(This devotional is day twenty-seven of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
What is the most awe-inspiring scene, vista, or view you’ve seen in nature? What soaring mountain, dazzling turquoise water, starlit night sky, crystal clear lake, vast open plain, or carved canyon left your jaw on the floor?
My wife’s answer to this question would be the stunning beaches on the island of St. John in the U. S. Virgin Islands (and the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park). The white sand merges with the mesmerizing aqua saltwater before turning turquoise. I’m not a beach guy, but I’ll admit, it’s breathtaking. But even more than the sand and the water, this place floored me with the visible ocean life you can see while snorkeling. Floating a couple feet above green sea turtles in their natural environment, I watched them graze on the sea grass. They eventually come up for a breath before going back for seconds. At another nearby beach I would glide over the coral reefs, looking down through my goggles at the kaleidoscope of colored fish.
But that’s my wife’s pick. I’m I’ll take the crisp air and the smell of pine or firs in high elevations over the burning sun and annoying seagulls of beaches. Mountains scream majesty. As they soar to the sky, they take our eyes into the heavens. There’s a reason so many cultures associate mountains with the home of gods. You feel small before these snowy peaks, and yet, you also feel like you’re approaching something transcendent.
Though mountain ranges offer spectacular scenery, I would say Mount Rainier in Washington gripped me like nothing else. This mountain stands alone. It rises above everything else and dominates your view for miles. I remember driving from Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park—about eighty miles—gawking the whole way. The entire time it just got bigger and bigger. Every turn in the road that obstructed my vision and twist that led to its reappearance left me shifting in my seat for a better a view (don’t worry; I wasn’t driving). Amazing.
The Extraordinary in the Ordinary
Even before Instagram, humans tried to capture these moments in paintings or photos. Creation leaves such a mark on us that we want to take it with us. Wendell Berry writes, “Outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary but the common mode of existence.”
Creation’s glory reveals God’s glory. As astounding as creation is, the Creator who thought it up, spoke it into existence, and holds it together is even more extraordinary. When we spend time outside, we can observe the wisdom, beauty, power, care, orderliness, and creativity evidenced in God’s world. Admiring His handiwork helps us better understand Him.
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Ps. 19:1)
“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” (Rom. 1:20)
God’s creation is stocked full of reasons for thanksgiving. As we spend time in nature (God’s other book) with eyes open to beholding God’s beauty, it provides a platform for His praise. While it’s not the same as being there in person—with the surrounding smells and sounds—you can even see it when you flip on a nature-based television show, astonishing you with the animals and environments on our planet.
Charles Spurgeon often pointed his church and readers to nature. Even industrialized London couldn’t erase his giddiness over God’s handiwork.
“His goodness is seen in creation. It shines in every sunbeam, glitters in every dewdrop, smiles in every flower, and whispers in every breeze. Earth and sea and air, teeming with innumerable forms of life, are all full of the goodness of the Lord. Sun, moon, and stars affirm that the Lord is good, and all terrestrial things echo the proclamation. This goodness is also to be seen in the providence which rules over all.”
Throughout the Bible, God’s people thank Him for the beauty, provision, wonders, and soul-stirring glory visible in creation. Psalm 104 is a prime example.
Psalm 104 catalogues several of God’s praise-worthy gifts in creation. With this psalm, I see the artistry of the poet, the wisdom of the engineer, and the care of a craftsman. He demonstrates His power in what He makes (104:2–9) and shows His provision in taking care of it (104:10–23). The psalmist seamlessly moves from God’s happiness and delight in creation (104:31) to His holiness displayed through creation (104:32).
In his commentary on the Psalms, The Treasury of David, Spurgeon says Psalm 104 is “a poet’s version of Genesis.” It recounts the way God fills the sky, seas, and land with luminous lights, countless creatures, and exotic environments. God clothes Himself in splendor through the grandeur in the universe (104:1). The wonder of creation is outmatched by the psalmists wonder in the Creator (104:1, 35).
Psalm 104 not only reminds us God is the Creator, but it illustrates the marvels He created. It gives us the doctrine of creation in Ultra High-Definition. But this psalm, and the biblical teaching on creation as a whole, should also inspire us to turn off the TV, put down our phones, and get outside. Spend time outdoors with a mind keen on observing what it reveals about God. Give thanks to Him for all He made and how it reveals Him. And give thanks for the way He provides, sustains, and blesses us through it all.
Jesus often uses God’s creation and its creatures as object-lessons for us. He points to the birds to assure us we don’t need to be anxious because God will take care of us (Luke 12:24). What does it tell you about God when you see His design in seeds that fall to the ground and sprout with new life? What do the different seasons teach you? How can a tree’s shade help you conceptualize God as a refuge? When you look up to the starry sky, how does it make you seem small and God feel big? When you stroll through a park and notice an array of crawling or flying animals, does the diversity of creatures make you aware of God’s endless creativity?
All these things remind us about God or reveal Him to us. Creation provides a never-ending source of reasons to thank Him. Spend some time this week outdoors, noticing the world and thanking the God who made it. Or if it’s too cold, watch a nature-based documentary that will stun you with God’s design.
 Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2002), 311.
 Charles Spurgeon, The Practice of Praise (Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1995), 13.
 For a study guide to walk you through Psalm 104, see my article “Two Personal Bible Study Worksheets” at www.indycrowe.com.
 Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Psalm 104, https://archive.spurgeon.org/treasury/ps104.php