The Glory of God

Psalm 19 begins by stating “The heavens declare the glory of God.” It goes on to say how creation reveals God: “night after night they make him known.” Then, in the middle of the psalm, the subject suddenly changes to God’s Law: “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.” What’s going on?The Psalmist is saying that, just as one part of the created order reveals God, so does this other part. (Theologians describe the first type as “general” revelation, because it’s available to everyone, and the second type as “special” revelation, available only to those who have received it.) So, the stars reveal God, and so does the Law.

So what is it that’s being revealed? The skies “proclaim God’s craftmanship.” The laws of God “are true; each one is fair.” The skies are perfect workmanship and so is the Law.

Do we believe that?

I’ve had conversations with people about their “mountaintop” experiences gazing out at creation — the night sky, or the Grand Canyon, say — and getting chills thinking about the One who created it. But I think most of us (certainly I do) bring a skeptic’s attitude to our study of the Law. We go through it trying to decide what seems right and what parts need to be explained away or ignored or even apologized for.

Imagine if we examined nature the way we look at the Law. It would be like looking at the Grand Canyon and apologizing for the haze, or looking at the stars and regretting that Mars doesn’t have canals.

That last one I’m guilty of sometimes. I think Mars would be better with Martians and canals. But who am I to argue with reality? And, besides, as Haldane (or possibly Eddington) said, “The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.” I regret there being no Martians, but over and over again, reality turns out to be more exotic and wonderful than science fiction.

Maybe the same thing is true of the Law. Suppose we accepted it as reality and then “turned our telescopes on it” to figure it out. What would we find if we approached our study of the Law with the same intensity and purpose that scientists bring to their study of the Cosmos?

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