52 Ways of knowing God, New City Catechism
Answer: God created all things by His powerful Word, and all his creation was very good; everything flourished under his loving rule.
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31 ESV)
God created us to reflect His Glory, and, in his sight, we are glorious. We are the crown of creation. We are the only creatures made into the divine resemblance. He formed us from the dust of the ground, he then breathed on us his very own living breath, and we became living beings.
The relationship between his very own breath, which in Hebrew is the Word for Wind and this Word is associated with the Holy Spirit. Jesus demonstrated this when he was in the upper room with the disciples being looked in a room for fear of the Jews, Jesus did something powerful, let me read it to you… “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21–22 ESV)
So, this is what I am saying: We are the crown of his creation because God’s breath, his Spirit, was breathed in us, and we became a living being. According to Genesis chapter one, where we find a descriptive narrative, which is a narrative formula that starts with the words “And God Said”, “And it came to be, or it was so” and “God saw that it was good”. Unlike the rest of creation, Gen. 2:7 tells us, we were not made by the command of a Word only , but by and from his very own Presence, the Holy Spirit. In the Holy Spirit dwells his spoken Word is created, which is delivered and heard.
This is why we have OT and NT prophets. First, Peter 1: 10-12 tells us that salvation was declared by the prophet’s words given by the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Christ. “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:10–12 ESV)
The Word was within us from the beginning, and it was there because God breathed on us the Holy Spirit, and unlike any other creatures, we respond to that Word. So, as I said last week, man’s soul was never conceived to be independent of God. That means that we were never meant to be without his Word, presence, power, love, grace, and fellowship. God spoke, and the man heard, and they talked. Therefore, we are made into the image of God; therefore, we are different from other living beings.
Yet, if we fail to see, then we need to be convinced of God’s goodness thought his creation.
Therefore the 5th question of New Catechism is so important.
What else did God create? God created all things by His powerful Word, and all his creation was very good; everything flourished under his loving rule. “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31 ESV)
This is the last verse of the first chapter of the Bible, and I want to draw to your attention to the great emphasis that the writer of Genesis wants us to see, unlike the other formula “and it was good” this verse ends with “It was very Good”. It was perfect because this gift called earth was given to man to fill it with the Glory of God and to have dominion over it, a dominion based on grace, love and fellowship.
But for now, to help us to look at what the Lord has created, let us look at Ps. 19:1-6
“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 display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.” (Psalm 19:1–6 NIV)
I would like to say three things about this Psalm
The Glory of God
“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 display knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1–2 NIV)
I love poetry, and this poetry at its best. Listen to the poetic language “The heavens declare the Glory of God”.
We all know that the heavens do not speak. It is impossible; there is no language, but there is poetry, and we, therefore, do understand the language of creation.
We do understand that the heavens declare the Glory of God. It was that Word of God when God said, “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:3–4 NIV)
“And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.” (Genesis 1:14–19 NIV)
God’s active Presence: God said, God made, God set, and God saw! But the most important of all is what God said. It is the creative power of God’s words that carries the fourth his will.
God used words, God used a language to create, and that language is expressed in creation for all to understand and expressed. It is what we called the audible AWE of God.
We understand this; every time we look at creation, we sense a deep connection with it every time we look at the heavens. This connection is a God-given one.
The glory and wisdom of God are evident in the vastness of space. The psalmist calls attention to the word “the heavens” as he begins the first verse and concludes with the synonym “the skies”: “The heavens … the skies”: These words signify the place where God put the sun, moon, and stars to give light and for distinguishing “day” from “night” (Gen 1:14-19).
For the psalmist, “space” is not empty but a revelation of God’s creation of the magnificent heavenly bodies, which are characterized by radiance and regularity.
The verbs “declare” and “proclaim” are in a present continuous tense that is “keep on declaring … keep on proclaiming.” He, God alone, is the Creator.
The alternation of “day” and “night” reveals the reliability of God’s creation: “day after day,” “night after night.“: They show “knowledge” in their own distinct “speech.” The “knowledge” is not only knowledge about God but, instead, a particular kind, best understood as God’s wisdom, revealed in his creation
The unspoken voice
“There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (Psalm 19:3–4 ESV)
I love the way David can bring this poetry to life. In the first two verses, we have that the heavens and the skies declare, proclaim, they pour out speech, and now we have this poetic contradiction, “there is no speech, there are no are the words, whose voice is not heard”.
Yet natural revelation is without words and is universal, being unrestricted by the division of languages. It transcends human communication without the use of speech, words, and sounds.
To those who are inclined to hear, revelation comes with no regard for linguistic or geographical barriers, even to the ends of the world (v.4).
Calvin observes: “When a man, from beholding and contemplating the heavens, has been brought to acknowledge God, he will also learn to reflect upon and to admire his wisdom and power as displayed on the face of the earth, not only in general but even in the minutest plants” (1:308-9).
Joseph Addison’s hymn sums up these verses very finely: What though nor real voice nor sound Amid their radiant orbs be found; In reason’s ear they all rejoice, And utter forth a glorious voice, Forever singing as they shine, ‘The hand that made us is divine.’
The Revelation of the Sun
“In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.” (Psalm 19:4–6 ESV)
Life on earth depends on the regularity of the sun. The psalmist did not know all that we know today about the solar system. His concern was to portray in a distinctive way how the sun rises, as it were, from “a tent” (v.4c). The sun is metaphorically compared to a “bridegroom” and a “champion” (v.5). The bridegroom’s joy, coming from the wedding canopy or the bridal chamber, represents the sun’s radiance. The “champion” (= “warrior” or “valiant man”), rejoicing in his strength as he sets out to run his course, represents the power of the sun, as it seems to move through “its circuit” (v.6).
From the perspective of this earth, the sun “rises” and “makes its circuit” with radiance and vigour so that it warms the planet. The sun also reveals God’s glory, power, and wisdom. One does not have to listen for words because the effect of the sun is evident, as “nothing is hidden from its heat.”
CS. Lewis points out that this part of the Psalm is not disconnected from God’s revelation’s overall theme. He sees that the Sun’s image is closely connected to what follows, the revelation of God’s Law. He says: “The sun’s heat, not, of course, the mild heats of our climate but the cloudless, the sun rays hammering the hills, searching every gap, is like the Law, who is so like the all-piercing, all detecting sunshine.”
I want to finish with one more observation.
The language of creation is indeed the Glory of God, displayed for all to see. It is declared, it is proclaimed, and it seems that its language has no grammar.
Yet we were created with the Word in our hearts, with God’s Spirit, we were made, and we became a living being. Therefore, we need the Word. We need the Word to live. Ps 19 finishes like this
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14 ESV) This Redeemer “… was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1–3 ESV)