Reflections on our nature, and God's
And now for something completely different: yet another devotional drawn from nature. Its focus: introspection.
I have always loved water reflections. When the wind plays elsewhere, and no dragonflies or skimmers or ducks or mosquitoes or people ripple the surface, the still waters often depict more vibrant life than the scene it mirrors. These reflections offer a different, intriguing point of view, revealing God at work within and around us. Romans 1:20 reminds us to seek out and pay attention to such things, “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Scripture offers many colorful insights on this. While the first chapters in Genesis are essential reading, as is the book of John, some of the Bible’s most visual descriptions of God at this work come from Psalm 104: “You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart. The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. In them the birds build their nests; the stork has its home in the fir trees. The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the coneys. You have made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. You make darkness, and it is night, when all the animals of the forest come creeping out. The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God.”
Such scenes underscore the nature of God, founded on love and justice. Exodus 34: 6-7 provides one of the most concise descriptions of this, drawn from Moses’ request to see our Lord’s glory. “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.’'
That duality may confuse or dismay those who focus solely on God’s grace — yet daily walks in nature reflect both peace and law. Scripture warns that we may never truly grasp His workings in this life. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” the Lord declares in Isaiah 65: 8-9. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Psalm 115:3 makes it plainer still: “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”
Such talk often makes us wonder where we fit into this. Water reflections answer this if the questioner dares walk up to the edge. Ultimate control lies with our Creator, as Proverbs 16:9 reminds us: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 20:24 clarifies: “A man's steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?”
While lovers of freedom may despair in this, they should take heart, for our Lord gives us free will to accept or reject His steps, and Him. Indeed, God created this world to enhance our ability to choose, which may open many doors to temptation, as demonstrated in Genesis chapter 3. Some people use this as a crutch, seeking to avoid responsibility for their actions. James 1:13-16 refutes such talk — “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.”
If willful people pay attention to nature, they will see that our Lord created this world, and prepared our steps in it, for our own good. “For we are his workmanship,” as Ephesians 2:10 explains, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Romans 8:28 tells how this fits in with our free will: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Reflecting upon creation tells us how to identify God’s steps and find our way in this world. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding,” as Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us. “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”