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Sand and Stars

Beyond counting!

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To consider that God keeps his promises.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a small jar of coarse sand and a tray on which to spread the sand. If possible, have a magnifying glass available, too.

  • Have available the following images and the means to display them during the assembly:

    - stars in the night sky, available at:
    - a s
    andy beach, available at:

  • Optional: you may wish to play the song ‘Father Abraham had many sons’, in which case you will also need the means to do so. A version is available at: and is 2.53 minutes long.


  1. Ask the children if they have noticed that the days are getting shorter and that it is beginning to go dark earlier in the evenings.

    Ask if any of them have noticed the stars before they go to bed at night. Point out that in the summer, children don’t often see the stars because they are in bed before it gets dark. However, as autumn and winter approach, the children might start to see the stars in the sky.

  2. Ask the children how many stars they think there are altogether.

    Show the image of stars in the night sky.

    Ask for a volunteer to count the stars in the picture.

    Explain that there are millions of stars. Even with the most powerful of telescopes, we can’t see them all. We could never count them all!

  3. Show the image of a sandy beach.

    Ask the children if they have ever played on a beach and felt the sand between their toes.
    Ask the children for recent holiday experiences of beaches.

  4. Explain that you have a challenge for the children.

    Invite two volunteers to the front and explain that you want them to count the grains of sand in the jar. Point out that there is a tray and a magnifying glass to help them and they have until the end of the assembly.

  5. After the children have had a go and look puzzled, explain that it is impossible to count all of the sand in the jar in this way.

  6. Explain to the children that there is a man called Abraham who appears in several religious teaching books. Christians believe that God made a special promise to Abraham. Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were very old and didn’t have any children. Then, God spoke to them and made them a promise: he told them that they would have a son. This must have seemed impossible to Abraham, but then God made an even bigger promise. He said that Abraham’s descendants would be more numerous than all of the sand on the seashore and all of the stars in the sky!

  7. Imagine Abraham looking up into a cloudless night sky, unspoiled by street lights. How many stars did he think there might be? A hundred? A thousand, perhaps? Let’s help him count. Let’s start at 183.

    Encourage the children to carry on counting for a short time.

    Dont forget: in those days, there were no binoculars and no Hubble Space Telescope to see into the vast beyond.

  8. Imagine Abraham picking up a handful of sand. How many grains of sand do you think he reckoned there might be? A thousand? Ten thousand? Let’s help him count. Let’s start at 1,417.

    Encourage the children to carry on counting for a short time.

    Dont forget: there was also a huge expanse of desert all around him.

  9. Ask the children, ‘Do you think Abraham believed God’s promise?

    Explain that Abraham believed that God was so great that he could do anything.

    Abraham didn’t know how God would fulfil his promise, but he believed that he would keep it. Today, we can trace Abraham’s descendants back in history. There are now billions of them!

  10. Make the following points.
    - Abraham didn’t know that there was a big world outside his country.
    - Abraham didn’t know that there were deserts that took hours to cross.
    - Abraham didn’t know about the vastness of space.

    However, Abraham believed that God would keep his promise – and he did!

Time for reflection

There are many promises recorded in the Bible. Here are just a few of them.

- God made us special.
- God made us unique.
- God knows our thoughts, so he understands us.
God will never leave us.
God loves us very much.

Suggest that the children look up some other promises in the Bible. It could be a competition to see who can find the most.

Dear God,
Thank you that you kept your promise to Abraham.
Thank you that we can trust you to keep your promises to us.
Thank you that you know the number of grains of sand in the world and the number of stars in the sky, and that you even know me.
Please help us always to remember how huge your love is for us.


Optional: ‘Father Abraham had many sons’, available at

Publication date: October 2017   (Vol.19 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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