Perhaps the reason some of us fail to respect the great gifts of the Creator is that we have not fully grasped the fact that the creation is a major part of God’s introduction of Himself. What God says about Himself through the natural world is foundational to a biblical understanding of life. The Bible itself teaches us to read “two books” that reveal truth about God to us. Historically, theologians have labeled these two books as the “special revelation” and the “general revelation.” The special revelation is the Word of God speaking to us primarily in the Bible. The general revelation is the handiwork of God speaking to us from the world He created. The psalmist David put it lyrically:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard (Ps. 19:1-3).
Later the psalmist wrote:
I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works (Ps. 145:5).
Hundreds of years later, the apostle Paul voiced a similar view:
Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead (Rom. 1:20).
Because the idea of truth about God being revealed in His creation was so significant in Scripture, Augustine of Hippo in the third century after Christ characterized the two revelations as the “book of God’s Word” and the “book of God’s Works.” Francis Bacon (called the father of modern science) declared it again in the fifteenth century. Bacon admonished, “Let no man think or maintain that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God’s Word or in the book of God’s Works.” Thoroughly cementing the concept of the two books into the foundational mindset of the church at that time was the Belgic Confession, an important affirmation of the Reformers. This confession asks by what means can people know God. Here is the answer:
We know Him by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: His eternal power and His divinity . . . . Second, He makes Himself known to us more openly by His holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for His glory and for the salvation of His own.
Let’s examine Paul’s observation in Romans 1:20 a little more closely. He told us there are two things about God that are revealed by the material creation: His eternal power and His Godhead. “Godhead” is often translated as “divinity.” A dictionary definition of something divine is “that which is superhuman, godlike, supremely good, magnificent, or compels a person to worship.” It’s significant for a biblical writer to say that the creation itself is wonderful enough to make us want to worship. But Paul also said that we can see in nature God’s eternal power.
Now add to that what David saw in the creation: the wonder, glory, and majesty of the Creator’s handiwork. If we take this impressive list and apply it to the natural world around us, what is it that we might “clearly see” and “understand” from the material creation? Here’s a partial list of what the material world reveals:
• Light and matter, which continue to defy human definition and understanding
• Seemingly endless time (no clearly apparent beginning or end)
• Seemingly endless space (eternality seen in the microscope and the telescope)
• Astronomical abundance and magnitude (“billions and billions”)
• Wonderful life (inexplicable in its essence and origin—and apparently existing on earth alone)
• Fearsome death (which God has marvelously linked to life and its perpetuation)
• Unfathomable complexity
• Profound mystery
• Unfailing orderliness (out of seeming chaos)
• Awesome power (far exceeding our own)
• Incredibly intelligent design (absolutely beyond human replication)
• Virtually endless variety (biodiversity)
• Amazing adaptability (micro-evolution)
• Overwhelming beauty
• Unlimited sensory stimulation (“candy” for the five senses)
• A vast chasm between people made in God’s image and the other created things (people alone having the capacity for creative thinking, abstract reasoning, and symbolic language, and having innate morality and the instinct to worship)
Is it any wonder that through the ages mankind has found in the natural world a reason to worship? Let’s consider a little further what it is about trees in particular that moves us to give our Creator praise.