Yesterday, we briefly considered some thoughts about Paul’s exhortation to be thankful in all circumstances. Sometimes, we can become so laser-focused on our challenges that we lose sight of the reasons we have for gratitude. Happily, when that is the case, the Bible points us to things that every Christian can be thankful for. These are basic things—so basic that we sometimes overlook them. One of those things is the very basic gift of creation.
Psalm 136 is a psalm of thanksgiving. The overriding reason that David gives for thanks in that psalm is one we will later this week, but in the midst of urging his readers to “give thanks to the LORD” (vv. 1–3), he includes evidences of grace that relate specifically to creation: “to him who alone does great wonders, … who by understanding made the heavens, … who spread out the earth above the waters, … who made the great lights, … the sun to rule over the day, … the moon and stars to rule over the night” (vv. 4–9).
God created the universe to bring glory to himself (Psalm 19:1), but he also carefully crafted it as a beautiful habitat for humanity. Rather than a bland landscape with the bare necessities to sustain life, he designed beauty and colour and variety. This both draws teaches us something about his character and brings us pleasure.
David said that creation testifies to God’s glory (Psalm 19:1) and Paul added that a certain degree of divine knowledge “is plain to [humanity], because God has shown it to them” in creation (Romans 1:18–20). Think about some of the things that creation teaches us about God.
First, creation teaches us about God’s power. Paul said that “his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world” (Romans 1:20). God spoke the entire creation into existence in six days. Genesis comments on the creation of the stars in an almost throwaway fashion, as if it were no big deal (“and the stars” [Genesis 1:16]).
Second, creation testifies to God’s magnitude. Isaiah 40:12 poetically speaks about God holding earth’s water in the hollow of his hand. It is estimated that if all the earth’s water were captured into a sphere it would measure roughly 1,385km in diameter and would contain approximately 1,386 trillion litres. God holds that in the hollow of his hand. Surely that highlights his magnitude.
Third, creation highlights God’s diversity. While he does not change, he is not a bland, one-dimensional God. Peter speaks of his “varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10), which we see in creation. He displays love and grace and anger and wrath and patience and steadfastness. He is all of these things at once. The variety of creation testifies to the variety of the Creator.
Fourth, creation attests to God’s wisdom. Proverbs 8:22–31 highlights wisdom in practice as God created. It poetically describes God as a careful and deliberate architect, intentionally designing everything to work in a coherent and optimal way. Creation highlights divine wisdom.
Fifth, creation testifies to God’s wrath. As beautiful as it all is, the variety in creation (mountain peaks and canyons, etc.) at the same time testify to a time when great upheaval tore creation apart in a global flood as a display of God’s wrath against human sin. Natural disasters remind us that things are not yet as they should be or will be for all eternity.
Sixth, creation highlights God’s grace. Everything that sustains us is a gift of grace. Every breath we take, every sunset we witness, ever plant we grow, every bird we photograph is given by grace to God’s people. We deserve nothing from him and yet he has given us so much more than we can possibly imagine.
While creation testifies to God’s character, it is also a gift that God has given to us to appreciate and enjoy—with great variety. Some marvel in the beauty of an ocean sunset. Others enjoy the solitude of the bush. Some are entranced by the kaleidoscope of colours in the plant kingdom. Others take joy in wildlife photography. God has given something for everyone to enjoy and in which to find refreshment and peace.
As you meditate on Psalm 136 today, take a moment to appreciate creation. Admire the sunrise. Appreciate the birds at your window. Take a moment to thank God for a beautiful garden. Appreciate both what creation teaches you about God and its beauty and give thanks to God.