The ancients learned much about life and about God by studying nature. In this passage, the animals will teach the presence of God in all creation.
In Job 12:7-10 we read, “But ask the animals and they will teach you; the birds of the air and they will tell you. Ask the plants of the earth and they will teach you. Ask the fish of the sea and they will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the lord has created this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.”
Consider the nature imagery throughout Genesis, the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, the prophets, the Sermon on the Mount, the letter of James, the Book of Revelation. The writers of Scripture were people who lived close to nature and who knew that it belonged to God and had lessons to teach us.
Many native groups who live close to the land discern much wisdom by noticing the ways of the animals and by learning the healing powers of the plants. We can learn from animals how to be more human and how to be more humane.
If we would stop thinking of ourselves as so superior and stop thinking we could not possibly learn anything of value from other creatures of God, perhaps we would in our humility find the wisdom to live better, healthier, and richer lives.
The wisdom literature— Proverbs, the Psalms, and Job especially—show us that nature reveals to us God’s ways in the world. We have lost a connection with nature, a loss that prevents us from being students.
Fortunately, there are contemporary poets and writers who help us to see life in ways that transform our relationship to the rest of creation.
2.0 ALL OF LIFE IS SACRAMENTAL
The Scriptures make it clear that God did not create the world and then withdraw from it. Just as God continues to live and move and be manifest in humans, so God is present in all of life.
In Isaiah 6:3 we read, The whole Earth is filled with God’s glory! That is to say, all of life is sacramental. The point is that all of life should be treated with reverence.
Reverence is not a trait we have cultivated in any specific geographical area. We look at the rest of nature and we see resources to be tapped, materials to be used, places to exploit, and opportunities for human development.
The rest of life is treated as if it were made up of lifeless things without mystery and devoid of God’s glory.
What if we began with reverence for all things and then made use only of what we needed, treated animals, plants, and land with respect, and sought to delight in all of it. Reverence is the right basis for use.
If we have the eyes to see God’s glory everywhere, perhaps our appreciation for the sanctity of life will lead us to live in ways that are sustainable for all creation.
3.0 ALL CREATION IS CALLED TO PRAISE GOD
Our solidarity with the rest of creation does not stop with a sense of kinship with creation or even with our reverence for life. We humans are called not just to thank God for creation but to praise god with creation.
We are to behold creation and know that it is praising God. Imagine how our worship might change if we praised God with creation!
In Psalm 148:13 we read, “Let them [all creation] praise the Lord.” Also Psalm 150:6 states that, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord”.
One of the most striking things about the biblical understanding of nature is that all creation is commanded to worship God.
This does not mean that each animal and plant and land and sea have special sounds to do that, although that may be part of it. No, it means that these created things praise God by doing what they were created to be and to do.
You can see this in many passages in the Bible, including this one from I Chronicles, “Worship the lord in holy splendor: tremble before him all the earth. Let the heavens be glad and the Earth rejoice. And let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king.’ Let the sea roar and all that fills it; Let the field exalt and everything in it. Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the lord” (I Chronicles 16:29-34; Psalm 148).
One of the ways to understand the impact of our degradation of Earth and its systems, our pollution of land, sea, and air, and our threat to species of animals and plants is to realize that we are thereby diminishing their capacity to praise God.
As we seek to restore Earth and rescue endangered species, we are enhancing their collective worship of their creator—as they are able to thrive and teem and relish being alive.
We may not only diminish the capacity of Earth to praise God, but also, by degrading creation, we may be diminishing God’s capacity to delight in creation.
If we have a God who suffers with us, as indeed the crucifixion shows that we do, then we may be increasing God’s suffering empathy with Earth by our recklessness and wantonly destructive ways.
When we delight in creation and care for it, we magnify God’s joy at the flourishing of life.