“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Heb. 11:3).

Creation sings a beautiful story. Every detail of it was designed by a masterful artist whose artistic abilities are high and above the most skilled human painter. Not a stroke of color is wasted. Every layer of wispy blue and white in the sky is intentionally designed; every verdant hue of green in the dew-dipped grass is there on purpose; every shade of color in the wind-swept flowers of the field was put there like a well-stationed singer in a choir. Creation sings a beautiful story, and the author and perfecter of that story is God Himself in Christ. But what does creation sing about?

John Calvin was rather fond of using the theater analogy for talking about creation and its relationship to God. He referred to creation as the “theater of the glory of God.” In this theater, God is the great artist-conductor, and every scene of the play is designed to reflect the glory of God. Every actor on stage is there to help set the stage for the lead actor and the main event—the coming of God into history in the person of Jesus Christ. Calvin would also refer to creation as one of “two books” that reveal something about God. The first book is creation. As Psalm 19:1 states, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Creation is described almost like a preacher—powerfully and descriptively declaring the truth that there is a God in heaven who has made all things for His own glory. Creation did not just “happen” upon some random occasion; it was intentionally brought into existence by God who knew the end from the beginning and designed all things well.

This appears to be the underlying point of Hebrews 11:3. It is “by faith” that we understand that God created the world not out of visible things but by His own creative word. As one author puts it, God “preached” the world into existence. God spoke—and the universe became. That which formerly did not exist began to exist when God called it into being. The universe was brought forth from nothing by His voice and began to teem with life. This theology of creation is pastorally significant in the book of Hebrews for several reasons. First, the author of Hebrews reveals that the God who created all things and upholds them by the word of His power is the same One who redeemed us in Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1:1–4 makes this point rather clearly. Jesus is not a redeemer whose power is limited; He is the eternal Son through whom the world was created and is now upheld.

This powerful point was also repeatedly made by Moses in the Pentateuch: the One who redeemed Israel from their bondage in Egypt is not bound by time or space. His power extends to the ends of the earth because He created heaven and earth. The same redemptive word that brought Israel out of Egypt is the creative word by which the universe is upheld. In this respect, the God of Israel is not like the time-trapped and geographically limited gods of Egypt and Canaan. Thus, Israel was to trust in God and take Him at His word—no matter what circumstances seemed to overtake them. The same point is being made in the book of Hebrews: no matter in what circumstance the church finds herself, she must trust and obey the voice of the living God who not only created all things but upholds them in the palm of His hand. As long as today is still called “today,” the church must follow Christ’s words, for those words are just as “living and active” now as they were when they were first spoken.

It is only with the ears of faith that we can truly hear the song of creation. The beauty of creation’s song is that it sings of the glory of its composer.

Earlier we referred to Calvin’s suggestion that creation was one of “two books” of revelation. The first is creation. Yet creation, even though it tells us that there is a God who has created all things, does not tell us what we must do to be saved. It does not tell the story of redemption. This is likely the reason why the reference to creation comes early in Hebrews 11. Creation is the foundation of redemption; it is the first book of revelation. But Scripture—the story of God’s redemptive work in Christ—is the “second book” of God’s revelation. Through Scripture we come to believe that the One who created the world also entered into His creation to redeem its broken story of sin’s marring effects. The book of Hebrews is concerned to highlight the movement from the first creation to the new creation, from the types and shadows of the old covenant to the greater glory of the new covenant, from the promises made in the first Sabbath to the promises fulfilled in the eternal Sabbath. Notice that Hebrews 11 does not begin with what “they” understand by faith, but what “we” understand by faith. The author is not just telling us stories of faith; he is drawing us into the story of faith that begins with creation and ends at consummation. And it is only with the ears of faith that we can truly hear the song of creation.

The beauty of creation’s song is that it sings of the glory of its composer. Hebrews 11:3 focuses on the fact that it is through what we see that we come to know something of the One whom we don’t see—the God who created the universe. The great challenge of our faith is that we cannot see the One who leads us. But we see His artwork in all of creation and we hear His voice in all of His Word. In this way, He continues to tell us not only His story, but our story as well.

In a famous portrait by Norman Rockwell, an artist sits at a canvas painting a portrait. The portrait is a reflection of Rockwell—the artist. The portrait testifies to the reality and creativity of the painter, just as creation testifies to the reality and creativity of the Creator. If you are able, step outside for a moment. Look through a window. Listen to the song of creation. Listen, by faith, as it sings the song of our glorious Creator, Redeemer, and Friend. The one who inspired such creative song is the One who also inspired His redemptive Word and who has spoken to us climactically in His Son. Today, if you hear His voice, trust Him, obey Him, and joyfully join in the song of creation.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on faith and was originally published on December 13, 2017. Previous post. Next post.

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