52 seasonal readings from out where the sky springs free
1. The Fingerprints of God
Read Psalm 96
We drive our ingenious machines along a labyrinth of asphalt pathways to vast malls, office towers, factories and sprawling suburbs. We arrive home, where with a click of the button our garage doors open. Inside we have dishwashers and microwaves, televisions and stoves, clocks and stereos. Outside we have domesticated gardens, patios and swimming pools. Satellites orbit above us. We send probes into deep space.
We have arrived at the pinnacle of history! We are the lords of all we survey, sovereign over nature—a concept invented in the eighteenth century. We, the sophisticates of the twenty-first century, arrive in state-of-the-art hospitals and leave in elegant gilded boxes.
Is this all there is? No. There is the earth beneath our feet and the infinitely complex interplay of force and matter that sustains our lives. Creation is so dependable we often take it for granted: the rise of the sun in the morning, the tides that sweep our oceans, the hearts that pump life through our bodies and the kidneys that expel poison from our systems. The result of blind forces? Fate? A serendipitous moment in almost infinite time? The luck of the draw in a cosmic game of chance?
In truth, we are not the afterbirth of mindless forces beyond our ken. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” All peoples—as attested by their legends—knew this to be true. Over time their pristine belief in the Creator degenerated into idolatry and animism. But God determined to maintain a beachhead of belief by choosing a people to bear witness to his creative majesty. The echo of this belief reverberates throughout the pages of Scripture.
Hebrew patriarchs, psalmists and prophets knew that the reality of God as creator and ruler of the universe is the most foundational fact of existence. Melchizedek bore witness to this truth. “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.” Moses sang about “Your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you.” King David added his voice. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” Solomon exhorted young people to establish a life-long pattern of faith in the Creator. “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.”
Recognition of God’s creative genius inevitably leads to a renewed faith in his wisdom and power. Often that is just what we need. Isaiah encouraged weary Israel. “Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”
When they were in despair, Jeremiah gave Israel hope through prophecy of a new covenant bringing forgiveness for past transgressions. He reminded them that God’s promise was as certain as the rising of the sun. “This is what the Lord says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord Almighty is his name.”
The early Christians followed a similar pattern. Persecuted believers gathered together and prayed, “Sovereign Lord, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them . . . enable your servants to speak your word with boldness.” When pagans in Lystra wanted to sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas as if they were gods, Paul responded, “Why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.” In Athens Paul declared that the unknown God they worshipped ignorantly was, “The God who made the world and everything in it.”
The most important truth in the New Testament is the revelation of God’s redemptive glory through the salvation of sinners. The theme of redemption does not, however, eclipse the theme of creation and sovereign rulership. Indeed, our redeemer, Jesus Christ the Lord, is revealed to be the One through whom the Father sustains the universe. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
The fact that the triune God created all things and continues to sustain them is foundational in Scripture. He is no absentee landlord who set the universe in operation and then left it to run on its own. He is the God of today “in whom we live and move and have our being.”
We are not left to fend for ourselves in some merciless corner of cold space. The saints of the ages call to us. “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” Let the truth sink in! God, the infinite creator of all things, has chosen to cherish us as a shepherd cherishes his flock.
There is a profound difference here, however. Sheep see their shepherd but no man has ever seen God. Sheep hear the call of the shepherd; people very, very rarely hear the actual voice of God. Because of the silent, invisible nature of God we may quickly lose perspective and drift through life as if God doesn’t exist. Fortunately, God left behind a silent witness to his majesty, the very creation itself. But we must look. We must listen.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” To sensitive souls everything joins in a thunderous silence proclaiming the wonders of God.
As we would expect, Jesus’ sensitivity to the message of creation led him to give his disciples lessons about salt and light, the rising of the sun and the falling of the rain. He pointed out the need to store treasure in heaven rather than hoarding treasures on earth where “moth and rust destroy.” He drew lessons from the birds of the air and the flowers of the field.
The Scriptural injunction is clear, we can only maintain perspective if we go through life recognizing that:
This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—His hand the wonders wrought.
That’s not easy. We spend most of our lives inside climate-controlled buildings. Without care we quickly lose perspective, forget God’s presence and live as if everything depended on us. Through the help of the Spirit, we need to cultivate the habit of recognizing God’s fingerprints wherever we look in creation so we can lift our hearts in spontaneous worship and thanksgiving.
If we live in a city and have little exposure to the countryside, we can still see God’s infinite skill in the fingers that we use to play over the computer keyboard, the smiles of our children, the sunshine that streams in through the windows.
Let me confess at the beginning of this book that I have as much difficulty as you maintaining perspective. I have to keep reminding myself to look closely in order to see God’s handiwork in the world around. The devotions that follow incorporate the lessons I’ve drawn for my own life from the scenes along our country road.
Blessed Lord open my eyes to recognize all the evidences of your creative majesty along our country road—and beyond. Help me to see your hand in the passing seasons, in the creatures of the forest, in the plants along the stream, in the sky above and in the earth beneath. Help me to live from day to day, to serve others, without forgetting to worship you. Help me to draw strength and comfort not only from the Scriptures but from the evidences of your wisdom and power spread out all around me. What an awesome God you are! The whole earth is full of your glory. Artist! Engineer! Sculptor! Playwright! Father! Redeemer! Friend!
 Gen. 1:1
 Gen. 14:19
 Deut. 32:6
 Psalm 24:1
 Eccl. 12:1
 Is. 40:28,29
 Jer. 31:35
 Acts 4:24,29
 Acts 14:15
 Acts 17:24
 See John 1, Colossians 1 and Hebrews 1
 Col. 1:17, See also Heb. 1:2,3
 Acts 17:28
 Psalm 95:1-7
 Psalm 19:1,2
 Matt. 5:13, 45; 6:19, 26,28
 Text by Maltbie D. Babcock