And when they sat down to table, a bird alighted that moment on the prow of the ship, and made music sweet as an organ with its wings, beating them on the sides of the boat. And Brendan perceived that it was telling something...[and] Brendan bowed himself to the ground, and wept and cried and gave praise and thanks to God, the Creator of all things.
- Vita Brendani, Irish, 12th century, from an earlier ms.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 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, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
- Romans 1.18-21
Brendan (fl. mid-6th century) was called “the Navigator” for his journeys on the ocean. He and his companions sailed west over the Atlantic in leather boats, seeking the Promised Land of the Saints. The story of Brendan is a thread of history adorned with myth and parable, the purpose of which is to teach us to treasure the disciplined life of seeking the Lord.
This encounter with a little bird came during one of Brendan’s journeys, at the end of a period of rest and seeking the Lord. Brendan had been wracking his brain trying to figure out a particular course of action, where he and his group of men should sail next.
The bird’s wing-beating drum solo made something click in the Navigator’s mind, and he knew at once, intuitively, what he should do. God had spoken to him somehow through the rhythms and thumpings of a bird’s wing against the prow of his leather coracle. Brendan perceived the will of God in these actions, and he gave praise and thanks in return.
Both of which – to perceive and to praise – most of us fail at with alarming consistency.
God is speaking to us through created things. The Scriptures insist on this over and over. The heavens and all things declare His glory, manifest His character, and grant us glimpses into His good and perfect will. We are surrounded by a glory-show every moment of our lives.
Unlike Brendan, however, few of us have ever taken the time to learn how to observe or listen, and so we fail to perceive whatever it is God may be wanting to make known to us. Failing to perceive, we fail to praise; thus, we are little better than the pagans who, knowing that God is speaking to them in created things, nevertheless refuse to acknowledge Him, decline to give Him thanks and praise, and thus submit to a darkening of their minds, which prevents them from knowing and serving Him as they should.
But, what can we expect? After all, those who reject the revelation of God in creation declare that they do not wish to know Him; they are not in the least interested in the knowledge of God or in submitting to His will. They have their own idols to satisfy – self, success, happiness, prestige – and they can’t be bothered with listening to any voice from God whispering delightful insights or timely words of guidance through the things He has made.
As I said, what can we expect? They’re pagans.
What’s our excuse?
Our forebears in the faith believed that God has given us two books of revelation – Scripture and creation. In each of them we learn more about Him and His will. Each provides insights, illuminations, examples, and experiences which can enrich our relationship with the Lord and lead to richer, fuller, and more consistent worship and obedience.
We should work hard at learning to meet God and His glory in Scripture (2 Cor. 3.12-18).
But we should work just as hard at perceiving the presence and glory of God all around us, and then voicing our praise to God for what He shows us there.
If you’re looking for a way to increase praise to God, and to know more of His presence and pleasure in those praises, then learn to see and hear the Word of God as He reveals Himself in the things He has made.
1. Can you think of a time when the creation revealed something to you about God? Explain.
2. Unbelievers refuse to know God through the things He has made. Can believers do the same? Why not?
Psalm 111.1-3 (Manoah: When All Your Mercies, O My God)
Praise the Lord! O Let my heart give thanks here amid His chosen race!
Your works are great, O Lord, and sought by all who know Your grace.
For Your work is full of splendor, Lord, and of majesty most pure;
Your righteousness, O glorious God, forever will endure!
Lord, help me to understand the creation, so that I might better know You and serve You by…
God is speaking in creation, and you can hear Him
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Plummer, pp. 59, 60.