Counting the Stars – Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Linked Activities

star umbrellaMake your own star projector with a Pringles tube. Also, check out how to make your own umbrella planetarium in this previous post, or you can buy a ready-made one.

You will need

  • Pringles tube with a transparent lid
  • Thick black paper or card
  • Pencil
  • White pen (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Drawing pin
  • Constellation images (click to enlarge)star chart
  • Things to decorate, eg starry paper (optional)
  • Strong tape, eg parcel tape
  • Large torch (the mini LED ones don’t work too well for this)

What to do

  1. Draw around the top of the tube (without the lid) several times on the black paper or card.
  2. Cut out the circles just inside the lines, so that they fit snugly in the transparent lid.
  3. Choose one of the constellations (or others visible from your location) and draw the pattern on a circle, marking the stars with blobs. I chose the Big Dipper (or the saucepan as we call it in our family).
  4. Use the drawing pin on a soft surface (not your leg!) to stab holes for the stars. Make the holes slightly larger with the pencil. You can add the lines and name of the constellation with a white pen.
  5. Decorate the tube with paper and stickers if you want to.
  6. If your tube has a card bottom, use the scissors to make a torch-sized hole. If your tube has a metal bottom, cut around the base of the tube to remove it then use strong tape to make a torch-sized hole.
  7. Push the torch through the hole from the inside, so that the switch is on the outside and the lamp inside.
  8. Choose one of your constellations and place it inside the lid. Then switch on the torch and shine it on a wall in a dark room. Who can guess the constellation first?

star projector

More resources

Find out what you can see in the night sky where you are, from In The Sky

Tips for watching meteor showers (The Perseids are due kinda now-ish).


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I’m a free-lance writer and my children have a most inconvenient habit of growing. How ever hard I try to shoe-horn them in, the baby-grows they wore at 6 months simply won’t fit now they’re teenagers. Sigh.

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Count the stars in the sky? Easy. I live in England.

I’m at 52° north (same latitude as Alaska), which means that although the sun sets at around 9pm, it does not get dark until more like 11. (It’s not even officially ‘night’ until a quarter to midnight!)

And then there are the streetlamps. There’s almost nowhere in England that gets properly dark. Not where people live, anyway.

And did I mention that I live in England? So even if I stay up late enough for the sky to get properly dark, chances are it’s cloudy. Yes, we’re in the middle of a heatwave, but we’re also getting monsoon-like rain.

So, count the stars in the sky? Easy. Usually zero. On a clear night maybe a couple of dozen. Frankly, I’m lucky if I manage to spot the Celestial Saucepan. (I know it’s supposed to be a plough, but it looks more like a saucepan to me.) But the coathanger? (That really is a thing.) Don’t hold your breath.

Abraham, or Abram as he was called then, would not have had any such problems seeing the stars. The sky above his head was strewn with pinpricks of light and if he started counting, one each second, it would have taken him a month of nights to number just one million of them.

milky way

And there are 250 billion stars in the Milky Way (give or take a few billion). That’s about a thousand generations of counting. Abraham would still be at it today!

OK, I guess you can’t count the stars.

But what about the promise? When Abraham died you could easily have counted his sons. There were 8. Two with Sarah and another six with his second wife, Keturah. Plus however many unrecorded daughters.

That’s not exactly ‘as many as the stars in the sky’, even for England.

It would be very easy for Abraham to look at the reality of the situation and wonder what happened to the dream. Was it all a mistake? Had he misheard God? Perhaps Abraham had done something wrong and messed up what God was planning.

What do we do when faced with that kind mismatch between what God has promised and what we see? Ignore the promise and look at reality? Ignore reality and look at the promise? Both of these have problems. Abraham seems to have got the hang of holding the contradiction in, let us say, ‘creative tension’.

Abraham’s perspective reminds me of the medieval cathedral builders. I’m always amazed at the far-sighted vision those guys must have had. Most of the people who worked on Europe’s great cathedrals lived their whole lives and never saw the beginning or the end or the work. York Minster took a whopping 12 generations to complete, over 250 years! That’s like starting a job when George III was the new boy on the English throne, before the French revolution, before the American declaration of independence, and only just finishing now.

I guess God’s kingdom is a bit like that. If Jesus had lived in our culture he might have said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a massive building project”. No one person does all the work, nor even knows all the work, but each has their job to do and can trust the one who oversees it all from start to finish. Trust. Whether that work is building a cathedral, building God’s kingdom, or counting the stars in the sky.

I wonder what my part of the work is, today?


Genesis 15:1-6 New Life Version

After these things, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a special dream, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your safe place. Your reward will be very great.”

Then Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me? For I have no child. And the one who is to receive what belongs to me is Eliezer of Damascus.” Abram said, “Because You have not given me a child, one born in my house will be given all I have.”

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be given what is yours. But he who will come from your own body will be given what is yours.” He took him outside and said, “Now look up into the heavens and add up the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then He said to him, “Your children and your children’s children will be as many as the stars.”

Then Abram believed in the Lord, and that made him right with God.

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 New Life Version

Now faith is being sure we will get what we hope for. It is being sure of what we cannot see. God was pleased with the men who had faith who lived long ago.

Through faith we understand that the world was made by the Word of God. Things we see were made from what could not be seen.

Because Abraham had faith, he obeyed God when God called him to leave his home. He was to go to another country that God promised to give him. He left his home without knowing where he was going. His faith in God kept him living as a stranger in the country God had promised to him. Isaac and Jacob had received the same promise. They all lived in tents together. Abraham was looking to God and waiting for a city that could not be moved. It was a city planned and built by God.

Because Sarah had faith, she was able to have a child long after she was past the age to have children. She had faith to believe that God would do what He promised. Abraham was too old to have children. But from this one man came a family with as many in it as the stars in the sky and as many as the sand by the sea.

These people all died having faith in God. They did not receive what God had promised to them. But they could see far ahead to all the things God promised and they were glad for them. They knew they were strangers here. This earth was not their home. People who say these things show they are looking for a country of their own. They did not think about the country they had come from. If they had, they might have gone back. But they wanted a better country. And so God is not ashamed to be called their God. He has made a city for them.


New Life Version, Copyright © 1969, 2003 by Barbour Publishing, Inc

Projector image courtesy of Australian National Maritime Museum

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