For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.
I read the Gospels and see that the Lord Jesus was an avid reader of two Books — the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature. Along with being a devoted reader of the Old Testament, Jesus was a voracious reader of God’s Book of Nature. Everywhere Jesus looked He saw the heavenly Father speaking, whether through the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, a sparrow falling, or the generous sun shining on the evil and the good.
Like the psalmist, Jesus peered up at the sky and saw the heavens declaring the glory of God, the firmament showing His handiwork. Like the prophet Isaiah, Jesus saw the whole earth as filled with the glory of God.
The thought of God speaking through the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature was picked up by early Christians and their first theologians. In his commentary on The Psalms, Saint Augustine said: “It is the divine page that you must listen to; it is the book of the universe that you must observe. The pages of Scripture can only be read by those who know how to read and write, while everyone, even the illiterate, can read the book of the universe.”
Bernard of Clairvaux encouraged reading God’s presence and power in nature: “Believe me who has experience, you will find much more laboring among the woods than you ever will amongst books. Woods and stones will teach you what you can never hear from any master.” (The Letters of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, XVI) Jonathan Edwards, the colonial pastor and spark of the Great Awakening, eagerly studied the Book of Nature and kept an entry in his notebook “The Language and Lessons of Nature.”
God’s wondrous Book of Nature filled my mind over the Independence Day holiday as Rita and I escaped the summer’s inferno to journey north to Oak Creek. Oak Creek was Nature’s refuge where I spent a lot of time as a boy, and one of the first places I felt wonder and the transcendence. As I stood on the banks of Oak Creek I thought of those near-immortal lines by William Wordsworth as he returned to the banks of the Rye River in England:
And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth….
(“Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”)
I stood on the banks of Oak Creek and worshiped the One “Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,/ And the round ocean and the living air,/ And the blue sky, and in the mind of man.” For but a moment I glimpsed what Isaiah might have seen when he saw the whole world interfused with the glory of God.
A contemporary spiritual writer has said, “It should be obvious, though modern conveniences hid the truth from me for so long, that the Bible is meant to be read outside.” (Gary Thomas, Sacred Pathways) Most of the Biblical “theophanies” or appearances of God happened outdoors in Nature. Jesus’ teachings are filled with illustrations and illusions from outdoors in Nature. He was clearly a Man who liked to be out in the mountains, on the seashore, and in a boat!
In today’s scripture the apostle Paul tells of God’s revelation in His Creation, or the Book of Nature. Be in wonder of God as you ponder today’s scripture in The Message translation:
Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being.
Yes! It’s all there for us to see, to feel, and to enjoy – God’s Book of Nature! And as we enjoy it, we are careful to worship the Creator and not His Creation! We joyously confess “The earth is the Lord’s!” and not, “The earth is Lord!”
What’s on your summer reading list? I recommend some time with God’s wondrous Book of Nature! You can read it right where you are, on vacation, traveling, or taking a few days away. You will be amazed at what you ‘read’!
Grace and peace,