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Reading Creation

By Gerry Straker, 21 Apr 2020

Reading Creation

It has been a gorgeous few weeks weather wise, don’t you think? We want to thank God for the sunshine. But the sunshine is not only an opportunity to thank God, the sunshine teaches us. We’ve been thinking recently about reading books, and there’s more to come on that score. But I also want to share how you can read God’s creation. So, before we think about what the sun (and other created things) teach us, we need to think about how we can read creation, and how the sun can teach us.

Paul in Romans 1 tells us that God’s creation displays God’s invisible qualities – God's eternal power and his divine nature; the world around us plainly points to our Creator. But, in our rebellion, humanity has suppressed the truth by our wickedness. We supressed the truth because we did not glorify God and did not thank him as we ought to have done, and as we were created to do. This has meant that in our nature, our thinking has become futile and our foolish hearts are darkened. (Romans 1:18-22). This is why the world denies that the Creation speaks of a Creator, and indeed denies it is a creation at all. The world does not experience an intellectual problem with our Creator God, but a spiritual one: the world rejects God. As Doug Wilson has said there are two fundamental tenets of atheism: one, 'there is no god'; two. 'I hate him'.

But, now, because of the work of the Holy Spirit - because ‘God who said “let light shine out of darkness” made his light to shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6 NIV 1984) – our blind eyes have been opened and we see the glory of God in Christ Jesus. And this means - because we believers can see the glory of God in Christ - we can now see the glory of God shining in his creation. Yes, creation is cursed (Genesis 3:7-19) and will be redeemed (Romans 8:20-21) when Christ returns, but it still is right now the handiwork of the Master craftsman and proclaims his glory, for those with eyes to see. As Psalm 19 puts it:

‘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.’ (Psalm 19:1-3 NIV 1984)

And so, as believers with new eyes, we can see and enjoy what theologians call ‘natural revelation.’ We can begin to see in creation the glory of God. ‘For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.’ (Psalm 36:9 NIV 1984). As Christians looking at God's light, through his Word, we then, with new eyes opened, begin to see the light in his creation that reflects his glory. We can see the fingerprints of the Artist everywhere.

What are those fingerprints? John Frame explains, ‘Everything in creation bears some analogy to God. All the world has been made with God's stamp on it, revealing Him. Creation is His temple, heaven His throne, earth His footstool. Thus Scripture finds analogies to God in every area of creation: inanimate objects (God the "rock of Israel," Christ the "door of the sheep," the Spirit as "wind," "breath," "fire"), plant life (God's strength like the "cedars of Lebanon," Christ the "bread of life"), [and] animals (Christ the "Lion of Judah," the "lamb of God").’[1]

We see the fingerprints of the Great Artist in his Creation, as we read and meditate on the Word of God and it points us back to the world around us for its pictures. It is the Word that teaches us to read the world aright. More than that, we can say that the Word takes us to the world, and then the world takes us back to the Word. What do I mean by that? Let me take an example (with thanks to James Jordan)...

We see a lamb in a field – or, in recent days, on the television or internet. We have read about Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). We know that God planned to send Jesus before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20) and so, we can draw the conclusion that God designed the lamb, and made the lamb on Day 6 of Creation, in order to be a symbol for his coming Son, the Lord Jesus!

This means, with our new eyes, as we look at the lamb in the field (on a screen) and we realise that God created this lamb for a number of reasons for sure, but including, as a pointer to the Lord Jesus. God built symbols into His creation for him to use when the time came in his Word, and now with our eyes opened, we can read the shining glorious symbols, and give God glory. So it is more than Scripture finding analogies; it is that God created those very symbols for him to use later as pictures for his words.

And so, the Word takes us to the world, to see it rightly, and then the world takes us back to the Word as we ponder the artwork of God in the symbol before us. (By the way, there are several pictures that we can see in the created lamb in front of our eyes, our new eyes, not least our own sheepiness and need of a Shepherd, e.g. Matthew 9:36).

God created creation to show his glory, to teach us, so we might give him glory. I love this from F B Meyer: “[When Jesus told a parable] He simply read out the meaning which he had hidden in vines, and seeds and natural processes; for all things around us are made after the pattern and type of spiritual realities."[2] It’s not that Jesus is teaching the crowd, and looks around trying to find something to make his point, and then his eyes alight on a vine - yes that will do nicely! No, Jesus reads out the hidden meaning built into creation to serve his teaching. Isn’t that wonderful? Creation, read with new eyes, teaches us about our Creator, as we start seeing the symbols in the light of the Word. Take the example of Spring - as ‘dead’ things burst into life again, we have a little picture of resurrection life!

And so I think we can say: the Bible is the words, and creation is the pictures in God’s great story.

Are you ready to start reading?

[1] John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1987), 230.
[2] F B Meyer, The Gospel of John, (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1950), 20.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.