General Revelation: Part One
In the previous article in this series, we saw that there are two kinds or categories of divine revelation: general and special. General revelation is God’s uncovering of knowledge through means available to all mankind. The Scriptures indicate that God uses three major means of general revelation: nature, history, and conscience. God can use these as means of general revelation because all people are exposed to some form of nature and history, and all people have consciences.
At least three biblical passages indicate that God uncovers knowledge to mankind through nature, specifically the heavens. The first is Psalm 19:1–6.
David began Psalm 19 by stating, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork” (v. 1).
The word translated “glory” (kabod) means “to be heavy, weighty.” The Bible uses it most frequently in a figurative sense for “the concept of a ‘weighty’ person in society, someone who is honorable, impressive, worthy of respect.” Thus, a person’s glory is anything concerning that person causing him or her to carry weight with others. It is that which is impressive and demands recognition, gives a person influence, sets that person apart, and distinguishes him or her from others. For example, Jacob’s great wealth and Joseph’s powerful position as an official of Egypt are called their glory (Gen. 31:1; 45:13). These things gave these men influence and recognition and impressed others.
The word translated “showeth” means “to place a matter high, conspicuous before a person.”
In light of these meanings of glory and showeth, we can conclude that David was saying in Psalm 19:1 that the heavens declare what is impressive or influential concerning God. They display what should be obvious to the human eye and mind—namely, the conspicuous, distinctive stamp of His divine handiwork. The magnitude, beauty, order, and design of the heavens testify to the existence, wisdom, and power of their Creator.
Have you been impressed with the existence and greatness of God while gazing at the magnificent star-studded heavens on a clear night? If not, perhaps some data concerning the universe will help to impress you. Are you aware that the planet Earth weighs approximately 6,600 quintillion tons (6,600 with an additional 18 zeros). To convert this astronomical figure into pounds, you must multiply it by 2,000.
The earth is huge in contrast to each human, but in comparison with the sun in our solar system the earth is very small. Did you know that 1,300,000 earths are needed to match the volume of our sun?
The sun is enormous, and yet it is one of the smallest stars in our galaxy. Another star, Antares, is so gigantic that it occupies 90 million times as much space as our sun and is 390 million miles in diameter.
In spite of its great size, Antares is only one of approximately 100 billion stars in our galaxy. Our galaxy is so massive that it takes 100,000 years for light, traveling at approximately 186,000 miles a second, to move from one end to the other. It is so thick that 5,000 to 10,000 years are needed for light to travel from the top to the bottom.
Although our galaxy is so vast, it is only one of approximately 1 billion galaxies that astronomers had been able to photograph until a few years ago. As new techniques and instruments for probing the heavens continue to be developed, even more tools are invented. Recently “the world’s largest optical telescope has captured an image of the most distant galaxy known … The galaxy lies approximately 12 to 15 billion light-years from the “Milky Way” and “spans 200,000 light-years in diameter.”
Are you beginning to feel a little bit insignificant? Why did God create a universe of such magnitude, beauty, order, and design? He did it to so impress His human creatures with His existence and greatness so that He could have life-changing influence in their lives. As a result of observing the heavens, we should be impressed with God’s infinity and our own finiteness. David expressed such an impression: “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Ps. 8:3–4).
In Psalm 19:2, David emphasized a time factor: “Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.” While quoting from Keil and Delitzsch’s Commentary on the Old Testament, Leonard J. Coppes stated the following significance for the verb translated “uttereth” “In Ps 19:2 naba images the ‘uninterrupted line of transmission’ and ‘inexhaustible spring,’ the ‘day’ issuing in declaring God’s glory.” David was indicating that there is no time limit on this revelation of knowledge concerning God through the heavens. It has been going on 24 hours a day without interruption since the beginning of time. Thus, regardless of the time period during which a person has lived on the earth, he or she has been exposed to this revelation.
In verse 3, David emphasized a language factor: “No speech, no languages; their voice is not heard” (literal translation). David’s point was that there is no audible speech, no language involved in this revelation that comes through the heavens. It is a totally silent communication of knowledge concerning God. Because this revelation does not come in the form of languages, there are no language barriers to its effective communication. As a result, this revelation can be understood by people of all languages.
In verse 4, David emphasized a geographical factor: “Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” According to Earl S. Kall and, David used the word translated “words” “for the revelation of God (Ps. 19).”* David was asserting that the revelation of knowledge concerning God that comes through the heavens is worldwide in scope. It comes to every geographical area. As a result, no matter where people live on the planet Earth, they are exposed to this revelation. In line with this, Ralph H. Alexander wrote, “Creation itself gives a ‘worldwide’ witness to God’s glory (Ps 19:4) which should result in Yahweh’s praise (Ps. 98:1).”
The expression “Their line is gone out through all the earth” contains an additional implication. In the Old Testament, the word translated “line” frequently referred to a measuring line, a standard by which other objects were measured (Isa. 34:17; 44:13; Jer. 31:39). Concerning this word, John E. Hartley stated, “A line is basically a measuring line. It stands parallel to plummet (Isa. 28:17).” In light of this concept, the additional implication of Psalm 19:4 is that the knowledge concerning God revealed worldwide through the heavens is the foundation for a world-life view. This foundation (the existence, wisdom, and power of one infinite, eternal God who created the universe) is the measuring line or standard by which the foundations of all other world-life views should be measured or evaluated. Any foundations that do not agree with this standard are contrary to reality, as are the views based upon them.
In verses 4 and 5, David applied a twofold simile to the sun to illustrate the role it plays in the revelation of God through the heavens. First, the sun “is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber.” Here David borrowed from one aspect of Jewish marriage customs in Bible times. After the bride and groom arrived at the house of the groom’s father on their wedding night, they were escorted by the members of their wedding party to the bridal chamber (huppah). While the groomsmen and bridesmaids waited outside, the bride and groom entered the bridal chamber alone. There they consummated their marriage through physical union.
After the marriage was consummated, the groom came out of the bridal chamber to announce the consummation to the members of the wedding party waiting outside (Jn. 3:29).* Similarly the sun, after hiding from view during the hours of darkness, comes out of hiding each morning as it appears over the eastern horizon. It too comes out of hiding to deliver an announcement. As it moves across the heavens from east to west, it announces the existence of the infinite, eternal God who had the power and wisdom to create it and place it in the heavens. The sun faithfully gives this witness to the entire world every day.
In the second simile, David declared that the sun “rejoiceth like a strong man to run a race.” Just as a runner, whose body has been trained to the peak of endurance, rejoices as he or she approaches the finishing line because he or she has the strength necessary, to run a race, so the sun rejoices as it approaches the eastern horizon because it has the power necessary to race across the sky every day giving its witness concerning God. The sun has such great power that “each day the Earth receives in the form of solar energy about 20,000 times the total world electrical-generating capacity.” “The Sun converts five million tons of matter into energy every second.” In spite of this enormous conversion, it has the capacity “to shine for … 100 billion years at the present rate.”
Even a blind person who has never seen the sun is exposed to its witness concerning God. David said, “there is nothing hidden from the heat thereof” (v. 6). Thus, there is no escaping the glory of the sun in one way or another, be it through sight, heat, or its effects on all that it touches.
David’s statements in Psalm 19:1–6 imply that there are no time, language, or geographical limits on this revelation of knowledge concerning God through the heavens. Regardless of historic time of life, language, or geographical location, every human being has been exposed to it. In addition, any world-life view that is not based on this revealed knowledge is contrary to ultimate reality.
The next article in this series will examine the other two passages related to God’s revelation of knowledge through nature.