I recently visited Zion and Yosemite National Parks for the first time. What a joy it was to hike through them both! While at Yosemite, a friend offered me a quote from author John Piper: “Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and contemplating your own greatness is pathological.” Isn’t that true? The very thought of our own greatness in the midst of these natural wonders is nonsensical.
Who is not awed by the colorful scenery of Zions, the majestic formations of Yosemite or the mighty redwood trees? I’m reminded of the Lord’s rhetorical question of Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4) We have a long history of thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought — humility is often fleeting. But one look over Yosemite Valley, or standing atop Angels Landing, or walking through a redwood forest and we realize our own insignificance.
David captures it well saying, “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place— what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:3-5) The reason it is good for us to enjoy the sights and sounds of creation is that not only does it put us in our place but it puts God in His!
Of course, some will object, suggesting that there is no evidence for God. However, the Apostle Paul reasons that the evidence for God is clearly seen, “They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So, they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Romans 1:19-20)
When you look at Cache Valley’s Wellsville Mountains or enjoy a beautiful sunset, what do you think? How great am I? If you did, those around you would know that you are out of your mind! No, we are humbled by our own insignificance, and awed by God’s greatness. Once we understand this, we are likely to ask with David, “How is it that the Lord of heaven and earth should be mindful of me?” However, even this question reveals our failure to understand who we are and what the universe is about. Piper writes, “It is about the greatness of God, not the significance of man. God made man small and the universe big to say something about himself.”
What is God saying? For one thing, he reveals his creativity and imagination not only with what He has made, but also by creating in us the ability to stand in awe and appreciate creation’s beauty. But the wonder doesn’t end here; it brings us to the place where we not only find joy in what we see but recognize the Lord’s greatness and give Him all glory and praise too.
We marvel with David who said, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). We do not worship creation but the Creator who gives life to all things. In Revelation, John adds, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)
The hymn, How Great Thou Art, says it well, “O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.” Our wonder of creation should draw us to the one who created all things. Billy Graham liked this hymn because, “It turns Christian’s eyes toward God, rather than upon themselves.” Can we say, AMEN?
The hymn also testifies of something even greater than the marvels of the worlds his hand has made. That is, “And when I think of God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in. That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.” Unless we see God in creation, we cannot see the Lord’s glory revealed in Christ dying for sinners and sing, “Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee How great Thou art!”
Eldon Peterson is pastor of the Cache Valley Bible Fellowship. His column appears on the Faith page. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.