“Ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20). From awe-inspiring vistas to wondrous constellations of stars to the stunning biodiversity of earth’s plant and animal life, the created world reveals God to us.
Long before the launch of Earth Day or modern-day debates over environmental politics, God’s people joined in song to declare truths like . . .
“The heavens are yours, and the earth is yours; everything in the world is yours—you created it all” (Psalm 89:11).
And, “Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! . . . Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise before the LORD” (Psalm 96:11–13).
And, “He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains. . . . Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker” (Psalm 95:4, 6).
Since the days of the psalmist, songs proclaiming God’s rule over nature, praising God for the beauty of nature, and declaring God’s presence in nature continued to be written and sung throughout the church’s history. Today, our rich treasury of hymns can ground us in central biblical truths about our Creator and the world he made. These soul-stirring hymns remind me that . . .
• God created it all! The Bible begins with the poetic description of a central theological truth: God made this universe. In Nehemiah, the leaders of God’s people proclaimed it this way: “You made the skies and the heavens and all the stars. You made the earth and the seas and everything in them.” As we spend time in nature, we’re centered by the obvious and worship-inspiring truth: “All things bright and beautiful, / All creatures great and small, / All things wise and wonderful: / The Lord God made them all.”
• Nature reveals God’s power and beauty. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” David wrote. “The skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). The stunning magnificence of thunderstorms, meteorite showers, canyons, and mountain peaks promptly puts us in our place: God’s power is beyond what we can ever fathom. Like the hymn-writer more than a century ago, we can sing: “I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, / Thy power throughout the universe displayed: / Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:/ How great thou art! How great thou art!”
What is even more amazing is how God’s power is tempered with tenderness, revealed in beauty and intricate design. Consider, for example, how the laws of mathematics infuse the created world: Fibonacci’s sequence revealed in the spiral of a nautilus shell, the Golden Mean displayed in the concentric circles of seeds in a blooming sunflower, and fractal patterns that adorn each unique snowflake! And so in awe we sing, “All fairest beauty, heavenly and earthly / Wondrously, Jesus, is found in Thee.” This marvelous beauty draws us to worship the true source of all beauty: “For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies . . . Lord of all to Thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise.”
• God is the sustainer of all life. Psalm 65:9–13 paints a beautiful picture of God’s sustenance of life; from quarks and electrons to beating hearts, God is the ultimate source of being and Christ himself “holds all creation together” (Colossians 1:17). Indeed, “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28, NIV). As we spend time in nature, we are reminded that like all living things, our life—our next breath, our next step—is entirely dependent upon God’s sovereignty and sustenance. And so we sing, “All that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care; And everywhere that we can be, Thou, God art present there.”
• We can uniquely experience God’s presence in nature. Walks outdoors. Digging deep into garden soil. Staring at clouds. Bird-watching. Sitting still to observe a sunset. As we spend time outdoors in God’s world, we learn to quiet our hearts and seek God’s presence through a kind of listening-prayer; we’re drawn by nature’s beauty to join in the created world’s worship of God; and we begin to sense in a special way the truth that God is present. Our perspective is recalibrated, our sense of who we’re made to be and who we’re meant to trust is put right, and our hearts and minds are quieted enough truly to “hear” from God. And so we can sing, “This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair; / In the rustling grass I hear Him pass; / He speaks to me everywhere.”
How have you experienced God’s power, beauty, and presence in nature? What in nature most draws you to God? How does God’s created world inspire you to worship him?