God reveals himself in and through his awesome works in the natural world. He reveals himself to us in and through his creation – and it is a great gift from God to be surprised by beauty.
“He made the moon for the seasons; The sun knows the place of its setting.” Psalm 104:19
This psalm is a hymn of praise to God and his creative powers. The psalmist expresses his awe at the intricate grace, the natural forces, and the awesome beauty of creation with beautiful language of his own. It is a paeon to God who reveals himself in and through his awesome works in the natural world. He reveals himself to us in and through his creation. Being struck by the natural power and beauty around him, the psalmist has been moved to sing this beautiful prayer of awed thanksgiving to God.
It is a great gift from God to be surprised by beauty. You may have had such experiences in nature, small or large, where you were filled with awe at the beauty of a sunset, or been humbled by the vastness of the sea, or the endless horizons of the Great Plains, or the majestic snow covered heights of a great mountain range. Maybe it was the sudden song of a bird deep in the forest, or the powerful force of the wind. When it happened, were you not moved to prayer, like the psalmist? When things like this happen it’s as if we suddenly wake up out of our usual torpor and find ourselves standing in the presence of the holy. These are grace filled moments. Sometimes they can be so profound that we cannot find the words to express our awe and wonder.
It is a blessing to get out into nature. To see it all as the handiwork of God is a gracious gift. The psalmist writes, “He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire.” (verses 3-4) Recently, I experienced what the psalmist is writing about here. It was a sunny and very hot day. The blue skies were marked only by occasional swift moving, pure white clouds, but the winds were whipping fiercely through the narrow high cliffs along the Columbia River gorge in central Washington State. As the powerful winds passed through the cottonwoods along the river bank, they bent wildly before it and the leaves and branches in their crowns roared. The surface of the river was a froth of whitecaps that were being blown apart into fountains of mist that turned into rainbows in the sun. Standing out by the river, I could hear the next blast of wind coming up the river and when it got to me its force and power was enough to knock me back off my feet, to lose my balance. I had to lean into it to remain upright. The intense combination of the unspeakable beauty of the natural surroundings, the atmosphere of brilliant sunshine, and the power of the wind struck me to my soul with awe. I found myself moved so deeply by it that I could do nothing else but pray. And all I could pray was, “Thank you, Lord, for letting me be here in your presence,” over and over again.
The psalmist sees God at work in all of this power, beauty, and order in the created world. “He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting…” And he says, “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” (verse 24) And he sees that all of creation depends on God’s generous grace. Including himself. In awed thanksgiving he writes, “May the glory of the Lord endure forever…” (verse 31) The psalmist recognizes that the world and all that is in it is a manifestation of God’s love and he teaches us that our natural response to God’s generosity ought to be one of awed thanksgiving. “May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.” (verse 34)
Lord, open our eyes to see your majesty and beauty in all of creation. Teach our hearts to sing your praises in the morning and in the evening each day. Let us look upon the glory of nature and know that you are God, the Maker of heaven and earth, our Father, our Redeemer, and our Advocate. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen!
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