Theology in 3D

Ecliptical Theology

Layton Talbert | September 25, 2017
Old Testament, Theology

The eclipse is now old news. Very old. August 21, 2017. We’re talking over a month ago! On the social media timescale, that’s the equivalent of a decade. Maybe more. So I’m aware I’m risking chronological irrelevance by mentioning it. But in theological terms, it’s yet another timeless testimony to the theology inherent in God’s magnificent mechanism of creation.

Happily, where I live fell within the path of totality. (Path of totality. Almost sounds like a Zen thing.) As I watched, it struck me that what we were witnessing was not merely a remarkable geometrical phenomenon, but an incredibly complex, flawlessly executed, high-velocity cosmic choreography. (Dance metaphors in theological contexts usually strike me as a bit goofy, but I can think of no other parallel in this case.) It wasn’t just the moon moving between the earth and the sun. It was the earth, tilted just so, spinning at 1000/mph and simultaneously hurtling through space at 70,000 mph on its solar orbit with the moon, meanwhile, orbiting Earth at 2300 mph—and all at exquisitely precise distances from each other to create the engineering marvel witnessed by millions. A galactic Scottish reel perfectly performed by gargantuan dancers spinning and circling ’round each other. Two minutes of totality didn’t seem like a long time; but if you factor in the speeds and distances involved, it’s astonishing. The only rational explanation for such precise cosmic choreography is a Cosmic Choreographer. The heavens loudly declared his glory that day in a universal language that millions saw and heard (Ps 19:1-3). Sadly, we tend to notice only when it’s way out of the ordinary–forgetting just how extraordinary the ordinary is as well.

God is the Maestro of such epic orchestration. I’ll give just one more example. He once communicated the meteorological and agricultural events a decade and a half ahead of time (Gen 41), prompting the most powerful world ruler at the time to take the advice of an imprisoned Jewish slave and spend the next 7 years filling the silos of Egypt in anticipation of a coming famine—a famine that, from the biblical narrative’s perspective, had one primary function: to move one family from Canaan down to Egypt in order to set in motion an even bigger plan that God had unfolded to Abraham some two centuries earlier (Gen 15:13-14). That’s the ground-level view. But step back for a broader picture of what God did to accomplish that.

More than four thousand miles long, the Nile is the earth’s longest river. Egypt’s agriculture was utterly dependent on it. The river was the lifeblood for all the cropland along the Nile flood plain and especially in the large, fertile delta region where the Nile dumped all its nutrient-rich silt. But what is the Nile’s major source? Lake Victoria and mountain rivers that flow into it. And where is Lake Victoria? In eastern central Africa between Uganda and Tanzania.

We take it for granted that God controls all the weather all the time, at least in a general way (though our frequent disgruntlement may belie the sincerity of that belief). But consider for a moment this one specific example of the detail involved in God’s providence. In order to fulfill this specific dream-revelation to Pharaoh, God was providentially controlling the weather patterns continually for fourteen years (seven years good and seven years bad), not only over Egypt and Canaan and the surrounding nations but also over central Africa four thousand miles away.

Even more amazing is that God’s providential activity in this story ranged from controlling massive weather patterns for years and years over millions of square miles, to prodding the intimate inner workings of specific human hearts. Imagine in your mind’s eye a satellite image of weather patterns spanning from the Mideast all the way down to central Africa. Now, from that satellite image, zoom in through the clouds onto the continent of Asia, onto the Mideast region, onto the land of Canaan, onto the village of Hebron, into the tents of Jacob, and finally into the very thoughts of Judah, Reuben, and the other brothers. As the story unfolds, God’s providence is doing just that—simultaneously controlling vast weather patterns and deploying surgical strikes directly to the hearts and consciences of those men, just as Genesis 42 begins to record. . . . The range of God’s power and providence is a stunning thing to contemplate (Not by Chance: Learning to Trust a Sovereign God, p. 80).

He does great things past finding out, and wonders without number (Job 9:10). But orchestrating such events on such a massive scale doesn’t mean that God loses sight of the details and the minutiae. He not only manages nations (Ps 33:10-12) but also oversees individuals (Ps 33:13-15), and delivers every one of them who trusts in him and waits on him (Ps 33:18-22).

Photo Credit: Rick Meyer

One response to “Ecliptical Theology”

  1. Greg Stiekes says:

    Thank you for keeping our vision focused on the faithful, providential workings of our Creator. That we focus, as you said, on the extraordinary and forget the “ordinary” work of God on display daily in the heavens and on the earth is one of the reasons we need to continually restore our spiritual vision. So, not untimely at all!

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