June 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
I recall our recent vacation in Colorado as a hike through the historical reality of the book of Genesis. The beauty of creation is obvious, making its Creator obvious, but much of the beauty in places like Glenwood Canyon is actually the result of destruction.
Soaring cliffs with diagonal stratigraphic stripes echo from a era when violent collisions of tectonic plates thrusted pieces of earth at all angles, forming the Rockies and vast mountain ranges all over the globe. God’s original creation was once baptized in a flood of judgment, reshaping it into a different world, yet one we can still admire and see His hand in.
Pristine hidden mountain lakes, waterfalls, and gardens remind us of the even more ancient history of Eden, before perfection was poisoned by man’s disobedience. On a particular trail, a lizard scurried across our path, a harmless version of the legged serpent who prodded Eve toward the forbidden fruit with the challenge, “Did God really say…?”
In Colorado, and elsewhere, that same challenge to God’s created order lingers. Passing through Denver, we visited a cake baker scorned by the new moral regime for “insensitivity” toward alternative forms of marriage. While visiting our niece there, we passed by the oddly and aptly named “Pridefest”, a celebration and manifestation of that challenge of old: “‘Did God really say’ that a man be joined to his wife?”
If art is a reflection of the good, the beautiful and the true, then nature qualifies as art. Breathtaking canyons and scenic vistas born out of destruction are a picture of God’s redemption of the lost. That’s the good in it. The beauty is obvious, and the truth is what it says about the Creator it glorifies—that He is big, creative, just, powerful, yet loving enough to restore sinful men made righteous through the destruction of His Son (and our sin) on a cross.
At night, the stars we can see but cannot count once illustrated God’s promise of new life through Abraham’s offspring. From the true blue expanse above, painted brightly at dawn and dusk, to the life-giving rivers that twist through canyons as a remnant of holy wrath, creation is a historical art gallery of beauty from destruction. God will one Day destroy and remake the world one last time, and He can also remake hearts so we can forever hike those trails too.
In the meantime, “Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed…”
June 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
Fire has always been among the few basic elements of the universe in classical thought. Fire was part of God’s ideal creation, and in its ideal it gives light and heat to sustain life on earth (Gen. 1:14-18). But it’s also one of the oldest human fears.
We don’t know anything certain about man’s first use of it, but the earliest record of man’s exposure to fire was the “flaming sword” used to guard Adam and Eve’s re-entry into the Garden of Eden after they had sinned (Gen. 3:24).
Fire is God’s descriptive term of choice for passages about hell, Hades or Sheol—the realm of Satan and the place of eternal judgment of evil (Luke 16:19-31). Some scholars see Ezekiel 28:12-19 as at least one account of Satan’s fall from heaven to a place of consuming fire, even before human history.
Fire has a very long history as a force to be feared and respected. The headlines from Colorado are a reminder of how dangerous fire is and how powerless we are in the face of it, particularly on such a large scale. In many cases, firefighters can do little else but watch and citizens can do little else but run from it.
In Daniel 3, three Jews were sentenced to die in a fiery furnace because they refused to bow to the King of Babylon. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, with a relatively short history of faithful to go on, held by faith that their God would save them from the fire. When they were thrown into the raging flames, bystanders reported “four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed.” The fourth man looked like “a son of the gods.” (Dan. 3:25)
God’s son Jesus came to earth and endured the fire of the cross for us so that we could escape the fires of righteous judgment. The fire we endure in a world cursed by sin is not fire that those who know Christ go through alone. Someone walks through it with us.
Even in the presence of a threat as old as the hills that now burn, we are not outside of God’s protection. As small as these Colorado wildfires make us feel, when we pray for our neighbors in Colorado, we are praying to a God who is bigger and older than the flames trying to consume it.