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God’s Universal Natural Revelation

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series

"The Law of the Lord"

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Last week I started a short series looking at God’s two-fold revelation as expressed in Psalm 19. This week we focus on the first form of God’s revelation—his natural revelation.

Verses 1–6 of Psalm 19 express God’s natural revelation. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” This is the natural created order—heavens, skies, what God has made. And as these opening verses poignantly say, what God has made reveals certain things about him—creation is God’s revelation. It reveals his glory and his handiwork. And not just some of creation, all of creation is God’s revelation; the psalmist uses poetic expressions in verse 2 to communicate this: “Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” From morning till evening, day and night, what God has made reveals his glory and handiwork; nature is God’s speech and knowledge revealed to us. As Maltbie Babcock wrote, “This is my Father’s world . . . in the rustling grass I hear him pass; he speaks to me everywhere.”

But I want to stress one point here that we often take for granted because we say it so often: Nature is God’s revelation. God created the heavens and the earth, and he did so intentionally to reveal himself. Nature is the voice of God. We know this; we affirm this. But I think sometimes, especially in our modern scientific, naturalistic society, we tend to view nature as apart from God, sort of doing its own thing.

No, nature is God’s revelation just like Scripture is, but it does differ from Scripture in a couple key ways, and they are communicated in this psalm.

First, nature reveals God without words. Notice what David says in verse 3:

There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.

It’s interesting—he just said in verse 2 that “day to day pours out speech,” so nature is God’s speech, but then he says just two phrases later, “there is no speech” in nature. In other words, David is clarifying what kind of revelation nature is. What God created is like speech—it reveals something about him, but it is not exactly speech. It is not actual words. We do not actually hear the audible voice of God in nature. When we sing, “in the rustling grass I hear him pass; he speaks to me everywhere,” we don’t mean that literally. There’s no audible sound or voice.

But that does not make nature any less God’s revelation. It just reveals God in ways other than words. God’s spoken revelation does do some things that his natural revelation cannot, which we’ll look at later. But the fact that nature reveals God without words actually allows it to reveal God to us in ways that words cannot, which leads us to the next point:

God’s natural revelation is universal. That cannot be said for his spoken special revelation—you have to be able to read, or at least listen to Scripture in order to understand what God wants to reveal through Scripture. But what God reveals through what he has made is universal. This is what David communicates in verse 4:

Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

There is no place on earth, nor is there any person on earth where God’s natural revelation does not reach—it is universal. In fact, the apostle Paul quotes this verse in Romans 10:18 to argue that Israel has no excuse for rejecting God’s revelation, for

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

God’s natural revelation is universal. David uses the image of the sun to picture at the end of verse 4. No one can escape the sun; it’s universal.

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.

The same is true for God’s natural revelation—nothing is hidden from it. Its voice goes out through all the earth, and its words to the end of the world. It is universal, which is why sometimes it is called “general revelation,” meaning it reaches all people in general.

Next week we’ll look more specifically at the nature of God’s natural revelation.

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About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.