Without realising it, we base our lives on patterns. Patterns of language, of behaviour, of sight, sound and sensation become the building blocks for all our subsequent filtering, learning and thinking. Latvian-born Isaiah Berlin was a British social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas - what a guy! Here’s his big insight to consider: “To understand is to perceive patterns”. Does this stop you in your tracks and make you consider life or whizz over your head like a squawking seagull?! Some people will persevere to see the hidden shapes in ‘magic eye’ pictures but others soon give up and miss out. If you look around, there are indeed patterns everywhere around us. Whether your lens is a microscope, telescope or an audioscope, you will find patterns in atoms, in galaxies and sound waves. Every flower has multiple patterns beyond those obvious in the flower and petals - yet there are recognisable species within every genus. There have been many forward leaps in knowledge as scientists have found and analysed patterns.
- ‘In short, no pattern is an isolated entity. Each pattern can exist in the world only to the extent that is supported by other patterns: the larger patterns in which it is embedded, the patterns of the same size that surround it, and the smaller patterns which are embedded in it’ – Christopher Alexander
- ‘A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas’ – G H Hardy
- ‘The way is long if one follows precepts, but short if one follows patterns’ – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
- ‘My big thesis is that although the world looks messy and chaotic, if you translate it into the world of numbers and shapes, patterns emerge and you start to understand why things are the way they are’ – Marcus du Sautoy
The human body is a pattern full of patterns. Looking like a concertinaed jellied eel, the brain can create and identify patterns but relatively few of them perceive The Originator of patterns in all the diverse handiwork of His Creation. Patterns can be irregular but are more often thought of as recognisable configurations that are regular like the Persian Paisley design. In the world of fashion and engineering, patterns and templates are essential for repetition and quality control. They can be precursors and point the way to more refined next generation products. The Old Testament is rich with patterns and pointers to the New Testament, the study of which is referred to as ‘typology’. How familiar are you with this and how many ‘types’ or patterns spring to mind?
- ‘Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you. Have them make an ark of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold moulding around it. Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other’ - Exodus 25:8-12
- ‘Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”’ - Matthew 12:38-41
- 'We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order (like or in the pattern) of Melchizedek’ - Hebrews 6:19-20
- ‘Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come’ - Romans 5:14
David delighted in God’s ways throughout the 176 verses of Psalm 119 for he knew that it was these that would set him free to love God with all his heart and live for his glory. The Old Covenant way of atoning for sin through sacrifice of lambs was always temporary but a telling pointer to God’s permanent New Covenant sacrificial Lamb recognised by John as The One ‘Who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). Noah’s ark was a picture of salvation with similarities to Jonah’s whale. The intricate details for making the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle, the priestly garments overseen by Bezalel and Oholiab were all rich in symbolism to herald what was coming. The Israelites made an exodus through the Red Sea to the Promised Land giving a picture of Christ’s pilgrim followers exiting sin’s dominion through the waters of baptism to our heavenly inheritance. Along the way were the many blessings of water, manna, meat, guidance and protection representing God’s daily care, provision and blessing through His Spirit.
Described by Jesus as ‘seed’ in Luke 8, the Word of God is a prism for understanding life, whether you look backwards towards origins or forwards to the future. It magnifies life revealing patterns as can be seen down a microscope or pathways as can be seen through a telescope. This seed is powerful for the replication and multiplication of God’s kingdom for it contains patterns of blessing, hope, love and life which are fulfilled through the work of Christ.
- ‘The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven’ - Hebrews 1:3
- ‘Since childhood, you have known the Holy Scriptures that are able to make you wise enough to have faith in Christ Jesus and be saved. Everything in the Scriptures is God’s Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live’ - 2 Timothy 3:15-16
Let this Word dwell in you richly to shape your life. Through this life-giving Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, you can become more like Jesus for this is God’s Will. Yet even the patterns of the New Testament are pointers to the renewal of all things in the new heaven and earth, when the ‘old order of things’ will have passed away.
‘Lord, give us eyes to see your patterns in petals, your power in the skies and faith to trust you for good plans and purposes’
Consider the flowers and then press on with a spring in your step.
TAGS – cosmos, cosmology, space, technology, invention, architecture, design, patternism, astronomy, stars