Splendor and Majesty Are Before Him

Psalm 96:1-6 – Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! 4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. 6 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

2013-12-20 - Splendor and Majesty Are Before Him (IMG_8257)God’s splendor and majesty on display in an alpine meadow filled with summer wildflowers along the trail to Iceberg Lake.  Glacier National Park, Montana.

Many in our post-modern culture who hear the word idol immediately think of carved images of wood or stone, or statues cast in bronze, silver, or gold.  They see idols as nothing more than quaint artifacts from ages past when superstition and ignorance kept mankind from truly understanding the world around him.

To the modern-minded individual, science has solved countless problems and provided so many answers to how the earth, its creatures, and even the universe, function that there is really no further need for gods or religion.  “Maybe we don’t have all the answers,” they would say, “but we have already explained so much and are certainly on the road to discovering the rest if we can just have a little more time and money to do the research.”

Someone with a fairly basic science education seeing these alpine wildflowers could likely explain the general principles of photosynthesis and pollination.  And, with a more advanced education one could even explain the minutest details of the cellular structures and even the genetic makeup of each of these plants.

But, for most people looking at this scene, I suspect, their mind does not immediately turn to such dry, academic ponderings.  I believe that most people coming upon this scene would marvel at the splendor and majesty of the mountains, the vivid colors of the wildflowers, the green of the trees and grass, and the sheer magnificence of it all.  You see, one thing science cannot explain is beauty, nor can it explain why we have such feelings of awe and wonder when we are blessed to gaze upon such beauty as this.

“Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”  These words from Romans 1:22-23 capture well the essence of idolatry.  Quite simply it is the elevation of anything to the level of God.  Our modern idols may not be carved images of wood or stone, but they are idols just the same.  We have made an idol out of science, foolishly believing that there is no need for God since science has now explained it all.  We have even made an idol out of nature itself.

If you feel a sense of awe and wonder when you gaze upon the incredible world around you, it is a good thing.  You see, creation was designed with that purpose in mind, to point us to the one true God, our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer.  He is calling out to you, if you would only pick up his Word and listen to his voice.

Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2013.

The Trees of the Forest Sing for Joy

Psalm 96:11-13 – Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 12 let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy 13 before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.

2013-12-13 - The Trees of the Forest Sing for Joy (IMG_1550)The giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove. Yosemite National Park, California.

I have walked through many forests over the years and have always enjoyed the cathedral like feeling of an old-growth pine forest with little underbrush and a soft carpet of needles.  The giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove take that feeling to a whole new level.  God’s power and magnificence are clearly on display in this grove of ancient giants!

As with so many of the Psalms, Psalm 96 reminds us once again that all of creation celebrates and glorifies the Lord.  The earth rejoices, the sea roars, the fields exult, and “the trees of the forest sing for joy.”  What I find most noteworthy about the celebration described in today’s passage, though, is that it is a celebration of God’s judgment.  In today’s culture the word judgment often carries a negative connotation.  Many equate it with intolerance and bigotry, which is an unfortunate perversion resulting from our fallen and sinful condition.  But we all understand and appreciate judgment when we see a criminal punished justly for their crime, don’t we?

The thing we must always remember about God’s judgment, is that it is fully righteous.  His punishment meted out for our sins is fully deserved.  What we don’t deserve is the forgiveness that God has granted us in grace, through faith, made possible only by the blood Christ shed on the cross.  We have done nothing, nor can we, to earn his forgiveness, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2013.