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 people are without excuse.—Romans 1:20
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.—Psalm 19:1
He spreads out the northern skies over empty space;
he suspends the earth over nothing.
He wraps up the waters in his clouds,
yet the clouds do not burst under their weight…
…And these are but the outer fringe of his works;
how faint the whisper we hear of him!
Who then can understand the thunder of his power?—Job 26:7-14
Like a lot of people, I have a job that keeps me indoors most of the day. In many ways, this is a great blessing, because I can do my work no matter what the weather is doing. I’m never too cold or too hot. I’m warm and dry and comfortable, and, you might say, a little spoiled.
The downside to all this comfort is that I’m pretty disconnected from the natural world. I sit in my office with no windows and type onto a computer screen. I have meetings and conversations with people, I plan lessons and organize ministries. Now, in my case, I’m privileged to be in a position where all of these things have a spiritual aspect to them. The meetings and lessons and ministries are all about helping people know God better through His Son Jesus Christ. There’s a lot of prayer involved, and a lot of Bible, which are some of the main ways we connect with God. But there’s very little fresh air and sunshine.
Theologians talk about two different ways that God reveals Himself to us: General Revelation and Special Revelation. Special revelation is when God goes out of His way to show Himself to us in supernatural ways. When God spoke through the Prophets in the Old Testament, when He gave us the Bible, and most of all when He sent His Son, He was revealing Himself to us in a special way. He spoke in words we could understand so we could know things about Him we couldn’t know any other way. Without the special revelation of God, we would be lost, because we would not have the Good News about Jesus. If we were rating them, we would have to say that of the two, special revelation is far more important than general revelation.
But general revelation has its place too. General revelation refers to the way God has revealed Himself to all of humanity throughout all time through His creation. Without using words, He has shown us much about Himself through the universe He has made. The stars can’t tell us that God sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins, but they do display His majesty and power. When we study the inner workings of a living cell, when we observe animals and weather, we’re amazed at God’s wisdom and beauty. Certainly we need God’s Word most of all, but we will have a fuller understanding of Him if we pay attention to the world He has made along with the Bible He has written.
That’s why it’s important for people with desk jobs like me to get outside every once in a while. It’s been a long winter, and winter certainly has its own beauty. The snow on the mountains around Susanville is truly a glorious sight, both because of the moisture it contains and the way it frames our little valley with a reminder of God’s greatness. But the truth is that most of us have only enjoyed that beauty through our car windows, or on the brief walk from the church to the parking lot. It’s been too cold to soak up winter’s beauty for very long.
Now that the sun is coming out, though, there is a world of general revelation to be explored. Carey has filled up all of her birdfeeders, and beauty is finding its way into our backyard right in the middle of town. Last night I went outside for something and ended up just standing there for several minutes listening to the red-winged blackbirds. Their song is like nothing people could ever create with an instrument. On the drive up to our men’s retreat last weekend, I saw sandhill cranes hunting in flooded fields. I took Caleb out to see some petroglyphs last week, and not only did we find evidence of ancient civilizations just half an hour from our house, but we also caught a lizard and a scorpion, and poked around in the river looking at tadpoles that were bigger than golf balls.
This is the time of year when I will step out of an evening meeting and gasp out loud at the colors of the sunset. Sometimes the meeting is of a practical nature, planning fundraisers for an upcoming mission trip or something like that. Other times it’s a Bible study, where we’re exploring the riches of God’s word and what it tells us about His character. But either way, I’m living in my head, in a world of ideas, and then I step out the door and I’m unprepared for the pinks and oranges and purples filling the sky. It’s a reminder that God is not just an idea in our minds; He’s a living being who made oceans and rivers and the human body. He is wonderful and creative and beautiful and wise. He cares about us, and fills our lives with beauty because He didn’t create us just to survive, but to enjoy Him and the world He made.
This week, find a way to let God speak to you through His creation. Take a walk down a trail, or spend time in the garden with some flowers, or simply sit outside in the evening and listen to the birds. There are aspects of God’s character that we will never fully appreciate by theorizing about them from within four man-made walls. As we see Him in the natural world around us, I believe we’ll be that much more ready to praise him when we gather (indoors) on Sunday morning.