2007.08.12 God Reveals Himself to Us Part I
God Reveals Himself to Us – Part I
In a General Sort of Way
I was recently at a wedding reception (yes we have had a few at this church lately) and all of us at the reception watched a video. The video captured the events just prior to this couples’ engagement – just prior to the actually proposal. Everybody likes to see or hear about the proposal. As soon as someone announces that they were just engaged, the first thing people want to see is the ring, next they want to know about the proposal (How did he ask you?). The women are engulfed in the story of the proposal and the love in that rel’ship, while the men are simply thinking about how well their proposal story compares to this new one. The proposal is really one party (usually the man) who is revealing his intentions for the future of their relationship.
Let me tell you about how Rachel and I got engaged – the brief version. I was on duty as an OPP officer (I had this cleared by my Sgt.) and I picked Rachel up at her house in Wallaceburg in the cruiser. I told Rachel that we would have lunch together - that way she would think I just had an hour for lunch break - not think that we were going to get engaged. When a rel’ship gets close to this engagement time I think girls likely try and guess when it is going to happen – I wanted to disguise my approach like a real tactical officer.
We went to Brander Park along the St. Clair River. We sat down at a picnic table and I had brought sandwiches and also a puzzle for her to put together. Little did she know that the puzzle was a picture of me in my police uniform on bended knee. She thought it was a generic OPP puzzle that was at all detachments for the kids to play with if they were waiting in the lobby. As she put the puzzle together not thinking of what is really going to happen, suddenly she realizes that this was not a generic puzzle but rather it was me and I was down on one knee. She was able to look at that picture and comprehend in her mind and in her heart that I was revealing something to her – I was revealing my future intentions regarding our relationship – without saying a word she knew something about my love for her, how I cared for her and my desire to be with her. Her reaction to my revelation (this picture) could have been one of sheer terror or one of great joy – I’m going to go with one of great joy. Either way she now knew something about me, because of this picture.
You see God also uses a picture to reveal Himself to us, this picture is His Creation. God reveals Himself to all mankind, there are none that do not see His creation. In fact, in his creation he reveals some of His invisible qualities to us – his power, might and authority. He desires for us to see Him in his handiwork, in His picture to us and to know his awesome power through all that he has created.
Our text this morning is found in Psalm 19. This is a wonderful Psalm that addresses two ways that God uses to reveal Himself to us – one is through nature (often called in theology General Revelation) which is described in our text v1-6. The other is through His Word (called Special Revelation) – which is described in v7-14. So today we are going to look at God revealing himself to us through nature (through the picture)– through General Revelation. Next week we will look at God revealing Himself through his Word.
Read Psalm 19:1-6
God has taken the initiative and disclosed himself to us through nature. He didn’t have to, but he chose to, as I mentioned before this is only one way that he has revealed himself to us. It says in verse one, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. God’s creation reveals to us His glory and His work – His glory really referring to His royal majesty and power. The verbs David used here “declare” and “proclaim” are participles in the Hebrew and denote a continuous revelation. My picture on bended knee what a snapshot, but God’s picture is continuous. The heavens continually declare and the skies continually proclaim…it was not a one time thing – this continues to happen even today – for us.
David says, day after day and night after night – His creation displays knowledge. We can know that there is a creator – there is something more, it is not just the emotion of seeing a beautiful tranquil scene or awed by a sensational experience of His creation, but rather we can know with our minds that there is a creator, it is rational!
When David writes about the “work of his hands” we know from Genesis 1:1 – that God created the heavens and the earth – he created the skies, the stars, the sun the moon – he created everything. So when we see this creation, we need to praise and give glory to the Creator – God.
In verses 2-4 David illustrates using speech, now we know that skies don’t talk and stars don’t speak, but David says that the skies and stars spew out or burst forth with language and this language is heard everywhere, this language goes out into all the earth to the ends of the world. So God is communicating and revealing Himself to us by nature through (what John Piper would call) wordless words, speechless speech & voiceless voice. God is communicating with us through the sky, through the heavens, through the stars – no one is exempt from this speech, all mankind hears this speech, it is universal.
David further speaks of the sunrise like the bridegroom who comes out from his chamber to be wed to his bride – what a joyous day and with great excitement the man goes forth – likewise the dawn of a new day. Or like the athlete rejoicing in running the race who bolts out of the starting blocks and who fully enjoys running the course – similarly the sun rises and bolts from the horizon into the sky with such great power and energy and heat, the sun charts its course from east to west. David reminds us that nothing is hidden from the heat of the sun – we all feel the heat of the sun, that too is universal.
What really is God communicating to us? Well if you have every had the opportunity to watch the sun rise and take in its beauty or stand outside at night, when there are no streets lights to distract from your view and you look up to the sky and observe the stars it is marvelous, it makes me think of how vast and great God really is. There is no way for us to even come close to counting the stars that we see and we know that God created them all and placed each one in its place and he created the sun, it makes me realize that I am only a small (very small) part of God’s creation – I am very small and God is very big and awesome.
I think of David in his days as a shepherd - there would have been many nights that he would have been out in the open pastures and had opportunity to look up into the heavens and see the starry host and praise His Lord. David writes out of his experience about God’s creation.
We’ve all been in settings where we have taken in God’s creation – maybe seeing a calm lake with the mountains in the backdrop and you see those same mountains also in the reflection of the still water before you and you just think “WOW!” We’ve all been somewhere and had a “WOW” experience, in relation to what God has made.
Often we think of amazing things we have seen, but even a blind person knows God through His creation – although sight enhances the scene, a blind person can still touch the sand and the feel water at the beach and hold rocks in their hands. Or as the blind walk through the forest lined with cedars they take in God’s creation through their sense of smell and they hear the birds chirping and are able to praise God. God makes Himself known to all people through his creation doesn’t he?
Listen to what Elihu says, he was one of Job’s friends, I have several verses from Job 37 – try and pick out the many attributes of God listed in this passage.
5 God's voice thunders in marvelous ways;
he does great things beyond our understanding.
6 He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth,'
and to the rain shower, 'Be a mighty downpour.'
7 So that all men he has made may know his work,
he fills all men with fear by his power
11 He loads the clouds with moisture;
he scatters his lightning through them.
12 At his direction they swirl around
over the face of the whole earth
to do whatever he commands them.
13 He brings the clouds to punish men,
or to water his earth [b] and show his love.
14 "Listen to this, Job;
stop and consider God's wonders.
15 Do you know how God controls the clouds
and makes his lightning flash?
16 Do you know how the clouds hang poised,
those wonders of him who is perfect in knowledge?
21 Now no one can look at the sun,
bright as it is in the skies
after the wind has swept them clean.
22 Out of the north he comes in golden splendor;
God comes in awesome majesty.
23 The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power;
in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.
24 Therefore, men revere him,
for does he not have regard for any who think they are wise"
He says, “so that all men may know his work” – there is no misunderstanding God is wonderfully powerful and in total control. Nature waits for His commands. He is beyond our understanding. He shows love, He punishes men. He is perfect in knowledge, He displays His awesome majesty, He is Almighty exalted in power, He is just and righteous!!!! God reveals many of his attributes to us through that which he created and sustains.
Paul disclosed more attributes of the creator to the idol worshipping men at Athens. If you remember they had many alters and idols and Paul came across the one with the inscription “to an unknown God” and Paul told them – I an going to tell you about this unknown God – I will proclaim to you who he really is – he can be known. Paul says,
24"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, he is the Creator who created us and does not need us, much like the potter does not need anything from the clay - because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. he is the provider and sustainer of life - 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. he oversees all things 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. God would like us to have a relationship with Him, he wants to come near - so he discloses himself to us and he is not far from us. It is you and me that do not recognize him and see him and praise him for who he is.
Luke in the book of Acts also comments further on how God has left a testimony to us through his actions and what he has made. In Acts 14, Paul had healed a man and the people were hailing him and Barnabas as gods – calling them Zeus and Hermes. But Paul & Barnabas tell them that they are just men like them, that they are human, but that they are bringing them the good news – sharing the goodness of God with them. Paul and Barnabas shout to the crowd and say, “We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless idols to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past he has let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony. God has left us with another picture of himself – in this testimony he is disclosing more of himself to us. They continue, “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” God sends the rains to grow the crops to feed the people – he is kind and their provider and fills them with joy. Even to those who do not believe, he stills sends the rain he still provides for them – they just don’t realize or give credit to the real provider. This still happens today, many unbelievers reap the benefits that God provides – he provides food and brings joy, but they do not even recognize him. So we as believers need to direct people, just like Paul and Barnabas, to the source of their provision and joy – the Lord of heaven and earth – our awesome God. A great opportunity to use God’s wonders – the rain and the sun and the food He provides and turn a simple conversation of the weather from the natural to the spiritual.
We as believers or Christians – those who have read the Scriptures and know God and Jesus Christ personally – we can appreciate God in creation so much more than those who don’t believe. We see creation and we praise Him, we see the stars and praise Him, we see the mother bear and her young cubs and we praise Him and we subtly hope that we are not in between the mother and her cubs when we are doing our praising. So we praise God b/c we have knowledge of Him, through the Word which allows us to appreciate His creation more fully.
But what about those who do not have faith in Christ, how do many of them respond to God revealing himself through creation, we read of one account in Acts just previous – here is another. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For 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, so that men are without excuse.
Many suppress the truth by their overt disregard for God. God can be known – through what has been made – and God has made it plain to them – he made it simple for them to see through creation His invisible qualities – His eternal power and His Deity. Although God’s power and Deity can be clearly seen (visual) and understood (rational, perceived in the mind) through what God has made - they disregard God and they will be without excuse. The main reason that many university prof’s and others cling to the theory of evolution is they absolutely refuse to believe in a Creator – they would rather suppress the truth and believe in but creation. And so evolution with all its limitations is the only other option and they run to it to run away from God. Unbelievers will be without excuse.
So all people everywhere have a rudimentary knowledge of God as Creator, they aquired this knowledge through a rational process pondering what God has made, yet the sinful heart continually suppresses this knowledge and leaves all men without excuse.
Not only has God revealed himself in nature, but also God has planted his moral law in everyone’s heart – that is another facet of General Revelation our innate knowledge of right and wrong. Paul says in Romans 2,
14 when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.
We have Gentiles who do not know the law, who are living by the law, b/c of the moral law that is written on their hearts. The moral law implanted within and the testimony of conscience provide additional means by which all people gain a rudimentary knowledge of God and his moral requirements.
General revelation does not save (or lead one to eternal life), it only serves to condemn. However, God has not left us here – he has in His grace provided us with His Word. General revelation serves to establish our accountability to the God of all Creation. In the Scriptures Paul tells us that we are saved (or inherit eternal life) by grace through faith and this is not from ourselves, rather it is the gift of God, so that we can not boast. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” So we have to put our faith and trust in Christ, repent from our sins and then we are saved. Knowing that God exists is not enough, there are many people who know that God exists but they do not serve Him. Most Canadians would suggest that they believe there is a God, but they do not believe in the one true God, and they do not put their trust in Him, and they do not surrender their whole lives to the Most High God – the Creator and Sustainer of life – the God of the Bible. Knowing God exists is not enough we need to truly know His Son Jesus. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus – the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. We have to know this Jesus intimately – so much that it totally changes our lives – that is belief.
So what’s the purpose of General Revelation if it doesn’t save us? Well it is only one piece of the puzzle. Salvation is revealed to us through the Word of God. But by God revealing himself to us through nature it establishes human responsibility and works with the other ways in which God reveals himself to give us a fuller picture of who He really is. Knowing that people are without excuse b/c of general revelation it should serve to propel us to share the Word with others, to bring a fuller revelation of God to them. So that they too could praise the Most High God.
David in Psalm 19 sure saw the beauty of God’s creation and praised Him for revealing such great wonders. Think of ways each day that you, like David, could praise God for His revelation through His creation. Maybe go and watch the sunset over the water out at the lake and say, “WOW!” or hold a newborn baby and marvel at His creation – remember man was made in his image. Look up to the heavens on a clear dark night and just try and count the stars. Whether it is a sunset, a newborn baby or the stars remember that it is okay to be amazed at the creation - but always give praise to the Creator.
As I take you back to Brander Park, my picture puzzle that Rachel had put together with me on one knee, told without words something about me, about my love for her. But that picture alone, was not enough for us to be considered engaged, to set the stage for this new life together – I had to use my words – I had to ask her – “Will You Marry Me.” It was only then that the proposal was official, after I had spoken those words.
Likewise, God’s continuous picture of himself to us through nature, revealing himself to us - is not enough for us to start a new relationship with him – to be saved. Even if we see him as creator it is not enough for us to be considered part of his family. We become adopted and accepted into His family, not through the picture – although the picture may play a part – rather we are adopted and accepted into His family through His Word to us, when he revealed to us His Son Jesus Christ and when we put our faith and trust in Jesus. God speaks to all mankind in a general sort of way through nature and our consciences, but He speaks in a very special way through His Word - the Bible to his chosen ones. Next week we will investigate his special revelation to us. Let us pray.
Our God, you are amazing, you are powerful, you are mighty, you are loving, you are the Most High God and you reign, you are the Creator of all – everything that is, has come from you. We praise you this morning for your creation. May we give you all the glory that you deserve, may we marvel at your handiwork. May we trust in your Son Jesus and live fully for Him. Please Lord, may we see your works and give you praise. You do not need us to accomplish your work here on earth, but thank you that you choose to use us to further your Kingdom. May we be diligent to share Jesus Christ with the lost, with those who know a creator exists but yet they do not know Jesus who died for them. May you receive all the praise and glory because you are awesome. Thank you. We pray it all in the name of Jesus, Amen.