Theme: Creation and Scripture in Agreement
In this week’s lessons we see what the doctrine of general revelation teaches us about the one true God.
Scripture: Psalm 19:1-6
In yesterday’s devotional we pointed out that in vv. 4b-6 David mentions the sun as a great example of how creation bears witness to the existence of God.
A “tent for the sun” is probably to be understood as the darkness into which the sun retreats each night and from which it emerges boldly each new day at dawn. David compares the sun to a vigorous young man in two aspects: “like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion” and “like a champion rejoicing to run his course.” In each case, the image conveys the ideas of youthful strength, energy and physical joy. Naturally, David did not know all we know about the sun—how it is a ball of gases, chiefly hydrogen, burning itself up in a vast nuclear reaction, yet destined to continue burning for at least six billion years more, and how it is so far away from earth that light radiating from its surface takes eight minutes to get here. Yet strangely, though knowing less about the sun than ourselves, David nevertheless praised God more, knowing that the sun is God’s handiwork and that it displays his glory.
C. S. Lewis has rightly pointed out that the key line in this description is the last, which says that “nothing is hidden from [the sun’s] heat” (v.6). The line links the witness of the physical creation to the witness of the Word, for the Scriptures are likewise penetrating, warming and life-giving, while also are searching, testing and purifying.
In the second half of the psalm, David is going to move abruptly to talk about God’s revelation of himself in Scripture, thus laying the second half of this great doctrine before us. The two appear together so naturally in this psalm that even here a few observations are called for.
First, there is no conflict between natural and special revelation, nor can there be. Unbelievers and skeptics often talk this way, suggesting that no scientific mind can honestly accept the Bible’s teachings. But many able scientists have embraced both the Bible and science and have argued that scientific study of the cosmos actually points in the same direction as the book of Genesis. Years ago, Harry A. Ironside wrote rightly, “There is no conflict whatever between the testimony of nature and the testimony of the Word of God.”7 If we think there is, either we are misunderstanding nature, misunderstanding the Bible or misunderstanding both of them. Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “He is wisest who reads both the world-book and the Word-book as two volumes of the same work, and feels concerning them, “My Father wrote them both.”8
Second, nature, like Scripture, points to God but is not itself God. C. S. Lewis, in a chapter on “Nature,” is particularly helpful at this point, arguing that a doctrine of creation such as we find in this psalm, “while it brings God and Nature into relation, also separates them. What makes and what is made must be two, not one. Thus the doctrine of Creation in one sense empties Nature of divinity.”9 Liberal scholars have imagined echoes of pagan hymns of worship of the stars and sun in Psalm 19, but nothing could be farther from the psalm’s intent. The psalmist is actually protesting against pagan worship. For the heavens are pointing to God, not themselves, and the sun, while glorious, only fulfills a function and follows a course prescribed for it by its divine maker.
“But in another sense,” as Lewis likewise points out, “the same doctrine which empties Nature of her divinity also makes her an index, a symbol, a manifestation of the Divine.” Nature is now “the bearer of messages.”10 It is a defect in the modern scientific mind, not an achievement, that it has so much difficulty seeing this.
Third, if we value creation, as many in our day obviously do—witness the environmental lobby groups and others who want to purify and preserve our water, air and wild lands—we should cherish the written revelation even more. David did. That is why the psalm will go on to speak of the value and beneficial functions of God’s law. David reveled in God’s law, just as he obviously did in nature. We should too. We should make it the subject of our most devout meditation every day, and we should rejoice in it heartily.
How does David describe the sun in vv. 4b-6, and what do the various expressions mean?
What is the proper relationship between nature and its Maker?
Application: From what we have learned about creation from this psalm, what can you do to be a better steward and caretaker of the world that God has made?
7H. A. Ironside, Studies on Book One of the Psalms (New York: Loizeaux, 1952), p 12.8C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 1a, Psalms 1-26 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 269.9C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1958), p. 80.10Ibid., p. 83.