The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And the expanse [of heaven] is declaring the work of His hands.
One of the most helpful and spiritually uplifting activities we can do is notice nature. Even a casual glance at the stars or a garden shows us the vast scale of God’s creation and the incredible complexity of every creature. To measure distances in space, scientists use the distance light travels in a year. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second, or about 6 trillion miles a year, so we call that distance a light-year. At that amazing speed light from the sun takes over 8 minutes to reach the earth. The nearest star in galaxy is Alpha Centauri, 4.3 light years away, so that the light astronomers see when they look at it left Alpha Centauri 4.3 years earlier.
The earth is an amazing phenomenon, with several distinct characteristics necessary for life that, as far as we know, don’t exist in this combination any where else in the universe. And as biologists analyze the intricacies of DNA, they find complexity and predictability beyond anything they imagined.
Weather systems, landforms, ocean currents and other large-scale features amaze us. Hurricanes, tornados, volcanoes, and earthquakes disrupt our lives and reveal how fragile we can be. And on a much smaller, less violent scale, we delight in the beauty of a single flower or the movements of a lizard grabbing its next meal.
Noticing God’s creative work takes only a moment, but we need to take it a step further and reflect on the implications of what we see. If creation is so vast, God is greater still, and if His handiwork is so amazingly intricate, we can be sure that He knows every detail of our lives, too. Noticing nature results in deeper trust.
God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars.
Sometimes we need help getting life into perspective. We seem to be overwhelmed with so much that is going on in the world around us and we aren’t alone in this. From the psalmist to the church in the first century and seemingly throughout most of history there is frequently the feeling that the world is out of control. I’m sure you’re like me in feeling that lately we don’t seem to get a break from devastating news. After almost three years of a pandemic, we hear of another outbreak-monkey pox. We have watched in great concern the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. We are seeing another rise in violence, the latest leaving 19 elementary school children dead. Everyday we wake up to increasing inflation as food and fuel prices continue to rise at unprecedented rates to unprecedented levels. These are truly troublesome and scary times.
David who wrote many of the psalms experienced many times the scary things of life. While his life was filled with great moments of success and blessing, he also experienced great adversity. After ridding the land of Goliath, he incurred the jealousy of King Saul and had to flee for his life, hiding in caves and being relentlessly pursued. Later in life he was found fleeing for his life while being pursued by his own son. While it is certainly true that David caused a lot of his troubles by his choices, it is also equally true that he suffered through no fault of his own. There were times when he despaired of life and wondered if he would survive and whether he could ever experience peace and joy again. One of the ways he found to cope was to consider nature and remind himself that the Creator of the universe was also its Sovereign Lord. In Psalm 8 David writes these words:
“O Lord, our Lord, How majestic and glorious and excellent is Your name in all the earth! You have displayed Your splendor above the heavens. Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, That You might silence the enemy and make the revengeful cease. When I see and consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have established, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of [earthborn] man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. You made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, How majestic and glorious and excellent is Your name in all the earth!”
David discovers that in the vastness of the universe and the majesty of creation, we can find hope. Somehow as we set life alongside creation, we can see how powerful and how loving God is. It’s not that we just gloss over the situation or pretend it really isn’t that bad. As a matter of fact, David quite often began his psalms by stating how bad life felt and was at that moment. You will even hear him wish for his enemies to be destroyed or wonder whether they will destroy him. But in each psalm, David seems to come to the point of recognizing that God is above and over all the things of the world.
As Jesus is describing the events that will occur just before He returns for the church, He tells us that all kinds of troubles will take place.
“While Jesus was seated on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, and said, “Tell us, when will this [destruction of the temple] take place, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end (completion, consummation) of the age?” Jesus answered, “Be careful that no one misleads you [deceiving you and leading you into error]. 5 For many will come in My name [misusing it, and appropriating the strength of the name which belongs to Me], saying, ‘I am the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed),’ and they will mislead many. 6 You will continually hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end [of the age]. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs [of the intolerable anguish and the time of unprecedented trouble]. 9 “Then they will hand you over to [endure] tribulation, and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 At that time many will be offended and repelled [by their association with Me] and will fall away [from the One whom they should trust] and will betray one another [handing over believers to their persecutors] and will hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will appear and mislead many. 12 Because lawlessness is increased, the love of most people will grow cold.”
How then shall we respond when all these things are taking place? First of all, I believe they should move us as the people of God to repentance and prayer. There is a principle in Scripture that indicates that we as believers are to take ownership and responsibility for the sinfulness of the nation. You will see that in Daniel and Nehemiah as they interceded for Israel. The great promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 calls us to take up the responsibility of bringing healing to the world.
“If I shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or if I command locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence and plague among My people, and My people, who are called by My Name, humble themselves, and pray and seek (crave, require as a necessity) My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear [them] from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:13-14
Second of all we see all this as bringing us nearer to our deliverance. Again hear what Jesus said:
Now when these things begin to occur, stand tall and lift up your heads [in joy], because [suffering ends as] your redemption is drawing near.”
The church in the first century was suffering much persecution. Rome and the religious system had teamed up to decimate the Christian community. There was a increase in evil and sin and the church felt overwhelmed. Many were losing hope and despair and anxiety were the feelings of the day. There were those who were wondering whether or not God had forsaken them and whether evil would consume the whole world. It was a time almost like where we are today. In the midst of all that God calls John aside to the Isle of Patmos and reveals to him heaven’s view. John begins to see that while it may appear on earth that Satan is working at will and without restraint, in truth God was orchestrating the cumulation of the redemption of humanity that had begun at the Fall.
So today in spite of all the ugly taking place around us, let us as Christians first of all remember that we have been promised “peace that passes all understanding.” Let us as Christian’s recognize that we are being called as intercessors to pray against the encroaching darkness, against the demonic powers that are wrecking havoc upon the world. Let us as Christians find passion and boldness to proclaim the Gospel realizing that the only true solution is changed hearts. Let us remember that we are the children of God and we are being sent as the “light of the world” pushing back the darkness with hope and grace.
So take a moment to reflect that the same God who spoke into nothing and formed the universe and created all that is created, lives in you, cares for you, loves you, and nothing is impossible with Him.
Let us pray for those who are suffering and let us also pray for those who are causing the suffering. Let us work as the people of God to become an influence in our communities. Let us no longer isolate ourselves in our groups but let us find boldness to invade the darkness with light. Let us encourage one another and those around us. Let us trust in God and all His promises. And let us remember who it is we follow and serve. Let us also remember that Jesus is coming again and all we are seeing are indicators that His coming is soon. Therefore let us work while it is still day!
Dr. John Thompson