Knowing God through His Creation
INTRODUCTION: Today is the third message in our series called, “God’s Good Creation.” The first week we looked at Genesis 1 and saw that God created all things good. Last week we looked at Psalm 8 and saw that God placed us in charge of his creation. Today we will look at knowing God through his creation from Psalm 19.
Psalm 19:1-6: 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 display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat. (NIV)
Have you ever felt close to God through nature? Most of us have experienced this sense of God’s presence through nature at one time or another, perhaps while viewing the mountains or walking through the woods or breathing in the salt spray of the ocean. There is a revelation of God in creation, and that is what we want to talk about this morning.
David wrote about this revelation of God in Psalm 19. C. S. Lewis called Psalm 19 “the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.” Psalm 19 has three major sections. The first section is verses 1-6, which focuses on God’s creation. The theme of verses 1-6 is that God’s creation shows his glory. The second section is verses 7-11, which focuses on God’s word. The theme of this section is that God’s word reveals his grace. The last section is verses 12-14, which focuses on our response. The theme of this section is that God requires a humble and repentant response from those who receive his revelation.
1) God’s creation shows his glory (1-6)
2) God’s word reveals his grace (7-11)
3) God’s revelation requires a humble and repentant response (12-14)
We will just be looking at verses 1-6 this morning, which focus on God’s creation and how God’s creation shows his glory. My hope is that through the study of these verses, you will be encouraged to look for God in his creation in new ways and seek to know more of him through his works.
So, how is it that we can know God through his creation?
I. God’s creation declares his glory. (1-2)
Well first of all, God’s creation declares his glory. God has always been glorious. As we saw in the first message of this series, God is the eternal one. God has always been and always will be. God existed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit prior to creation in all of his majesty. He is and always has been perfect in love, perfect in power, perfect in wisdom, perfect in holiness. God has always been glorious. But when God created the heavens and the earth, there was suddenly a new vehicle declaring the eternal glory of God. So how does the creation declare God’s glory?
A. The heavens speak forth the praises of God.
First of all, Psalm 19 says that the heavens speak forth the praises of God. Look at verse one of Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1) Although all of creation declares God’s glory, David focuses on the heavens here, because the heavens are the most universally seen of all God’s works. You can also see God’s glory reflected in the mountains and the oceans and the forests and in flowers and wildlife, but not everyone who lives on earth will ever see the ocean or a mountain or certain types of animals. But everyone can see the sky. And so the heavens speak forth the praises of God to everyone on earth.
David describes the skies as “the work of God’s hands.” When we speak about creation, it is not just anyone’s creation. It is God’s creation. It is the work of his hands. Just as you can always see something of the artist in his or her creative works, so you can see something of God in his creative works. The heavens speak forth the praises of God through their beauty, through their complexity, through their incredible balance and order, even through their sheer size as we saw last week. All of these things speak forth the praises of the God who created them.
B. The heavens reveal knowledge of God to man.
The heavens not only speak forth God’s praises. They also reveal knowledge of God to man. Look at verse two of Psalm 19: “Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”
The creation does not tell you everything you can know about God, but it does tell you some key things. Paul says in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” God may be a spirit, he may be invisible to our eyes, but the creation reveals some of God’s invisible qualities to us. The size and complexity of creation, especially as seen in the heavens containing the sun, the moon and the stars, show us God’s eternal power. The beauty and order and design of creation show us God’s divine nature.
Albert Einstein was not a Christian believer, and yet as he looked at the wonders of the universe, he knew that there must be a God. When asked by an interviewer if he was an atheist, he replied, no, and explained his answer in this way.
“I’m not an atheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.” (First published as “What Life Means to Einstein,” Saturday Evening Post, October 26, 1929. Quoted in Walter Isaacson, Einstein: His Life and Universe; New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007, p. 386.)
Albert Einstein understood the eternal power and divine nature of God from what had been made. Why? Because the creation, and especially the heavens, reveal knowledge of God to man.
C. God’s testimony to himself in creation is unmistakable.
But in these verses David says even more. Not only is there a revelation of God in creation, but God’s testimony to himself in creation is unmistakable. First of all, it is a continuous testimony. We see this in the tenses of the verbs David uses in verse one. We miss it in our English translations, but in the original Hebrew they are all participles, expressing continuous action: “The heavens are declaring the glory of God; the skies are proclaiming the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1) In other words, this is something they are always doing at all times.
Look also at David describes this testimony in verse two. He says this testimony takes place “day after day, night after night.” Whether the sun is shining by day or the moon and the stars by night, whether you are enjoying a beautiful, calm, peaceful day or you are in the midst of heart-pounding thunderstorm, there is never any time of day or night when God’s creation is not declaring his glory. It is a continuous testimony.
Not only that, it is an abundant testimony. It would be one thing if this revelation of God was happening all the time, but it was just a small trickle of testimony to God’s glory. But look at the lavish words David uses to describe this testimony. He says, “The skies pour forth speech.” This word translated “pour forth” is a word that means “to bubble up and overflow,” literally “to gush forth” in an uncontrolled and uncontrollable manner. God was not stingy in creation. God has created colors and sounds and variety and wonders in creation everywhere you look. Whether you look deep into the heavens with a high power telescope or deep into the inner workings of a cell with a high power microscope, whether you look up, down or all around, God’s fingerprints are all over creation. God has provided an abundant testimony to himself in creation.
Not only is it a continuous testimony and an abundant testimony, it is also a universal testimony. It is a testimony that is available to everyone who has ever lived in any place at any time. We will talk more about that when we get to verses 3-4 in just a minute. But for right now, let’s just recap what we have learned. God’s creation declares his glory. How? The heavens speak forth the praises of God. The heavens reveal knowledge of God to man. And God’s testimony to himself in creation is unmistakable. God’s creation declares his glory.
II. God’s creation speaks to all people everywhere. (3-4)
Our next point is that God’s creation speaks to all people everywhere. Look at verses 3-4: “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:3-4) This is the universal aspect of God’s testimony that we were just talking about. God’s creation speaks to all people everywhere.
A. There is no language barrier – it is understood by all.
Just think about it. First of all, there is no language barrier. This revelation of God is understood by all. One of the biggest barriers missionaries face in bringing the gospel to other peoples is the language barrier. For many missionaries, one of their first stops before actually going to the mission field is language school in order to learn the language of the people to whom they will minister. Some missionaries go to tribes where no one knows the language and spend their first couple years just living with the people and learning how to speak their language. New Tribes Missions and Wycliffe Bible Translators are two missions especially dedicated to learning these new languages and translating the Scriptures for these people into their own languages.
But the knowledge of God that comes from creation transcends individual languages. It is like a giant universal translator from Star Trek It can be understood by all who partake in creation. There is no speech or language where the voice of the heavens cannot break through. There is no language barrier – this testimony is understood by all.
B. There is no volume barrier – it is heard by all.
Secondly, there is no volume barrier – it is heard by all. Imagine if you were broadcasting the gospel into a country in the people’s own language, but none of them had their radios turned on, or the signal was so faint they couldn’t pick it up. You would have broken the language barrier, but you would still have a volume barrier. It doesn’t do any good to speak the language if the people can’t hear you.
David says, “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:3) The knowledge of God in creation comes through loud and clear to everyone. You can choose to ignore it, but you cannot escape it. Going back to Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Notice that this testimony to God is clearly seen so that men are without excuse. No one will ever be able to stand before God and say that they did not receive the revelation of God that comes through creation. The voice of creation speaks of God’s glory loud and clear, and no one can miss hearing it. They can only refuse to believe what they hear. There is no volume barrier with this revelation – it is heard by all.
C. There is no distance barrier – it is given to all.
Finally, there is no distance barrier – it is given to all. Psalm 19:4: “Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Going back to the radio analogy, imagine you are broadcasting the gospel using special universal translator technology. Everyone who hears your transmission can understand it. Not only that, everywhere you broadcast, people have their radios on and turned up. They can hear what you are saying. That would be awesome. But how far does your transmission go? What if your transmitter only broadcast to a fifty-mile range, or a hundred-mile range? There would still be a lot of people missing out.
The testimony of creation has no distance barrier. It is given to all. The voice of creation goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. There is not a place you can go in all the earth where you are not confronted with God’s testimony of himself in creation. There is no distance barrier. This testimony is given to all.
David will use the example of the sun to emphasize this point in the next section, but for right now I want to focus on a different question. You might wonder, “If God’s creation speaks to all people everywhere, then why do we need missionaries? If there are no language, volume or distance barriers with creation, then isn’t that a superior way to tell people about God than sending missionaries? If God’s creation speaks to all people everywhere, isn’t that enough?” And the answer is, no, it is not enough, because although creation provides us with some knowledge of God, it does not provide us with saving knowledge of God.
For example, a person can look at creation and understand that God exists, but knowing that God exists does not save a person. A person can understand from creation that God is all-powerful, holy and wise, but knowing God’s attributes does not save either. A person may even understand through his own conscience that he is a sinner and under God’s judgment, but even knowing that you are a sinner is not enough to save. For that you need Christ.
Let me share three C’s with you:
- God gave us the testimony of creation to show that he exists and what he is like.
- He gave us the testimony of conscience to show that we are sinners and in need of a savior.
- But we need the testimony of Christ in order to believe in God’s Son and be saved.
I like the way the Westminster Confession of Faith puts this:
“Our natural understanding and the works of creation and providence so clearly show God’s goodness, wisdom, and power that human beings have no excuse for not believing in Him. However, these means alone cannot provide that knowledge of God and of His will which is necessary for salvation.” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.1)
And so the testimony of creation is not enough by itself. We need to send missionaries with the gospel to share about Christ so that people can come to this great and wonderful God who has revealed himself so clearly in creation.
III. The sun is an example of God’s revelation in creation. (5-6)
Finally, in verses 5-6, David uses the sun in the sky as an example of God’s revelation in creation. “In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.” (Psalm 19:5-6)
A. The sun is seen by all on earth.
The sun is a great example first of all because it is seen by all who live on the earth. David uses two different similes here to describe the sun. First he compares it to a groom coming out of his chamber. He imagines God pitching a tent in the heavens for the sun as the sun goes down for the night. Then as morning comes, the sun bursts forth like a bridegroom emerging from his wedding chamber, shining with joy and with love for his new bride.
Then David switches the image to that of a champion running a race. The champion rejoices in his power and strength as he runs his course. In the same way the sun rises each day and makes its way across the heavens. Never faltering, never tiring, it rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other. It is seen by all who live on earth, every morning, every day, without fail.
B. The sun serves all who live on earth.
The sun also serves all who live on the earth. “Nothing is hidden from its heat.” Even on the cloudiest, darkest day, the light of the sun illumines and warms the surface of the earth. God gave the sun to provide light and heat for everyone. It is part of his common grace to all mankind. You can hate God, you can rebel against God, you can curse God to his face; but he still “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) No matter where you live, you cannot escape the testimony of the sun, which testifies every day to a good and powerful and gracious God.
CONCLUSION: So, what should our response to all this be? Let me leave you with two warnings, one reminder and then one main action point.
1. First of all, do not mistake nature for God. Some people feel that sense of God’s presence in nature and mistake it for God himself. But God is not his creation. The creation should cause you to worship God the creator, not his creation.
2. Secondly, do not mistake nature for Christ. Some people feel that nature brings them closer to God. They speak of communing with God through nature. But only Christ can bring you closer to God. There is only one mediator between God and man, and that is not nature, but Jesus Christ.
3. Thirdly, remember that the present creation is distorted by sin. God created all things good, but man’s sin has affected God’s good creation. So not everything you see in creation will be a true reflection of God. For example, disease is a part of creation that afflicts man because of sin. If you did not know that, you might look at certain viruses or diseases and conclude that God was evil or cruel. We need to remember that the present creation is distorted by sin.
4. And then finally, the main action point, learn to know and enjoy God through his creation. As we said before, David especially focused on the heavens in these verses, because the heavens are the most universally seen of all God’s works. But you can see God in all that he has created. John Calvin wrote about these verses:
When a man, from beholding and contemplating the heavens, has been brought to acknowledge God, he will learn also to reflect upon and to admire his wisdom and power as displayed on the face of the earth, not only in general, but even in the minutest of plants.” (Institutes I:308-309)
There is so much we can learn about God from the book of creation. And so it is important that we spend time with God in his creation: watching the sun rise or set and the seasons turn, staring up in awe at the stars in the heavens, walking in nature away from the hustle and bustle of human activity, resting in the fields and the streams, delighting in God’s animals and creatures. All of these things teach us more about God and draw us to praise and to worship him in deeper and better ways.
Yes, we need to read this book (the Bible) in order to know God’s dealings with man, his will for us, his provision for our salvation, his revelation in Christ. In fact, it is only as we learn of God from this book (the Bible), that we can truly begin to read the book of creation as God intended. So let’s make sure we spend sufficient time in this book (the Bible). But we must also take time to read and enjoy the book of creation. For we can also know and love and worship our great God through his amazing and beautiful creation that speaks forth his praises to everyone, everywhere, every day.
© Ray Fowler
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