O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.” These words of Psalm 104:24 are echoed in the familiar hymn “How Great Thou Art.” We sing this old favorite with great enthusiasm, and yet in our daily lives we are sometimes rather insensitive to God’s “power throughout the universe displayed.” We so easily fall into habits of life that cause us to take God’s wonderful creation for granted. We don’t spend much time wandering “through the woods and forest glades” or hearing “the birds sing sweetly in the trees.” Because we don’t, we miss many spiritual lessons by which God’s “most elegant book…[leads] us to contemplate the invisible things of God, namely His power and divinity” (Belgic Confession, Article 2). But when we take up the eyeglasses of Scripture, without which our eyes are blind to the wonders of the creation, our Father’s handiwork will instruct and edify us unto a greater and greater enjoyment and praise of our Creator God.
One of the reasons that we seek a Christian education for our children is that they may learn to praise God with awe and understanding in and by all that He has made. Yet this education is meant to be just the beginning of a life of praising God for all His wonderful works and learning the spiritual lessons of creation. In the busyness of our daily lives, whether at work or play, we must take time to stand in awe of the mighty works of God and sing, with our minds and hearts thrilled, “How Great Thou Art!”
The fact that the creation is an organic whole stands as foundational principle for our delight in it. Man reveals some inkling of this in his emphasis upon ecology and in his ever-increasing awareness of the interrelatedness of the living creatures. And yet he misses the main point. As Christians we know that God purposed and determined by this interrelatedness, by this unity, His own glory in Jesus Christ. The universe must be the way it is so that God could enter it in our flesh and blood, and so that “in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Eph. 1:10). Moreover, God created it in such a way that “the earthly is created after the pattern of the heavenly” (Hanko, For Thy Truth’s Sake, p. 235).
Knowing this, we avoid two dangers in our enjoyment and contemplation of this earthly creation. One danger is that we seek to understand it as an end in itself, and fall into the worship and service of “the creature more than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). The other is that we disparage the study of the earthly creation, relegating it to a non-spiritual “lower story.” Rather, we as Reformed royal children will joyfully recognize that all things are truly ours for God’s sake, and we will seek to consecrate to our Father’s glory the earthly creation by enjoying and studying it, seeking in it the many spiritual lessons He has placed there.
Can we find the time to do this in our busy lives? In reality, living in an awareness of the unity of God’s work in the creation need not be as time-consuming as we sometimes imagine. The awareness can grow and develop by something as ordinary as lawn work and gardening. I am not much of a gardener, but while working outdoors I have often been struck with spiritual realities God has put in His creation. As we weed our flower beds or vegetable gardens with our children, we can point to the importance of uprooting the whole weed. If we go out and simply chop the dandelions and thistles down to the ground, we can make our lawn or flower bed look better temporarily. The same is true of sins in our lives. We can deal with the outward aspects of our besetting sins and make ourselves look good to those around us, but if we don’t deal with the root of the sin, which is often our pride over against God and the neighbor, the sins will soon, like weeds, return and spring up even more abundantly. Just as keeping our gardens free of weeds requires constant vigilance, so too we need always to be on our guard against what we sometimes think of as “little” sins.
As we plant our gardens, we can talk about the seed as a picture of the seed of regeneration that God plants in our hearts. Although we cannot see the whole life of the plant hidden in that seed, we plant it in the assurance that seeds sprout and send forth tiny shoots and roots, eventually bearing their proper fruit. So it is with the life of faith in our children. We believe that God has implanted in the hearts of the seed of the covenant that seed of faith. Faith is truly there in its essence. Then, just as we exclaim with excitement when the first seed leaves push their way through the soil, we rejoice also when we see the life of faith showing visible signs in the lives of our children. Seeing this in a visible form impresses these spiritual truths more firmly on our hearts and minds.
In Proverbs 6:6, we read, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways, and be wise.” And in Proverbs 30:24-28, we are instructed to study four things that are “exceeding wise,” including the spider. Matthew Henry comments on this:
Spiders are very ingenious in weaving their webs with a fineness and exactness such as no art can pretend to come near: They take hold with their hands, and spin a fine thread out of their own bowels, with a great deal of art; and they are not only in poor men’s cottages, but in kings’ palaces, notwithstanding all the care that is there taken to destroy them. Providence wonderfully keeps up those kinds of creatures, not only which men provide not for, but which every man’s hand is against and seeks the destruction of. Those that will mind their business, and take hold of it with their hands, shall be in kings’ palaces; sooner or later, they will get preferment, and may go on with it, notwithstanding the difficulties and discouragements they meet with. If one well-spun web be swept away, it is but making another.
Certainly the observation and study of the ant and spider should not be difficult for us, but instead of merely seeing them as pests to be eliminated, let us see and praise the wisdom God would impart to us by them.
God sends the weather. It is so easy to think of the weather as something that either just happens or is caused by “natural” laws. Yet think how often Scripture speaks of weather as revealing spiritual reality. Pause to enjoy the beauties of the sunrise, the amazing living painting that God gives us each day, and thank Him for the Sun of righteousness who arises in the dark night of our sin with healing in His wings.
As I write, a storm rages outside. The wind roars about the house and bends the trees with its mighty, yet invisible, power. So too the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, the mighty, rushing wind, not seen Himself, makes His presence known in great power in the lives of His people. Think how many times Scripture refers to storms and earthquakes as tokens of God’s judgment. When our children (and sometimes we ourselves) tremble with fear at these tokens, we should remember Psalm 29, which deals honestly with the terrifying nature of storms and with the fact that God does indeed send them, but reminds us too that, “The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.”
What are some other ways we can grow in our delight in God’s creation? “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained…” (Ps. 8:3). This would imply that one of the reasons for the marvel of the heavens is that we might “consider” it, so that we might know the amazing wonder that, despite the fact that we are infinitesimal in comparison to this “work of thy fingers,” God visits us in Jesus Christ, giving Him, and us in Him, dominion over His creation. Find opportunities of going out at night and standing in awe of God’s work, just as the psalmist does in numerous psalms (Ps. 8, 19, 74, 104, andPs. 136). The more we learn of the vast expanse of the heavens, the greater will be our ability to glorify the God of Abraham and His covenant faithfulness to His promise, “…so shall thy seed be,” spoken when He showed Abraham the wondrous expanse of heaven inGenesis 15:5. With all our modern “wonders,” which enable us to have light continuously and to isolate ourselves from the creation and its power, we often lose sight of its true wonders.
We can listen to music any hour of the day or night, but how often do we arise early to hear the singing of the birds or just pause to listen awhile to this wonder of God’s creation? I recently came across an article by Dr. Margaret Helder entitled “Much Music,” reprinted from Creation Dialogue athttp://ldolphin.org/muchmusic.html, which has some fascinating information to aid us in the appreciation of the songs of the birds. God laid the foundations for music here in their order, variety, and complexity. There is a beauty here that He made for us to delight in, to learn from, and to be edified by. How wondrous too that the birds sing to greet the dawning day, that rising of the sun, which God repeatedly sets forth as a figure of Christ and our redemption in Him.
Almost any natural setting has a wealth of beauty that God has put there for us as His people to enjoy. As a pastor and missionary’s wife, I’ve had the privilege of living and traveling through mountains, deserts, seacoasts, and seemingly endless miles of rolling prairie. Some are more spectacular than others, yet each scene had its own natural beauty. Perhaps you long to see the mountains or the ocean, or to visit faraway lands. Don’t wait for that yearning to be satisfied to enjoy the beauty of the creation. Savor what God has put before you today. Really look at the tree outside your window, the wildflowers along the roadway, the common sparrow or cowbird alighting on your lawn. We don’t praise and glorify God when we take the beauties and wonders of His creation lightly.
To use a homely illustration, think how you would react if after you had spent many hours making something, perhaps a quilt, a fine woodworking project, or planting and caring for a beautiful arrangement of flowers in your garden, you showed it to someone and he merely glanced at it and said, “Yeah, that’s nice.” Wouldn’t you regard his praise as more genuine and heartfelt if he would carefully look at your work, comment on the beauty of the design, the fineness of the carving, or the beauty of the combination of colors and textures?
So spend time delighting in God’s creation. Take walks in the woods or fields. Don’t wait for perfect weather. Enjoy the weather God sends (providing it’s safe) by experiencing the “stormy wind fulfilling His word,” delighting in the “cheering rain,” or praising Him in the midst of the beautiful whiteness of the snow and silvery hoar frost, remembering that our sins are washed as white as snow (Is. 1:18).
Get some field guides from the library, or invest in a few. Distinguishing God’s creatures, whether birds, bugs, or flowers, isn’t a matter of showing how much you know. It’s a way of delving into and delighting in the diversity and beauty of the creation, of finding more matter for wonder and praise. There are many resources available today to guide our appreciation and understanding of God’s wonderful creation from a Christian perspective. We have excellent articles in theStandard Bearer from time to time. Two providers of creation science materials that come to mind are the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis. Perhaps our church libraries could include some of their books or visual resources (if they do not already). They will be especially helpful when, time and finances permitting, we are able to visit a zoo, aquarium, conservatory, planetarium, or museum. Not only will some preparatory work pay off in terms of making the visit more profitable, but because some of these institutions are bastions of the evolutionary worldview, being forearmed with answers or good questions to ask will help us to interpret the exhibits from a biblical perspective.
School field trips are great, but what our children see in how we as parents respond to God’s creation will have an even more powerful and lasting impact. From our example too, children will learn the principles of stewardship of God’s creation and the proper respect for God’s creatures that ought to shine forth in us. This creation belongs to God, and He will hold us accountable for how we use it and how we treat His creatures.
When we walk in this enjoyment of God’s creation, we will be edified. We will experience how small and helpless we are and how great our God is. Seeing His wonderful work, viewed through the spectacles of Scriptures, we will join with the psalmist in singing, “The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever: the Lord shall rejoice in his works…. I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being” (Ps. 104:31, 33).