Nov 22 2017

Thank You, God

WY Grand Teton NP Oxbow BendRecently the choir at my church sang an anthem called “Thank You, God.” I’m sure the author of the piece, J. Paul Williams, could have gone in a number of different directions giving thanks to God but he chose to focus on God’s gift of Creation. Here are the lyrics: “God created everything we see, He made the misty night. He spoke and there was light. He is the giver, our praise to Him we sing. God is the giver of every good thing. He gave us seed to sow. He gave us minds to know; He is the giver, our praise to Him we sing. Forest and mountain, swift running river, love overflowing, God is the giver. Thank you, God, thank you,  for every good and perfect gift. God is the one who makes the crops to grow. He makes each bud to flower with sunshine and with shower. He is the giver, our praise to Him we sing.”

_CES1773Another hymn writer, Henry van Dyke, also included Creation in his popular hymn “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” Dyke, however, took a slightly different approach and spoke of Creation’s call for us to offer God praise. He wrote: “All thy works with joy surround thee, earth and heaven reflect thy rays, stars and angels sing around thee, center of unbroken praise. Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea, chanting bird and flowing fountain, call us to rejoice in thee.”

CA Julia Pffeifer SP waterfall (v)These two writers remind us that God’s gift of Creation calls us to give thanks and to offer praise to the Maker of heaven and earth. This call, of course, is nothing new. You will find numerous similar calls throughout the Scriptures, especially in the Book of Psalms. There you will even find Creation itself being called upon to offer God praise. In Psalm 98 we read “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music… Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy.” (vs. 4, 7-8)

 

All of Creation is called upon to offer thanksgiving and praise to God. So are we. With this in mind, let me urge you this Thanksgiving to give thanks for God’s gift of Creation. The truth be known, just about everything we normally give thanks for on Thanksgiving Day would have been impossible were it not for the provisions God gives us through Creation. And may I suggest that you continue to give thanks for this good earth on a regular basis. Our life would not be possible apart from God’s gifts through Creation. So take time each day to offer your thanks for God’s provision and your praise to the Giver of all good gifts. It truly is the right thing to do.

–Chuck


Jan 18 2012

King of Creation and Us

 There are quite a few different types of psalms found in the Book of Psalms.  Interestingly, the largest number of psalms are laments.  Other types include psalms of trust, psalms of thanksgiving, and hymns.  Still yet another type is royal or enthronement psalms.  This latter type exalts God as King and emphasizes His rule over both humans and Creation.  The psalms that fall in this category are Psalms 47, 93, 96, 97, 98 and 99.  Scholars believe that this collection was used periodically to remind Israel that Yahweh was the King of kings and the Ruler of the universe.

If you take a look at these six psalms you’ll discover that there are lots of references to the earth.  In Psalm 47 the Psalmist twice refers to God as the “great king over all the earth.”  It is clear that one of the primary reasons Israel viewed God as King was their recognition that He was the Creator of earth.  They believed that it was Yahweh who “firmly established” the earth and because of this “it cannot be moved.” (Ps. 93:1; 96:10)  The One who created the world also ruled or reigned over it.

God’s reign was seen as cause for the earth to “sing to the Lord a new song” and to “praise his name.”  More than once in these psalms the earth is told to “be glad.”  In four of the royal psalms the seas are mentioned and they are said to offer God praise.  In Psalm 96 the fields and all found in them are exhorted to be “jubilant.”  This, the Psalmist says, will lead “all the trees of the forest“ to sing for joy.  In Psalm 98 the rivers are told to “clap their hands” and the mountains are urged to “sing before the Lord.” 

All of this may sound strange or fanciful to modern ears but we would be wise not to dismiss such language too easily.  By affirming that God was the Creator of the world the Israelites declared that He was greater than “all the gods of the nations.”  They saw in His Creation, and in His mighty acts of deliverance, Yahweh’s supremacy.  They could only conclude that He was the King of kings and deserved all of the praise both Creation and humankind could give Him.  Knowing that God ruled over all they understood that there was cause for joy and gladness for both Creation and humankind.

If we affirm that God is “the Maker of heaven and earth” then we, too, must understand that this truly does make Him King.  As such He deserves our worship, devotion and praise.  It would appear that those who wrote the biblical psalms saw in Creation a perpetual reminder of God’s sovereignty.  If we would condition ourselves to do the same, perhaps we would find ourselves singing and shouting and praising the eternal King of kings and Lord of lords with Creation more often.  I suspect that would, in turn, bring great delight to the King.

–Chuck

(I took the top image at Mt. Rainier National Park and the bottom one at Acadia National Park.)


Dec 11 2011

Let Heaven and Nature Sing

It’s the third Sunday in Advent and since the theme for this Sunday is joy we sang “Joy to the World!” at church this morning.  This has to be one of the most familiar and popular of all Christmas hymns.  I have enjoyed singing this song since my childhood.  Even as a kid I particularly liked the part that says, “let heaven and nature sing.”  What I didn’t realize back then is that the idea of heaven and nature singing comes straight out of the Bible.

Few people seem to know that the background for Isaac Watts’ famous carol is Psalm 98.  In verse 4 of this Psalm we read, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music.”  This, of course, is where the title for “Joy to the World!” comes from.  But what about “heaven and nature” singing?  That comes later.  In the last three verses the Psalmist declares: “Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.  Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.”  Here we see that the sea, along with all the creatures that inhabit it; the world, along with all of its inhabitants; and also the rivers and mountains are called to sing a joyful song unto the coming Lord.

The Bible teaches us that God created the world and us for His glory.  It only makes sense then that all of Creation should join together in singing God’s praise.  And there is certainly no better time to lift our voices with the rest of Creation than during this season when we pause to remember that “God so loved the world He gave His only Son.” (John 3:16)  We may not understand how, or even accept that it is true, but nature does, in fact, offer praise to its Maker.  If we are wise, we will do the same.  And if we truly realize what’s going on it will be a joyful song we sing.  So let’s not rest content with just heaven and nature singing, let’s all do our part as well!

–Chuck

(The top image was taken at Cape Elizabeth in Maine.  The middle image was taken in Big South Fork N.R.R.A. in Kentucky.  The bottom image was taken in Kings Canyon N.P. in California.)