“Then shall all the trees of the forest exult before the Lord, for He comes: He comes to rule the earth.” 1 Chron. 16:33.
The image of nature exulting in God recurs throughout the Old Testament:
- Ps. 96:11-13, “Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them. Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice before the LORD….”
- Ps. 97:1, “The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice; let the many islands be glad.”
- Isaiah 14:8, “…the very cypresses rejoice over you”;
- Bar. 3:34-35, “Before whom the stars at their posts shine and rejoice. When he calls them, they answer, ‘Here we are!’ shining with joy for their Maker.”
Have you ever been outside on a glorious morning when the beauty surrounding you just filled your eyes and soul? A few years ago, I went on a road trip with my grandson. We camped out in a tent as many nights as we could manage. One morning stands out in my memory. We were camped near Devil’s Tower in southeastern Wyoming. The Tower was visible when we stood at the front of the campground; the back of the campground lay along the top of a deep ravine, and the view across the ravine was of valley, high desert, and mountains. I stood on the edge of the ravine and I heard the sound of one lone cow, somewhere across the valley. And I remember thinking, This is what it sounds like when God’s creation praises Him.
Fanciful? Maybe. And yet the Psalmist and the prophets are pretty clear in telling us that creation praises God.
When the verse from 1 Chron. came up in my morning prayers today, I began to reflect on how and why nature praises God, and it led me in an interesting direction. It occurred to me that the greatest way nature has of praising God and exulting in Him is by being exactly what God created it to be, exactly where God placed it, doing exactly what God made it to do.
Isn’t that my own best way of praising God, of exulting in Him?
The greatest peace, the deepest contentment and joy, and at the same time the greatest challenges in life all arise from being who God made me to be, from being where He places me, and from seeking to do, then doing, what He wants and calls me to do.
The challenges come mostly from two sources: the noise and distraction and competing calls of the world around us, and our own resistance to the transformation that God requires of us in order to be drawn closer to Him.
The peace, contentment, and joy all come from a single source: God, in His own love, compassion, and mercy, gives us those so that we know when we are on the right track.
A few weeks ago, our family had gathered with a neighboring family for an evening of food and fellowship. As we began to enjoy our meal, the host invited anyone who wanted to do so to share something they were especially thankful for. When my turn came up, I said that I was grateful to the toes of my soul for being where God wanted me, doing what God wants me to do. And the host wondered out loud how I know that I am. My answer surprised even me, a little: I said that where I am and what I am doing in life is so far different and removed from what I planned when I retired a few years ago that I simply couldn’t have imagined it — in fact, probably would have rejected it out of hand; and yet here I am, finding in my life and in what I am doing with it the greatest peace, joy, and contentment I have ever felt in my entire six dozen years.
And so, with nature — both the nature around us, and our own human nature, created and given to us by our loving God — with nature, I exult in the Lord and praise Him with everything I have.
Dearest Father, You are glorious in all of Your creation — including Your creation of me. Let me remember to listen for Your call, each day, so that I may always be who You made me to be, where You want me to be, doing what You ask of me. The “me” of me is its best when I am letting You shine from me. Shine, Lord, and I will be filled with light and joy. Amen.
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