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Contemplating God in the Beauty of Nature

A primary way God nourishes our souls with his loving presence is through the beauty of nature. The face of the Lord shines on his in the sun. The moon and stars remind us that God’s light and love shine to us even in the dark. The Lord is speaking to us and warming us from the heavens, the Psalmist says (Psalm 19:1-6). The joy of the Lord comes to us in splashing waves and playful animals! (Psalm 29:3, 6)

Throughout the Bible we read testimony of the Lord communicating to us in the skies, ocean waves, breeze rustling through the trees, fields and flowers, and birds that sing cheerfully. Jesus reassures us that our Father in the heavens always near cares for the little sparrows and he cares for us (Matthew 6:26 and 10:29).

Nature reveals to us God’s beauty, glory, power, wisdom, presence, creativity, and, most of all, his loving care. This is why we’re drawn to spend time in the beauty of nature and to enjoy animals. To talk a walk on a beautiful day, play with your dog in the grass, or hold your cat are reliable ways for many people to connect with God’s loving presence.

Jesus makes continual use of nature in his parables that welcome us to find life with him in the Kingdom of God. The revelation of God in nature is so poignant and prevailing that the Apostle Paul cautions if we don’t notice and honor our Creator we are without excuse (Romans 1:20).

The Word of God inspires us to contemplate God in creation. Saint Francis of Assisi and Henri Nouwen are two devoted disciples of Christ who draw our attention to love God by loving his creatures and creation. Below are some of the Bible verses that inspired them. These are followed by Saint Francis’ famous nature hymn: “All Creatures of Our God and King” and a meditation from Henri Nouwen on “Being Sisters and Brothers of Nature”.

Bible Verses on God’s Beauty and Presence in Nature (NIV)

Understanding God’s Creation Helps us Trust Him

“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” (Hebrews 11:3; See also Genesis 1:1ff, Isaiah 42:5, and many others.)

The Creation Reveals Christ  it’s Co-Creator with God  Sustaining All Living Things

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17; See also 1 Corinthians 8:6)

God Created Human Beings to Reflect his Nature and Care for All the Living Things he Created

“God spoke: ‘Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.’ God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female. God blessed them: ‘Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.’” (Genesis 1:26-28. MSG)

The Animals and Earth Teach us to Look to the Lord’s Open Hand

“Job, the righteous man who trusted God in suffering, wrote: “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7-10)

The Earth and the Heavens, Even the Night Skies, Reveal God’s Loving Care for People

“O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens… When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers — the moon and the stars you set in place — what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” (Psalm 8:1, 3-4, NLT)

Look Up and Be Warmed by Your Bridegroom and Champion!

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.” (Psalm 19:1-6)

The Earth is Full of the Lord’s Unfailing Love

“The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.” (Psalm 33:5)

The Maker of the Mountains is Our Helper

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

The Lord Created us Wonderfully in Body and Soul

“For you [Lord] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)

The Lord Gives Water to the Wild Animals in the Desert and to Us

“This is what the Lord says — your Redeemer… The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and owls, too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed.” (Isaiah 43:14, 20, NLT)

God is Clearly Revealed in Creation

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

God Wants to Bring Freedom and Glory to All His Creation Through Us

“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19-21)

All People, Animals, and Fish Will Praise God and Christ

“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!’” (Revelation 5:13)

All Creatures of Our God and King: A Hymn by Saint Francis

Saint Francis of Assisi was a little man who lived in a little town in the Italian countryside in the 13th Century, but he quickly became famous as a little Christ. He lived out for us the pattern of a life of Christ. He loved God, God’s Word, people, animals, and all of creation.

“Song, music, and poetry were so deeply a part of the nature of Saint Francis that in times of sorrow and sickness as well as of joy and good health he spontaneously gave voice in song to his feelings, his inspirations, and his prayers.” (Francis and Clare: The Complete Works, p. 37, published by Paulist Press, © 1982)

Saint Francis’ canticle (or hymn) “All Creatures of Our God and King” draws us to contemplate God’s beauty in creation and to take good care of all animals and all living things as our brothers and sisters.

All creatures of our God and King,
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong,
Ye clouds that sail in heav’n along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

(By Saint Francis of Assisi in 1225. Paraphrased by William H. Draper in 1901.)

Being Sisters and Brothers of Nature: A Meditation by Henri Nouwen

Like St Francis before him, Henri Nouwen inspires us to take up our calling as stewards of God’s creation and to appreciate that all the animals and all created things are part of God’s beloved family with us. God is the Father of all living things and we are all siblings. Here is Henri Nouwen’s meditation:

“When we think of oceans and mountains, forests and deserts, trees, plants and animals, the sun, the moon, the stars, and all the galaxies, as God’s creation, waiting eagerly to be “brought into the same glorious freedom as the children of God” (Roman 8:21), we can only stand in awe of God’s majesty and God’s all-embracing plan of salvation. It is not just we, human beings, who wait for salvation in the midst of our suffering; all of creation groans and moans with us longing to reach its full freedom.

“In this way we are indeed brothers and sisters not only of all other men and women in the world but also of all that surrounds us. Yes, we have to love the fields full of wheat, the snowcapped mountains, the roaring seas, the wild and tame animals, the huge redwoods, and the little daisies. Everything in creation belongs, with us, to the large family of God.”

(Henri Nouwen Society Daily Meditation from Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen © 1997)

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