Observing Natural Revelation—Thinking about Creation

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For the past ten years I have been involved in teaching on rafting trips through the Grand Canyon. The subject matter consists of Genesis 1–11 regarding creation and the Noahic flood. With each trip I exhort the participants to be observant—to look at everything they see, to consider what they can learn about their Creator. The book of Job provides one of the texts I use for this exhortation: Job 12:7–10.

Wisdom and the Deep Things of God

Just before Job launches a three-chapter discourse (Job 12–14), Zophar speaks briefly (Job 11) of wisdom and the deep things of God (Job 11:7–9). He directs Job’s attention to heaven and Sheol, the earth and the sea. Job picks up on that and explains how wisdom can be attained by carefully observing all of God’s creation. All created things speak about the glory of their all powerful Creator and teach that mankind depends upon Him for life. In other words, the Creator sovereignly provides all that mankind requires for life on this planet.

   “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
   or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
   Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
10    In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of all mankind.” (ESV)

Creation Teaches

Solomon told his son (and, by extension, all of us) to “Go to the ant, O sluggard; / consider her ways, and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6). Through written revelation God instructs believers to look around them and to be observant of all that He has created. Job declares that we should be observing the animals—they can teach us (just like the ant). He includes the birds and the fish. Verse 8’s “the bushes of the earth” reveals an unfortunate translation choice by the editors of the ESV. The Hebrew literally says, “meditate on the earth” (see the note in the ESV and also check the NASU). Job refers to the rocks (including the rock strata in the geological column) and landforms (like the mountains, valleys, and ocean basins). Too many of us drive rapidly across long stretches of road without paying any particular attention to the land and the animals. We are oblivious to their voices telling us things God designed for us to know. We need to slow down, be observant, meditate on what we see, and learn about God from natural revelation.

Creation’s Lessons

Job tells Zophar, Bildad, and Eliphaz exactly what creation can teach them: (1) what they see has come from the hand of God Himself—He created all that they see; and, (2) the life of both the animals and mankind are in the power of a sovereign, almighty God (compare these truths to those the apostle Paul identifies in Romans 1:18–32). If we rightly observe and meditate on the earth and its life forms, we should end up thanking and praising God for His gracious and all-wise provision. We should glorify Him for His omnipotence and wisdom. Even the earth yields to our meditative gaze as we realize that our planet is made up of a lot of solid rock. Where did the soil come from out of which God caused all the plants to sprout on Day 3? The same day He caused the dry land to arise out of the global covering of water, the plants also sprouted. God provided the soil—without it the plants could not grow and thrive.

More than Creation and Provision

Note something very striking in Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven …” That is an element of natural revelation we too often miss in the biblical text, as well as in our observing the earth and the heavens. The sedimentary layers in the Grand Canyon, for example, consist of global strata deposited by water—and, they provide us with but a picture of half of the more than ten thousand vertical feet of sedimentary layers (revealing layers laid down during the first half of the Noahic flood). Why are they there? They are there because of divine judgment upon a corrupted world (read Genesis 6–9). Meditating on the sedimentary rock layers in the Grand Canyon should lead us to understand the immensity of God’s judgment on a global scale. Indeed, “meditate on the earth, and it will teach you” (Job 12:8a).

Concluding Thoughts

God never intended for us to be unthinking or even lazy thinkers. He created us to use the minds with which He gifted us. First Peter 1:13 says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action” (literally, “girding up the loins of your mind”). The picture is that of gathering up the length of cloth involved in the robes of that day and tucking it into one’s belt to enable the legs to move without the cloth obstructing them as a man runs, works, leaps, and climbs. Have you become lazy in your thinking? Have you neglected to observe the world around you and to be taught by God from natural revelation? It is time to think! It is time to meditate! It is time to understand what creation can teach us.

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William Barrick

About William Barrick

Dr. William D. Barrick served as professor of Old Testament and director of Th.D. studies at The Master’s Seminary from 1997 to 2015. He remains active in ministry as a theologian and a linguistics expert whose service, writings, and translations have spanned numerous nations and languages. From 1981-1996 he served as a Bible translator, teacher, church planter, and administrator in Bangladesh. He is also the Old Testament editor of the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary from Logos Bible Software. He is also involved as a director of Canyon Ministries helping to lead biblical studies trips in the Grand Canyon. For 19 years he has served as a lay elder and Bible teacher at Placerita Bible Church, Newhall, CA. He continues to teach seminars for various training centers with The Master's Academy International and is secretary/treasurer for Lincoln Global Group (Albania). Bill and Barbara have been married 50 years and have four married children and fourteen grandchildren.