Nature includes the air we breathe, the water we drink, the places and wildlife we love. Nature can inspire Christians to praise and worship God. But nature can turn unbelievers from God – there is no mention of God on Earth Day. And unbelievers can see nature as a god that they can become obsessed with.
The psalms were songs used by the Hebrews to praise God. Nature psalms praise the Lord as the creator and sustainer of the physical universe (Estes, 2005). God is separate from nature because He created it. This made Jewish beliefs different to the common beliefs of ancient times that various objects in nature are divine. Just think about the gods of Egypt, Canaan, Greece and Rome. The theological description is that God is “transcendent”, which means He is independent of the creation. But the creation (nature) is also sustained by His mighty power; He sustains “all things by His powerful word” (Heb. 1:3NIV). And the creation (nature) declares (shows) God’s greatness (Ps. 19:1).
These psalms are usually comprised of three sections:
– Call to praise the Lord,
– Cause for the praise – the reasons for praising God, and
Here’s a summary of the reasons for praising God given in these psalms.
Psalm 8 – A magnificent Creator
Praise God the magnificent Creator of the vast universe who also cares for humanity even though people are minute compared to the size of the universe. There is an awesome God behind His magnificent creation which demonstrates His intelligence and power.
As God’s representatives on earth, people have been given dominion over God’s creation on earth. That’s an amazing responsibility!
Psalm 19:1-6 – A powerful Creator
Praise God for His self-revelation in the cosmos. The universe is personified (given human attributes – Appendix A) to give a message to mankind – that God created the universe, it didn’t create itself. Great knowledge and power would be required to provide the countless stars, the immense distances and the warmth of the sun. By looking at the universe, we see abundant evidence that God is a very powerful Creator.
Psalm 29 – More powerful than a thunderstorm
The power of nature is shown in an earthquake, avalanche or a thunderstorm. The strength and power of the Lord is like a mighty thunderstorm. His “voice” is powerful.
God has awesome power because He controls all the forces of nature. As Elijah demonstrated, in comparison the Canaanite storm god Baal was powerless (1 Ki. 18:16-40).
Psalm 65 – A bountiful harvest
Praise God for His power over creation and His care of creation and because He blesses His people with an abundant harvest. Mountains are massive examples of God’s power.
When David was the king of Israel in about 1,000BC, the nation depended on agricultural production for food and many resources (Appendix B). So, David praised God for lush pastures, flocks of sheep and bountiful harvests.
Psalm 104 – Sustainer of all life
Praise God as the ruler of the world who sustains all life. God’s glory is shown in the physical world which He created and continues to sustain. God’s power is evident in creation and in the flood. All parts of the universe declare God’s majesty.
The land and oceans are secure no matter what you think of global warming. These are examples of God’s providence. He cares for and directs all things in the universe. It is not governed by the chance of atheism or the fate of idolatry.
The earth is fine-tuned for life. God created a wide variety of creatures and continues to sustain them. We rely on the rest of creation for the air we breathe, the food we eat and the resources we use. Our entire existence depends wholly on God. The wisdom of God’s design is amazing!
Psalm 148 – All Creation praises God
All creation is called to praise the Lord, for He is the creator and ruler of everything. The universe of sun, moon and stars can praise God because He made it immensely huge to demonstrate His massive power. The ocean, atmosphere, landscape, vegetation, animals and people also praise God. Every created thing is invited to praise the Lord. Nature is to praise God.
Everything in the cosmic world, the atmospheric world, the oceanographic world, the topographic world, and the biological world praises God. This means that all creation praises the Creator.
We live about 3,000 years since these psalms were written. Do we recognize God’s power, strength and wisdom in designing and creating the universe? Or do we say it made itself via a big bang and evolution?
Do we thank God when we experience the benefits of a harvest? Do we thank Him for the food we eat (Mt. 15:36; Acts 27:35)?
God warned the Israelites not to worship the sun, moon and stars (Dt. 4:19). But do we worship nature?
The main reason to praise God today is to express our gratitude and thanks for all He has done through Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:19-20; Col. 3:16). And this will also be the main reason to praise God at the end of time and in eternity. But God will still be praised in heaven because He created all things at the beginning of time (Rev. 4:11).
God is the Creator of all things, and creation is His handiwork. To the degree it reflects the Creator, creation shows His character and attributes. Nature reveals God’s beauty, power, wisdom, creativity, and loving care. Creation declares the glory of God. So creation and nature should prompt our worship of God.
God and nature are separate. As God created nature, it is not divine. But if you don’t recognize that God created nature, you may worship Mother Earth instead.
Appendix A: Personification
Personification is a figure of speech in which a non-human thing is given human attributes.
In Psalm 148 animals (great sea creatures, wild animals, cattle, small creatures, birds), topographical features (ocean depths, mountains, hills), meteorological parameters (clouds, lightning, hail, snow, stormy winds), celestial bodies (sun, moon, stars), and trees (fruit trees, cedars) praise God. This is an example of personification that covers all the main spheres of God’s creation. Of course, angels and people also praise God (v.2, 12).
Personification of nature occurs in 15 psalms (19, 50, 65, 66, 69, 76, 96, 97, 98, 100, 104, 121, 145, 148, and 150). This includes four nature psalms (19, 65, 104, and 148). Two other nature psalms don’t have personification (8, 29).
The Bible says that the heavens (sun, moon and stars) show God’s glory to us by fulfilling their God-given roles (Ps. 19:1-4a). Extending this principle to the rest of creation – each part of God’s creation shows God’s glory to us by fulfilling its God-given role (Job 26:14). By their order, complexity (intricacy), fine-tuning, power and splendor, each part of creation (nature) alludes to the far greater intelligence, power and splendor of their Creator.
Appendix B: David’s experience
Four or five of these six nature psalms are attributed to David. When David was a shepherd, he lived outdoors and would have seen God’s creation power in the sun, moon and stars (Ps. 8:3; 19:4b-6).
Estes D J 2005, Handbook on the wisdom books and Psalms, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 159-162.
Written, July 2022
Also see: What the Bible says about nature