September 4 - 10
God's Power in Nature
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Ps. 33:6; 104; Heb. 1:3; 11:3; Matt. 6:25, 26; Luke 12:22-24.
MEMORY TEXT: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork" (Psalm 19:1, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: Through nature we see not only the power of God in His creative acts and His sustaining power, we also learn about His love, wisdom, and mercy. Being in nature brings us close to God and restores us both physically and spiritually.
MEETING GOD IN NATURE. Through the centuries many philosophers have confused God with His creation (see Rom. 1:18-25). In some cases, such as pantheistic philosophy, God is even equated with nature! In spite of this, we can learn much about God through His creation. Who hasn't experienced a sense of awe and felt the presence of a greater Power when driving or, better, hiking through majestic mountains or watching the crashing of mighty waves upon a rocky coastline? Who hasn't felt the relaxing peace that comes over us when resting beside a bubbling brook or listening to the singing of the birds in branches just overhead?
At times like these we witness the power of the Creator and feel a soothing of our souls. There is much we can learn and benefit from nature, especially when we recognize the Creator behind the scenes. Jesus, the Creator of all, often drew lessons from nature. In this lesson we want to look at some of the benefits we can draw from nature.
By what means did God bring into existence all that is? Ps. 33:6. What does this tell us about Him?
The truth stated in Psalm 33:6 is one of the most simple and yet profound statements about God and His power in the Scriptures. We see this divine process in operation, without explanation, in Genesis, chapter 1. Each of the first days is introduced by the expression "And God said..."
What material did God use when He created the universe, this world, humankind? Heb. 11:3.
The account of the creation of the first humans in Genesis 2:7, 20-22 clearly depicts God making Adam from clay; Eve, in turn, was created from Adam's rib. In these cases, God did use matter that was already in existence. However, the question remains: Where did that matter, the clay, for example, ultimately come from? According to Hebrews 11:3, we understand by faith "that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible"(NIV). This was the best way that the author of Hebrews could say that God made the universe out of nothing. Scholars describe this type of creation, of making something out of nothing by divine fiat (a command that creates something), as ex nihilo ("out of nothing") creation. What the Bible is teaching here is that ultimately all matter in the universe was created by God. Conversely, the Bible is saying that God preceded everything else in the universe, including matter and energy, that He is eternal and the eternal Originator of everything.
In this one simple statement the author of Hebrews staked out God's claim as the only true God of the universe. He has no rivals or peers, either animate or inanimate. Another way of making this point, which was particularly significant in biblical times (but no less so today), is that there are no other gods but the Lord (1 Chron. 16:24-27; Ps. 96:5, 6; Isa. 40:18-26; 42:5-9; 44).
|Think it through: God did not simply create this world or wind it up like a clock and then abandon it. God is not an aloof deity who has turned His back on His creation, leaving them to their own devices. He continues "upholding all things by the word of His power" (Heb. 1:3, NKJV). Let us praise Him now for every breath we take and every pulsation of the heart.|
How does Revelation 11:18 show that God takes seriously how people treat His creation? What responsibility do Christians have toward the environment?
A challenge that faces us Seventh-day Adventists, who believe the Lord is coming soon, is our responsibility to care for the earth. To put it bluntly, if the Lord is going to come soon and destroy this planet anyway, why should we bother to take care of it? There are several things in the Christian life that, while on the surface may look unfruitful, God asks us to do because they are right to do. Take prayer, for example. If God knows everything, why pray? Doesn't He already know who needs help? Or, why care for our bodies if God is going to give us new ones anyway?
It is important to remember that just as God has placed value on our bodies, He has also placed value on the rest of His creation. He even gave humankind the responsibility of being good stewards of His creation from the very beginning.
How does God provide for His creatures? Ps. 104:20, 21, 27, 28; 147:9.
A consistent picture that emerges from both the Old and New Testaments is God's awareness of and provision for the needs of His creatures. If the great God of the universe cares even about a sparrow, surely He cares about us! Indeed, God does know and care about all aspects of His creation. If He does, shouldn't we also?
How does God want us to treat His creatures? Exod. 23:4, 5; Deut. 22:6, 7; Prov. 12:10.
|Reflect on the following statement as you contemplate a variety of ways to alleviate the abuse and suffering of animals that, unfortunately, is all too prevalent today: "Few realize as they should the sinfulness of abusing animals or leaving them to suffer from neglect. ... A record goes up to heaven, and a day is coming when judgment will be pronounced against those who abuse God's creatures."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 443.|
How does the Bible remind us that all things are interdependent? Ps. 104:10-23.
Ecological concerns are a rather modem phenomenon. They emerged when some perceptive scientists realized that our modem technology was destroying our earth. Studies of ecology showed that all life is interdependent. One cannot destroy or disrupt one component in the environment without its having repercussions elsewhere in the entire ecosystem. Still, the principles of ecologyhow things are interdependentcan be found in the Bible.
"All things both in heaven and in earth declare that the great law of life is a law of service. The infinite Father ministers to the life of every living thing. ... The same law of service is written upon all things in nature. The birds of the air, the beasts of the field, the trees of the forest, the leaves, the grass, and the flowers, the sun in the heavens and the stars of light-all have their ministry. Lake and ocean, river and water-springeach takes to give."Education, p. 103.
The psalmist paints a beautiful word picture of how the trees provide a home for the birds; even the inanimate objects such as the water, rocks, sun, and moon have mutually beneficial functions. Behind the role of each object is found the design of the Master Creator.
What hints are there in the Bible against abusing nature? Deut. 20:19, 20; 2 Kings 3:25.
The injunction in Deuteronomy is primarily against cutting down fruit trees; however, there were consequences even for cutting down nonfruit trees. While the Bible describes the land as productive and full of trees, the continued cutting down of woodlands eventually resulted in the deforestation of nearly the entire country. With the passing of time there were virtually no trees on the hills of Palestine. The absence of trees meant there were no roots to hold the soil in place, and consequently, it eroded off the slopes, leaving the land quite desolate. This process is now being reversed through reforestation.
|All God's creation reveals the great law of service and accountability. In what ways is this law revealed in your life? Think of creative ways to provide a haven for nature and a sanctuary for wildlife in your own surroundings or backyard.|
What can nature teach us about obedience? Job 38:11; Ps. 104:9; Luke 8:24, 25.
Nature is obedient to its Creator. Take, for example, how the great waters of the deep keep the boundaries He set for them and how the proud waves of the mighty oceans humble themselves before Him. The raging storms obey His command. "The lessons to be learned from the various objects of the natural world are these: They are obedient to the will of their Creator; they never deny God, never refuse obedience to any intimation of His will."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 333.
What does nature say about God's glory? Ps. 19:1-6.
Try to imagine how beautiful nature was when it came forth from its Creator. The most beautiful scene in nature today fades into insignificance in comparison. Yet we still enjoy its magnificence and see His goodness and glory in its mountain peaks, mighty oceans, flowery meadows, and running brooks. In spite of their blighted state, we still can discern the beautiful traces of the Master Designer. If an imperfect nature can bring us such joy and inspire our hearts to glorify God, how much more will nature restored!
How did Jesus relate to nature, and what does He desire us to learn from it? Luke 5:16; 6:12; John 6:15.
Jesus was drawn to nature to pray and commune with His Father. He felt the need to be alone with God, away from the throngs. Solitude with the Father prepared Him to serve the crowd. If Christ needed to draw near to His Father in the quietness of nature, we certainly do too!
|As you contemplate this thought about Christ, think of creative ways in which you can commune with God in nature: "Christ loved to gather the people about Him under the blue heavens, on some grassy hillside, or on the beach beside the lake. Here, surrounded by the works of His own creation, He could turn their thoughts from the artificial to the natural. In the growth and development of nature were revealed the principles of His kingdom."The Ministry of Healing, p. 54.|
Why did Jesus invite His disciples to be alone with Him in nature? Mark 6:31.
"It is right that we should choose such places as this grove for seasons of relaxation and recreation. ... As we behold these works of nature we should let the mind be carried up higher, to nature's God; let it be elevated to the Creator of the universe, and then adore the Creator who has made all these beautiful things for our benefit and happiness."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 589.
When we enjoy rest and recreation in nature, do we also experience spiritual rest? What is the relationship between rest and spiritual restoration? "Rest and Trust in God go hand in hand. To really rest in God is to truly trust Him. Rest, be it physical, mental or spiritual, is intertwined with trusting in God's providence. ... Rest is related to restoration. ... And from a spiritual perspective, for us to be prepared to enter God's heavenly rest we must first enter His rest here."Philip G. Samaan, Christ's Way to Spiritual Growth (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Publishing Assn., 1995), p. 192.
As you study Genesis 2:15 and 3:23, why do you think God wanted Adam to work in nature before and after the Fall?
Work in nature "will continually remind us of our Creator and Redeemer. The thought of God will run like a thread of gold through all our homely cares and occupations. For us the glory of His face will again rest upon the face of nature. We shall ever be learning new lessons of heavenly truth, and growing into the image of His purity."Christ's Object Lessons, p. 27.
How can exposure to nature help us when we are sick? "The sick need to be brought into close touch with nature. An outdoor life amid natural surroundings would work wonders for many a helpless and almost hopeless invalid."The Ministry of Healing, p. 262. "Pure air and water, cleanliness, a proper diet, purity of life, and a firm trust in God are remedies for the want of which thousands are dying."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 443.
|Take a few moments this week to meditate on Psalm 23:1-3. How does this help you to experience rest and restoration in trusting the divine Shepherd? How do the insights on rest in the psalm heighten the importance and joy of resting on the Sabbath?|
FURTHER STUDY: Study 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 to find a parallel between the interdependence of nature and the interdependence of the members of the body of Christ.
Read The Ministry of Healing, pp. 126-128 and "In Contact With Nature," pp. 261-268.
"God's healing power runs all through nature. If a tree is cut, if a human being is wounded or breaks a bone, nature begins at once to repair the injury. Even before the need exists, !he healing agencies are in readiness; and as soon as a Dart is wounded every energy is bent to the work of restoration. So it is in the spiritual realm. Before sin created the need, God had provided the remedy. Every soul that yields to temptation is wounded, bruised, by the adversary; but wherever there is sin, there is the Saviour. It is Christ's work 'to heal the brokenhearted."Education, p. 113.
"The angels of heaven look upon the distress of God's family upon the earth, and they are prepared to co-operate with men in relieving oppression and suffering.... The merciful revisions of the law extended even to the lower animals, which cannot express in words their want and suffering."The Desire of Ages, p. 500.
"Many do not realize that their cruelty will ever be known, because the poor dumb animals cannot reveal it. But could the eyes of these men be opened, as were those of Balaam, they would see an angel of God standing as a witness, to testify against them in the courts above. A record goes up to heaven, and a day is coming when judgment will be pronounced against those who abuse God's creatures."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 443.
SUMMARY: It is important to spend time with God's "second book," nature. While we are in nature, we can draw closer to God by witnessing the magnificence of His creation and allowing His voice to speak to us. Because nature is part of God's creation and a gift to us, we have an obligation to protect and preserve it.
During a month-long evangelistic series in Ukraine, we told the 600 listeners that in spite of what they had learned all their lives, Jesus Christ cares about them, that trusting in Christ is a viable option. We could see by the look on people's faces that they were struggling to grasp these new truths.
Questions from the audience told us that they were perplexed by the idea of the Sabbath. We wondered how to explain the Sabbath to these people whose calendar began the week on Monday. We found the answer in the Russian language. The word for Sunday literally means "resurrection," and the word for Sabbath is Subota, from the Hebrew word Sabbath. Imagine all the effort the communists put into doing away with anything related to God, while the names of the days reminded the people of Christ's Sabbath and His resurrection! The Ukrainian language offered similar help with the weekly cycle.
Other lectures brought interesting responses from the listeners as well. One man who attended the meetings is the editor of a local newspaper called Football, referring to the game some countries call soccer. Shortly after the message on healthful living, someone brought a copy of this newspaper to us and pointed out an article the editor had written about our meetings. The article was called "Religion and Football."
In the article the writer said, "Missionaries Paul Kulakov from Moscow and Michael Porter from the United States are giving sermons in the city's culture house in the evening. They have touched upon the question of people's physical health.
"Football is a game in harmony with life and with the physical and spiritual development of humankind. ... Football gives a person gladness and good physical development. ... Jesus Christ gave the world everything, including football. He only asks us do not sin. By choosing football, let us choose this better way. Amen!"
Despite his interesting interpretation of the health message, the editor, along with 175 others, were baptized following the meetings. They formed the nucleus of a new Adventist church in Berdyansk, Ukraine.
Michael Porter is director for special projects and Ingathering-funded projects for ADRA International's central office.
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