In the Psalms, David often reminds himself to focus his vision on God instead of circumstances. Like us, his eyes saw danger and discouragement all around him, and he needed eyes of faith to see what lay beyond his physical horizons. He knew he needed insight, not just eyesight! For instance, In Psalm 123, king David looks beyond himself to the true King of the universe: “I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sits enthroned in heaven…our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy.” In Psalm 121, David uses spiritual binoculars to zoom in on the Creator, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Ps 121:1-2). The Bible uses the old- fashioned exclamation “Behold” 1298 times! It is a powerful heads-up: “Hey you little human, look up and get a hold on what you see! Get out of the smoke and grasp the amazing apparition right before your eyes!” In the first six verses of Psalm 19, David calls us to Behold the Skies!
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 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.
Speech of the Skies
The skies speak a universal language that requires no special skill or knowledge to understand. Even a small child can grasp it.
It is not the pantheistic speech of an impersonal force called ‘Mother Nature,’ who somehow appears out of nowhere to plant, nurture and inhabit the seeds of everything in the universe.
Nor is it the atheistic speech of the Big Bang, plus time, chance and random mutations, which somehow conspire together to produce complex life from nothing.
Rather, the skies speak of a super- intelligent Artist who is marvellous and mighty, as well as personal and caring. It is not the speech of a passive observer, but of a Creator who sustains his creation day after day, millenia after millenia by the “word of his power” (Heb 1:3). As Paul explained to the Athenians, the Creator of the universe is not an UNKNOWN GOD, served by human hands as if he needed anything. God the Creator wants to be known by those to whom he has given life and breath. “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being’”(Acts 17:27-28). God shows us his glory through the skies.
David had insight when he wrote this inspired poetry in Psalm 19. He grasped that the heavens gush God’s glory every day and night! In Genesis 1:6-8(NIV), the sky is called a ‘vault,’ an apt name for such a treasure chest of wonders that entice us to know the One who spoke it into existence.
My grandmother loved gardens, art, music and all things bright and beautiful. As an old woman in her nineties, she still sounded like an excited toddler when describing a spectacular scene. “Too wonderful for words” was her favourite expression! It’s exactly what David says about the skies.
The skies make a profound and humbling statement that requires no verbal commentary (Ps 19:1-3). We live in a fast-paced city with plenty of lights, smoke and sirens, but we need to take off our racing blinkers for long enough to go outside and gaze at the infinite stars in our back yard. We need to pay attention to the daily rhythms of the sun and trace the monthly phases of the moon. If we occasionally escape from man-made ceilings to sleep under God’s star-studded ‘vault’, we will know intuitively that we are very small and this is the work of a great and transcendent* Creator (*beyond or above the range of normal or physical human experience).
While it is true that God is transcendent and invisible, the Creator has left his fingerprints all over His finely tuned universe as evidence of what He is like. Through the skies, God makes his invisible nature known to all people on the planet every day. Wherever we are in the world, God pulls back the curtains of the heavens to give us a glimpse of his glory, power, majesty, creativity, order and infinite wisdom (Rom 1:19-20; Jer 10:12). We observe his laws of nature in operation such as gravity, showcasing the logical, orderly way God normally upholds his universe.
The witness of creation is powerful, but not sufficient to unite us with our Creator. Only Jesus can do that. Christ came to earth as flesh and blood for the very purpose of making the invisible God known to us in person. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature(Heb 1:3). “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities: all things were created by him and for him” (Col 1:15-16). The constellations cannot tell us the story of Jesus and his atoning sacrifice, and that is why we need God’s word in the Bible. That’s what we will explore next week in “Seeing God’s face in Scripture—Psalm 19:7-12)”. Nevertheless, creation has a powerful ministry which we should not take for granted.
Ministry of the Skies
When we think of the way God ministers to us as Christians, we usually think of the Bible, prayer and God’s people. But it is easy to neglect one of the most accessible, everyday channels of God’s grace– His beautiful world. Of all people, Christians should understand the language of awe and joy when we open our eyes to behold God’s handiwork.
If we know that our Saviour is also our Creator and that we have been made to be stewards of all Creation (Gen 2:16), it makes sense that God would minister to us as we respect, care for and enjoy his earth, including everything in and above it. If God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden before the earth was marred by sin, does it not please him to watch His children take a walk in nature, admire his handiwork and gasp at the heavens?
I love John Piper’s comment on God’s ministry through the skies:
“There is not a day that goes by, nor is there a place in the world, where God does not extend his ministry for the healing and hope and happiness and humility of those who will receive it. I’m speaking of the ministry of the Lord through what he has created, through the world of nature, especially what we see when we look up into the skies during the day and during the night.” (John Piper)
I don’t think this is conjecture. When God reassured Abraham of his eternal promises, he took him outside his tent to show him the stars in the sky. It gave Abraham comfort and strength to continue his journey of faith. Similarly, God gave Noah hope through a rainbow in the sky (Gen 9:12-15). God himself placed a bright star over the city of Bethlehem when Jesus was born, as a tangible sign that the Saviour of the world had come. The sign was so powerful that wise men from a distant land travelled to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. God used the heavens he had created to give tangible signs of his eternal covenant of grace and salvation. These signs ministered to people who had unveiled eyes to see them.
Even now, God’s creation is not superfluous. His word does not return to him empty. He has given us the skies to minister directly to our hearts– not through intellect, audible words or logical reasoning– but through our senses, intuition and emotions. It is the wordless speech of AWE and JOY.
The Star of all stars
David experienced awe as he described the sun’s daily arc across the sky as a happy bridegroom and a champion marathon runner. I’m picturing my favourite Blitzbok player, Cecil Afrika, sprinting from one side of the field to the other to score a try, dreadlocks trailing behind! Or perhaps the sun is like Wade Van Niekerk demolishing the 400m track at the 2016 Olympics! It’s amazing that David pictured it as a ‘circuit’ even before he knew the earth was round.
It is easy to take for granted that the sun shows up every morning to run its race, but this is just one of the laws of nature that God has written into the earth’s fabric. The sun is God’s gift that reflects all the colours of the rainbow—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Without the sun, we would have no colour at all! Only an artist would bother creating a colourful universe. James 1:17 is one of my favourite reminders:
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows”.
The sun is a daily reminder that the joy of the Lord is our strength! I’ve had the joy of driving my children in an Easterly direction to school over the last ten years and we have watched the sun rise nearly every morning. As hard as it is to wake up on a dark and cold winter’s morning, the sunrise is exactly what we need to start the day. Here are some ways the Lord ministers to our bodies through the ‘Star of all stars’ that He carefully placed in the perfect spot, 92,935,700 miles from planet Earth:
- Contains Full Spectrum Light, which increases dopamine and serotonin.
- Increases Beta-endorphins, which improve mood and reduce pain.
- Relaxes the nervous system and makes us calmer
- Decreases need for painkillers by 21% post-surgery.
- Increases Nitric Oxide, which helps improve blood flow
- Increases Vitamin D
- Lowers inflammation (UV is an immunosuppressant)
- Improves Blood flow, brain function and alertness
- Increases metabolism
- Is anti-Microbial – the sun can irradiate large amounts of blood – against fungi, bacteria viruses, etc…
- Increases CD8 Cells, which help the immune system
- Breaks down adrenaline and cortisol, which are stress hormones.
In case you’d like to watch the sun rise or set, follow the phases of the moon or explore the treasure ‘vault’ of stars and planets in your region, visit https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/south-africa/johannesburg
No eye has seen
It is too wonderful for words that God is so much brighter and more glorious than even our amazing sun! We cannot even look upon His face and survive (Ex 33:20). It is hard to imagine that when the Lord returns and transforms the earth to its original perfection, God will be the light for us in the day and the night. Our sun and moon, which are so vital for life on earth, are only temporary lights in the sky, but our Creator is eternal, and His light will be all we need.
“The sun will no more be your light by day,
nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory”. (Isa 60:19).
No wonder Paul wrote:
“No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—(1 Cor 2:9).
That will be a day to behold! In the meantime, let us not cut ourselves off from God’s creation, but rather become fluent in the language of awe and joy.
Live it out!
- In a world that is full of sin, hate, ugliness and destruction, do you take time to lift your eyes and gaze at what is beautiful and good? Allow God’s free gift of the skies to minister to your heart and share it with your family. It is a practical way to live out Phil 4:8:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”.
For the next two weeks on The God Walk we will be looking at the rest of Psalm 19:
Psalm 19:8-11– Seeing God’s face in the Scriptures.
Psalm 19:12-14– Showing God’s glory through our lives.
Click below to listen to “Indescribable,” sung by Chris Tomlin.
- Fulbright, Exploring Creation with Astronomy; Exploring Creation with Botany; Exploring Creation with Zoology: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day (Reading this amazing series of books with my children was one of the greatest blessings we shared.)
- Website to visit https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/south-africa/johannesburg