GeoScriptures – Psalm 77:16-18 – Deadly beauty and the glory of God
The waters saw you, O God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
the skies resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
—Psalm 77:16-18 (NIV 1984)
I flew over the Wasatch Mountains of Utah this morning, and the sight was spectacular. The sun was just about to rise, and the mountains had a considerable amount of fresh snow on their pristine slopes. The ruggedness of the mountains was heightened by the smooth, undulating texture of the fog-filled valleys. The crest of the range was knife-sharp, with steep snow drifts looming over chutes that had been carved through the forested slopes by numerous avalanches in a multitude of previous winters.
As I praised God for the beauty of his creation—I love mountains and I love snow—I realized that the countryside passing quickly beneath me was a dangerous place. At any time, an avalanche could be triggered—perhaps by wind, by settling of snow caused by temperatures changes, or by a cross-country skier traversing the slopes beneath the cornices.
It is not a contradiction to say that creation can be a dangerous place, and to say that it is good. In the Scriptures, God is not just glorified by gentle creations, such as puppies and daffodils. Certainly these things are good, but they are not used in imagery describing the majesty and power of the Almighty. Instead, as in Psalm 77, God’s glory is displayed in things that are frightening, such as thunder, lightning, wind, and earthquakes. I would add to the Biblical list marvels such as volcanoes, hurricanes, black holes, and supernovas.
Some assume that God’s original creation, being described as “very good,” did not contain thunderstorms, earthquakes, or gamma ray bursts. I see absolutely no Biblical reason for believing this, and plenty of Biblical passages which use the dangerous parts of creation to point us to the even more awesome powers of the Creator. God is like how Aslan is described in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
“Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Grace and Peace