The Preacher Called Creation (June 23, 2019)Written by admin on Jun 23, 2019 in - No Comments
As you all know, in preparation for my preaching each week, I take the time to prepare a written manuscript that I follow pretty closely while in the pulpit on Sunday mornings. This practice helps me gather and organize my thoughts and it helps me to say things in the way I want to say them. This is not the only way to preach—each pastor has to find what works for him. But, this is what works for me.
Well, from time to time I deviate a bit from my manuscripts. This normally happens because something comes into my mind while I’m preaching that I believe the Holy Spirit is prompting me to say—something that will either help me make my point or something that may be helpful to someone in the congregation. I have to make that call in a split second usually, and by God’s grace I don’t think I have messed up too often when doing so.
Well, near the end of last week’s sermon, I found myself faced with one of those decisions of whether or not to stray a bit from my manuscript and say something I hadn’t planned. I don’t remember exactly what I said, and I haven’t gone back to listen to the recording, but the gist of it was that I had recently heard or seen multiple people talking about how nature was in some way the place that they considered their church. And I expressed some frustration with this because, as I said last week, the word “church” in our Bibles comes from a Greek word that refers to a gathering or assembly of people. Church is not, therefore, something that can take place by yourself out on the lake or out in the woods. It is only something that can take place when God’s people are gathered together for the purpose of worshipping him.
BUT… what I didn’t admit last week, is that God’s creation does have a way of leading us to worship, doesn’t it? And, that is probably what people mean when they say something like “this is my church” while showing you a beautiful picture they have taken while out hiking or fishing or hunting. They probably mean that something about nature makes them feel close to God. And as someone who enjoys spending time outdoors, I can certainly relate to that. While you can’t have church by yourself out in the woods or out on the water, you can definitely be drawn to worship there. And that is certainly one of the reasons I enjoy being out in and marveling over God’s creation—it reminds me of how awesome God really is.
And so, as we are going to see in the passage I have chosen for today’s sermon, there are some things we can learn about God from his creation. We can’t learn everything we need to know about him by staring up into the night sky or by listening to the wind as it blows through the forest, but God does use his creation to point us to him as the Creator.
So, I invite you to turn with me in your Bibles this morning to Psalm 19. We’ll take a break from Genesis for one more week, and turn my small deviation from last Sunday, into a larger deviation this week by looking at this Psalm that teaches us a great deal about how we can truly know God—including the role God’s creation plays in that. So, if you do not have a Bible with you today, or if you’d like to follow along in the translation I will be preaching from, please make use of one of the pew Bibles where you can find Psalm 19 located on page 456.
Now, when you consider human history and the diverse cultures and people groups around the world and throughout time, isn’t it amazing that almost without exception they have all had some sort of religious belief centered around the existence of at least one divine being known as God? Yes, have you ever thought about why belief in God, or in multiple gods, is an almost universal feature of human civilization? Why have people from every corner of the globe, and from every age in history, believed that someone was in control over creation? Have you ever thought about that and wondered why?
Well, in this psalm, we are going to be given the answer to these questions. We are going to see that there is a very good reason why human beings have almost always concluded that there is indeed someone who has created everything we see and enjoy around us. We are going to see that there is a reason why most of the cultures and people groups throughout history have believed in the existence of some divine being or beings who were responsible for everything we see around us.
God Reveals Himself In His Creation (vv. 1-6)
So, if you haven’t done so already, please do turn with me in your Bibles to Psalm 19. And let’s start by reading from verses 1-6 where we will learn about the preacher called creation. Follow along with me as I read.
1 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. (Psalms 19:1–6 ESV)
In these verses we are introduced to a preacher. And this preacher is a preacher I am calling “Creation”—specifically God’s creation. And the message that this preacher proclaims, is that there is indeed a God—a God who is glorious and a God who made everything we see and enjoy. In verse 1, David, who is the author of this psalm, tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
Now it’s easy when you are in church to hear the words “heavens” and think we are talking about the dwelling place of God. But what David is talking about here are all the things we see when we look up into the sky—the sun, the moon, the planets, the galaxies, and the stars. And David says, that when we look up and see these things and ponder how they got there, they are shouting and declaring to us, that a glorious God created them and placed them there. They are, as David says at the end of verse 1, God’s handiwork—or the work of his hands.
So that’s the first thing we see about this preacher called creation—he declares the glory of God and proclaims that God created it all. But in verse 2, we learn something else about this preacher called creation. And that is that this preacher is a preacher who never rests. In verse 2 David says, “Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” In other words, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no matter where you are at in this world, this preacher is there declaring the glory of God and proclaiming that creation is the work of his hands. Whether you are staring out across the ocean or looking up into the night sky, the things God created are speaking to you telling you that there is indeed a God above.
Yes, friends, the things that have been created have a voice, and according to verse 4, ”Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” So God has, and still is revealing himself to all people in this world through the words of a preacher called creation. And because God has sent this preacher called creation, we as human beings, have no excuse when we neglect to recognize that we, and everything else around us, are the handiwork of a creator God. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 1:19-20,
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19–20 ESV)
So no one is excused from not knowing that there is a God. Because ever since the creation of the world, God has made himself known to humankind in and through the things he has made.
So back to where we started: Why is it that human beings have almost universally believed in the existence of God? Well, because God gave us a preacher called creation to declare God’s glory and proclaim him as our creator. And that preacher has been preaching 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, since the beginning of time. And he has been doing it from one end of the earth to the other. That is why human beings have almost universally believed in the existence of God. We see the evidence of him everywhere we look.
But as great as this preacher called creation is—I mean he does preach day and night and all around the world in such a way that no one can deny the existence of God—but as great as he is, his message is not sufficient. It is incomplete. It is not comprehensive because it doesn’t tell us everything we need to know about God.
Now, we don’t need to get upset with the preacher here, because creation is only telling us exactly what God wanted it to tell us and nothing more. Yes, this preacher called creation is faithfully delivering the message God told him to deliver. But that message really does not go any further than telling us that there is a creator God. And as Christians who believe the Bible, we know that knowledge of that alone, is insufficient to give us salvation. We understand that there is much more about God that we need to know in order to be saved. Knowing that he exists, is not enough.
God Reveals Himself In His Word (vv. 7-11)
But we also know, that because he is a good God, he has not left us in the dark. He has given us more revelation about himself, and better revelation about himself, than what we have in creation, hasn’t he? And the place where he has done so, is in his written Word. And that is where David turns to next. Yes, after rejoicing over God’s creation and the fact that it reveals to us the existence of God, David turns his attention to the wonderful Word of God where we can come to know God more intimately.
Would you follow along with me now as I pick up reading in verse 7 and continue through verse 11? David says,
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalms 19:7–11 ESV)
The author C.S. Lewis, had this to say about Psalm 19; he said, “I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.” And when you listen to the words in verses 7-11, it’s difficult to disagree with him. They are not only beautiful words, but the truth of them penetrates our hearts in such a way that we cannot deny them.
And one of these truths we cannot deny, is that if creation tells us some significant things about God, God’s Word tells us things about God that are even more significant. Yes, while creation reveals to us that there is a God, the Bible tells us about this God and about his love for the people he has created, and about his plan to rescue them from the penalty of sin.
In these verses we just read, David has several things to say about God’s Word. First he says the law of the LORD is perfect and that it revives the soul. He also says that the testimony of the LORD is sure and that it makes the simple or the uneducated, wise. And beyond making us wise, God’s Word also makes us rejoice. In verse 8 David says, “the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart.” And not only that, but “the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.”
So David describes God’s Word as perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true, and righteous altogether. And as a result of these things, when we read God’s Word, our souls are revived, and we are made wise, and our hearts begin to rejoice, and our eyes are enlightened. And that is why David says in verse 10 that God’s Word is more desirable “than gold, even much fine gold.”
BUT… if we are honest, we do not normally treat the Word of God as if it were more valuable than gold, do we? I once heard a preacher say that he gets frustrated with people in his congregation who claim they cannot memorize Scripture. He gets frustrated because he knows the truth. And the truth is that if Scripture were only more important to them, they could easily memorize it. And to prove his point, I heard this preacher ask his congregation one time, “If I paid you $1,000 per verse to memorize Scripture, how much Scripture do you think you could memorize?”
And I share this story, because I hope his point hits home with each of us as well. The truth is, the reason we don’t spend more time in Scripture reading it and memorizing it, is because we don’t see it as valuable—it’s not more valuable to us than gold. And the reality is that every verse in the Bible is worth much more than $1,000 to us—whether we know it or not. The problem is we just don’t see it that way. And we take it for granted.
Lara told me a story one time about a lady who was blind and had still memorized the whole New Testament. Now that had to be a lot of work, particularly for someone who was blind. Why do you think she would do that? Why would someone go to that extent? Well she did it because it was important to her. She did it because she is someone who truly values the Word of God much more than gold.
Friends, there are things we get from the Bible that we cannot get from anywhere else. There are things in the Bible that the preacher called creation is never going to tell you. You see, it is through the teaching and understanding of the law of the LORD that we learn to fear the LORD. And it is through the study of the law of the LORD that we learn to love him. In the same way someone gets pleasure when they taste the sweetness of honey, we should also expect pleasure when we keep God’s commandments. David expects us as God’s people to desire God’s law in the same way we desire sweet delicacies. And yet, for most of us, our nose turns up and our lips pucker at the Bible like they do when we eat grapefruit instead of delighting in it, like we do at the smell of freshly-baked cinnamon rolls.
As Christians who have been born in a country where there is a certain baseline level of understanding about the God of the Bible that is passed on from parent to child, it is easy for us to take for granted the things that we only know about God because we have the Bible. And we begin to loosen our grip on the Bible as a result. And we begin to believe the lie that there are all sorts of different ways to come to know God.
But the truth is, there is only one way to know God. And that is by listening to what he has revealed to us about himself in Scripture. As I’ve already said, creation might tell us that there is a God, and that he is intelligent and powerful and even that he cares for us, but the only way we are ever going to know the things we need to know about God, in order to be reconciled to him, is by hearing from him in Scripture. That is where he has spoken. He has spoken in his written Word. Friends, when God’s creation speaks, that is not God speaking, only creation speaking about God. But when God’s Word speaks, it is God himself speaking directly to the people he has created.
That’s why I say that as great as the message proclaimed by the preacher called creation is, it isn’t sufficient. For example, it doesn’t tell us what God expects of us. It doesn’t even touch the surface of what God is like. And it certainly doesn’t tell us the things we need to know about God in order to be saved. In fact, if all we had was the message that the preacher called creation was proclaiming to us, we’d be in really bad shape. We’d still be condemned and without hope in this world.
But fortunately, God didn’t stop with creation, did he? He gave us so much more so that we could really know him—not just know that he exists, but know him for who he really is. Again, God’s creation reveals significant things about God, but not everything about him—and certainly not the most important things about him.
So, brothers and sisters, I want to encourage you to recommit yourself to the consumption of God’s Word. See it for what it is, and prize it above every other possession you have.
God Reveals Himself In His Son
Okay, so far this morning we have talked about the first two ways that God reveals himself to us. Number one, God reveals himself to us in creation—we know that because when we look around it is easy to see the work of his hands. Number two, God reveals himself to us in his written Word—again, we know this because when we read it, it is clear that these are not merely the words of man. But there is third way that God reveals himself to us. And that is what I want to talk about before I close. And that third way is that God has revealed himself to us in his Son.
Friends, the revelation described in Psalm 19:1-6 would be like going to a museum and looking and being amazed at the work of some great artist who chose to remain anonymous. At this point, all we would know is that the person who created this painting or this sculpture exists and that he or she was very talented and something special. At this point we wouldn’t know their name. We wouldn’t know anything about them other than the fact they created this amazing piece of art we were looking at.
Well, the revelation described in verses 7-11 of this psalm, would be like finding out years later who the artist really was, and then being able to read an autobiography written by this individual. Or better yet, like receiving a personal letter from them where they introduce themselves to us and tell what they are like. We are no longer left in the dark about who this person is—we now know a lot about them because they have told us in their very own words.
But as great as it would be to receive a personal letter from someone like this, and to read their autobiography, we would still struggle to really know them. Our knowledge would still be lacking and incomplete. And that is because the only way to really get to know someone is to be with them. There is a big difference between seeing the work of some great artist, and reading about them in a book, versus having the privilege to get to know them personally and face to face.
And friends that is exactly why God came to us in the person of Jesus Christ. It was one thing to look up into the sky and say, “Wow! God is really great!” And yes, it was much better when he gave us his Word and told us about himself and about his love for us. But neither of those compared to how great it was when he revealed himself to us by putting on human flesh and coming down to Earth to dwell among us in the person of Jesus Christ.
Friends, do you want to know God? Not just that he exists and not just what he’s like, but do you really want to know God? Well, let me tell you, there’s only one way. And that way is to become acquainted with his Son Jesus Christ. And again, the place where that happens is in the Bible. In Jesus, God came to Earth and dwelled with us, and the writings of the New Testament, tell us about Jesus’s time on this Earth. We have the gospel accounts that record in narrative fashion the details of his life and even his very own words. And we have the rest of the New Testament to help us understand it all. And although Jesus is no longer physically here with us, he has sent his Spirit to live within us. And it is through the presence of the Spirit inside of us, along with the words of the biblical authors inspired by that same Spirit, that we can come to know Jesus for he really is, and thus come to know God in a saving sort of way. Yes, friends, in Jesus Christ, God has made himself known. And in Jesus Christ, we can get to know God in a way that is much better than merely listening to the preacher called creation.
Yes, friends, God has revealed himself to us in his creation, he has revealed himself to us more clearly in his Word, but he has revealed himself to us most clearly in his Son. The Bible is God’s Word to us in written form; Jesus is God’s Word to us in bodily form.
Yes, when we, as human beings, look up at the heavens, when we consider the creation all around us, it is difficult to deny, regardless of when or where we were born, that there is a creator who is wise and mighty and who made it all and perfectly arranged it all. The fact that there are so many religions around the world is evidence that nature presents a convincing argument that someone designed these things. That is the conclusion humanity has reached when we look up into the sky. And when we are out in nature, we might even feel compelled to worship.
But apart from his Word, and apart from his Son, we cannot really know God. If you really want to have a complete understanding of God, you are going to have to make use of what he has revealed to us about himself in his Word. And if you really want to have a relationship with him, you are going to have to be a part of the body of Christ, which is the church.
So my prayer today, is that you would leave from here, not content to know about God simply from what he has revealed about himself in creation, but that you would seek to know him through is Word and through his Son. Those are the two places God has most clearly revealed himself to us. And those are the two places we must turn if we want to be saved.
God has given us his creation to enjoy, and the summer months are some of the best time to do that. And God’s creation truly can be a place of worship, but without his Word and without his Son, we would not know much about the one we feel compelled to worship when we are brought to our knees by the beauty and wonder we see in the things God has created.
You have heard it said, “Don’t miss the forest for the trees.” Well, this morning I want to say, “Don’t miss the Creator of the forest, while you are rejoicing over the trees.” Those trees, that water, those stars in the night sky, have all been placed where they are for a purpose. They are all meant to point you to the one who created them. They are all meant to proclaim a message, that there is indeed a God above. But, you cannot know this God without his Word and apart from his Son. Don’t be satisfied, my friends, with an incomplete message. Open God’s Word and listen to it all.