The Testimony of Creation

Editor’s note: On this Earth Day, we’re happy to feature a guest post from Hannah Anderson, author of the recently released Turning of Days: Lessons from Nature, Season, and Spirit. Join us in thanking the Lord for His undeniable testimony through the world He has created.

Spring has finally come to the mountains here in Virginia. I say “finally” because while we always know spring will come, we don’t always know when it will come. I can look at calendars and track weather patterns, but an Appalachian spring always has a way of surprising you. The forsythia and crocus will bloom first; then you’ll hear the spring peepers, tiny tree frogs that sing their mating songs in the cool evenings. But even this doesn’t mean the end of winter. Because if the fruit trees bloom too early, you’ll have to endure weeks of agony waiting out a late frost that could destroy both bud and harvest.

But then one day, before you realize it, you’ll look up and see that the hillsides have greened, the threat of frost has passed, and baby bluebirds have hatched. And although you’ll never know quite how or when it happened, winter has once again turned to spring. And as surely as it does, God has been faithful to His Word yet again: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22).

Seasons of Worship

Given after the Flood, the promise of predictable seasons is more than a meteorological statement. It is a theological statement about God’s own faithfulness, and it is tied closely to worship. In the verses immediately prior, Noah had built an altar to the LORD and offered up a “pleasing aroma” of thanksgiving. In response, God promises to not disrupt the earth’s weather patterns again as he did in the Flood and will, instead, maintain them.

Centuries later, God established worship patterns for the nation of Israel; and not surprisingly, many of their feasts and observations aligned with the very celestial patterns and times of rain and harvest that God had promised to maintain. The Israelites’ worship did not follow the earth’s seasons because the earth is to be worshiped, but because the seasons teach us something about God’s character. The seasons reveal His faithfulness in a particular way, and by giving attention to them, we learn something particular about Him—something we might have otherwise overlooked.

Unlike the ancient Israelites, Christians in the modern west do not worship God along natural cycles. But this doesn’t mean that we can’t deepen our understanding of Him and His word by giving attention to creation. In fact, Psalm 19 tells us that the heavens declare His glory, and Jesus Himself calls us to give attention to the flowers and the birds in order to learn of the Father’s care for us. More than being a source of simple inspiration, creation is a source of divine revelation. Or as Romans 1 puts it: “[God’s] 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.” 

God’s Two Books

The fact that creation reveals God’s character is why Christians throughout church history have talked about creation being one of the two “books” that God has written to teach us about Himself. To be clear, nature does not teach us the name of Jesus or the specifics of salvation—we need the Scripture for that. But it does teach us the outline of truth and prepares our hearts to receive the truth found in the Bible. So while nature cannot replace the Bible, God never intended it to. He intends it to do only and exactly what He created it to do: reveal His glory without words (Psalm 19:3).

Because creation can prepare the soil of our hearts to receive the Word of God, it’s also a wonderful vehicle for “pre-evangelism” or the work that happens in a person before they are ready to hear the specifics of gospel. Sometimes called “general revelation” (because it can be seen by everyone), nature acts as a kind of lexicon that gives us the basic categories of the gospel so that even those unfamiliar with the Scripture can begin to understand how God works.

Think about how a seed carries a metaphor for life and resurrection inside itself. Alluding to both His own death and the call of the gospel on our lives, Jesus says that

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:23–24)

Like a seed, Jesus fell to the earth in death. But like a seed, His death also brought forth much fruit through His resurrection. Like a seed, we too must be willing to die; we must pass through Christ’s death to a new life of fruitfulness. Only by dying to self—dying to our own self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, self-will, and selfishness—can we find eternal life in Him.

Now think of that friend or family member you want to share the good news with—the one who won’t open a Bible or who doesn’t understand theological terms. Think about your grandchild who is struggling to grasp the meaning of Christ’s death for her. Think about how a project like planting a garden or potting seeds might open up new categories for them. Think about how giving attention to creation could prepare their hearts to receive the gospel by hollowing out a gospel-shaped hole in their imagination.

All this from a seed.

A New Creation

When I look at the freshness of an Appalachian spring or the wonder of summer wildflower, I can’t help but see the Creator’s hand. But there’s even more there than we might see at first. In God’s wisdom, the entire earth—from the seasons, to the skies, to the sandy beaches—teaches us something about His nature. Perhaps this is why Jesus used stories of seeds and soil, of birds and flowers, of trees and fruit to teach the way of the Kingdom of God. Perhaps this is why the Old Testament saints worshiped Him in coordination with the seasons.

Beyond metaphor, the natural world around us is declaring the character of God at every moment. Learning to give attention to its testimony will open up countless opportunities for worship, personal growth, and evangelism. We do not look to the creation to worship it, but that we might better worship our Creator. That we might ourselves be better equipped to tell others of His greatness. So that one day, with Elizabeth Barrett Browning, we’ll be able to see that “Earth’s crammed with heaven/and every common bush afire with God.”1

For more from Hannah, check out Turning of Days: Lessons from Nature, Season, and Spirit or visit sometimesalight.com.

1D. H. S. Nicholson and A. H. E. Lee, eds., The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1917), xv, 644 p. 19 cm.

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