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1 Clement, Ch. 20: Commentary by Paul Pavao

The Glory of God in Creation

I will just comment on one chapter of 1 Clement today, chapter 20. In this chapter, Clement discusses the glory of God as revealed in his creation.

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Clement's discussion of God's creation is necessarily limited to the science of his time. Later, he will give the legend of the Phoenix bird as though it were scientific fact. Some of the mysteries he describes are no longer mysteries. Nonetheless, it remans true even today that "the heavens reveal his handiwork" (Ps. 19:1). That just means something different to us than it did to the Psalmist or to Clement.

Neither Clement nor David could have dreamed of the majesty of the skies, nebulas bursting forth with new stars throughout the cosmos, those nascent stars lighting up the nebulae like the grandest of stages, full of color and majesty. They did not know that some giant stars explode in a supernova so bright that across light years of space we can see them with the naked eye, even in daylight, for months or years.

There were things Clement could see, though, and the creation declares God's glory whether you have a microscope and telescope or not. Clement marvels at all the following:

  • The constant rhythm of the sun, moon, and stars, never deviating from their course. Of course, he thought those things revolved around the earth. I pray that the advance of science has only increased our awe, that the many orbits of planets, moons, asteroids, and comets are on display for us and that God chose to fellowship with the tiniest of creatures on a small, rocky planet swinging around an insignificant star in the outer wings of an insignficant galaxy.
  • The flow of the earth, the growth of food at the appropriate times, sufficient for man and beast alike.
  • The vastness of the sea and its impassibility (though it is now crossable and crossed over). The wonders of what lands lie beyond that sea, experiencing the same rotation of the heavens and provision of food.
  • The ever-flowing fountains that spring up water from the earth, "furnish without fail their breasts for the life of men."
  • The harmony of the smallest of creatures. We call this "the cycle of life" today, and it can be rather brutal! (I mean no offense to God, whe created all this. This can be a brutal planet. We are remined of this today, as I write, as we are hunkering down in order not to be put to death by the millions by a tiny virus. We cannot dodge the brutality of the cycle of life that adapts so well to this planet, recovering and transforming as earthquakes, volcanoes, and even asteroids transform the entire planet. All this helps us long for the age to come, where God will erase our sorrows, wipe the tears from our eyes, and justice will finally come.

Clement's final words in this chapter are unforgettable:

All these the great Creator and Lord of all has appointed to exist in peace and harmony; while he does good to all, but most abundantly to us who have fled for refuge to his compassions through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This is not a very scholarly comment, but "... to us who have fled for refuge to his compassions through Jesus Christ our Lord"; I love it" We have fled "for refuge to his compassions." There we rest, and from there we serve. There is no other basis for our service to others. We love God because he first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19).

Where to Go from Here

You can return Home, go to the index of commentaries, or go to my categorized index of artices. I also have a rough draft of what will be the Rebuilding the Foundations book