The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge…
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
- Psalm 19.1, 2, 7-9
I entreat Thee by all those that had intelligence in the law of nature...
I entreat Thee by all those that had intelligence in the written law...
in the prophetic law...
in the law of the New Testament...
- Anonymous, Litany of Jesus I, Irish, 15th century, from an earlier ms.
Eternal life consists in knowing God and Jesus Christ, Whom He has sent (Jn. 17.3). We don’t have to cast about in the darkness, seeking this way and that to gain the intelligence we need for knowing God. He is pleased to reveal Himself and His will in two “books” – the book of Scripture and the book of creation.
The former includes the Old and New Testaments, 66 books of widely-different themes, structures, and genre, but all contributing to the same story of the glory of God in Jesus Christ.
The latter consists of the revelation of God in creation, in works of culture, and in human beings as the image-bearers of God.
It behooves us, who desire to know the Lord, to learn to “read” both these books. We understand this when it comes to the Scriptures. Reading, meditating, and studying God’s Word is an important part of knowing the Lord and growing in Him.
But the same is true of the revelation of God in His world. Creation, culture, and human beings also reveal the purposes of God, the nature of the world, and the conditions of beauty, goodness, and truth. Of course, we must understand the revelation of God in creation through the lens of Scripture, which is the light in which all other light from God is made intelligible (Ps. 36.9).
But gaining intelligence from Scripture alone will not provide the clear and compelling vision of God which every believer requires. Such vision comes from the dual intelligence of both books of revelation, Scripture and the world. This is why, in Scripture, God is so often described in terms of His creation – mountains, storms, rivers, seas, and so forth. These things we see each day can help us to know God better, if only we know how to observe them.
We must read both books if we would know the Lord truly and more completely. With the Scriptures as our foundational source of understanding, we turn to the book of creation for dramatic illustrations of the precepts and principles revealed in the Bible. God has set His glory in the works of creation, and He calls us, His royal children, to search out His glory there, and know Him better by it (Prov. 25.2).
Jesus knew this very well, and was always bolstering theological truth with pithy illustrations from the book of creation – lilies, sparrows, farmers at work, towers, armies, coins, and so forth.
The truth of God is plain in Scripture; the truth of God in His world gives clarity and substance to the teaching of the Bible, so that we understand the Word better and are thus better able to understand the world better as well.
Celtic Christians read from both books consistently. Today it’s becoming increasingly common to find Christians who do not read consistently even from the Scriptures. And almost no one puts any stock in the creation as a source of true theological insight. We read the Scriptures but a little, and we pay no heed to the revelation of God in creation.
How do we expect to make known the glory of God to a world languishing in the darkness of unbelief?
We are called to the Kingdom and glory of God (1 Thess. 2.12). Let us work to improve our intelligence of our God and King in both the books He has written for us.
Psalm 19.1-4, 7, 8 (St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
The heav’ns declare God’s glory, the skies His work proclaim!
From day to day and night by night they shout His glorious Name!
No speech, no words, no voice is heard, yet all across the earth
The lines of His all-present Word make known His holy worth.
The Law of God is perfect, His testimony sure;
The simple man God’s wisdom learns, the soul receives its cure.
God’s Word is right, and His command is pure, and truth imparts;
He makes our eyes to understand; with joy He fills our hearts.
Give me grace, Lord, to seek You in both books where You are making Your glory known.
God in His World
The discipline of learning about God from creation is called creational theology. For a concise introduction to this important subject, order a copy of our book, Consider the Lilies: A Plea for Creational Theology (click 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.
Plummer, Litanies, p. 33.