Psalm 19 tells us that the knowledge of God has been written for us in two volumes, general revelation - the Creation; and special revelation - the Bible. In the first part of this psalm the Psalmist, David, says that God reveals himself through his world, through nature.
Psalms 19:1-3 (GWT) The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky displays what his hands have made. 2 One day tells a story to the next. One night shares knowledge with the next 3 without talking, without words, without their voices being heard.
That is a declaration of the greatness of God as seen in the world of nature. No wonder these verses were referred to by the astronauts on their trip to the moon. Every night since time began the stars have come out and they spell out to man the message of the power and the wisdom of God. This is becoming especially vivid today. We are starting to read some of the fine print in this book of nature. We have now been able to step outside the envelope of atmosphere which surrounds the earth and to see the stars in new glory, to see still more of the orderliness of the universe, of the procession of the heavenly bodies, and of the marvelous mystery of gravitation which holds them in suspended balance - keeps the stars and planets in place with relationship to one another. All this is designed to speak of God and of his intelligence, wisdom, and power.
In the first verse, the clarity, the plainness of this revelation is underscored. It literally reads, "The heavens are 'narrating' the glory of God." They are telling forth a story which, when read, will reveal the glory of God. That is what they are for. And the firmament, i.e., the "stretched-out-ness" of space, the infinity of space, proclaims or "shouts about" his handiwork. In Verse 2, the abundance of this revelation is emphasized:
Psalms 19:2 (NKJV) Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.
The day pours out information about God, and the night spreads the knowledge of God before us. In other words, truth about God is pouring in to us from all dimensions if we only have our eyes open to see it. This psalm reminds us of the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush aflame with God;
But only those who see take off their shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
It takes a seeing eye to perceive what God has said in nature, but that which can be seen is pouring out upon us. We have all felt this. This is why a hush falls upon a group of people who step out under the stars in a night sky when the moon is riding high and the stars glow with glory. We feel the mystery of the infinite reaching, calling out to our spirits, and a silence descends upon us. This is why men fall silent before the ebb and flow of the sea as they sense the resistless, surging power of the sweeping tides. They understand something of the power of God in nature through that. This is why we feel a sense of loneliness and an intimation of infinity when we hear the wind howl, or we watch a storm rage, the thunder and lightning crashing around us. There is something of the voice of God which gets through to us on these occasions. This is the way it ought to be. God has designed that nature should teach man of His being, of His power and wisdom.
Verses 3-4 declare the universality of this revelation:
Psalms 19:3-4 (NKJV) There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. 4 Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,
Verse 4 shows us that natural revelation reaches every place on earth, therefore, it reaches every person. In other words, the voiceless knowledge poured forth by days and nights is available to everyone on the globe who is not physically blind. This is not a private or secret knowledge. The moon you see tonight is the same moon that shines down on Shanghai and Moscow and London. And not only that, it is the same moon that Shakespeare looked at when he wrote some of his sonnets. Nature is a trans-geographical and trans-temporal language. The result of this is that all men can be held accountable for acknowledging the truth of what nature communicates. What does nature communicate?
"The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament declares His handiwork." The voiceless, visual, universally available knowledge is that behind it all is a glorious God as maker of the world. The world is His handiwork, and He is glorious.
No men live anywhere who have not been exposed to this witness of God in nature. In the fourteenth chapter of Acts, there is the account of how the apostle Paul and his traveling companion, Barnabas, came into a pagan city and were received as gods because they performed a miracle.
The people thought they were Jupiter and Mercury and began to worship them. Paul and Barnabas stopped them and said:
Acts 14:15-17 (NKJV) and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, 16 "who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 "Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness."
They were referring to the witness of nature, to its remarkable testimony that behind the universe which we see is a Designer, a Planner, a great and wise Being of infinite power and might.
In the next two verses, the Psalmist uses the sun to give us a specific illustration of this testimony of nature:
Psalms 19:4b-6 (NKJV) ....In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, 5 Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race. 6 Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.
To the observer on earth, the sun appears to go across the sky. And as men see it, they are exposed to its testimony. I think the imagery in verse 5 is saying that natural revelation is dominating and powerful. It cannot be ignored. Nature should lead us to belief in God and His glory as creator and, therefore, every man who can perceive nature is accountable to honor God and thank Him. Romans 1:19-20 says:
Romans 1:19-20 (NKJV) because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
Psalm 19:6 shows us that nobody escapes the sun. Even if you are blind and cannot see it, you still feel the heat. Although it has no voice (vs 3), people still experience it. And you've got to ask the question, "How did it get there?" But we know that that testimony is clouded by man's sinfulness. Men do not see it clearly. Instead of seeing that the sun is the greatest symbol of God in nature, that just as the sun is needed to give light and strength to all living things on earth, so God is needed to give moral light and spiritual strength to men. Men have missed the message, and instead of worshiping the God who made the sun, they worship the sun.
The famous painting by the great cowboy artist, Charles M. Russell, shows the Sioux Indians facing the sun in the early morning and worshiping it. Why do men, especially children of nature like these Indians, worship the sun? Because the message which comes to us in nature is beclouded. Men do not understand it clearly. And, as a result, that which has been designed to teach the deity and the power of God is being missed, overlooked.
This is the great issue at stake in the controversy over creation and evolution. The theory of evolution is an attempt to come up with hypotheses as to the processes by which the universe was formed and life was developed. But what is so desperately wrong is that Darwinism, as it is largely taught in our schools and our popular communication's media today, is a means of removing God from his creation. It is a means of teaching that this whole process just happened, apart from any exercise of creative intelligence. Thus the testimony of nature is rendered silent, and the message which God has designed to speak to man is not heard, and man does not know that there is a God in the universe. That is why man thinks God is dead, if, indeed, he ever existed at all. Darwinism is one of the major reasons why that idea has seized upon the popular mind in our day.
Nature is designed to tell us not only how things happened, but who is behind them. It is perfectly proper for a scientist to investigate the realm of nature. Man has made some wonderful discoveries about how God put things together. They are fascinating, exciting, opening up whole new vistas of life, and properly so. What is wrong is the attempt to exclude God from that realm and not to allow nature to carry us on to that end for which it was designed - to bring us to an understanding that behind this universe, behind ourselves and the mystery of our own being, is the great intelligence and wisdom and power of a living God.
Notice how Psalm 19 says the heavens are telling his glory. This is present tense for us. Special revelation, Scripture, has ceased being written, but the natural revelation continues. We can receive natural revelation fresh, daily.
There are two ways we receive natural revelation.
One way we receive natural revelation is through studying what God has made. This is the human observation of natural events. Scientists do this. Psychologists do this. Average people do this.
In ancient times, men could understand about God's nature from what they observed in their world. God has always been clearly seen, even by early man. God is seen in; FLOWERS - in their marvelous arrangement of petals and beautiful fragrance; HYDROLOGICAL CYCLE - evaporation, cloud formation, distillation, and pool formation. Job talked about this: LIFE - the mystery of birth and growth; BIRDS - building their nests without ever taking a course on homebuilding; HEAVENLY BODIES - the beauty and fixed order of stars and the moon and the rising and setting of the sun.
Napoleon, on a warship in the Mediterranean on a star-lit night, passed a group of his officers who were mocking at the idea of a God. He stopped, and sweeping his hand toward the stars, said, "Gentlemen, you must get rid of those first!"
But in the day in which we live, with all our modern scientific discoveries, we can observe God in His creation even clearer than men of other centuries. Let's look at some of the Master Designer's creations that we have been able to understand even clearer in our day.
1. Migration - did you know that some birds navigate by the stars when they migrate? Even if these particular birds are raised inside a building where they have never seen the sky, they can still orient themselves toward home when shown an artificial sky representing a place their species has never been.
2. Protection - the bombardier beetle produces chemicals which mix perfectly, and at the right moment, explode in the face of his enemy.... but the explosion never occurs prematurely and never blows the beetle up.
Did you know that there are an average of 1,800 storms in operation at any one time and that the energy expended in these storms amounts to the almost inconceivable figure of 1,300,000,000 horsepower?
A large catapiller machine has 420 horsepower, requiring 100 gallons of fuel per day. How much fuel does God have to operate storms with 1,300,000,000 horsepower? Just one storm alone, depositing a rain of 4 inches over 10,000 square miles, would require the burning of 640,000,000 tons of coal to evaporate enough water for such a rain. To cool again the vapors thus produced and collect them in clouds, would take another 800,000,000 horsepower of refrigeration working day and night for 100 days.
The power of God used in supplying the earth with rain is admittedly only an infinitesimal fraction of what His creation power must be. No wonder the Psalmist said:
Psalms 29:1-4 (NKJV) Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones, Give unto the LORD glory and strength. 2 Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. 3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; The God of glory thunders; The LORD is over many waters. 4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; The voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
1. The Earth - Our planet is 25,000 miles in circumference and, weighing 6 septillion, 588 sextillion tons, hangs in empty space. Spinning at 1,000 m.p.h. with perfect precision so that time is kept to the split second, the earth careens through space around the sun in an orbit of 580 million miles at over 1,000 miles per minute.
2. The Sun - If you could convert the energy the sun gives off into horsepower, you would wind up with 500 million, million, billion horsepower, as each second it burns up 4 million tons of matter.
3. The Milky Way - If you were to travel across the galaxy in which our solar system is located, at the speed of 186,000 miles per second, it would take you 125,000 years to cross the Milky Way. Yet, it's amazing to think that our galaxy is only one of millions.
Moving from the infinite down to the infinitesimal, there are similar universes of smallness making up all matter. Scientists today are in general agreement that not only have they never seen an atom, let alone an electron, or a neutron, but that they never will be able to see these particles because of their very nature. Yet, they believe they exist and work on that assumption.
Let me explain what is known as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. We are able to see objects because light, from the sources of light, is hitting everything and bouncing back into our eyes from all of the objects we see. Light is composed of particles which are called photons. If, instead of light, a house was struck by thousands of baseballs, coming from the sources of light and bouncing off in accordance with the laws of the surfaces, we would be able to discern the general shape of the house by the bouncing baseballs. But if the baseballs hit a lamp, for example, we would not be able to tell the shape, for the lamp would be knocked over by the balls and would no longer be there when the balls got back to us.
If man tried to see an electron, he would have to illuminate it with some light that could bounce from it back to his eye. But the light that strikes the electron he wants to see knocks the electron from its path and itself is turned aside by the force of the impact. It is for this reason that scientists believe that they will never be able to see an atom, let alone its component parts. The smallest thing that man has ever been able to see is a benzene molecule in an electron microscope. But scientists have been able to observe and photograph the track of atomic particles in cloud chambers, and therefore know they exist. They are able to observe the effects of their movements and to formulate the laws that govern these movements. That there is more than theory in all this is clearly demonstrated by the ruins of Hiroshima.
Atoms are so small it takes three of them to make up one water molecule. And if you were to take every water molecule in one drop of water and blow them up so each water molecule was the size of a grain of sand you'd have enough sand to make a road one foot thick, ½ a mile wide that would go from Los Angels to New York City.
Do you know that the atom is mostly empty space? The actual material in an atom takes up one trillionth of the atom's volume, what you really have is a lot of little orbits. Everything is mostly empty space. For example, if the average person had all the space squeezed out of them, how much volume do you think he'd occupy? He would fit on the head of a pin. He would occupy 1 1/100 millionth of a cubic inch. So, the next time someone tells you, "You're nothing," don't argue with them, they're right!
If God says that He is visible in creation, then He's visible in creation. There has to be a cause for all this effect and there has to be a designer for all this design.
Tertullian, the great early church father, said, "It was not the pen of Moses that initiated the knowledge of the Creator. The vast majority of mankind, though they have never heard the name of Moses - to say nothing of his book - know the God of Moses none the less. Nature is the teacher; the soul is the pupil."
In modern times, many scientists have tried to attribute the creation of the universe to the theoretical process of evolution. They led most people to believe that chance was the cause of the beginning of the universe, rather than a personal and powerful God.
Julian Huxley said, "It is all accident, all a matter of chance. No reason, no end, no purpose at all."
Psalms 14:1 (NKJV) The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good.
The word translated "fool" is the Hebrew word nabal. It means: "stupid, wicked or vile person." It is the morally perverse person who says, "There is no God."
Huxley also said, "The reason we leapt at the origin of the species was that the idea of God interfered with our sexual morays."
Science is unable to explain how the initial matter and energy came to exist. Robert Jastrow, an astrophysicist and former director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said:
Now we see how the astronomical evidence supports the biblical view of the origin of the world....the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same. Consider the enormousness of the problem : Science has proved that the universe exploded into being at a certain moment. It asks: 'What cause produced this effect? Who or what put the matter or energy into the universe?' And science cannot answer these questions.
For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream: He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been there for centuries.
So, we receive natural revelation by observation, but we also receive it by:
We receive natural revelation by appreciation for what God has made.
Psalms 19:1 (NKJV) The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
This verse teaches us that even after we believe in God, it is nature that enables us to really know some of His attributes. C.S. Lewis put it like this: "Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and of infinite majesty. I had to learn that in other ways. But nature gave the word glory a meaning for me. I still do not know where else I could have found one. I do not see (either) how the 'fear' of God could have ever meant to me anything but the lowest, prudential efforts to be safe, if I had never seen certain ominous ravines and unapproachable crags." (The Four Loves, chapter 2)
GLORY - The basic meaning of the Hebrew word "glory" kabod is: "heavy in weight." The verb often comes to mean: "give weight to, honor" In Psalm 19:1, we are told that God's creation displays His glory, that is, it puts on display the essential nature of His Deity and that gives Him importance and weight to those who observe it.
So, God's glory is simply the manifestation of Himself, and He does this by declaring His attributes. When we see God's attributes, we worship or glorify Him.
God's glory causes worship. That is exactly what the glory of God should cause us to do -- worship, which is to give to God His worth. Moses wanted to see God's glory, and he showed him His goodness, mercy, and grace because that's His glory. Seeing His attributes causes us to glorify Him.
The Westminister Shorter Catechism says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
I believe nature is the prep-school of our affections, readying them to delight in God. For example, there is something about standing at the top of a mountain in the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall, and experiencing the breathtaking view from what seems to be the top of the world, each time I do this, it causes me to worship the Creator God.
The Wednesday before last Cathy and I flew to Florida to perform a wedding. As we flew to Florida at 33,000 feet, the clouds were absolutely beautiful. It caused me to worship, to give honor and worth to the God of creation. When we landed in Fort Lauderdale, we were met by the folks from BBC south and we drove to Key Largo. When we arrived at Key Largo, we took our suitcases to our room, changed our clothes and got on a boat and headed to the reef, Grecian rocks, about three miles off shore. We anchored the boat, and I put on my mask and fins and jumped in. As soon as I got beneath the surface, I began to worship. I was in awe as I looked around at hundreds of multi-colored fish swimming all around me. God's glory is on display beneath the ocean. Within a few hours time, I went from above the clouds to beneath the sea, and in both places God was clearly on display. When we notice things like that, and pause to think about them, we are experiencing natural revelation.
The question we need to ask ourselves is this: "Have I received any revelation today?" You can receive and experience natural revelation first hand. Notice, it said, "there is no speech nor are there words." It is all non-verbal communication. It is visual. What we need to do is to stop and smell the roses. We need to pause and take in the natural revelation that is all around us. As we see God's glory displayed, we need to stop and worship Him.
Our word "worth" is somewhat equal to the word "glory." Worth refers to intrinsic character. The worth of God is God's glory. When we praise God, we are acknowledging His worth-ship. We shorten that word and we get worship. That is what worship is, folks, it's acknowledging God's worth.
Cicero, who wrote 45 years before Christ, said, "What can be so plain and manifest, when we look at heaven, and contemplate heavenly things, as that there is some divinity of most excellent mind, by which these things are governed? Nature herself has imprinted on the minds of all the idea of a God."
Creation is shouting, telling us of God's glory. Are you listening? As God's children, we are called to worship God, to give Him glory. And natural revelation, when observed and appreciated, will cause us to worship.
Psalms 95:6 (NKJV) Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.