John Calvin famously said, “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.”
It’s a powerful insight. A while back, I compiled a little book called Tiny Landscapes: The Joy of Intricate Purposefulness. Most of the book was filled with photographs of the plants in the hedgerows within a few steps of my back door.
The scale was, you might say, rather limited.
But that sense of limitation is only apparent. As every child who looks into a rockpool will tell you, the more you look, the more you see.
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”
― William Blake
And every new green thing nudging through the soil tells you of “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower” (as Dylan Thomas put it).
And the Bible speaks of a creation that speaks of the glory of its maker.
“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19)
Creation expresses itself! But what does it say?
First, according to this passage, it declares “glory.” Many different languages include the idea of “shining” within the semantic range of the word “glory.” Appropriately, then, the author connects glory with “the heavens” (or “the skies”). There must be very few indeed who remain unmoved by a sunset or sunrise with its accompanying dawn chorus. Why so? It’s the declaration of “glory.”
Second, “the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” This is almost a classic parallel, but not quite. Our joy in the physical world around us- according to the Bible’s narrative- announces a Maker. This is how the Bible begins, after all: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…”
The concept of “Creation” means that there is a “Creator” just as the existence of a computer necessitates both designer and builder.
And the very skies proclaim him.
Don’t get flustered by the gender word here. The point of the Hebrew term translated “He” is not a gender reflection but just to stress the personality of the Maker, as opposed to an impersonal “force.” For to be in relationship is to be personal.
But that relationship is a little later down the line. For now, the Psalmist simply speaks of the proclamation of glory through creation. It is “speech” without sound or words and yet it is universally heard and felt!
Paul introduced a new element to this thought, in Romans 1:
“For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”
Paul’s point is that, third, we are responsible for the way we respond to nature.
That’s the context of Romans 1: God’s anger is becoming apparent against those who”suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. ”
We are without excuse. A contemplation of nature should make God’s creativity obvious to us. That’s the gist of the first part of Phil Wickham’s familliar song:
The colours of the morning are inside Your eyes.
The world awakens in the light of the day,
I look up to the sky and say
Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright.
We are amazed in the light of the stars,
It’s all proclaiming who You are,