Enjoying Nature Without Worshipping It
As I write these words I am looking out through the dense morning fog at the pond and pastures. The goats are barely visible through the mist. I have been thinking, Is it proper to enjoy nature as much as I do?
We need only look to the Psalmists for the answer. The Old Testament poets delighted in describing the natural world around them. This is partly because they lived much closer to nature than most of us do today. In going about their daily tasks they observed nature’s glorious manifestations, much as we do here at the farm. Not a day goes by when I do not consciously praise the Lord Jesus for puppies that love me, donkeys that bray when they first see me in the morning, goats that gleefully butt heads together. The Psalmists likewise observed the ways of bears and badgers, the turbulent waters, the glory of nature. In enjoying the natural world they had much in common with other poets in the ancient world – with two very important differences.
In the first place, their Middle Eastern neighbors not only waxed poetic about the trees and the birds; they worshipped them. The biblical poets, on the other hand, resisted the temptation to deify the environment. They enjoyed the natural world without worshipping it.
The second difference between the Psalmists and their neighbors involved the language they used to describe “nature.” For them, nature was specifically “creation.” This term expressed the belief that the world owes its beauty and splendor, not to its own power or genius, but to God. Read any creation Psalm and you will see that the real significance of the universe is understood only by the eye of faith. And this faith was not in some man-made deity but in the eternal God Himself. All creation depends on the Creator for birth, life, and sustenance. “You open your hand, and they are filled with good.” Even death is controlled by the Sovereign God. “You take away their breath and they die and return to their dust.” The point is that God has established creation, and everything God created is a gift from Him.
In some ways, the modern emphasis on “Easter” is simply a revival of the goddess cults of the ancient Middle East, replete with Easter Egg Hunts and Candy Bunny Rabbits. However, you will look in vain for any evidence in the New Testament for “Easter.” The early believers hadn’t even the faintest interest in celebrating nature in this fashion. I have no doubt that they took their cue from the ancient Hebrew Psalmists.
The Psalms teach us that we can enjoy creation without worshipping it. And we enjoy it because we first love its Creator. If we must observe a holiday every Spring, let us call it what it truly is: Resurrection Sunday. Better yet, why not do what the early followers of Jesus did: observe each and every Lord’s Day as a commemoration of His rising from the dead.
January 16, 2014
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. If you would like to know more about becoming a follower of King Jesus, please feel free to write Dave.