In a recent blog (Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name’) I suggested that our hearts are opened to trust our heavenly Father and receive his love by the revelation, or renewed revelation, of his nature and purposes. That got me thinking about revelation. Just how does Father God reveal himself to his children?
We read in Hebrews 1:1 that God has spoken ‘at many times and in various ways’. I’m going to list briefly a few that have come to my mind. I’d like to explore one in particular in this reflection, and I may come back to some of the others in future months.
First, we find many instances In the Bible of God speaking to individual women and men in a variety of ways – in their thoughts, through dreams and visions, by an audible voice, through angels, even through a donkey! Sometimes the revelation was just for the individual concerned, sometimes it was to be passed on.
Second, we have the writings which the community of God’s people (first Israel, then the church) recognised as inspired by the Holy Spirit and carrying God’s authority for all his people (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17). They are contained in what Christians call the Old and New Testaments.
Third, the New Testament writers recognised Jesus as ‘the word made flesh’ (John 1:14), the Son ‘by whom God has spoken to us in these last days…, the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being’ (Hebrews 1:2-3). Jesus revealed the Father to his followers (Matthew 11:27, John 17:26). Following his ascension, the Holy Spirit continues this ministry of revelation (John 16:12-15).
In Romans 1:19-20 Paul refers to a fourth medium of revelation which he clearly thought important, though I’m inclined to think that its significance has been downgraded in some parts of the Christian church today: ‘What can be known about God is plain (to men and women), because God has shown it to them. 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.’ (ESV)
Or, as it is expressed in The Message: ‘The basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being.’
A few years ago, at a Fatherheart Ministries gathering in New Zealand, James Jordan encouraged us to spend time in the open air reading what he called ‘God’s First Book’. Having been brought up in a thoroughly (even overly) bibliocentric Christian culture (which, somewhat ironically, failed to give proper weight to Paul’s words in Romans 1) I initially felt a little uneasy (and perhaps a little sceptical) about this invitation, but since that time, through both personal experience and reading in the Psalms and Wisdom books of the Old Testament, I’ve begun to realise that Father himself invites us to read his ‘First Book’ as one of the ways in which he chooses to reveal his nature and purposes.
In the book of Job, for example, it’s very striking that God, unlike Job’s human ‘comforters’, offers no theological, philosophical or moral answers to Job’s agonised questions. Rather he answers with questions of his own, which invite Job to explore the wonders of the world he created and sustains (Job chapters 38-41). As one commentator writes: God enjoys his world, and he wants us to enjoy it with him… Just as Jesus invited us to ‘consider the lilies of the field’, so the Lord is like a friend who asks you to join him in a walk around his garden… Job finds God in the world. ‘Now I’m satisfied’ he exclaims. ‘I’ve seen You with my own eyes’ (Job 42:5). Francis Anderson, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries
(Of course, there’s much more to say about Job’s relationship with God. The point I’m emphasizing here is how God chose to reveal himself to Job through hiss created world.)
The writers of the psalms also ‘found God in the world’. All around them they saw evidence of his goodness and compassion, his power and majesty, his wisdom and understanding, his justice and faithfulness, and their response was worship – reverent, joyful, grateful, trusting, exuberant worship!
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures. Ps 104:24
Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Ps 111:2
God’s splendour is a tale that is told;
His testament is written in the stars.
Space itself speaks his story every day
Through the marvels of the heavens.
His truth is on tour in the starry-vault of the sky,
Showing his skill in creation’s craftsmanship.
Each day gushes out its message to the next,
Night with night whispering its knowledge to all.
Without a sound, without a word,
Without a voice being heard,
Yet all the world can see its story,
Everywhere its gospel
Is clearly read so all may know. Psalm 19:1-4 Passion Translation
I love the way in which so many psalms speak in the same breath of God’s majestic power and tender compassion. For example:
He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.
The Lord sustains the humble. Psalm 147:3-6
The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.
All your works praise you, Lord; your faithful people extol you.
They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might,
so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.
The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. Psalm 145:9-16
A little boy is standing by a flowerbed in the garden. For a long time he looks closely at a beautiful bloom. He smiles. ‘Well done, God!’ he says.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise. Psalm 8:1-2
Father, thank you for the invitation to read your ‘first book’, to explore and enjoy your world with you.
Open our eyes, as you opened Job’s, to the revelation of who you are in the world around us.
Open our hearts and mouths to respond with reverent wonder, humble trust, and exuberant gratitude and praise.