Planet Earth, God’s Footstool

“I will make the place of my feet glorious.”
—Isaiah 60:13

PLANET EARTH—THERE is nothing like it in the sun’s planetary system, nor do we know of any equal elsewhere in the heavens. It is a place with an abundance of life, from the tiny microbe to the elephant in the animal kingdom, and the whale in its oceans. This is man’s home prepared for him by the great, and grand, Supreme Creator of the universe, known in the Old Testament as Jehovah, God of Israel. All the conditions for sustaining life are in an exact controlled range. It is not too hot, nor too cold. The air composition of 21% oxygen and 79% nitrogen is the correct mix for supplying essential oxygen, so as not to burn up life dependent upon it and yet not to suffocate it as well. There is an ample supply of water, nutrients, and those ingredients necessary to sustain life. Only a great and brilliant mind as possessed by our Heavenly Father could have brought forth such life upon earth.

Unfortunately, all people do not think of God, nor of his wonderful handiwork all around us. Many of the best minds in the world believe that life came forth by chance, through an evolutionary process, and not by a plan. They do not accept that the plan was successfully executed by an intelligent, great Supreme Creator. Therefore, they continue in their quest for evidences of the evolutionary process elsewhere in our solar system. The New York Times in its May 27, 2003 issue announced in its Science Section, “Soon Three New Travelers to Mars.”  The first of these is a lander from Great Britain named the Beagle II. The other two are identical rovers to be launched by NASA called MER A and MER B. The article said:

“Though Mars has long intrigued humans, especially those who dream of extraterrestrial life, it has repeatedly humbled anyone rich and venturesome enough to send metallic proxies across millions of miles of space to try to learn its secrets.

“The United States and Russia spent billions on a dozen or so robotic craft meant to land on the planet and radio back their findings. Only three succeeded—two Viking probes in 1976 and Mars Pathfinder in 1997.

“Now comes a bold new contender. Its goal is not only to do basic science but, for the first time in a quarter-century, to look for concrete signs of extraterrestrial life, ancient or modern.

“The disklike craft is the Beagle II, built on a shoestring by Britain, in partnership with the European Space Agency, and named after the ship whose voyages fed Darwin’s theorizing about evolution.

“The British craft weighs just 73 pounds, about 5% of Viking’s weight and 8% of Pathfinder’s. Stripped of unessential gear and even backup systems, it cannot send out a rover to explore the local terrain but must instead rely on a single robotic arm to probe the site.

“‘We didn’t have any money, so we had to think harder,’ said Dr. Colin T. Pillinger, the project’s lead scientist at the Open University in Milton Keynes, England.

“The lander, though small, about a yard wide when folded for travel through space, is nonetheless loaded with sensors, cameras, test chambers, a microscope, a rock grinder and a sampling arm that in theory can dig down five feet into the Martian soil. Getting under the weathered surface is a high priority because the harsh atmosphere of the planet (which produces its rusty color) is judged likely to destroy any life.

“Beagle II is to soar into space atop a Russian rocket in early June and land on Mars in late December. If everything goes as planned, it will explore for six months and will vie for public attention with two American craft, identical rovers that are to land in January. All three robots are to arrive more or less simultaneously because the orbits of Mars and Earth, as happens periodically, are coming into unusually close alignment.

“Alternately skeptical and admiring, American experts call the British lander audacious. Its mission is extremely difficult, they say, and the lack of British know-how in the business of exploring Mars and making planetary probes raises the odds of failure.

“‘We have lots of experience in how difficult it is,’ said Dr. Bruce C. Murray, the former director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who is now at the California Institute of Technology. ‘The Beagle mission is taking on a very large challenge.’ As a result, experts say, even partial success will be a major achievement. ‘If they pull it off, it will be a real coup,’ said Dr. John M. Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.

“The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has about 23,000 employees. Britain has no similar agency. So making Beagle involved enlisting universities, trusts, syndicates, firms and even the British National Lottery, which is helping to finance the lander’s mission control center.

“Mars has long been considered not only difficult to explore, but alluring, given its reputation as the most likely spot in the solar system to harbor extraterrestrials. Recent hints of running water, modern volcanism, and a molten core have only increased its appeal, suggesting that Mars may now be geologically alive and able to support life.

“Beagle II’s developers say their relative poverty and inexperience have worked in their favor, helping them solve old problems in new ways. On the other hand, they add, whenever possible they have learned from their predecessors. For instance, Beagle II has a system of parachutes and air bags developed for landing in rough terrain, adapted from the Pathfinder system.

“‘We’re not ignoring past experience by any means,’ said Dr. Alan Wells, director of the space research center at the University of Leicester, which is in charge of mission control for Beagle II.

“The British hope that the small craft will find not just fossils but live Martians dwelling in rocks and soil.

“In the past decade or so, deep inside Earth, scientists have discovered a rich microbial fauna and have theorized that Mars may be similar. Its interior, after all, is thought to be wet and warm, potentially a microbe heaven. The idea took wings in 1996 when NASA announced that a Martian meteorite carried what appeared to be microscopic fossils. The claim has been subject to heated debate ever since.

“Scientists agree that the discovery of even a single extraterrestrial microbe would be historic, illuminating how life began and the odds of its arising elsewhere in the universe.

“NASA’s Viking spacecraft, the only previous lander to probe for signs of life, found none in soil samples. Scientists now suspect that the harsh atmosphere made the soil sterile.

“Scientists at the Open University, where Dr. Pillinger directs the Planetary Sciences Research Institute, have long searched meteorites known to have originated on Mars for the building blocks of life. The institute’s laboratories are considered some of the world’s best for studying extraterrestrial samples for signs of carbon, considered an ideal basis for life because of its easy bonding with other atoms.

“The British lander project had its origins in 1997 when the European Space Agency announced an orbiter mission called Mars Express, Europe’s first effort to explore the planet. Dr. Pillinger lobbied hard to add a lander. Money was scarce. But he, the Open University, and its partners received approval to proceed, even though they had to raise much of the money themselves.

“In an interview, Dr. Pillinger declined to disclose the lander’s benefactors and total cost, estimated publicly at about $60 million—a pittance by industry standards. Each of the new NASA rovers cost $400 million, including launching and operations.

“Beagle II’s main contractor is Astrium, a European conglomerate with much experience in satellites but none in planetary probes. Because of Beagle’s small size, weight and budget, the company was forced to innovate.”

The article went on to describe the cost-saving features of the Beagle II, and the scientific equipment it would carry to Mars. It also explained in detail how the lander will function, with a robotic arm, and how they plan to get around obstacles that they believe hampered the Pathfinder from finding any life on Mars. They hope to find carbon in the samples and will analyze with sophisticated equipment for the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 13. If they should find carbon in the samples, a Harvard Geochemist said, “It would be strong evidence [of life] but not proof.” Also included in the exploration by Beagle II is sampling the Mars atmosphere to detect methane, given off on earth by peat bogs, rice paddies, and ruminant animals. A mass spectrometer will analyze the atmosphere for signs of methane. However, methane is not expected to survive very long in the Martian atmosphere, so if any is found it would indicate freshly generated methane.

In another part of the Science section of the Times, a brief description was given of the two rovers NASA plans to launch in June. The article captioned, “A Hunt for Clues to a Dry Planet’s Watery Past” said:

“NASA calls its two Mars rovers ‘robot geologists.’ They are to find and analyze rocks, rolling up to a half a mile from their landing sites to investigate wide terrain. Unlike the British Beagle II lander, the NASA rovers have no way to look for chemical signs of Martian life.

“NASA’s overall strategy is for its Mars efforts to be incremental and thorough, especially on the issue of life. Viking was a costly failure that left many questions unanswered. Now NASA aims to tackle the hardest questions last, after years of preliminary work to help scientists understand if the environment of Mars was, or still is, conducive to life.

“Today, the main tactic is what NASA scientists call ‘following the water,’ a main prerequisite to virtually any form of life.

“While the surface of Mars now holds no obvious liquid water, large flows appear to have sculptured the planet long ago. In theory, its current rocks, minerals and landforms hold many clues to the planet’s watery past. Certain rocks and minerals, including carbonates, form in the presence of water, and the rovers are to seek them out.

“The twin craft, to be launched from Cape Canaveral, are similar to the smaller robot of the 1997 Pathfinder. Each weighs about 400 pounds, over five times as much as Beagle.

“The two landing sites, south of the equator, are the Busev Crater, a giant scar that appears to have once held a lake, and the Meridiani Planum, a wide outcropping of a gray mineral, hematite, that on Earth usually forms in the presence of liquid water.

“The wheeled robots will carry tools to analyze and manipulate the environment: a panoramic camera, a microscopic imager, a drill to cut the rind off rocks, and three spectrometers to determine rock composition. Unlike Beagle, the rovers have no gas analyzer, ovens or mass spectrometer to hunt for life signatures.

“The rovers are to study the rocky terrain and travel up to 130 feet a day. Solar panels will recharge the batteries. The rovers are to report discoveries about Martian rocks for three months, and possibly longer.

“American plans for Mars exploration are, in some ways, less bold than those of the British. But many experts say that NASA’s strategy, which calls for missions of increasing complexity and ambition in the next decade, is ultimately more likely to succeed at unveiling the secrets of the planet.”

It is interesting to note that a summary was included in this section of the many attempts to explore Mars, and the few successes. Three countries have sent missions to fly by, orbit, or land on Mars. These were mainly the United States, and USSR, Russia. Japan launched one (an orbiter) in the 1990’s and Britain and the European Space Agency have launched the Beagle on June 5. In the 1960’s the USSR launched six. None were successful. The United States launched four. One flyby was successful, sending back 21 photos. In the 1970’s the USSR launched seven, of which two landers arrived. One was destroyed in landing, the other sent back little data. The United States launched four. The twin Viking landers launched in 1975 sent back more than 50,000 photos. The USSR launched two in the 1980’s and Russia launched one in the 1990’s. None were successful. The United States launched five and three were successful. The Mars Global Survey is orbiting Mars and still on its mission. The Pathfinder was a lander which completed its mission in 1997. The Sojourner was a rover that completed its mission in 1997.

An estimated forty billion dollars has been spent, in which the main objective has been to find extra terrestrial life. The last time that the scientists in the United States and NASA were planning the sending of probes to Mars for this purpose in 1997, an editorial appeared in a prominent newspaper in the United States with the title, “Let’s Not Toss Dollars at Mars Too Quickly,” and a subtitle, “Notion of life on another planet is exciting, but what about life on Earth?”  The editorial went on to discuss the funding of these planned programs, saying, finally, “Evidence—no matter how inconclusive—that life may exist elsewhere in our solar system is exciting news. But it’s hardly a good reason to make life more difficult for some of earth’s neediest citizens.” The final statement in this editorial says, “More likely is the troubling possibility that NASA’s startling find will send this nation hurtling at warp speed toward a bad decision—a heightened search for life in space that will have a devastating effect on the lives of millions of Americans.”

Even though the editor’s words were so true, the conditions on earth that he alluded to should not be. When God prepared the earth for habitation he pronounced everything he had done as being good. And good it was. The creation of man and all other life upon earth was indeed very good. It was perfect. This was his plan. Imperfection came with man’s disobedience. But God plans to restore the perfection of earth.

When the earth was prepared for habitation by our Heavenly Father, the great Supreme Creator of the universe, he was dwelling in the heavens. When man wanted to build a dwelling for God (such as a temple), he said through Isaiah, “Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” (Isa. 66:1,2) No one can do anything for God who dwells in the heavens. He has made the tiny earth his footstool. In size and place it is properly described as God’s footstool. It is a lowly place, but it is to be respected. It is the first place where God has permitted lower forms of life to be created. As a lowly place it is not a place where pride should arise. For that reason, God says through Isaiah, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (vs. 2, New International Version) Rotherham translates the last portion as one who “careth anxiously for my word.”

How appropriate it is for all mankind to recognize that they dwell in a remarkable place but lowly in God’s Creation. We should never demean this lowly place of God’s handiwork. Jesus said as much in his sermon on the mount, when he said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matt. 5:33-37, NIV) In this commentary Jesus was not only indicating that the earth is to be respected as God’s footstool, but was also admonishing us to exert care in our thoughts and in making vows that they not be of pride instigated by Satan. We are to be humble which means we are to have a sober estimate of ourselves and to recognize that we are a lowly creation and live in a lowly place. All the mighty of earth’s society are to be brought low, as God promised to his Son when he said through David, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”—Ps. 110:1

Why are scientists so eager to find the smallest trace of life in another place, other than earth? It is because they believe so strongly in the evolution of life upon earth. As they believe that life evolved from the smallest living cell so also man is evolving to a higher form of life, whatever they believe that to be. Whereas the Bible tells of man’s original creation in the image of God. (Gen. 1:26,27) He was a mental and moral image of God and created to be a king over earth’s domain. He lost all that through disobedience and, with the penalty of death, degradation set in. Instead of evolving to a higher plane of existence, mankind is being debased through pride and the wiles of the Devil. In the plan of God, all of this is to be changed.

Our theme text says (God speaking), “I will make the place of my feet glorious.” (Isa. 60:13) How will this promise be fulfilled? Its fulfillment will come through the establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth. Then it will be possible to remove all those opposed to God. (I Cor. 15:25) Satan will be bound. (Rev. 20:1-3) Life, peace, security and health will be restored to mankind. All will be brought back from the grave (John 5:28,29), and will be given perfect bodies. (I Cor. 15:38) The imperfection of earth will be removed and God will make all things new. (Rev. 21:5) A preview of this glorious earth was given in the book, “The Divine Plan of the Ages”, and we quote from it. “Close your eyes for a moment to the scenes of misery and woe, degradation and sorrow that yet prevail on account of sin, and picture before your mental vision the glory of the perfect earth. Not a stain of sin mars the harmony and peace of a perfect society; not a bitter thought, not an unkind look or word; love, welling up from every heart, meets a kindred response in every other heart, and benevolence marks every act. There sickness shall be no more; not an ache nor a pain, nor any evidence of decay—not even the fear of such things. Think of all the pictures and comparative health and beauty of human form and feature that you have ever seen, and know that perfect humanity will be of still surpassing loveliness. The inward purity and mental and moral perfection will stamp and glorify every radiant countenance. Such will earth’s society be; and weeping bereaved ones will have their tears all wiped away, when thus they realize the resurrection work complete.—Rev. 21:4”

The earth, as God’s footstool, will become a glorious place. It still will be a footstool and mankind in their perfection are never to forget this and become proud and vainglorious again. Seeking their Father’s help along this line, they will not fall anymore. The sentiments of Psalm 99 will become engrained in them. “The Lord reigneth; let the people tremble: he sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved. The Lord is great in Zion; and he is high above all the people. Let them praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy. The king’s strength also loveth judgment; thou dost establish equity, thou executest judgment and righteousness in Jacob. Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy.”—vss. 1-5

Dawn Bible Students Association
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