Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things (Isaiah 40:26).
In reference to this verse, Oswald Chambers said that the people in Isaiah’s day had been gazing on idols, and now they were encouraged to use their imagination rightly to see the Creator. In My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year, he writes:
Nature to a saint is sacramental. If we are children of God, we have a tremendous treasure in Nature. In every wind that blows, in every night and day of the year, in every sign of the sky, in every blossoming and in every withering of the earth, there is a real coming of God to us if we will simply use our starved imagination to realize it.
As I have grown older, little things have taken my imagination more than in the past. Possibly, I have become more nostalgic; older people do! I recently reviewed some of my many memories from throughout the years. It seems that nature reminds me of what is important. Better yet, it can cancel what is unimportant.
I have a few mental snapshots that remind me of the imminence of God’s righteous presence.
When I was in my early teens, living in Nashville, Tennessee, I might have first developed my crush on nature. We had a large yard, with mature black walnut trees. The yard was beautiful and expansive (but no fun to mow because of walnut missiles). I remember running through the yard at breakneck speed, whacking a wiffle ball and trying to beat it to its landing, then hitting it again. Repeat.
I also remember dissecting horseapples (enormous brain-like green fruit from the Bois D’Arc tree). They bled sticky white stuff. In my imagination, I was a doctor, and I lost all my patients.
Communing with God
Our house was directly across the street from the Cheekwood Arts and Botanical Gardens. It was a renovated mansion with beautiful architecture and landscaped lawns and gardens. I would go there at least twice a week just to wander around.
Walking in was free in those days. I would look at the flowers, visit the ducks at their pond, watch the lazy Koi, or sit on grass surrounded by trees. I often spent hours just taking in the sights and being alone.
I talked to God there. In the silence, I sensed His majestic presence in the beauty of the surroundings. I believe those quiet days shaped the person I was to become with a constant need for isolation and communion with God.
Holiness is defined as that which is separate. To be holy is to be separate from the draw of this world and its influence. When we creep toward God alone (it is slow work), the world falls away.
It seems that to “go apart” is to receive some special revelation. In Mark 5, Peter, James, and John witnessed the resurrection of the young daughter of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue. These three were privately warned in Mark 13 of the coming false Christs and end-time events. Alone with Jesus in Matthew 26, they witnessed His final agony of prayer in Gethsemane — when they were not sleeping.
Possibly the greatest moment for this inner circle of disciples was witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus recorded in Matthew 17 and Mark 9. They were there when the veil of Jesus’ humanity was removed for a moment. This glimpse of His glory was when they were isolated, by themselves, on a “high mountain apart.”
Seclusion is necessary to devotion. To know God, we should learn to listen to His “still small voice” and hear it despite the clamor of the world.
Jesus showed His need for quiet. He began His public ministry by being apart from the public for forty days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). During His ministry, He spent quiet time alone before making important decisions (Luke 6:12; Matthew 26:36-46).
When He suffered personal loss, Jesus spent time alone in prayer (Matthew 14:13). After victories or especially momentous days, He regrouped in lonely places (14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16). And He taught others to take time “away” (Mark 6:31; Matthew 17:1).
Awed by beauty
When I lived there, beautiful mansions on rolling green hills were a common sight in Nashville. One mansion, a bike ride from my home, was down a quiet road lined with enormous trees shading the road. The world was muffled while I made my way there.
The house was huge, beautifully built, and set on an enormous expanse of green lawn (no black walnuts in sight). A low stone wall surrounded the entire property. In my free time, I would lean against the wall on my bicycle, just safely out of sight.
I would stay there and stare for as long as I could get away with it without raising suspicion. The beauty was awe-inspiring, and I always found it difficult to tear myself away and pilot my bike back home.
Encountering the Lord
As I rode home, I would pass the oversized mailbox of this mansion. Against a background of soft yellow was a hand-painted country scene with this inscription: Glimpse of Glory.
It is true that in a beautiful natural scene, or even in the city where people use their God-given talent to display something breathtaking, we encounter the Lord. He desires to reveal Himself in every facet of the wonder of His creation, and in the works of His creatures.
Down the hill
Nevertheless, we don’t receive glimpses of glory so that we might stand around and stare. Though Peter wanted to build huts and stay awhile at the Transfiguration, note that the scene ended with God’s voice: “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” And then there was “no one anymore, but only Jesus” (Mark 9:7, 8).
We eventually must go down the hill with the Savior. Studying the Word of God, staying in His presence, walking through those shaded glens with Him while enjoying the sights — this is important. But we must drag ourselves away to meet the needs of the hurting world.
Paul had this in mind when he wrote these words: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Just after these words, he wrote, “Therefore, since we have this ministry . . . we do not lose heart” and “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake” (4:1, 5).
An encounter with God and His righteousness calls for sharing. In fact, we are commanded to do so (Matthew 28:18-20). The purpose in seeing glimpses of glory is for us to be transformed into His glory, so that others might witness it in us. While on earth, Jesus was busy giving of Himself, transforming lives, sharing the good news. When we are transformed into His image, we are intent on doing the same.
Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.