On this day in 1781, William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus. Born in Germany, the Herschel family moved to England when William was 17 years old. A musician like his father, William became a successful band leader and composed many popular works.
In his mid-thirties, Herschel took up an interest in astronomy, building numerous telescopes and carefully observing the moon and stars. He discovered Uranus with his own 7-foot telescope, but at first thought it was a comet. When he realized later that it was a planet, he named it Georgium Sidus (George’s Star) in honor of the ruling British monarch, George III. Later it was decided that the planet should be named after a Roman god like the other planets. Six years after his momentous discovery, Herschel also discovered two of the moons of Uranus, Oberon and Titania, with a 20-foot long telescope of his own making. Assisting Herschel was his sister, Caroline, a respectable scientist and mathematician in her own right.
Herschel’s appetite for discovery was firmly tied to his Christian beliefs. He saw the order of the universe as the logical design of a Creator and once commented that the “undevout astronomer must be mad.”
With its emphasis on prayer and penitence, Lent is a season of discovery. Maybe you have vowed to give up something addictive, and you are discovering that drawing closer to God empowers you to go without. Or maybe the Holy Spirit has spoken deeply into your heart about a matter of great importance to you.
Indeed, God made us for discovery. Whether we are perusing the heavens or pursuing Christ, there is always something new to be learned. How sad it is when a person’s years increase, only to have his vision decrease. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” does not mean that our perspective of Him should stay that way.
Do you recall Solomon’s words in the Book of Ecclesiastes? The world-weary king observed that there is “nothing new under the sun.” On the other hand, Isaiah wrote that God is preparing a “new thing.” Focusing on temporal matters, Solomon saw nothing but meaninglessness. He was like an astronomer peering through the wrong end of the telescope, receiving a shrunken view of his surroundings. On the other hand, Isaiah lifted his eyes and caught a mind-expanding vision of God “high and lifted up”—and he continued to look up throughout his prophetic career to behold the Holy One.
Are we paying lip-service to a stale god who’s locked into a Sunday morning routine—or are we serving an unbound God who is doing a new thing? Your answer is a measure of your spiritual vitality.