What do you observe when you see a grove of maple trees decked out in their most glorious fiery orange-red finery? Or when you feel the autumn afternoon sun on your face as it warms and blinds you? Or as you trace the flight pattern of a hummingbird dipping its beak into a flower to retrieve nectar, its wings clipping along at a lightning-fast 50 beats a second? If you are like me, it is all too seldom that you see in these (or myriad other) scenes of nature the brilliance and power of the living God, or the depths of our sin, or the saving grace of the cross of Christ.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In Psalm 19, the author describes what he calls “speech” that pours forth from creation. The world around us is saying something. The voice of creation goes out. Are we too dull to hear it?
Jonathan Edwards was an American pastor and theologian of the 1700s who often took long walks through the woods to commune with God and meditate on his creation. He saw valuable, eternally significant lessons being taught in the created world all around him, lessons that were there for the learning if we pay attention. Manifold analogies and metaphors of God are all around us, revealing His beauty, His wrath against sin, His mercy, His wisdom.
Here are just two examples of Edwards gazing on the created world and seeing truths communicated about the ineffable Triune God and His Gospel.
On rose bushes and the Christian life:
Roses grow upon briers, which is to signify that all temporal sweets are mixed with bitter. But what seems more especially to be meant by it, is that true happiness, the crown of glory, is to be come at in no other way than by bearing Christ’s cross by a life of mortification, self-denial and labor, and bearing all things for Christ. The rose, the chief of all flowers, is the last thing that comes out. The briery prickly bush grows before, but the end and crown of all is the beautiful and fragrant rose.
On the way that Satan lures sinners into destruction like a serpent with its prey:
In the manner in which birds and squirrels that are charmed by serpents go into their mouths and are destroyed by them, is a lively representation of the manner in which sinners . . . are very often charmed and destroyed by the devil. The animal that is charmed by the serpent seems to be in great exercise and fear, screams and makes ado, but yet don’t flee away. It comes nearer to the serpent, and then seems to have its distress increased and goes a little back again, but then comes still nearer than ever, and then appears as if greatly affrighted, but yet don’t flee quite away, and soon comes a little nearer and a little nearer, until at length they come so [near] that the serpent can lay hold of them: and so they become their prey.
Edwards saw with Biblical eyes the creation around him, and it gave him rich resources for understanding, but especially for rejoicing in, the God of the universe. And this is precisely what the Bible leads us to “hear” when we look at creation! To hear the Word of God through the creation, which came into existence by the Word of God is a wonderful way to deepen our love for God.
In his book The Things of Earth, Joe Rigney writes that both creation and the Bible speak everywhere of metaphors which communicate the realities of God, realities that aren’t ascertained merely by our rational faculties but through observation and experience, realities that should lead us to worship. God is a loving Father, and He gives us earthly fathers to demonstrate His gracious care for us (I am looking now at a picture hanging in my office of my dad sitting down many year ago, sideburns fully extended, with me in his lap. I know what it means to have a loving father). Jesus is a lion who will conquer his enemies, and I have seen lions in Uganda laying on the ground with no intentions of hunting, yet hundreds of gazelle were grazing from afar nervously, their eyes on the king of the jungle. Jesus is also a lamb who gave himself up for us, and I have seen lambs, meek and gentle and non-threatening as anything alive, willing to go wherever they are led.
While the weather holds, take a walk outside and observe all of the ways God communicates. See the metaphors all around which speak of the beauty and glory of God. They are there for us to learn if we pay attention with a bent towards worship.