Written by Ángel Manuel Rodríguez
Could you give some biblical passages showing that God reveals Himself in nature?
I could give you a good number of passages, but after thinking about it, I concluded that it is better to reflect on Psalm 19. In it we find what you want and much more. The psalm can be divided into three main sections.
1. Revelation in Nature (Ps. 19:1-6): Nature is personified and endowed with the capacity to declare the glory of God. Nature speaks about the Creator, not about itself. What does it say about God? According to the psalm, it says very little. It declares the glory of God (verses 1, 2); it points beyond itself to the mystery and inscrutability of the divine mind that brought it into existence. Nature speaks, but surprisingly its speech is to some extent inaudible: “They [the heavens] pour forth speech. . . . There is no speech or language when their voice is not heard” (verses 2, 3, NIV). Nature reveals something of the glory of God, but it is not able to unpack it for us. By observing it, we can only wonder about the power behind it, the God who brought it into existence. It is therefore impossible to develop from nature alone a theology that will uncover the true nature of our God.
Theologians usually call God’s revelation in nature “general revelation,” because it is extremely vague and inconclusive. Nature cannot reveal God’s divine will for our lives. The second part of the psalm is needed.
2. Revelation in the Torah (Ps. 19:7-11): The word torah designates not only the legal materials that God gave His people (the Law), but also divine instruction in its totality. There we come to know the God about whom nature testifies. Over against nature as an incomplete means of revelation, torah is “perfect,” complete (verse 7). Several important things are stated about this revelation.
First, the law revives the soul (verse 7); it restores our lives. The God revealed in the torah is the one who is willing and able to revive dead sinners. In order to understand how God saved sinners, the Israelites were not to look at nature, but at the sanctuary, through which God illustrated for them the beauty of His plan of salvation in Christ.
Second, God’s special revelation makes wise the simple, that is, those who lack discernment and who consequently drift through life without purpose (verse 7). The torah anchors them spiritually, morally, and ethically by acquainting them with the very source of wisdom.
Third, God’s special revelation brings us the joy of salvation and self-realization (verse 8). A life of joy is lived in humble submission to the will of the one who revives our souls. This knowledge is not provided by God’s revelation in nature, but by His special revelation in the torah.
Fourth, that revelation is more valuable than material goods (verses 10, 11). Life is enriched in ways beyond our imagination through the revelation of God in His torah because it brings us into a personal relationship with our Creator.
3. Impact of God’s Revelation (Ps. 19:12-14): The psalm has taken us from a general revelation of God in nature to a very personal and specific revelation of God in the torah. Listening to both of them, says the psalmist, should lead us, first, to recognize our need of forgiveness (verse 12). Confronted by God’s majesty and love, humans perceive themselves as they really are, sinners in need of grace. Sin is not forgiven through obedience to the torah, but by God’s saving grace revealed in it.
Second, we realize that we need power (verse 13). God’s greatness makes us aware of the fact that we are weak. We need not only God’s forgiving grace but also His sustaining grace.
And finally, God’s revelation makes it possible for us to approach Him knowing that He will accept us and what we bring to Him (verse 14).
God’s revelation in nature is vague, inconclusive, and without specificity. It is in His special revelation in the Word—incarnated and written—that we come to know His character and His loving intentions for us, manifested in a special and unique way in Christ. It is good to look at nature and find there the power and majesty of God, but is even more significant to listen to the Word in order to know Him.