Lesson 2

July 3 - 9

God's Two Books:
Scripture and Nature

READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY:  2 Tim. 3:16; Rom. 1:20; 2:14, 15; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; Ps. 19; 33:4-9.

MEMORY TEXT:  "For the word of the Lord is right, and all His work is done in truth" (Psalm 33:4, NKJV).

KEY THOUGHT:  God communicates with fallen humanity through His words in Scripture and His works in nature. Scripture illuminates nature and nature testifies about God.

Sabbath Afternoon   July 3

GOD'S WORDS AND WORKS ARE INSEPARABLE.  A student studying about atoms and molecules in a chemistry lab, recognizing the marks of a Grand Design, gave praise to God's creative genius.  "Leave God out of this," his professor interrupted.  The student however, kept wondering, "How can the very Creator of the atom be excluded from the study of His Creation!"

The idea that the Bible and nature can be studied together is unacceptable to many because it challenges their theories of scientific thought.  Many in the scientific community regard the study of nature and of Scripture as seperate and mutually exclusive realms of human thought.

"The deepest students of science are constrained to recognize in nature the working of infinite power.  But to man's unaided reason, nature's teaching cannot but be contradictory and disappointing.  Only in the light of revelation [Scripture] can it be read aright.  'Through faith we understand.' Hebrews 11:3."—Education, p. 134.  

Sunday  July 4

THE BOOK OF NATURE   (Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:20; 2:14,15).

What can you glean from 2 Peter 3:7-13 and Revelation 21:1-7, 23-27 to show that God's creation has been affected by sin and is in need of restoration?  

The communion among the divine Persons of the Godhead was there before the creation of humanity.  For example, "Let Us make man in Our image" (Gen. 1:26, NKJV).  Later, at Creation, God communed with human beings (Gen. 1:28).  This communion was interrupted by sin (Gen. 3:8).  However, God has bridged the separation between Himself and humanity by His saving grace in Christ.

In what ways can we see God's attributes in nature?  Rom. 1:20.  

As Christians we appreciate divine revelation in nature, because we have such a high regard for God the Creator.  What may be known of our God through nature is clearly revealed there.  And though it has a relationship with its Creator, nature remains distinct from Him.  quot;The work of the Creator as seen in nature reveals His power.  But nature is not above God, nor is God in nature as some represent Him to be.  God made the world, but the world is not God; it is but the work of His hands.  Nature reveals the work of a positive, personal God, showing that God is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."—Manuscript Releases, vol. 4, p. 58.

Yes, God used nature to reveal many things about Himself, but in that same nature His unique and most supreme revelation came through Christ (Matt. 1:23).  "There is nothing true but God; for Christ, the revelation of God, is 'the truth.'  He is also the reality, the fullness, of everything that is, because he is the life-the whole of life.  He is, and without him there is nothing."—Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, June 24, 1902.

What does Romans 2:14-16 tell us about those who do not have a knowledge of Christ and the law of God?  How do they "by nature" do God's will?  Explain how sin has distorted but not destroyed God's revelation in nature.   

In what ways have you experienced God's writing of His laws in your heart and mind?  How does contemplating His work in nature help you grasp this spiritual reality?  

Monday  July 5

THE BOOK OF SCRIPTURE   (Ps. 19:7-11; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet 1:19-21).

To what extent does Scripture reveal God?  Ps. 19:7-11; 2 Pet. 1:19-21.  

What can be known of God from nature, as well, is revealed clearly enough so that if we reject Him we are without excuse (Rom. 1:20).  According to the psalmist there is a word from God in His handiwork in nature (Ps. 19:1-6).  However, this word does not provide the full knowledge of God.  This full knowledge comes through His revelation in the Bible; for His law is perfect and His testimony is sure (Ps. 19:7).

God's creation was originally very good (Gen.1:31).  However, because of sin, Peter refers to the world as a dark place where the light of Scripture points to the even greater light of Jesus (2 Pet. 1:19-21).  Nevertheless, in spite of sin, "Nature still speaks of her Creator.  Yet these revelations are partial and imperfect.  And in our fallen state, with weakened powers and restricted vision, we are incapable of interpreting aright.  We need the fuller revelation of Himself that God has given in His written word."—Education, p. 17.

God in His love desired that His Written Word be adapted to humans.  He also sent His divine Son clothed in humanity. Explain why this neither diminishes His Written Word nor His Living Word.  2 Pet. 1:19-21; Heb. 1:1.  

The Word of God came through human beings who, though holy, were finite (2 Pet. 1:19-21).  God adapted His word to humanity by speaking in different ways at different times (Heb. 1:1).  Correct interpretation of Scripture depends in part on recognizing that the infinite God cannot be completely embodied in finite words.  However, like the revelation of God in the divine-human Person of Jesus, the revelation of God in the divine-human Scripture is perfect for the purpose for which it is designed.

"God has not put Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible.  The writers of the Bible were God's penmen, not His pen.  ...  But the words receive the impress of the individual mind.  The divine mind is diffused.  The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the word of God."—Selected Messages, book 1, p. 21.

What does God's willingness to reach you where you are say about His love for you?  What makes you confident in the Word of God as He has chosen to reveal it?  

Tuesday  July 6

THE HARMONY OF NATURE AND SCRIPTURE   (John 1:1-5; Ps. 33:4; Job 12:7-10).

How does Scripture illuminate the study of nature?  John 1:1-5; Rom. 1:18-21.  

The theme of the Bible is Jesus, through whom all things of nature were created.  When we reject His light revealed in Scripture, we are left in darkness.  Jesus, the Master Teacher, often employed object lessons from His creation to illustrate gospel principles.  The parables are full of such examples.  Our minds are to be enlightened by what the Bible says about the creation.  "The greatest minds, if not guided by the word of God in their research, become bewildered in their attempts to trace the relations of science and revelation."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 113.  "Above all other people on earth the man whose mind is enlightened by the word of God will feel that he must give himself to greater diligence in the perusal of the Bible and a diligent study of the sciences."—Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 510.

In what ways does nature illuminate the study of Scripture?  Job 12:7-10; Ps. 19:1-6.   

The general revelation of divinity in nature is in a sense related to the inspiration of the divine-human Scripture.  While the Bible illuminates nature, it is not to be regarded as a textbook for all facts about nature.  The study of nature from the standpoint of the Bible leads to a knowledge of God.  "In the study of the sciences also we are to obtain a knowledge of the Creator.  All true science is but an interpretation of the handwriting of God in the material world.  Science brings from her research only fresh evidences of the wisdom and power of God."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 599.  "As we observe the things of the natural world, we shall be enabled, under the guiding of the Holy Spirit, more fully to understand the lessons of God's word."—Education, p. 120.

Recall a special time in your life when you enjoyed being in nature, reflecting particularly on how the experience brought you into a deeper closeness with God and His Word.  Maybe you were walking by a seashore, hiking in a forest, or climbing a mountain.  Are those special times only in your distant memory, or are they still very much a present reality?  Why not plan today to spend some quiet time in nature, close to the Creator?  

Wednesday  July 7


How should we respond to last-day scoffers who claim that there are contradictions between God's promises in the Bible and the things they observe in nature?  2 Pet. 3:3-7.   

Observation of nature has led some to conclude that everything can be explained by natural law alone.  In other words, all things continue as they were from the beginning.  Even people who believe that God created the universe often assume that natural law can explain its history since Creation.  However, the same Word that raised the dry land out of the waters allowed the earth to be covered by a Flood.  This same Word sustains the world till its destruction by fire, and the same Word will create it anew.

When our interpretations of Scripture and nature contradict each other, we should reconsider our conclusions.  Apparent contradiction between nature and Scripture has led many to assume an inevitable conflict of science with theology.  However, "The book of nature and the written word do not disagree; each sheds light on the other.  Rightly understood, they make us acquainted with God and his character by teaching us something of the wise and beneficent laws through which he works.  We are thus led to adore his holy name, and to have an intelligent trust in his word."—Ellen G. White in Signs of the Times', (March 20, 1884), number 12, emphasis supplied.  (This concept will be discussed further in lesson 10.)

What are the two reasons mentioned in 2 Peter 3:3, 5 that are at the root of the scoffers, distrust of God's promises as they observe nature's course?

Verse 3  _____________________________________________________________
Verse 5  _____________________________________________________________  

Is it possible to harmonize incorrect interpretations of the world and Scripture?  Will we follow God's truth or our own self-centered desires?  "Inferences erroneously drawn from facts observed in nature have ... led to supposed conflict between science and revelation; and in the effort to restore harmony, interpretations of Scripture have been adopted that undermine and destroy the force of the word of God.  ...  In order to account for His works, must we do violence to His word?"—Education, pp. 128, 129, emphasis supplied.

How does 2 Peter 3:9 help you in times of impatience and doubt?  

Thursday  July 8

RATIONAL AND FAITHFUL   (Rom. 1:16-21; 1 Pet. 3:15).

How are faith and reason relevant to the study of both nature and Scripture?  Rom. 1:16-21.  

The evil suppression of the truth (Rom. 1:18) in nature (1:19-21; 2:14, 15) results from a futile and foolish reasoning (1:22, 23).  The remedy to this foolishness is the righteousness of God, which comes by faith alone (1:16, 17).  However, Paul's emphasis on faith alone points to its unique role.  This does not mean faith without reason, for faith does not negate reason, but it provides a foundation for it.

Scripture describes other such instances of singularity.  The Bible itself stands alone (sola scriptura) in its unique role as our rule for faith and practice.  However, Christ is the supreme revelation of God. Nature plays its role, as well, in revealing God.

For Paul, faith is the antidote to the foolishness of sinners, and it is reasonable in the light of Christ.  He uses the Greek word nous (translated "mind") to indicate the seat of human understanding (1 Cor. 14:14-19) and conviction (Rom. 14:5).  However, the "reason" that Paul rejects (Col. 2:8) is the "hollow and delusive speculations, based on traditions of man-made teaching" (New English Bible); "intellectualism or high-sounding nonsense" (Phillips); and "secondhand, empty, rational philosophy" (Jerusalem Bible).

What do Paul and Peter tell us about using reasoning power in our search for or defense of truth?  Acts 17:2; 18:4, 19; 24:25; 1 Pet. 3:15.   

We will take our reasoning power with us to heaven.  However, it is a sin to extol reason above Scripture or to the neglect of it.  To place the human in rivalry with the divine is deplorable.  We can never adequately explain Creation by reason alone.  However, while God does not promise to remove every doubt, He gives sufficient evidence for faith.  The Bible strengthens the intellect and is the source and standard for the reasons for our faith in Jesus.

Considering our finite reason as compared to the wisdom of our infinite God, is our faith strengthened or weakened by an absence of supporting evidence?   

The secular mind rejects belief in the unseen and exults "facts" over faith, science over spiritual things. How have you responded to the challenges that secular thinking poses to your belief in Creation?  

Friday July 9

FURTHER STUDY:  Read the "Introduction", to The Great Controversy, pp. v-xii; "The Inspiration of the Prophetic Writers" in Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 15-21; and "Science and the Bible" in Education, pp. 128-134.  

"As divine truth is revealed in Holy Writ, so it is reflected, as from a mirror, in the face of nature; and through his creation we become acquainted with the Creator.  And so the book of nature becomes a great lesson book, which instructors who are wise can use, in connection with the Scriptures, to guide lost sheep back to the fold of God.  As the works of God are studied, the Holy Spirit flashes conviction into the mind.  It is not the conviction which logical reasoning produces; but unless the mind has become too dark to know God, the eye too dim to see Him, the ear too dull to hear His voice, a deeper meaning is grasped, and he sublime, spiritual truths of the written word are impressed on the heart." Special Testimonies on Education, p. 59.

"These words of Holy Writ say nothing of the independent laws of nature.  God furnishes the matter and the properties with which to carry out His plans.  He employs His agencies that vegetation may flourish.  He sends the dew and the rain and the sunshine, that verdure may spring forth, and spread its carpet over the earth; that the shrubs and fruit trees may bud and blossom and bring forth.  It is not to be supposed that a law is set in motion for the seed to work itself, that the leaf appears because it must do so of itself.  God has laws that He has instituted, but they are only the servants through which He effects results.  It is through the immediate agency of God that every tiny seed breaks through the earth, and springs into life.  Every leaf grows, every flower blooms, by the power of God."—Selected Messages, book 1, p. 294.

1. What would be your response if you were confronted with an apparent contradiction between nature and Scripture?  
2. Is it reasonable to adjust the interpretation of nature in response to insights from Scripture?  Is it faithful to adjust the interpretation of Scripture in response to insights from nature?  Explain why.  
3. Choose two "works of God" in nature to study. What does the Holy Spirit teach you from such observation?  

SUMMARY:  In spite of sin, God has communicated with humanity through His Scriptures and through His works in nature.  The Bible gives us the foundation for understanding God's revelation in nature.   

The Bible and the Hymnal

Farid M. De la Rosa

Javier Perez was a young man with little to look for-ward to.  His marriage had failed; his furniture business was struggling, and his nerves were a wreck.  Moments of panic overtook him, but he had no where to turn for help.  As he looked at his life, he saw only senseless waste.  He was a failure.

Javier shivered in the chill night air of Cali Colombia.  He was late for a business appointment.  Finally the lights of the bus approached and stopped.  He climbed the steps and found a seat.  Relaxing, he looked around.  He noticed a woman holding a Bible and hymnal.  Wednesday night, Javier thought.  She must be going to church.  Javier remembered the times he had attended church as a child.

The Holy Spirit spoke to him; he stood and approached the woman.  "Pardon me, Miss," he said.  "What church do you go to?"

The woman looked at him, surprised.  "The Seventh-day Adventist Church," she answered.

"You're an Adventist?" Javier asked, his interest rising.  "May I go with you to church?"  Javier was so excited that he did not even ask the name of the woman on the bus.

Javier followed the woman to the church.  He enjoyed the worship, and when a friendly woman offered to study the Bible with him, he agreed.

Javier's employees noticed the difference almost immediately.  He cut his long hair and shaved; his language and demeanor changed too.  With the support of church members, he struggled with other life changes he needed to make.  He quit working on Sabbaths and several months later was baptized.

He has set aside a room in his store where he and his employees pray for one another and the business.  It has not been easy for Javier to turn from the world.  His business continues to struggle, but he refuses to quit.  "I will not turn back," he says.  "The Lord will provide for me."

Today, Javier seldom attends church alone.  He brings someone with whom he is sharing his faith, just as the woman on the bus shared her faith simply by carrying her Bible and hymnal with her.

Farid M. De la Rosa is a pastor in Cali, Colombia.

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