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Worshipping God the Creator: The Bible and Creation

Lynne Baab • Friday June 17 2016

Worshipping God the Creator: The Bible and Creation

I’ve written the past two weeks about the way that Creation calls us to worship and praise God (here and here). We are called to praise God, as is the whole creation. “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him all you shining stars! . . . Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created” (Ps 148:3-5).

Psalm 104 is the most extensive piece of Biblical literature that focuses on God as creator and sustainer of the universe. John Stott calls it “perhaps the earliest essay in ecology in the literature of the world.” [1] It opens with the words:

Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty
Wrapped with light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
You set the beams of your chambers on the waters (Ps 104:1-3).

The psalm goes on to describe the way God created the earth and the way he sustains it with water and food. The language is amazingly concrete: springs gush forth, grass grows for cattle. Specific animals and plants are mentioned: cedars, storks, young lions, wild goats. The psalmist says all the plants and animals look to God for food in their season. In fact, it is God who takes away the breath of animals when they die, and it is God who gives the breath that enables them to live.

After 30 verses describing God’s hand in nature, the psalmist bursts out, “May the glory of the Lord endure forever,” then continues, “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being” (verses 31 and 33).

Psalm 104 seems to be a partner to Psalm 103, which focuses on God as Redeemer. Psalm 103 and 104, taken together, give a picture of the God of relationship who redeems and heals human beings and calls them into relationship with him, who is the same God who created and sustains the physical universe. Often the psalms flow seamlessly from praising God as creator to praising God for his compassion, his justice, his righteousness.

Throughout the psalms, there is a pattern of God’s revelation in both nature and in his word.  Psalm 19 says, “The heavens are telling the glory of God” (verse 1). Later in the same psalm, in verses 7-10, the psalmist describes the wonders of the law of the Lord, the written revelation of God. God has made himself known to us through the creation and also through his special communication with humans in the Bible and in his son, Jesus Christ. Nature alone cannot teach us all we need to know about God. Yet when we neglect seeing God’s hand in nature, we miss a powerful call to worship and a deep connection with the humility that comes from knowing we are created beings dependent on our Creator God.

One aspect of that dependence comes from the way that God sustains the physical world, stressed in Psalm 104 and repeated elsewhere:

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving,
make melody to our God on the lyre.
He covers the heavens with clouds,
prepares rain for the earth,
makes grass grow in the hills.
He gives to the animals their food,
and to the young ravens when they cry (Ps 147:7-9).

I love the strong affirmation in Job 12:7-12 that the created order teaches us that we are utterly dependent on God:

But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing,
and the breath of every human being.

Maybe part of why Christians haven’t always put a lot of emphasis on joining with creation in praising God is that we don’t like admitting our utter dependence on the One who sustains our every breath.

(This is the third post in a series on worshipping God as Creator. This post is excerpted from my book, A Renewed Spirituality. More on this topic next week. Illustration: Kapiti Island by Dave Baab. If you'd like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under "subscribe" in the right hand column. All biblical quotations from the NRSV.)

[1] John R. W. Stott, “The Works of the Lord,” The Best Preaching on Earth: Sermons on Caring for Creation, Stan L. LeQuire, ed. (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1996), 82.

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