The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. (Psalm 145:15-16)
Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. (Paul the Apostle in Acts 14:17)
The beautiful poetry of the Psalms, echoed in Paul’s words in the New Testament, expresses the detailed care God has for all of His creation, from the least of creatures to the highest — mankind. And “satisfying the desire of every living thing” begins with the sun’s warmth and light reaching the earth day by day. Its awesome outpouring of energy, powered by the nuclear furnace within, boiling over ninety-three million miles away, is captured by the gentlest of living things, the green plant. There, on land and sea, the sun’s energy becomes the means by which green plants grow. Through the marvelous handiwork of God, these in turn become the ultimate source for the food of all other living creatures. And in doing so, the green plants and the sea’s plankton also supply the world with a continuous source of fresh oxygen.
This process, called photosynthesis, produces glucose, the basic sugar of life, which the plant also converts to cellulose, the structural material of plants. And the glory of it is that most plants produce more glucose than they need, storing the rest as starch and other carbohydrates in the roots, stems, leaves, and fruit. These reserves can be drawn upon for extra energy or to grow more. The prodigious amount of extra produced by photosynthesis in plants is hard to grasp:
Each year, photosynthesizing organisms produce about 170 billion metric tons of extra carbohydrates, about 30 metric tons for every person on earth. (“Photosynthesis,” Encarta 2000, Microsoft Corporation)
One of the colors of life, then, is surely the soothing green of plants. They enable man to breathe fresh air, and to burn fuels the many ways he does, and yet never run out of oxygen! It is continually replenished by the process of photosynthesis, which converts six molecules of water and six of carbon dioxide into one molecule of sugar (glucose) and six of oxygen, the stuff we breathe. In the tens of thousands of cells making up just one green leaf are forty to fifty chloroplasts each, complex structures containing millions of chlorophyll molecules. They give plants their green color and, most importantly, capture the sunlight which provides the energy for the plant to build with. When the plant converts that solar energy into chemical energy, it is ready to take carbon dioxide out of the air and water up from its roots to build and to sustain the plant with. And from its excess, the green plant feeds the entire living world on the surface of this planet!
Where that process of photosynthesis fails and the chlorophyll no longer receives the light of the sun, then a host of other natural processes are ready to turn the dying matter into compost, returning its nutrients to the soil, thus completing its life cycle. Indeed, chlorophyll molecules are continually being used up and replaced throughout the growing season. When autumn approaches, the rate of replacement slows, and the other pigments, previously hidden by the dominant green of the life-giving chlorophyll, come to the fore, and the beautiful foliage of autumn is on display. But when stress, infection, or weakness shuts down the life-giving process, the once-vibrant life of the plant becomes the prey of mold, rusts, mildews, smuts, mushrooms, and yeasts. This is particularly noticeable in energy-rich plants such as corn, which are highly desirable targets of such destroyers. They are either parasitic in nature, feeding on the living plant, or saprophytic in nature, feeding on the dead or decaying plant.
None of these destructive agents require or benefit from the light that sustains the healthy plant. They do not respond and turn to the sun, as healthy plants do. Their colors are whitish, grey, black and blue, standing in stark contrast to the vivid greens that chlorophyll molecules give plants. Their life is not constructive, feeding the plant and the rest of creation, but destructive, feeding themselves at the expense of the once-healthy plant. They mar and corrupt its beauty, end its useful life, transform it into a source of further corruption until the whole crop is infected, and then lie in wait as spores for another opportunity – another field of productive plants – to destroy.
There is much to learn from natural science that can open our eyes to what is happening in the spiritual realm. Western science did not begin as the triumph of atheism, which is how it is often presented today. Rather, it was the attempt by men to understand the mind of God as revealed through His works in creation. Long ago, the Savior of mankind used the “commonplace” miracles of the natural world to give men understanding of what was at work in the unseen spiritual realm around, and even within themselves. He made many comparisons between the Kingdom of God and everyday things, such as bread rising, seeds growing, and the colors in the sky. He was trying to help men see what could not always be seen merely with their own eyes and their natural understanding. The same lessons are still present in creation today for those with eyes to see and, most of all, ears to hear.