Thank you, John, for those gracious words. It was about 30, almost 39 years ago. No, I’m sorry. Anne-Marie and I have been married almost 39 years. It was about 32 years ago when our marriage was hanging on but a thread in crisis that the Lord brought us to Himself. And I don’t have time to tell the story, but we almost immediately discovered Grace to You, and it was through the ministry of this pulpit and John and Grace to You that we rebuilt our marriage, rebuilt our family life, our household, our priorities in life 32 years ago. So thank you, John, for at least giving us 32 of the last 50 years. It was our habit to listen to Grace to You there in Houston every evening at 9:00. It airs on KHCB still. Have our two boys – they were young at the time – in bed by 8:30 so we could be in our bed by 9:00 with the lights on, Bible on the lap, a notepad and a pencil. And through Grace to You, you taught us the Bible nightly for years and years. That was the routine definitely through the ‘90s, and he alluded to some of the things that have happened since.
How many here still have a pile of cassettes that they don’t know what to do with? Look at that. We would all feel guilty if we threw them away, right? I think it was, Anne-Marie, it’s probably not more than ten years ago or so that I finally got rid of a truck that I had. I had this old beat up pickup, and the reason I refused to sell it is because they didn’t have pickups with cassette players anymore. And it wasn’t until the cassette player died that I finally gave up and got rid of that truck and bought a new one.
I want to vicariously take you through a unique experience today if I can. There’s a lot of material that I have, I’m going to go fairly fast through it. It’ll introduce multiple themes, I think. But my prayer is that you can relate to it and relate to it in your own lives. Basically the bottom line is I want to encourage you to look around the circumstances in life and see the work of God around in those circumstances around your life, in your history, in your present circumstances, anticipating the future, and I want to do that through the unique vantage point of orbit.
Like I said, there’s going to be quite a bit of material I’m going to cover. I’m going to kind of survey several texts in Scripture as we do this. Several years ago, many of you know John preached a sermon called “The Jet Tour Through Revelation,” I think. So this is going to be sort of an orbital tour through, across the works of God, if you will. So it’s going to be a little bit faster even than that. And we’re going to try to do that looking through the lens of Scripture, appropriating the truth of Scripture to see the things of life is the goal here from this unique vantage point at orbital velocity orbiting the earth. And I’ll introduce you to that here in a minute.
This is not intended to be apologetic, it’s more intended to be for your encouragement and our edification. We will keep in mind the biblical arc of reconciliation and redemption, the arc of creation, the fall and redemption. And I was assigned to used Psalm 19, the first six verses as the text, but we’re only going to use that as a launching point. So I’m not going to do an expository sermon of verses 1 through 6, but we’ll get to it and read it for what it is here in a bit.
I’ll repeat again what I just said. I want to do this looking through the lens of Scripture. Now I love math, engineering technology, so a lens to me is very significant, and it’s an illustration of what I’m going to try to illustrate today. It’s an optical device obviously, right? It brings thing into focus. Several years ago I had one eye going bad with a cataract that was growing rapidly, and they put a new lens in, and it cleared up my vision. That’s what lenses do, the bring things into focus. They magnify, they clarify, they make precise the view that we have. It’s an instrument to gather knowledge and understanding. It enables the scene of detail clearly. It brings far away things closer. It makes small things appear larger: think telescope, microscope.
That’s what Scripture does. Looking through the lens of Scripture does that for us. Scripture brings us understanding, knowledge to the life of the world around us, to give us, to inform us that biblical worldview that I alluded to. It enables the application of wisdom and discernment in life. So we all ought to grow and continue to grow in our ability to use the Scripture to see life, to see the world around us, to understand where we are, what we’re doing, where we’re going, why God has placed us where we are in life, the contacts that we have in life we should see that through the lens of Scripture.
We’re going to survey through photography the works of God that include these things. I’m going to give you a little bit of a roadmap to help you perhaps keep up. And this is, in part, feedback from my wife. I always ask her, “How did it go?” and sometimes I get that comment that, “Well, I lost you halfway through; you went too fast.” So I’ve learned maybe it’s good to slow down, one; but two, to give you a little bit of a preview on the themes.
When we consider the works of God, of course, we’re going to consider the works of creation, and we’re going to do that through the photography. We’re going to consider briefly His sustaining work in creation, that He not only created all things, but He upholds it by the word of His power. That’s important for us to keep in mind as we go through life.
We’re going to spend quite a bit of time on considering His works of provision; and there’s so many aspects of that, and we’ll get into that here in a few minutes. Related to that, we’re going to look at – I’m going to ask you to think reflectively and ask the question as we see photography like what’s on the screen right now, “Why do we respond the way we do when we see these things?” If you’ve been to the Grand Canyon or a place like that, why do we respond emotionally? Like Voddie reminded us yesterday, we’re all emotional beings. Why do we respond the way we do when we experience those things? And I contend, and we’ll touch on this a little bit more: it’s because we bear the image of God. So we’ll consider that as we go through this, these pictures.
Related to that, I want you to not only see from this vantage point a unique way the provision that God has put in His creation for us, but our inherent ability to extract from that creation; and it explains a lot in the history in the world – and we’ll get into that – in our present day as well mankind’s ability to extract from that provision, to explore, to discover, to observe, to develop, to contemplate things, to utilize things, to make use of what God has created. And then finally, we’ll look at His work of redemption. So we’ll consider that in the big picture context as well, acknowledging the fall into sin, the curse of creation, the consequence of the sweat and toil that we live in, of the pain and the suffering that comes. And while acknowledging the capabilities that we have to extract from His creation, we’ll also acknowledge our limitations as we go through this, which is also related to our need for redemption. All of this will grow, I think, I believe, our gratitude for the grace of God, the gratitude of the love extended to us through Jesus Christ.
So I’ll take you to this vantage point and we’ll consider these things: the work of His hands, the work of His fingers. After all, we’re called to see His works, we’re called to appreciate His works, we’re called to tell of His works, we’re called to give thanks and glory for His works. Psalm 111 is one of my favorite Psalms. Verse 2 says, “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” So you could consider this next hour we’re going to be studying the works of God, because called by God, called to faith in Christ, we naturally, or supernaturally, rather, delight in them.
I want to use this illustration to show what’s inherent in the human heart in this regard. As John alluded to or said, I have spent a lot of time in Russia. I think I’ve accumulated six years or so over the last twenty years of time. In the early 2000s I was spending half my time there. I primarily lived and worked in a placed call Star City outside of Moscow. That’s where the Russian cosmonauts, and earlier the Soviet cosmonauts live and work. It’s where we train for flight on the Soyuz and work on the Russian segment of the International Space Station.
And the train platform adjacent to Star City is named Tsiolkovsky. It’s named after a gentleman by the name of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. And I found a quote that’s very telling from him. Tsiolkovsky wrote, “From the rocket we shall see the huge sphere of the planet earth like phases of the moon. We shall see how the sphere rotates, and how within a few hours it shows all its sides successively, and we shall observe various points on the surface of the earth for several minutes, and from different sides very closely. This picture is so majestic, attractive, and infinitely varied, that I wish with all my soul that you and I could see it.” He wrote that in 1911. He was a theorist, but he could envision studying God’s creation what was possible via technology, the development of technology. 1911 he described exactly what many of us have experienced from the International Space Station.
Later in 1945, Arthur C. Clarke, which is more of a familiar name to you, wrote – and this, again, 1945 – “Using material ferried up by rockets, it would be possible to construct a space station in orbit. The station could be provided with living quarters, laboratories, and everything needed for the comfort of its crew, who would be relieved and provisioned by a regular rocket service.”
I just came three weeks ago from Kazakhstan. We had a regular rocket service. We rotated a crew: three of the crewmembers landed, three of the crewmembers launched. We do that multiple times a year. This is what Tsiolkovsky envisioned in 1911 and what Arthur C. Clarke wrote about in 1945, the International Space Station. How many have seen it fly over with the naked eye? Quite a few of you. For those of you that haven’t, that’s your homework assignment. You can go get an app or look on the Internet, do a search and find out when it’s going to fly over where you are on the earth, visible from the ground. Due to the reflection of the sun, usually it’s right after sunset or right before sunrise where you are where it’s dark on the surface of the earth. But it is still lit by the sun and very reflective. The first element launched 1998, and we completed the assembly in 2011. So my entire career spanned the life of the Space Station.
As John said, I’ve been there four times, from 2000 to 2016. If you could lay it on the ground and weight it, it would weigh almost a million pounds. It would cover the area greater than a football field. It took 37 space shuttle launches to get the elements up there, along with about an equivalent number of Russian rocket launches over those years. In 2000, the fall of 2000, we launched Expedition 1, the first permanent crew. Up until then there had been several space shuttle crews that had visited for a short period of time. But since the fall of 2000, we’ve had continuous human presence in orbit. A lot of people don’t realize that.
So I’ve been one of many that have come and gone over those years on the International Space Station. It is international. The partners include Russia, the European Space Agency which is made up of about 12 countries or so, Japan, and Canada. It was envisioned in about 1992 after the Soviet Union fell; that’s when we partnered with Russia. So it’s got a very interesting history all around.
It orbits the earth every 90 minutes, 16 times a day. If you can imagine the globe and the equator of the globe, the inclination of the orbital plane is a little over 51 degrees. So that means as we orbit the earth every 90 minutes, we cross the equator, go up to 51.6 degrees north latitude, come back across the equator 51.6 south latitude; and then in that 90 minutes when we come around again for the next orbit, we cross the equator about 1,500 miles to the west of the previous crossing. So that means over time you cover the entire earth to be able to observe the earth, except for the poles and different lighting conditions, day and night. And over weeks and months, you watch the seasons go by, so it’s a very unique, very robust platform vantage point to study the work of God in creation in this place called earth.
The view out the window. There’s a sunset. That’s not the view out the window, that’ll come next. But there’s at the moment of a sunset. You can see the atmosphere in the background there, relatively thin, relative to the diameter of the earth. But just a spectacular vantage point to see the variations on the surface of the earth.
Here’s the view out the window in daytime, and the view out the window at night. Of course, many Scripture passages come to mind when you see a view like this with the expanse of the stars; there are various passages in Isaiah and elsewhere. But it’s at this point that I will read Psalm 19, verses 1 through 6. Now oftentimes when Psalm 19 comes up in conversation folks will immediately think, “Okay, general revelation, special revelation,” right? “God’s natural revelation in creation, His special revelation in the Word of God.” But let me remind you: verses 1 through 6 are a declaration of God’s work in creation, the natural revelation. But those verses are His special revelation. They are the inspired Word of God as well. And it’s a response to see in His work of creation, that David declares in words how God speaks through creation without words. It’s a very powerful passage that I know you are familiar with it. I’ll read it.
“The heavens declare the glory of God,” – and the verb there is continuous. It’s a continuous declaration, ongoing declaration. And you can expand this to all elements of God’s creation. “Creation continually declares the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard, whose measuring line goes out through all the earth,” – in their words – “to the end of the world. In them He has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.” Nature speaks with the voice of God, and that’s what David is declaring here, and it speaks in beauty and majesty.
We’ll go on here and look at some examples. A sunset; and here’s a closer look of the layers of the atmosphere and the vivid colors. And what do we think? Beauty, beauty. Harmony, harmony in both color and pattern.
Here’s a closer view of just the edge of the sun going on the other side of the horizon, and the ragged edge there, clouds that shadow the sun’s rays. So the black are the thick clouds. The black up in the orange are the higher level weather systems and clouds; just a spectacular moment that happens 16times, two times a day: 16 orbits, 16 sunrises, 16 sunsets a day. Here’s another view where you see even a closer view of the layers of the atmosphere; just absolutely beautiful, a gorgeous display of God’s work in creation.
Here’s a unique view of what we call noctilucent clouds, or silver clouds they’re sometimes called. We occasionally see them over the North or South Pole. Very unusual, very mysterious-looking, but in their own way uniquely beautiful, harmonious in pattern. The theory is is that they’re ice crystals that somehow got transported up to the higher layers of the atmosphere and formed this pattern. The sun is on the backside just over the horizon, but shining through this as we see it. And I saw a vivid display of noctilucent clouds a little over three years ago in the summer of 2016.
This view represents one of my favorite views in terms of looking through the lens of Scripture. This is what we call the terminator. On the right side of the screen, you see the lit earth; on the left side of the screen, of course, you see the nighttime earth. Every time we would cross the terminator and I’d see a view like this, I think of Job 26. Job 26 is a marvelous chapter. It’s sort of an interlude in the book of Job, which of course, main theme is the suffering that Job goes through and the wresting with that, and the advice from his friends and all of that. But in the background throughout Job is the reality of God the Creator and the wonder of His creation and the majesty of His creation. And Job 26 is sort of an interlude that gives us a very unique communication, if you will, in words of that majesty.
Verse 7, for example, says, “He stretches” – that is, God stretches – “out the north over the void, speaking poetically of the place from which God governs His creation. Then in the second half of verse 7, it says, “He hangs the earth on nothing.” And you’re probably familiar with that passage from John’s series on creation quite a few years ago. “He hangs the earth on nothing,” giving testimony to the veracity of the Word of God. I can tell you, having orbited the earth many times, there are no strings attached.
Verse 10 is this picture. Verse 10 of Job 26: “God has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness.” Now think about it. That verse is written from the vantage point off the planet. When we’re on the planet and the sun sets and it gets dark, we don’t have a real sense of a line drawn on the surface of the planet between light and darkness. It’s a perfect description of our vantage point off the planet. “He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness.”
Verse 14 is a profound verse in Job 26. It says, “Behold, these” – all these things that he talks about in this chapter, the majesty of the creative work of God evident in creation as we look around – “these are but the outskirts of His ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?” So even facing this majestic view of the work of the sovereign and majestic God, Job is saying there’s something more, there’s something more.
We see only a glimpse of God in His work. We hear only a whisper. The greatness and immensity of His power which we know from Scripture is infinite, Job is saying here the immensity of His power is beyond our comprehension. He is incomprehensible, knowable only as He chooses to reveal Himself. That’s a profound reality there in the, what most would say is the oldest book of the Bible.
Let’s continue looking from our vantage point. If we focus in on more details, here a beautiful picture of a glacier in Northern Pakistan. And I have a whole collection of different themes, if you will, in the photography, glaciers being one of those themes that I was fascinated with. This is a glacier in the Patagonia region in Southern South America.
A river delta. This is perhaps the most photographed river delta in the world. It’s on the island of Madagascar. Unique in its color, unique in its pattern; and the different channels of water that flow into the Indian Ocean on the east side of the island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa. Just beautiful in its own right.
Here’s looking up the Andes Mountains, the spine of South America to the north, giving you a wide-angle example of what we can see from our vantage point. Or the Grand Canyon. Many of you, I’m sure, have been there. This is an oblique view of this gorge carved out of the plains of Arizona. Or the Grand Canyon right after a snowfall; just beautiful. And I know, I’ve been there. On the rim it’s as beautiful there as it is off the planet as well. In fact, when folks ask me what it’s like to see the earth from orbit, that’s the first place I go. If you’ve been to the edge of the Grand Canyon, it’s one of those places on the earth that comes closest to the view that you get from orbit.
Mount St. Helens up in Washington State. The side of the mountain, as you might recall, blew out in May, I think it was, of 1980. Just a catastrophic explosion, which demonstrates the power of God in His creation in a very vivid way.
A volcano eruption. Another volcano. This one’s off the coast of Alaska in one of the Aleutian Island. I won’t tell the whole story, but because my wife is here I’ve got to tell part of the story, because I’ll hear about it if I don’t.
This was in 2006, it was May, it was about six weeks into a six-month stay. I was having kind of a bad day. We all have bad days every now and then. And even when you’re off the planet, you can have a bad day. I’m thinking, “Man, six weeks, six weeks, and six months, no end in sight.”
There was only two of us onboard, Pavel Vinogradov, my Russian cosmonaut crewmate and I. It was after the Columbia accident when we had reduced the crew size to two. We lost that crew in that accident and the shuttle was grounded, so we were in kind of survival mode in those days; so just two of us. Pavel’s a great friend and a great crewmate; but still, six weeks into my first six-month stay, just having one of those bad days. And Anne-Marie and I talked, typically twice a day we would talk. I could call her when she woke up and then call her before I went to bed, given the time zone difference that we were on.
We had a talk mid-morning that particular day. I went in the very backend of the Space Station to have a bag of tea – we don’t have cups of tea up there, we drink it through a straw out of a bag – with Pavel, as was our habit, just taking a break; and we visited a little while. And I was getting ready to go back to work, and the frontend of the Space Station had started floating that way. Floated over a window, saw the Aleutian Islands going by under the window, and as was my habit, I grabbed my camera to take a few pictures. So I took a picture of one, and the next one, and the next one. Something in the back of my head said, “That last one didn’t look right.” So I went back and reframed it, and it was this volcano erupting. And I took two or three pictures before it went out of view.
And I was all excited. I called Houston, told them about it; we had a fun interaction. I ended up even talking to the folks up in Alaska at the Volcano Observatory up there in the meantime; just a very exciting thing to see, because you can see from the picture that then entire plume is in view. So the eruption had just started. Ninety minutes later we were going to pass over it again, so I was going to be back in the window to take some more pictures; and this was the volcano. So the eruption was done, you could see the fresh lava flowing down the side of the volcano, and it was done.
To this day, I’m the only person that I know of that saw this particular eruption on or off the planet. It turned out Anne-Marie was praying specifically that the Lord would bring something into my day to bring me out of my slump. We had no idea that it would be a volcano eruption. But just a personal example of the provision of God that comes to us, if we look for it, day by day. It comes in the little things. More on that maybe a little bit later.
Back to the beauty of the planet. Here’s an oblique view looking up. And just to orient you, in the center-upper part of the picture, the peninsula of Florida. You can see the scattered clouds over the peninsula of Florida; and that’s typical Florida. To the right of that, the turquoise blue are the Bahamas. In the foreground of the pictures, the island of Cuba. Just absolutely gorgeous. Coral reefs are gorgeous off the planet.
Here’s looking straight down at the Florida Keys. Some of you, perhaps, have been there. Or just adjacent to that, the Bahamas. These are the most beautiful coral reefs in the world, and one of the largest reefs. Here’s a blowup. And the reason the picture has a jagged edge – I get that question – is because there’s multiple frames taken just seconds apart and then stitched together to get more detail in a wider panorama of the detail. But absolutely beautiful. This looks like you might imagine there’ll be a watercolor painting hanging on a wall in a museum someplace. But this is the view out the window and a great example of the beauty of God’s work in creation.
Here’s a unique surface area in the continent of Australia. Much of Australia looks like another planet, or you would imagine another planet, very unique in its terrain.
Dynamic events. Here’s a hurricane. This one did not make landfall, it stayed in the Atlantic thankfully; but just a majestic example of the power in God’s creation. Or fire. Another example of the dynamic event that happens and the suffering that the curse that the creation is under. This one was called the Day Fire, not too far from here. Just below the source of the fire there you can see Castaic Lake which is up in the Valencia area. To the right, lower-right corner of the picture is Edwards Air Force Base, Rogers lake beds to orient you. So we’re almost in view in this picture, but it’s called the Day Fire in the fall of 2006.
Sand dunes, another category of pictures, a collection that I have. I love sand dunes because of their demonstration of God’s beauty in creation, and also order in creation. There’s a rhythm with dune just like there’s a rhythm with water currents and other things; and that’s a clear demonstration of the order in God’s creation, in His creative work.
Another example of sand dunes. These are both in the African, Northern African Sahara region. Here’s one that’s very unique, and I like to use this one and pause here to talk a little bit about the order in God’s creation. John alluded to it yesterday when he talked about God’s laws in nature, right? And I’m an engineer and a pilot, and listed some of those things. Astronaut, he listed. We care about laws, we care about truth, because the consequences are deadly if you don’t.
This picture here of the sand dunes is unique in that you see these orthogonal patterns, repeating patterns. You see large-scale and small-scale patterns. It’s a clear demonstration of mathematical order. And the mathematical order in creation, I didn’t know it was God’s grace when I was a kid. But growing up, my interest in math and science was seated and grew because of, as I observed things, you could see how things worked and why they worked; and my curiosity just grew over time to understand why things work the way they do. And then I got older, went to university, or the academy; and then later, grad school. And that’s what drove my studies then was trying to understand this mathematical order that was so predictable; and you see it here so clearly in this picture with the repeated patterns.
I know not all of you like math or are inclined to math or have studied math, but this is a clear demonstration of mathematical order, incredible order in creation. This is just one example. You can look at anything in creation and you can see order in it, down to the cellular level. Look at the solar system level, the planets orbiting the sun, the galaxies – everything we see, everything is ordered. And not only is it ordered, but it’s ordered precisely.
I recently read a book whose topic was precision and the history of man’s ability to measure precisely, and our ability to measure precisely is directly proportional to the development of technology. And you can look at the history of civilization and what not. And I’ll just give you a very simple example.
When the clock was invented that would actually operate on a rolling ship, that’s when it became possible to measure your longitude. So think of leaving Europe. Until you knew what time it was and could measure time accurately on a rolling ship, you didn’t know how far west you were, because you needed time, you needed a time reference, because you couldn’t tell when the sun rose and the sun set because it was changing as you went around the planet.
So that’s just one example. And you can think of more recent examples of the capability that we have now in our pocket or our pocketbook with our smartphone, and the instant transmission of any kind of information; all kinds of information virtually instantly around the world is because of the order in God’s creation, and the predictability of that order, and our ability to measure things precisely. Time is related to that order. Everything operates on the function of time, as a function of time; so time is a part of that. All of that is a key part of God’s created order.
If you’re not inclined to mathematics, we just heard some wonderful music. Music is a demonstration of the order in God’s creation. And there’s two sides of it. One is the production of the music itself, the object reality of music, just the objective reality of God’s order in His creative work. But also, our response to it. Good music is pleasing to us, right? So again, we’ll get to this a little bit more in a minute. But again, it’s a reflection of us bearing the image of God, and it has huge implications for our understanding, in our observation, in our exploration.
So, order, precision, mathematical order, musical order. God ordered creation, and mankind is continually discovering its ordered character with growing levels of precision. And as I said before, that gives us insight and understanding into the history of technology, development, engineering, and related activities. You could also say that God gave creation qualities to make it useful to its inhabitants. There’s all kinds of utility usefulness in His created order to us, and we can observe, contemplate, and discover those qualities. That’s where it brings us back to considering the reality of us bearing God’s image.
When we look in the mirror, what does that say about us? Our ability to see and comprehend the order with the growing precision that I talked about. Our comprehension, and that we contemplate and how we contemplate this created order is direct evidence of bearing the image of God. We study things around us with the goal to understand the how and the why. We have a curiosity and a wonder in what we observe. We’re made in the image of God. We possess personhood. God has given us a mind with the ability to reason, to remember the past, to contemplate the future, to apply that understanding to the present.
We have an intellect with a will. We have the ability to think and communicate in the abstract or articulate in complex speech. We have a self-awareness, a conscience with a moral sense of right and wrong, operating either to guide us or to convict us. We have a creativity, an ingenuity, a sense to comprehend meaning and significance. We have, as we’ve seen, an appreciation of beauty, of goodness, of truth, which should motivate our pursuit of knowing our Creator and knowing Him more as He has revealed Himself. All of these things give testimony to our bearing the image of God. So let’s go on with the slideshow here.
Here’s another demonstration of order. These rows of clouds are produced by a mathematical order in the wind combined with the humidity levels and the temperature of the atmosphere. So the wind, if you imagine the surface here, the wind is actually doing this in a sinusoidal pattern carrying the humid air either up or down; and then it condenses and forms these clouds.
While I use this slide as a transition, now look behind the clouds, and you can see agriculture. This is in the Midwest. If you can see it – can’t see it well on the screen, but you can see the square miles in the photography in the irrigation circles; that’s what that is. Here’s another example of agricultural activity on the ground. This one’s up in the state of Washington; it’s forestry operations in checkerboard pattern, square miles. Harvesting lumber; we know all the ways that that is used.
Here’s grain fields in France. And I always get that response. You just demonstrated what I’ve been talking about: our response to observing God’s creation. And here we see mankind’s extracting from the provision that God put in His creation, right? These grain fields are pleasing to us. They’re pleasing to us in pattern, in colors.
Isaiah 45, verse 18, you know this verse, I think. It says, “For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (He is God!), who formed the earth and made it (He established it; He did not create it empty, He formed it to be inhabited!): ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other.’” There is great provision of habitation in God’s creation.
Among other things, in the climate. The atmosphere, the water cycle, and the earth’s natural resources, He made it habitable. In this we see purpose. We see purpose in His creation and His provisioning of His creation. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, but let me throw out a few facts that you may be familiar with.
Unique to this habitation that we find ourselves in, we find ourselves on an earth and a perfect orbit around an ideal sun, providing for a habitable environment. The 24-hour rotation moderates the temperature extremes and sets the pace of life for us. The 23-degree inclination of the earth to the sun moderates the weather through seasons. There are huge bodies of water, liquid form being the most critical for life throughout the planet. There’s a perfect density in gas mixture of the atmosphere for sustaining life: 21 percent oxygen, for example, is ideal; 25 percent would be too flammable; 15 percent would be hypoxic; 78 percent nitrogen is essential to life on the planet.
The atmosphere transmits wavelengths of sun perfectly matched for plants, to support the life of plants and the detection by the human eye while blocking most of the lethal energy from the sun. The moon produces tides, critical for life, for the weather systems, and for the water cycle. The magnetic field provides protection from lethal radiation that comes in the solar wind. Of course, vegetation and animal life throughout the planet for food and other uses. Vast raw materials useful to us.
The 17th century Puritan Stephen Charnock wrote in his book, you can still get it published now, call The Existence and Attributes of God, wrote, “All things in the world one way or another center in the usefulness for man: some to feed him, some to clothe him, some to delight him, some to instruct him, some to exercise his intelligence, and others his strength.” Very insightful, very biblical, looking through the lens of Scripture and bringing understanding to God’s creation and the provision that we find in creation and our ability to extract from it. When God gave the earth form and filled it, He not only gave it that mathematical order, that precise mathematical order I talked about, but He filled it with rich bounty and He made it habitable.
Moving on, here’s some more grain fields in Eastern Europe, and this bright yellow caught my attention in 2016. It turns out to be rapeseed in bloom here, from which they make canola oil. And we all are familiar with canola oil. I used to think canola was some kind of bean, but it’s really not. I think it’s Canada something. It’s a made-up word. But that’s what we see growing here. I saw quite a bit of it in Canada as well.
A mine. This one is in – I can’t remember. It’s either in Mexico or Arizona, but in that region of the country. So we’re all familiar with mines and what’s extracted out of the earth. Here’s another open pit coal mine in Eastern Europe. Salt ponds in Western China. Very unique extraction of the resources found in the earth.
Fish farms near the Nile River Delta in Alexandria, Egypt. And I did some research after I got back on the earth and found out that this is mostly growing tilapia for the European market. But just an example of how mankind is extracting from the provision that God put in His creation, given the knowhow that He has given us bearing the image of God.
The Nile River Delta here in Egypt. The Sinai peninsula to the right. This represents – in this picture I wanted to remind us of ancient civilization. And again, I talked earlier about if we understand these things, it brings understanding to history and the history of civilization, the development of technology, given by God, provisioned in His creation, His creative work, the ability given to us as a matter of common grace, given to all in varying degree and time and circumstances. God has ordered creation not for its own sake. Again, He gave it qualities to make it useful to its inhabitants, and we should understand it that way. And history puts on display mankind making and developing that habitation, and God has given the inhabitants a certain character and ability to enable the stewardship of that; and that’s how we ought to view it through the lens of Scripture.
Genesis 1:28, very familiar: “God bless them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over every living thing.’” Again, this informs our understanding of history, the growth, development and prosperity of human civilization. Summarizing two things: God ordered, filled, and resourced His creation, gave it provision; and He gave mankind the ability to find, extract, develop, and utilize those resources. Two aspects: God’s provision in creation, man’s ability to draw from that provision.
Job 28, again, informs our understanding of this, Job 28. And I encourage you to turn there if you would. But the first few verses of the chapter – now the author here, I will admit, is addressing the arrogance of mankind in here. But if you look behind that you see two realities. You see the provisioning of God’s creation and you see man’s ability, his unique ability, unique from the animals, his ability to find and extract that provision. And I’m going to go through it very quickly, just summarizing some of the elements.
Job 28, verse 1: “Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place for gold that they refine.” Talking about the finding of silver, the finding of gold is useful to mankind. Mankind can find it, extract it from the creation from underneath and then refine it. “Iron is taken out of the earth, and copper is smelted from the ore. Man puts an end to darkness and searches out to the farthest limit the ore in gloom and deep darkness. He opens shafts in a valley.”
Verse 5: “For the earth, out of it comes bread, underneath it is turned up as by fire. Its stones are the place of sapphires, and it has dust of gold. That path” – to these things, the path to find these things – “no bird of prey knows, the falcon’s eye has not seen it. The proud beasts have not trodden it; the lion has not passed over it. Man puts his hand to the flinty rock and overturns mountains by the roots. He cuts out channels in the rocks, and his eye sees every precious thing. He dams up the streams so that they do not trickle, and the things that are hidden he brings out to light.”
You see the two elements here, the provision in God’s grace and man’s ability to extract from it? Very profound when you consider this text in the context of what we’ve been talking about through these pictures and seeing it through the lens of Scripture the great provision in the earth, granted, the difficulty and the cost to find it and extract from that provision, but yet, man’s ability to search it out and to find it.
If you consider that in the history of civilization, here’s a picture of the Pyramids in Egypt. Of course, very symbolic in the present day of ancient civilization and the history of mankind throughout the world. Another empire. This one’s the island of Venice in Italy. So the Venetian Empire, of course, was very powerful in its day.
Here’s an example close to us right now. This is looking up to the north of Central Valley, California in the breadbasket of America, right? So you can see an example here developed in history and the impact that has had on our country. New York City, the financial center of the world. All of these things are just examples we see from our vantage point that can be informed by these themes that we’ve been touching on.
This view, of course, is kind of where we culminate in our understanding, looking at God’s creative work in our vantage point looking at the earth in the heart of the earth where the history of God’s redemptive work, sending His Son Jesus Christ took place. The entire life of Christ can be seen here in this picture. We have all of redemptive history in view. This view is very powerful if one knows the story of the Bible, that common thread of redemption, reconciliation from creation to the future consummation of creation and the restoration of the new heaven and the new earth, when we will be freed from the presence of sin. We see much of that history present here: the call of Abraham; the birth of Israel; the exodus; the kingdom – united, then divided, then fallen; the prophecies; the incarnation of Christ; His death, resurrection, ascension; and the birth of the church. We see it all here in this view from our vantage point.
We talked about the provision that God put in His creation. We talked about mankind’s ability to extract from that provision. But this reminds us of our one great inability, our one great need: that is, redemption from sin, from guilt, from the curse of sin. If you’re still there, in Job 28; if you’re not, go there.
Back to Job 28, verse 12: “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?” Though it’s clearly perceived, it can’t be bought, cannot be found. We know it exists. Everybody knows it exists; we know that from Romans 1 and elsewhere. God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power, divine nature are clearly seen. But the wisdom of God is beyond our reach. We know it’s there, it’s beyond our reach.
Verse 23: God knows it, He declared it, He established it. Verse 28: “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to turn away from evil is understanding.” “The fear of the Lord, the fear of the Lord,” – we’re very familiar with that passage in Job and the Psalms, in the Proverbs.
Wisdom must be given. It’s granted to us by the grace of God. Even as amazing as mankind’s ability is to extract from God’s provision, that is the one thing we cannot do on our own. We know that very well. It must be given to us by the grace of God, granted. That thread of wisdom, reference here in Job 28, is easy to follow through the Scriptures. We don’t have time to go through it in detail, but let me refresh your memory on part of that thread.
Proverbs 8, wisdom is personified. Wisdom is personified as the Lord’s possession in Proverbs 8. “Wisdom was beside Him at creation like a master workman. Wisdom rejoices in His inhabited world and the children of man.” And then Proverbs 8 culminates with, “Whoever finds wisdom finds life. Very familiar themes to us.
The gospel of John drawn from that: “Whoever finds wisdom finds life.” John 1:1, and then verse 4: “In the beginning was the Word. In Him was life.” Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, his first letter in chapter 1, Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God, the source of your life, the one whom God made our wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Colossians 2:3, “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
God’s work of creation that we’ve just kind of touched on different themes is absolutely amazing. What a testimony of His wisdom, His design, and His purpose in His filling and ordering of creation, creating it for our habitation, provisioning it for our habitation, equipping us, creating us in His image to subdue it, to extract from it. Given all of that, the climax of history is redemptive work in Jesus Christ; and for the elect of God, the granting of wisdom that would otherwise be known, but elusive, out of our reach.
I think back in Job 26, that’s largely what is being referred to there when the author says, “It’s but a whisper.” This majesty of what we see in God’s creation is but a whisper of who He is. And again, we know Him only by how He has revealed Himself and has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ.
Perhaps the best passage of Scripture, which I trust is also familiar to you, that summarizes all of this in the person of Jesus Christ comes from the letter to the Colossians in chapter 1. And I’m going to read it, starting with verse 15. Speaking of Christ, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things,” – that is, He exists eternally – “and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.”
Christ the Creator endured creation’s curse. He became a curse for us. The One who gave the curse reverses the curse by bearing the curse. Christ our Creator who sustains us and has provided all things for us also is the One who redeems us. Jesus is God’s self-expression, the basis of what we can comprehend about God granted to us by grace through faith in Him.
From our vantage point now in this orbital outpost we call the International Space Station, looking through the lens of Scripture as I’ve tried to touch on briefly, I would ask you to ponder these truths as I show about a three-minute video, which I think is the best visual aid I have, if you will, to help us contemplate these wonders, these visual wonders, looking through the lens of Scripture. So I’m going to play this video and then we’ll close.
Please join me in prayer. Our Father and our God, You are an amazing God, Lord. We delight in Your works, declared great by the psalmist and desire to grow in our capacity and our duty to study them, to acknowledge them, to know You, and to know Your provision in life, to see and declare Your beauty and majesty, Your power and Your wisdom, Your work of creation, Your sustaining power, Your work of providence, Your work of provision, and most of all, Your work of redemption.
Creation, Lord, is the foundation of our worship. It is You who made us, and we are Yours. Christ is the focus of our worship that we may know Christ and Him crucified. Love, Lord, is the motivation of our worship, not that we love You, but You loved us first. The only begotten God who’s in the bosom of the Father, Jesus Christ, He has made the Father known. He has explained Him; and that wisdom has been granted to us by grace. Lord, we give You thanks. We glorify You in that, in Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.