends.

It took more than 300 steps to unfold the Webb Space Telescope to take on the final form intended by NASA—the intended form that will enable the telescope to operate at full capacity for the next ten or more years.

God’s plans for our lives, for Israel, and for the Church Universal unfold like an origami—like the Webb Space Telescope!

A favorite verse to comfort and encourage us is: “‘I know the plans I have for you’, declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Another such verse is: “[W]e know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28).

But experience teaches us that the unfolding of God’s plans for our lives, for Israel, and for the Church Universal doesn’t come all at once. Or easily.

Abraham knew moments of fear, discouragement and frustration. For example, even though he’d obeyed God by leaving his homeland and traveling to the Promised Land, Abraham complained to God that things weren’t going right. He didn’t even have a son!

God told him to get out of his tent—the “tent” of fear, discouragement and frustration that was blocking Abraham’s view.

—The “tent” that was blocking his view of the countless ways he would be blessed.

—The “tent” that was blocking his view of the countless ways he would bless other people.

—The “tent” that was blocking his view of countless blessings as numerous as the countless stars! (Genesis 15:1-6).

Moses experienced many moments of fear, discouragement and frustration, even though he obeyed God by successfully leading Israel out of slavery in Egypt.

Moses experienced many moments of fear, discouragement and frustration, even though he mostly obeyed God as he struggled for forty years to lead Israel to the Promised Land.

These fears, discouragements and frustrations at the slow, agonizing unfolding of God’s plans for Moses and for Israel are captured in Psalm 90.

In this “Prayer of Moses”, he prayed:

   “[W]e finish our years with a moan.

Our days may come to seventy years,

   or eighty, if our strength endures;

yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,

   for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

     (Psalm 90:10).

Nevertheless, Moses never lost faith in the LORD’s “unfailing love that we may sing for you and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:14).

Moses never lost faith in the LORD’s unfolding plans “to establish the work of our hands for us”. (Psalm 90:17).

Jesus is able “to empathize with our weaknesses” (such as moments of fear, discouragement and frustration) because he was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15).

For example, at the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for the LORD to take away “the cup” of tortures, insults and crucifixion that awaited him during the coming hours. (Matthew 26:36-46). Indeed, Jesus was in such anguish and prayed so earnestly that “his sweat was like blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44).

Nevertheless, Jesus still prayed: “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39,42).

Furthermore, while Jesus hung in agony on the cross suffering from the tortures and insults of crucifixion, he cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).

Nevertheless, Jesus never lost faith in the LORD’s unfolding plans—in the LORD’s unfailing love. (Psalm 136:1-26).

For example, when one of the men repented (who was also being crucified), Jesus told him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:40-43).

And, for example, the very Psalm that begins with the thought “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, culminates in the assurance that—because of the LORD’s unfolding plans and unfailing love:

“All the ends of the earth

   will remember and turn to the LORD,

and all the families of the nations

   will bow down before him

for dominion belongs to the LORD

   and he rules over all the nations.”

     (Psalm 22:27-28)

Indeed, because of the unfolding plans and unfailing love of the LORD:

“Posterity will serve him;

   future generations will be told about the Lord.

They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn:

   He has done it!

     (Psalm 22:27-28)

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For additional thoughts arising from the Webb Space Telescope, please read my blogs “The Webb Space Telescope—Reaching the Place of Service”, “The Webb Space Telescope—Years of Preparation”, and “The Webb Space Telescope—Liftoff!”.

In my book Visions of the Church (published together in one volume with my book Visions of America), I use the troubled—but ultimately triumphant—flight of Apollo 13  as the narrative thread to provide an overview of 2,000 years of Church history in a mere 80 pages.

For more of my thoughts about Abraham’s moments of fear, discouragement and frustration, please read the chapter “Abraham” in my book The Promised Land, at pages 21-38.

For more of my thoughts about how the LORD established the work of Moses’s hands, please read “PART TWO: Establishing the Work of Your Hands: Moses” in my book The Promised Land, at pages 73-120.

For more of my thoughts about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross, please read the chapters “The Garden of Gethsemane” and “Jesus Forgives His Enemies and Trusts God” in my book Hoping in the LORD, at pages 251-257, 287-293.