The Biblical Conception of Nature
Psalm 33:6-8
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.…

For this, see the first chapter of Genesis. There are two opposite extremes into which our conceptions may fall.

1. We may immerse God in Nature, if we treat Nature as possessed of properties strictly personal. A very great deal of common language is vitiated by this blunder. But will is an attribute of personality, and Nature has not will.

2. We may unduly isolate Nature as God's workmanship from God the worker. We do this if we regard the universe as teaching us' nothing of God, being only a whirl of material change without spiritual meaning; or as if having only a given amount of force which will run down, like a watch. But against both of these note —

I. THE WORLD IS GOD'S CREATION — a separate thing, therefore, and inferior to Himself. "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made." Now a word serves two functions.

1. It is the organ of command, conveying an act of will.

2. It is the reflection of the speaker's self, revealing his nature. The great fact of the whole ancient world was this, that its multiform religions started from a nature basis. The sun and stars, the reproductive forces of animal and vegetable life, the decay and revival of the year, was the common fact which very early riveted the attention of primitive man, till out of it there grew up in many lands, under many shapes, a system of religious observance everywhere the same in principle. Plainly this system of religion started from the Bible truth that Nature is a revelation of God. By degrees, no doubt, the Divine idea became obscured. The sense of Nature's unity grew feeble. Men came to see not so much one God speaking through all His creatures, as rather a separate morsel of divinity inherent in each separate creature. From using the sun, or the dawn, or the sky, or the spring, as a symbol only for that Invisible Being whose thoughts these objects revealed, men began to adore the symbol, and to forget the Invisible Person behind it. Easy and rapid was the downward plane to idolatry and polytheism and gross fetish-worship. Yet what is worth noting is, that such Nature-religions would have been impossible had not Nature really spoken to unsophisticated men a Divine message. This, be it remembered, was a very different thing from that cold logical argument of the modern theist, who infers a Designer from the observed facts of science. Not to the reason, so much as to the intuition, of early man did Nature address itself. It spoke poetry, not logic. We are far enough removed now from that early stage of human experience. The world is grown, and its work is not to worship Nature, but to master it. But we can only do this by observing the laws by which its Creator governs it. Thus both ancient nature worship, and modern nature study, both depend upon the fact that Nature, being God's Word, speaks to us His thoughts.


1. It starts from and builds upon the revelation of Nature.

2. It can only be understood if God be above Nature and yet present, self-revealed in Nature.

3. It agrees with the old. In absolute unity of plan. In orderly plan and obedience to fixed law. In the slowness and even laboriousness of the processes of its growth. In the stern maintenance of law, avenging all transgression.

4. But the Gospel goes on beyond and tells of redemption through our Lord Jesus Christ.

(J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

WEB: By Yahweh's word, the heavens were made; all their army by the breath of his mouth.

He Gathereth the Waters... as an Heap
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