Heaven and Nature Sing

by Rob Tims

My relationship with camping, hiking and similar forms of enjoying nature did not begin well.

My Boy Scoutmaster loaded up our packs with gear and drove us out into the middle of the country 4-5 miles away from our intended campsite. “Walk straight down this road, boys, and you’ll see us waiting on you.” I made a ways before the weight of pack brought me to the point of tears. One of the other scouts had to take some of my weight, and he didn’t exactly do it out of kindness.

We played “king of the hill” later that night and I got a black eye leaping on to another would-be king.

Oh, and did I mention it was 15 degrees that night?

Yet such memories lured me back out into the woods, and there are few things I look forward to more than wandering through them with a much lighter day pack on my back and two pre-teen boys at my side. Steep slopes, slippery rocks and black bears lead us to feel exactly what Wendell Berry said: “Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.”

This curiosity, excitement and dread are our worship. Not worship of nature itself, but worship of its Maker. Consider Psalm 19:1-6.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Leave the city and suburbs and take a look around. All that you see is irrepressibly and unceasingly declaring a single, solitary message: the glory of God. In the same way that a groom beams with pride as his wife walks down the aisle, so does the sun about its God. Again, Wendell Berry: “The ecological teaching of the Bible is simply inescapable: God made the world because He wanted it made. He thinks the world is good, and He loves it. It is His world.”

This general revelation of God through creation … one that shows us to some degree who God is … leads to a greater revelation of God … one that shows us what we should do. Consider Psalm 19:7-11.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 

All of the nouns in this passage (law, testimony, precepts, etc.) powerfully illustrate the practical purposes of God’s revelation through Scripture, which is to bring God’s will to bear on every single aspect of our lives. All of the adjectives in this passage (perfect, sure, pure, etc.) contrast the word of God with the world. The many verbs and adverbs (enduring, reviving, etc.) illustrate what Scripture is and what it does for you and I.

Heaven and nature sing about the glory of God. Scripture tells us more and how we should live accordingly. May this wonderful Psalm be on our minds as we trek out from the cities and suburbs and into nature’s song.

Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.

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