Author: Don Hull, Ph.D.
As I stare into the boundless expanse of starry space. . .as I consider the astonishing precision and regularity of the almost playful movements of the planets. . .as I grasp the magnitude of stars and deep space, and the forces that both keep them together and apart. . .as I ponder the brilliance of light after it travels incalculable distances. . .my mind is presented, as Spurgeon noted, with an unanswerable argument for the existence of a conscious, intelligent, benevolent, personal, planning, and presiding God, filled with goodness.
I recently looked through the tiny window in the cockpit of Apollo 8, now kept in a Chicago museum. In December, 1968, astronauts Borman, Lovell, and Anders saw and photographed through that small portal what no man had seen before: an earthrise. My experience cannot begin to compare with theirs, but anyone with eyes can see that all nature is a veritable ocean of revelation from which to drink. I am overwhelmed that there is so much to see and understand, and that my capacity to take it all in is so pitifully small.
Israel’s King David wrote about what he saw and felt as a boy, as he spent countless hours in the mountains and meadows carefully tending his flocks. The images filling his mind were the raw material out of which he crafted some of the world’s best-loved and most nearly perfect pieces of literature. But from his observation of nature’s wonders, the one thing that captured his imagination like nothing else was the nighttime sky filled with countless luminaries. Those starry images viewed from mountain meadows became the repeated lyrics of his song.
David saw God’s presence in the heavens and heard His whispers about Himself in the vastness of the nighttime sky. He marveled that the voice of the stars was soundless, yet their song went out to the ends of the earth for all to hear. That inaudible voice extolled the glory of God—His limitless power, wisdom, and goodness. These virtues and attributes of God were being sounded abroad to all men everywhere by nocturnal heralds as they looked down from the heights of heaven.
David saw the sun, moon, and stars as traveling messengers, reassuring people like himself who seek to follow God, and giving fearful warning to others who give their worship to idols. David understood that all men of every nation and dialect, from one end of our wide world to the other, can understand the universal language of the heavens, the speechless speech and wordless testimony about the perfections and virtues, the indescribable kindness and goodness, of the Great Creator about whom the celestial crowd is telling.
Nature can pique our curiosity and create in us an insatiable desire to know more about God. It can speak in the most eloquent but silent terms of the greatness and majesty of a strong God. But nature creates appetites in us it cannot satisfy. It remains for the revealed truth in the Word of God, our Bible, to do this, and thereby satisfy our deepest desire to know.
David heard the preaching of the heavens—the sun and all the starry host—in an unceasing declaration about the God who created everything. He also heard the superior preaching of the written scriptures—those limited but profound truths available at that time—that spoke not only of God’s glory, but also of his law and moral character that were both righteous and redemptive. Spurgeon, Henry, Barnes, and other writers remind us that both messages, from nature and from the written word, unveiled the Heavenly Father in all his perfection, but also warned David of the grave effects of sin and failing to respond to Him. The God of love and forgiveness is at the same time a God of justice and judgment. Both depend on one’s relationship to Him.
Lovers of mountains soon learn that, as warm and inviting as they are, they have a back side to them, a complementary one. Our love and admiration for mountains must be accompanied by caution and respect, for they can be very dangerous places as we shall see.
Thank God again and again for His gift of nature—every refreshing stream, every glacier, every migratory bird and burrowing animal, every butterfly and chipmunk. They are all of them God’s scenic route to Himself.