Many of you know that David Powlison, our friend and executive director, died last year. Since then, we have often been blessed to have his wife Nan join us during our Tuesday prayer meeting at CCEF. Among the ways she blesses me is the depth with which she sees and hears. She sees that “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19:1), as does a tree, a flower, a bird, and all kinds of people. She hears the words of Jesus in creation and in Scripture. I will make a crude attempt to follow her example.
We cannot see God fully yet (1 Cor 13:12), but for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, God, in a sense, “passes by” us as he did with Moses on the mountain (Ex 33:22). And as he did with the disciples as they saw him walking on water when “he meant to pass by them” (Mark 6:48). Here are a few ways he passes by that even I notice.
Stars took on a different meaning after the Lord took Abraham outside and told him, “‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be’” (Gen 15:5). I can see grains of sand, too. They both speak of the innumerable offspring of God. He does things on a grand scale.
A rainbow—“my bow in the clouds” (Gen 9:13)—speaks loudly. One of the largest I have seen was on the day of David’s funeral. When we see a cloud with God’s bow, there is a synchronous moment in which we remember God’s promise to preserve life while he remembers it too (9:16).
Today, I have seen both day and night, and I knew to the minute when day would end and night would begin. Look carefully and see that these events rest on God’s “covenants” with the day and night.
[God said], If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night [which you cannot], so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne (Jer 33:20-21).
As sure as there is day and night, so can I be sure that Jesus is sitting on the throne. Then the wind reminds me that the Spirit brings us right to Jesus.
Is anything within our eyesight growing? Grass, flowers, crops, trees, children? We can be sure that he is, indeed, the Life. Even in a world that has so much darkness and death, life cannot be subdued. Life overflows.
Then there are baptisms and celebrations of the Lord’s Supper. Both so sensory, so earthy. The God of Heaven prefers to insert vivid signs where his heaven intersects with life today. He did it with Israel’s tabernacle and he does it much more now.
These are just a few of the more obvious physical signs and passings that God gives us of himself and his activity among us. Next, there is fire which was often associated with his presence, thunder that reveals his power, and common birds and daylilies that reveal his care. Then we get into the fine points. The color scheme of his tabernacle alerts us to see more in the colors around us. Numbers, especially calculus, carry more meaning as they point to his beauty and order. When the universe seems too much to take in, we can turn to the human brain and its endless complexity. Then we look for his signature in animals, and in everything.
But if we follow the rhythm of Psalm 19, these passings, though wonderful, are mere warmups for seeing God’s glory revealed in Jesus, whose ministry is far more than signs and passings. The Spirit through the Word now opens our eyes and reveals what he himself sees, which is a vision of the risen Jesus Christ.
A simple prayer: Lord, “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things,” by seeing the beauty of Jesus in all of Scripture and by seeing your power and nature in all the earth (Ps 119:18).
Thank you, Nan.