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On the second day God made an expanse or firmament. This was something stretched out or spread out like a carpet or curtain. But in this case it was not cloth but the air which is all around the earth which was spread out. We call it the earth's atmosphere. This atmosphere shows the wisdom, power and goodness of God its Creator. First of all we should notice that this expanse of air is special to the earth. It was made by God to separate the waters above the earth from the waters on the earth. God made it for the earth.
Scientists today know of no other atmospheres like our own. There is no such atmosphere around the moon or sun or any where else in our universe. The two gases which make up most of our air are oxygen and nitrogen. They are all around us in very large quantities but away from the earth they are very rare and we would not find very much of either. In the rest of the universe there are plenty of other gases such as ozone and hydrogen in large amounts which are only found in small amounts in our air. God made the earth's atmosphere specially for the earth in connection with his special purpose for the earth.
Secondly we should notice that this expanse of air is essential for life. If we were left on the moon without oxygen and nitrogen to breathe we would die. God gave the earth exactly the right atmosphere for people to be able to live on it. Elsewhere in our universe we would die. God made the earth to be man's home and in his goodness, wisdom and power made it ready for human beings to live on. Not only does our air support our life it also protects it. If we were on the moon we would burn to death during its day and freeze to death during its night. But on earth our expanse of air protects us from too much heat during the day. On a night the atmosphere stops the day's warmth from disappearing too quickly so that it does not become very, very cold all over the earth.
A third thing that we can learn is that God not only made our air but in his wisdom he made sure that it would continue to be what we need in order to remain alive. Human beings and animals need oxygen in order to live. When we breathe out there is less oxygen and more of a gas called carbon dioxide than when we breathe in. If God had not provided for this then a time would come when all the oxygen would be used up, there would be too much carbon dioxide and all men and animals would die. This is prevented because God made plants in such a way that they use carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. In this way our all-knowing and all-wise God made sure that as long as the earth remains its atmosphere will be just what is needed for life to continue.
Although God has provided our needed air and will continue to provide it, this does not mean that we do not need to take care of it. Air is very precious and can be needlessly polluted and spoiled. We need only think of huge chimney stacks pouring out black smoke or of the black fumes from the exhaust pipes of cars and lorries. These make the air that we breathe dirty and may lead to illness. We should take care to get plenty of fresh and clean air to breathe and do all that we can to avoid polluting the atmosphere God has given.
There is one further thought which is important in connection with our expanse of air. As it is above us it draws our minds upwards. God called the expanse 'Heaven'. This same name is used for that place where God dwells with his holy angels in the light unapproachable. When we look up to the sky it is meant to remind us of God's glorious majesty as the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity. As the Psalmist says: The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. (Psalm 19.1) The beauty and expansiveness of the heavens that we can see above our heads tell out the glory of their Maker. The heaven that we see does this day and night so that our hearts can be drawn out to the Heaven of heavens (which we cannot see) where God dwells.
"The heav'ns God's glory do declare,
the skies his hand-works preach:
Day utters speech to day, and night
to night doth knowledge teach".
"Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?" (Job 37.18)
"Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord's thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is". (Deuteronomy 10.14)
WORDS TO LEARN
Firmament, oxygen, carbon dioxide, atmosphere, nitrogen, pollution, universe, ozone, gas, inhabit, hydrogen, unapproachable.
QUESTIONS TO ANSWER
1. What did God make on the second day of creation?
2. What two gases make up most of our air?
3. How do we know that God made our air specially for the earth?
4. Why would we die on the moon?
5. How does the earth's atmosphere protect us?
6. People and animals are always using up oxygen. Why is there always plenty of oxygen left?
7. How is our air polluted?
8. When we look up at the sky about what should it remind us?
9. To whom does the earth's air belong?
10. Write what you think about the sky when it is cloudy and when there are no clouds.
THINGS TO DO
1. Collect and display pictures of the sky showing how different it looks from one day to another.
2. Paint your own pictures of the sky.
3. Draw a diagram showing humans, vegetation and sky and write in the names of the gases taken in and given out.
4. There are many experiments that you can do in connection with air to show that it is real, that it takes up space and that it has weight. Find a book of such experiments, do as many of them as you can, and record your results.
BOOKS TO READ
1. Read about the great event which will take place at the end of time 'in the air'.(1 Thessalonians 4.13-18)
2. The waters above the expanse are the clouds. Read the following Bible passages to see what they teach about the clouds. You could list these teachings alongside a collection of pictures of different cloud formations. Job 26.8, 38.37, Ps 104.3, 147.7,8, Nahum 1.3, Matthew 24.30.
3. Find Junior Science books to tell you more about the following subjects:
(a) The composition of air.
(b) Air and breathing. Air and photosynthesis.
(c) Air pressure and air resistance
(d) Air pollution
PSALMS TO SING
Psalm 8.3-4 (Common Metre)
When I look up unto the heav'ns
which thine own fingers fram'd,
Unto the moon, and to the stars,
which were by thee ordain'd;
Then say I, What is man, that he
remember'd is by thee?
Or what the son of man, that thou
so kind to him should'st be?
Psalm 19.1-5 Common Metre
The heav'ns God's glory do declare,
the skies his hand-works preach:
Day utters speech to day and night
to night doth knowledge teach.
There is no speech nor tongue to which
their voice doth not extend:
Their line is gone through all the earth,
their words to the world's end.
In them he set the sun a tent;
Who, bridegroom-like, forth goes
From's chamber, as a strong man doth
to run his race rejoice.