Symbolism in Nature

I recall standing with a group of men some time ago talking about the Russian success in taking pictures of the other side of the moon.  It was toward evening and the sun was sinking in the distant west casting the shadows of the night about us.  These men were properly impressed with the accomplishment of the enemies of our country, but were commenting particularly on the possibilities this feat opened up for further exploration of the wonders of God’s creation.  Each in turn expressed a desire to see the other side of the moon in the firm conviction that it would be a source of additional wonder and cause for greater worship of God to be able to see that aspect also of God’s handiwork.  No doubt this is true.  But meanwhile, the sun was gradually bringing to a close another day; but in doing so it was painting the sky with fantastic colors impossible to describe – disappearing in a blaze of glory.  I pointed out to them the splendors of a very unusual and extremely impressive sunset.  The reaction was a swift glance, a brief nod of assent, and a hasty return to the subject of the other side of the moon.  I’m sure the distant moon could not possibly hold greater attractions of beauty than that sunset.

It was said once by a man wise in understanding human nature that if people had to pay a quarter to watch the moon rise, there would be lines of miles in length composed of people waiting to catch a glimpse of this beautiful sight.  But since it is free, no one pays any attention to it; it rises in lonely splendor unseen by men.

Creation is beautiful; only a fool would deny it.  But to the child of God, creation is, or at least ought to be, much more beautiful than to the wondering gaze of an infidel.  For to the child of God, creation is a picture of the new creation which some day he will inherit as his possession when the meek shall inherit the earth.

How can it be that this present creation in which we live, sin-cursed as it is, nevertheless is a picture and symbol of the creation to come?

When God originally created the heavens and the earth, He created them in such a way that they were made after the pattern of the heavenly creation.  The earthy was a pattern of the heavenly.  There were three distinct parts to that original creation:  the country of Eden; Paradise in the east of Eden; the tree of life in the center of the garden.  It was this same general pattern that was later followed in the tabernacle and the temple with their outer court, their temple or tabernacle proper, and their most holy place where God dwelt between the wings of the cherubim of the ark of the covenant.  The tabernacle and temple were in turn Old Dispensational types and shadows of the body of Christ; for in Christ the elect of all ages dwell in covenant fellowship with God.  So there was a type of Christ already in the original Paradise.  Of course, Adam, who gazed in awe and reverence at the wonder of God’s handiwork, could not possibly see this, for he did not know about Christ until God told him after the fall.  Nor did Adam have any need of Christ, for he stood in perfection, and as yet the cross was not necessary to take away sin.

But the fall did not materially alter the fact that this earthy remains a pattern of the heavenly.  Now, after the fall, it is more clearly revealed than ever because the curse has come upon this creation.  And falling upon all the things that are made, it serves as an effective background to the heavenly symbolism to be found in this earthly world.

Yet, the infidel can never see this wondrous symbolism in God’s world, for it is only possible to see this when one first of all has seen the Christ of the Scriptures.  Only standing at the foot of Calvary and being overwhelmed with the wonder of salvation as prepared in the cross by the sovereign grace of God, can one also turn from Calvary to God’s handiwork and catch a glimpse of heavenly glory of salvation in the worlds about him.  Even as Adam, who had not need of Christ in perfection, could not see Christ and heaven in Paradise, so also the unbeliever, who cannot see Christ through his sin-blinded eyes, cannot see the pattern of the heavenly in these things which are earthy.

This does not mean, however, that thy are not there.

Scripture itself gives the clue to what to look for about us.  There are all kinds of symbolic aspects of the creation to which Scripture points us.  The Book of the Revelation of St. John is crammed full of this remarkable symbolism.  It points us to the symbolism of the colors – red, black, green, white, etc; it calls our attention to the significance of numbers – three, four, six, seven, ten, twelve, and multiples of them; it speaks of the spiritual meaning of the square, the rectangle, the cube.  Those of our young people who have been following the outlines of Beacon Lights in studying the profitable Book of Revelation could not help but be impressed with the rich and varied symbolism of all these different aspects of creation by which God points us to heavenly truths.

Beyond this however, is also the fact that Christ could speak in parables.  Have you ever wondered how this was possible?

Christ would stroll with His disciples through God’s world and see on every hand the clear indications of the signs of heavenly realities in this earthly world.  He saw a sower spreading his seed; and He called his disciples’ attention to another Sower that went forth to sow.  His gaze was attracted by fishermen who were pulling in a net full of fishes; and He reminded His disciples that “the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:  Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.”  Matt 13:47-50.  When Jesus stood under a barren fig tree that had an abundance of leaves, but bore no fruit, He saw a picture of apostate Israel; and, cursing the tree, He reminded His disciples that so it was also with a nation that kept the works of the law outwardly, but inwardly never bore fruit of repentance.

This was not only true of Jesus’ parables; it was likewise true of Jesus’ names.  Scripture gives the Lord many names taken from the creation itself.  He is called the Son of Righteousness, the Lily of the Valley, the Dayspring from on High, the Lion of Judah’s Tribe, the Root out of the Dry Ground, the Bright and Morning Star, the Rose of Sharon.  These names are not simply beautiful names that are given to Christ; they are names that exactly fit Him because the sun, the morning star, the rose of sharon, the lily of the valley are all pictures of the Lord of glory and His work.  He is the Sun of Righteousness that arises with healing in His wings.

This creation, it is true, is under the curse.  But nevertheless, it is already evident that the whole creation groaneth and travailed in pain together, eagerly awaiting the final deliverance from the bondage of corruption.  There is evidence in creation of this power of grace which shall some day overcome the curse and deliver this world into the glory of the  new earth.  What believer can stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River without being impressed with the fact that the curse is a power indeed to rend the earth to its bowels?  But is not the glorious array of colors and the impressive austerity of pinnacles and rocks evidence of the power of grace to destroy the ugliness of this curse?

And yet we need not stray so far from home to see this remarkably displayed.  It has only recently been spring.  But it seems incredible that a child of God who contemplates the wonder of the resurrection, cannot see this resurrection in the dormant trees returning to life, in the blossoming lily arrayed in a greater glory than that of Solomon, in the luxuriant green of new grass lately come to life.

What is the glory and splendor of the rainbow?  Its glory lies primarily in the fact that it speaks eloquently, as long as the worlds continue, of the faithfulness of God’s covenant that He shall redeem all things in the day of Jesus Christ.

He that hath eyes to see what God has revealed can certainly exclaim with the Psalmist, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.  Day unto day uttered speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.  There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.”  Psalm 19:1-3.

If we, in our hurried life, will only take the time to examine a seed that falls into the ground and watch it grow once again; if we will only stop our busy pace to watch the glory of a rising moon, the miracle of a chrysalis, the startling beauty of a sunset; if we will spend once in a while the night in watching the stars, in marking the progress of the darkness of the night as it becomes darker before the dawn, in waiting as a watchman for the beginning of a new day – if we will do these things, we will hear the eloquent speech of the creation that brings peace and renewed strength to the troubled soul; for we will hear the speech of our God.