“The heavens declare the glory of God” Ps 19:1
The days we live in are getting increasingly turbulent and threatening. Political turmoil faces us at home, and strong arm rulers are increasing across the world. The problems facing us are almost entirely problems of man’s own creating. Human beings have always been their own worst enemy; they are (despite their extraordinary creativity) destructive and even self-destructive creatures. The root problem is that unfortunately they reject their Creator for their own wisdom and rationality, and worship instead a multitude of idols of their own creation, including the idol of their own humanity. People have lost touch with the only Source that can bring stability. In the midst of the growing threats most of us tend to gulp up as much pleasure and self-indulgence as possible. How do we face all this? We need to go back to Source, back to the Creator, and drink deep, especially if you are fearful, or thoroughly weary. The need is to get back to God.
There is one simple and wonderful way in which we are encouraged to do that: Go back, take a long reflective look at the creation and see what it tells you about the Creator. Let your holiday, for example, be rather more fulfilling than just a pleasure cruise (literal or metaphorical)!! If you are literally on a cruise, look at the stars, the sunset, the sunrise, the sun, the mighty ocean. And then reflect on these words of David, the psalmist:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Psalm 19:1-4
These are much more than a poetic reflection by a gifted Shepherd Boy/King; they were inspired by the Spirit of God resting on David and were a direct reminder from God Himself to his human creation as to how his true nature could be perceived in his creation. The Creation speaks; it speaks every day; it speaks every night; it speaks to people wherever they are in his world; it is not verbal but it is in a “language” which all can understand. And it speaks of the presence, existence and glory of God. What does it say?
The first thing it speaks of is beauty. The recognition, realisation and appreciation of the beautiful is one of the great gifts that God has endowed us with. God is “beautiful” in all his ways. We are made in his image, and we can relate to his beauty. The sunset, the sunrise will draw many watchers who are simply entranced by the depth and purity of the extraordinary range of ever-changing colours that the scene presents to them. It is not even a “still” picture; one scene gives way to another and none are inferior. When the sun has “gone” the moon continues to reflect its brilliance and illuminate the sky. It hangs effortless in space and glides gently and imperceptibly across its dark background. On a clear night (and in a spot where earthly light pollution is not to be found) it will have a great consort of stars of gleaming brilliance. The modern understanding of these heavenly bodies has in no way diminished their beauty, though an over-concern for scientific analysis might momentarily blind us to that beauty. Even the mathematics of the heavenly bodies has its own beauty (so I understand) even if doubtless at times presents massive challenges. As with the heavenly bodies, so with one of them in particular, the earth on which we live, we are surrounded by extraordinary natural beauty. So the sea is something of continual beauty, though frightening when it rages! The landscape, the trees, vegetation, and the flowers in particular all speak of great beauty. The failure of humanity is to concentrate on the beauty, however, rather than its source. It is not so much the creation that is beautiful as the God who has inspired and made it. Rather than satisfy, beauty on its own sets up a deep longing which is not necessarily satisfied. Only the recognition and acknowledgement of God, the source of beauty, brings ultimate satisfaction.
The second thing creation speaks of is power. The sea is the nearest thing to perpetual motion, unless it is the heavenly bodies themselves bursting with energy. There is enormous power in the universe(s)! God is powerful beyond imagination. His knowledge is equally beyond comprehension.
The third thing it speaks of is stability. Yes, I am aware of the thunderous changes in the universe, of dying and exploding stars, of meteorites and indeed our planetary earthquakes, but the mountains give a very different perspective, as do the trees; they give tranquillity and a sense of permanence.
Finally the creation speaks of peace and joy. Far away from the madding crowd of the noisy, raucous and bustling city we can find green fields, avenues of trees, gardens of flowers where a peace can flow into us. By the sea we can see a seagull riding the strong sea winds with great beauty and huge enjoyment, a dog chasing around a beach with an equal enjoyment, not to mention the great delight of children (and adults) on the sand or among rock pools.
All these things, beauty, power, peace, joy, stability point us to the Creator God. He is the source of each one of them. When humanity turns its back on that Creator God, it experiences less and less of those characteristics in its daily living. When humanity acknowledges God and worships this Creator it opens itself to its Creator it experiences his power, his joy, his peace and his beauty, especially his beauty of holiness.
P.S. I can already hear people whispering what about “nature red in tooth and claw“, and I’ll return to that next week!