The Value of Gold

The Value of Gold

I recently came across an incredibly ignorant statement blaming God for causing all the strife in the world. The reason this person gave was that God created gold which causes class distinctions, wars, and constant conflicts. Humans have indeed fought over gold, but it is also true that the value of gold to human existence is much more than a source of wealth and prestige. Gold is one of the most useful things God has given us.

A single ounce of gold can be drawn into a thread 50 miles (80 km) long without breaking. Gold is not just ductile; it is also malleable so that it can be pounded out into sheets. It reflects infrared radiation making it useful for coating spacecraft and the suits that astronauts wear. Because of its resistance to tarnish, people have used gold in jewelry, but its practical uses far outshine any aesthetic value. Since it doesn’t tarnish and is an excellent conductor of electricity, engineers use gold plating on critical electronic contacts.

Gold can be combined with other elements for a variety of uses. The value of gold includes the use in medicine. People have used gold in medicine throughout human history. Doctors today use injections of gold salts to reduce the swelling and pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Oncologists use gold to help shrink cancerous tumors.

One might ask, “Why is gold so rare?” Actually, it isn’t. Researchers at Arizona State University showed that the sewage produced each year in a city of a million people includes 2.6 million dollars worth of gold and silver and the oceans contain 20 million tons of gold. There are 244,000 tons of gold on our planet, but we have already extracted about 80% of the world’s supply. We are now finding massive amounts of gold in space objects. Scientists believe that a metallic asteroid named 16 Psyche has a core of almost solid gold, perhaps worth a few hundred quintillion dollars.

The value of gold is not its financial worth but its properties, giving it an incredible number of uses. Humans have treated gold as a symbol of beauty and value and often fought over it. But like everything God has created, gold is a blessing for which we should be thankful and not greedy.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Reader’s Digest, March 2021, pages 28-30.

Gifts of the Magi

Gifts of the Magi

There has been a great deal of confusion about the magi’s visit to the Christ child. Not only are there differences of opinion about who the magi were, but even their gifts have been misunderstood. Atheists have claimed that the whole story is nonsense because Mary and Joseph could make so much money from the gifts of the magi that Joseph wouldn’t have to work as a carpenter. We assume that whatever value the gifts had would have helped support the family during their sojourn in Egypt.

At the time of Christ, these gifts were quite expensive. Today on Amazon, you can buy frankincense resin for $16 a pound and myrrh resin from $16 to 36 a pound. On the other hand, the price of gold is approaching $2,000 an ounce. But the value of the gifts of the magi was not primarily financial.

Frankincense and myrrh are resins extracted from wounds in the bark of trees that grow in northeast Africa and southern Arabia. Frankincense was used to soothe the gums and to treat respiratory problems, skin infections, and bruises. Modern researchers have found that frankincense has antiseptic, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains flavonoids that cause the lungs’ bronchia to dilate, helping with breathing problems. But frankincense was, and still is, burned in the worship of deity. For that reason, it seems to be an appropriate gift for the Christ child.

People used myrrh as an anesthetic. Soldiers gave Jesus “wine mingled with myrrh” during His crucifixion to relieve His suffering. He rejected the offering. Modem research has shown that myrrh can lower cholesterol levels, and it has been used to treat heart disease. A side effect of myrrh is that it stimulates the thyroid resulting in accelerated metabolism. Myrrh was used to embalm royal mummies like King Tutankhamen. The Jews also used it for embalming bodies for burial. The gift of myrrh hints at the death of Christ.

Even gold was valued for medical uses and not just business transactions. Roman doctors prescribed gold dissolved in acid to cure appendicitis. Today the drug auranofin is a gold salt listed by the World Health Organization to treat rheumatoid arthritis. But gold was and is associated with kings and crowns. This gift from the magi indicates a kingly future for Jesus.

The point of all this is that the expensive gifts of the magi had symbolic meaning. They were foreshadowing the death of Jesus, but also his deity and kingship. We know very little about the magi except that they came to worship the Christ child. Their gifts honored the one who was God in the flesh and who would eventually die to redeem all who would accept Him as their King.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Heavy Element Mystery

Heavy Element Mystery - Gold

One of the most interesting questions about creation is how elements are produced. Simply saying that “God did it” is not the answer. The question we are asking is HOW God did it. A particular challenge to science has been the heavy element mystery.

We understand and can duplicate the production of light elements by the process of nuclear fusion. Hydrogen nuclei can be fused to produce helium, and we see this process as it takes place in the Sun. We can duplicate the process in the hydrogen bomb. As we study the stars, we see other elements produced in stellar processes. When supernova 1987A exploded, scientists saw neon being produced, which is far beyond anything we can do. In theory, the first 26 elements in the periodic chart could be produced by what we see happening in stars.

The heavy element mystery is how elements heavier than iron are produced. For example, how do you make gold? The old alchemists tried in vain to make it by reactions in the laboratory, but we have not seen it being produced even in supernovas. The number of protons present in gold is over three times the number of protons in iron. The amount of energy required to make an atom of gold by nuclear fusion is beyond our comprehension.

In 2017, scientists observed two neutron stars colliding and producing elements heavier than iron. But what would it take to produce uranium with 92 protons and a weight 238 times heavier than hydrogen? That remains a real heavy element mystery. We are not suggesting a “god of the gaps” explanation. In the distant future, science may find an answer, but what it testifies to is the incredible power we see in the cosmos and the design that allows us to have the gold, silver, platinum, and radioactive materials we use.

The heavy element mystery reminds us of how puny and small we are in the context of creation. We have an even better understanding of our insignificance than did the author of Psalms 8:3-4 who wrote, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars which you have ordained; what is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him.”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Click THIS LINK to read a Science News report on a current theory scientists have about the origin of gold.

Christmas Traditions vs. Bible Facts

Christmas Traditions vs. Bible Facts
It is interesting to see how many Christmas traditions are not found in the Bible. A classic example is the song “We Three Kings” which we often hear at Christmas time. Tradition even identifies those “kings” by name, appearance, and which gift each brought. They are:

Melchoir – old – white hair – bringing gold – a gift for a king.
Gaspar – young – beardless – bringing frankincense – a fragrant gum – smoke from burning is said to symbolize the prayers of God’s people ascending.
Balthazar – black – heavy beard – bringing myrrh – a fragrant resin from Arabia used in embalming (John 19:39, Psalms 45:8, Proverbs 7:17).

The Bible does not mention how many there were. It just says that they came from the east to Jerusalem. The word translated “wise men” in Matthew 2:1 is also used in Acts 8:9,11 and Acts 13:8 in reference to a sorcerer. The biblical reference to them being kings is Psalms 72:10 – a Psalm written for Solomon which mentions three kings from Tarshish, Sheba, and Seba. Matthew 2:11 tells us the three gifts.

Who saw the “star?” The shepherds of Luke 2:8-20 did not see the star, but were told about the birth of Christ by an angel. Herod didn’t see the star even though the birth was not far from Jerusalem. Since the wise men were not Jews and apparently were from a sorcerer type of background, they came from their homes to Jerusalem, not Bethlehem. When they learned the baby was to be born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:5-6), they were guided by the “star” to the place where Jesus was. Christmas traditions often place that in the manger. Matthew 2:11 says the young child and his mother were in a house. The fact that Herod killed all the baby boys in the area that were two years old or younger indicates that the wise men come at a later date to the house where Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were living.

So what was the “star.” It certainly was not a typical star. Normal stars don’t move and stand over a manger, and they would have been visible to Herod or anyone else in the region. Modern attempts to explain the star as a comet, a supernova, or an aurora simply don’t work. The conception of Christ was a miracle. You don’t explain it by parthenogenesis or any scientific method. You either accept it or reject it on faith. Similarly, the star the wise men saw was not a natural object, and they knew that. In the Old Testament, there was a pillar of fire that led Israel out Egypt and into the promised land. The ancient Jews called it the Shekinah glory (See Exodus 13:21, 24:17, 40:48 and Ezekiel 1:28, 10:18-19, and 11:23).

Christmas traditions aside, the wise men from the east would be part of the ancient oriental world, and they would have carried the message to the Gentiles in that area. The shepherds represent the Jewish community of the area where they shared the news. The story is amazing, beautiful and pregnant with meaning. It doesn’t need the embellishments of modern Christmas traditions.

If you are interested in learning more about Christmas traditions vs. Bible facts, we recommend a book called Star of Jacob by Wayne Leeper. You can borrow it from this ministry or purchase it at THIS LINK.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Why Gold Is So Precious

Why Gold Is So Precious
Have you ever wondered why gold is so precious? What is it about this metal that we can use it for so many things including the base of many national economic systems?

We think of gold as being rare, but it is quite abundant in the universe. Ten-billion tons of gold exist in Earth’s oceans. Scientists believe that near-Earth asteroid 433 Eros has more gold in it than has ever been mined on Earth. Gold is virtually indestructible. It is almost always recycled, and 85% of the gold ever found is still being used today.

The atomic structure of gold gives it an incredible range of applications. Because of its electron configuration, gold is not very active chemically. Gold is popular in jewelry not only because of its beauty but also because it is chemically inert and therefore does not tarnish. That same electron configuration makes it extremely malleable (able to be pounded into a sheet) and extremely ductile (able to be drawn out into a wire). A one-ounce piece of gold can be beaten into a sheet five-millionths of an inch thick or drawn out into a wire 50 miles long and 5 micrometers thick–one-tenth the diameter of a human hair. Gold wires are also very useful in electronics because gold is an excellent conductor of electricity. In computers and other electronics, gold plating of connectors gives low resistance electrical contacts that don’t corrode.

For 70 years the standard treatment for rheumatoid arthritis has been injections of a liquid suspension of gold salts which act as an anti-inflammatory, but scientists still don’t know why that works. A method of refining gold requires the use of highly poisonous cyanide. However, researchers have discovered microorganisms that eat trace amounts of gold and deposit them as larger nuggets. This can lead to gold processing that will be far less damaging to the environment than the old cyanide method.

As chemists look at the electron structure of gold, they see that it has been designed to do some amazing things. The design of the atom gives us some incredible materials that are of great value for many things. That is why gold is so precious. God has designed some amazing things for us, and gold is one that is high on the list.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018

A Glimpse of God’s Incredible Power

A Glimpse of God's Incredible Power
A very long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, two neutron stars circled each other. They got closer and closer, speeding up as they did so. They reached a speed of 100 orbits every second, and then they collided. The collision was so violent that a gravitational wave was sent out and a cloud of subatomic particles was released that produced large amounts of gold, platinum, and uranium. As that happened, a blast of high energy gamma rays was released. By this process, we received a glimpse of God’s incredible power as the energy reached Earth last August.

As astronomers were watching at 8:41 AM EDT on August 17, 2017, they observed the gravitational waves followed 1.7 seconds later by the gamma-ray burst. They gave the identification of SSS17a to the merger of the two neutron stars. Its location was in galaxy NGC 4993. Astronomers were amazed at the timing of the collision and the fact that they had their telescopes in the right place at the right time to observe and measure it. Astronomer Ryan Foley says, “We’ve been walking around for all of humanity being able to see the universe but not able to hear it. Now we get both. It’s even hard to predict where this field will go.”

The location of the collision was so far away that it happened some 130 million years ago and it took the energy that long to reach the Earth. Science is now beginning to understand God’s creation of gravity. Also, scientists are learning how heavy elements like gold and platinum were produced.

For Christians, all of this shows a glimpse of God’s incredible power. It almost seems as though God knew that it was time for us to comprehend His making of the special things in the cosmos. He sent a glimpse of the process in 2017, so we could see and wonder at all He has done. It gives a whole new understanding to: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Astronomy, January 2018, page 10.