29 May 2012

God's glory in the heavens

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.

Psalm 19:4-6 NIV84
We often see the first verse of the beautiful Psalm 19 quoted along with awesome photos of the heavens but on seeing the skies here I was more struck with the idea of the wonderful sun settling into his evening tent after his run through the hot tropical day. How beautiful. How majestic.

I have never seen a sky like this before, the rainbow prism of colours rippling as they sank below the clouds, but the Cambodian people we were with did not seem excited at all. I wonder if they see skies like this often.

Mr PD snapped these images as we left the enigmatic Bayon Temple in Siem Reap. Built by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th Century or possibly the early 13th C, the temple is notable for the more than 200 massive smiling heads that adorn its every surface, jutting out from the towers and lining the terraces. Some believe that the faces are of the Buddha, but the similarity of the faces to other statues of Jayavarman VII lead many scholars to conclude that the faces are the king himself.

What pushes a man to construct a huge temple covered in his own image? Did he perhaps believe that he himself was a god to be worshipped by his people? If so he certainly would not have been alone amongst Kmher kings, many of whom held similar beliefs.

How did he feel, I wonder, as he walked around the sacred temple complex looking at huge images of himself? Did he really believe he was as all powerful as he wanted his people to believe? Did he believe his own press?

I wonder how the mighty King Jayavarman VII felt when he walked out the gates of his mighty temple in the evening to be confronted by a sky like the one we saw. Was he, like we were, struck by the awesome glory of God in front of him in the sky? Did he feel as I did - small and inconsequential? Did he realise in that moment that he was not a god at all but only a man? Did he wonder about God's will for his life - this God that not only plastered his earthly temple with his image but who also plastered the whole sky? Did he wonder who he was?

The rest of Psalm 19 goes on to remind us that our great God is not found only in the heavens - he is also found in the words of his Law - his Bible. It is in its pages that we know who God is - this God who made the heavens. We know what he is and what he has done for us. We know his will for us and for our lives. It is through its pages that we know who we are and why we are here.

We don't need temples of stone. We don't need to make ourselves into idols to be worshipped by others, and we don't need idols to worship ourselves.

As I looked up into that awesome sky I was reminded anew of our great God's glory as I marvelled at the sublime work of his hands. And then I wondered what King Jayavarnan thought when he saw that very same sky.

Was he smiling then?


  1. Wow. What an interesting place. You ask some great questions!

    This is totally unrelated but do you know of an illustrated version of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy? We just finished The Hobbit w/Michael Hague and I was so glad you had recommended it.

  2. Magnificent photos and beautiful thoughts, Jeanne. The heavens declare God's glory and no matter how proud this great king or any other, the whole of creation must surely remind them that our God, he is God, there is none like unto him!

  3. Love all the pictures Jeanne. Also some great questions to ponder about the type of people that had these temple's built.

  4. Our God is so big and so great! He shows himself faithful morning by morning. One of the kids in my class on Sunday asked what an idol was. What a great visual this is! Whatever this king thought of himself on earth, I wonder what his thoughts were as he lay dying and realized he was simply a man. I so agree that without God's Word we just have a form of godliness, but we can't really know him without his Word. Off to do my study of the book of James. Peace to you


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