The Celtic Revival: Age of the Peregrini (7)
Let the summits of heaven, too, praise you with roaming lightning,
O most loving Jesus, O righteous King of Kings.
- Colum Cille, Noli Pater, Irish, 6th century
Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.”
- Revelation 10.4
Celtic Christians, like the Apostle John, discerned the voice of God in created things. Storms, winds, seas, rivers, lakes, woods, animals, and plants all spoke to Celtic Christians about the infinite goodness, wisdom, beauty, majesty, power, and mystery of God.
This was both part of the appeal and part of the offense of the Gospel, as Irish peregrini like Colum Cille brought the Good News to pagan lands. Most pagan peoples had a respect for creation, understanding that their wellbeing depended on it. And many of them associated their peculiar deities with one or another aspect of the creation.
For Irish missionaries to insist that their God spoke to them through creation, and that He ruled sovereignly over all aspects of creation, would have both gotten their pagan audiences’ attention, and put them on the defensive.
Celtic Christians lived close to the creation, not just because they chose a simple way of life, or because on their wanderings for Christ they had to know how to live off the land, but because they found true fellowship with God in created things. The creation was for them a second book of divine revelation. It reminded them of God’s abundant goodness, all the ways He provided for their needs. It led them to extol His wisdom, greatness, beauty, might, and power. On occasion, something in the creation caused the will of God to coalesce in the mind of a Celtic saint, and what had previously been unclear from the Word of God in Scripture suddenly came together by a word of God from creation.
We can imagine that “reading” or “hearing” God in the creation all around them was a source of great comfort and encouragement for missionaries, wandering far from home.
John heardthe thunders say something, although he was not permitted to write it down. But he was able interpret the crash and clap of lightning, bursting through the heavens, as something like a word from God. He knew that the heavens declare the glory of God, and he had evidently tuned his senses to hear and understand what God was saying to him through created things.
The works of God in creation do, indeed, declare His glory (Ps. 19.1-4). The psalmist said that the works of God are studied by all those who delight in them (Ps. 111.2). When we realize that God is making Himself and His glory known in created things, we will delight to pay more attention to them. And, as our delight in creation grows, we will make the time to examine and understand it more closely, waiting on Him to make Himself known to us in the things He has made.
Every passing bird, every cloud, tree, flower, blade of grass, change of weather, or random stone, has something to say to us from and about our God. We, too, can learn to hear the voice of God in creation, but not without a little practice.
As you read through the Scriptures, consider the various images from creation that God employs to tell us something about Himself: storms stilled – His great power; animals feeding – His faithful provision; people working – His distribution of gifts and abilities; mountains looming or storms coming in – His majesty and might; lilies bedecked with beauty – His lavish provision; sparrows and mustard seeds – His love for and delight in even the most ordinary details of our lives. Let these images be the starting-place for you to begin developing the discipline of hearing the voice of God in creation.
Rejoice in each new dawn, and praise God for the Sun of Righteousness, Who has risen with healing in His wings (Mal. 4.2). Stand in awe beneath the myriad stars, planets, and galaxies of the night sky, and remember with humility and gratitude that He Who made and sustains these, cares even for you and your daily work.
Creation is speaking. Are we listening?
God’s glory is in there, oozing forth and flashing out from the things He has made. Ours is the privilege of seeing that glory, discerning the voice of God in it, and making His glory known to others (Prov. 25.2; Hab. 2.14).
Psalm 111.7, 8 (Manoah: When All Your Mercies, O My God)
The works of Your all-sovereign hands are faithful, Lord, and just.
Your precepts ever more are true and worthy of our trust.
Lord, show me through created things all Your vast goodness and power and benevolence! And help me each day to…
Consider the creation
God is speaking to us all day long, all around us, and through every created thing. We’re missing much of His glory if we fail to learn how to see and hear Him in even the most ordinary, everyday things. Our book, Consider the Lilies, introduces the study of creational theology and shows you how to begin listening and looking for God in the things He has made. Your sense of His presence and love will grow as you become more at ease discerning the revelation of His glory in creation. Order your copy by clicking here.
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T. M. Moore
All psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Clancy and Márkus, p. 85.