Learning from Nature

Some would have us believe that we can worship God in nature better than in church.

(1) Ps. 19 tells us that the heavens declare the glory of God and Paul informs that God’s power and deity is perceived from creation (Rom. 1:20). Is he saying that trees, flowers and sunsets are better hymns and sermons?

Gerard Manley Hopkins said that “The world is charged with the grandeur of God”. On the other hand Alfred Lord Tennyson reminded us that nature is red in tooth and claw. And we need to remember that acc. Ps. 104 it is God himself who feeds the lions just as Jesus says he feeds the birds.

(2) The Bible makes little of the so-called beauty of creation and it certainly does not teach that it was once perfect! Jesus referred to the way in which the lilies are arrayed in superior fashion to Solomon in all his glory, but it is not sentimental in the way that many Christians are today.

After all, the Bible begins with man’s call to exercise dominion over creation. In other words, nature had to be tamed. It is characterized by earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, floods, droughts and is inhabited by wild animals that have to be kept under control.

(3) So, while many ancient religions involved nature worship, we as successors to the Jews must ask if we can learn from nature.

Note: ants and sluggards (Pr. 17:12)

Wealth can take flight like a bird (Pr. 23:4f.)

Too much wine drinking is like the bite of a snake (23:31f.)

A man who strays from home is like a bird straying from its nest (27:8)

The leech has two daughters who cry ‘give’, ‘give’. Bloodsuckers and gold diggers!

Fools return to their folly as dogs return to their vomit (26:11), and as sows that are washed to the mire (2 Pet. 2:20).

(4) Can we learn about man from animals? Animals concerned with survival: because they die, they are concerned with food and propagation. Cf. Gen. 19:31 and  Jos. 23:14.

Animals are usually killers by necessity, though foxes go berserk in the hen house. Modern films on chimps show that they come well short of being human. They teach us that they have no system of ethics and no ability to care for other species. They are programmed, however, to live in their own environment in ecological harmony with others. Culling is natural and when it is set aside by well meaning but ignorant humans, it results in disaster.

Though man is the greatest ravager of the earth, he should act as a steward and care for it.

In the realm of the spirit animals can teach us nothing. They are flesh and act according to instinct (2 Pet. 2; Jude). Thus we can gain certain scientific knowledge regarding bodily (physical) functions, overcrowding, general habitat and the like but so far as our spiritual, moral and intellectual life is concerned, animals contribute nothing directly. They do not understand (the) law and they can’t tell us how to live as human beings.

They can teach us that we reap what we sow. If we sow to the flesh we, like them, die; it is only as we sow to the spirit that we live (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 6:8). Flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

(5) Nature temporal not eternal like God its Creator. Nature teaches us only indirectly to look up.

So, if you desert your church and go into the country to observe nature next Sunday, you may appreciate the wonderful creative powers of God, but you will learn precious little of the plan of salvation for mankind. Nature’s revelation is strictly limited. You need the word of God and fellow worshippers gathered together in praise.