By Pastor Glenn Pease
An engineer, a psychologist, an a theologian were on a hunting trip in Northern Canada. They came across a cabin deep in the woods, and sought shelter there. The cabin was not occupied, and the front door was unlocked. When they entered they noticed something quite unusual. A large pot-bellied cast iron stove was suspended in mid-air by wires attached to the ceiling beams. Why would a stove be elevated like this from the floor? Each of the professionals saw a hidden meaning from their perspective.
The psychologist concluded, "It is obvious that this lonely trapper, isolated from humanity, has elevated his stove so he can curl up under it and vicariously experience a return to his mother's womb."
The engineer surmised, "The man is practicing laws of thermodynamics. By elevating his stove, he has discovered a way to distribute heat more evenly throughout the cabin.
But the theologian had a better explanation: "I'm sure that hanging his stove from the ceiling has a religious meaning. Fire lifted up has been a religious symbol for centuries."
The psychologist, the engineer, and the theologian continued their debate for sometime without really resolving the issue. Finally, when the trapper returned, they immediately asked him why he had hung his pot-belly stove by wires from the ceiling.
His answer was rather simple: "Had plenty of wire, not much stovepipe!"
We are see life from a different perspective because we all have different backgrounds, conditioning, and training. This adds a lot of variety to life, and makes other peoples perspectives educational for they will see what we do not. But as this story makes clear, differing perspectives may not give an accurate interpretation of an event or phenomena. We need to see from the perspective of the author when we are trying to interpret the author. That is the only way to be confident that we understand the author.
Henry Thoreau probably went too far for most of us. He immersed himself in a marsh up to his neck, and he spent the whole day in that position in order to get a frog's eye view of nature. This is an extreme example of a right approach.
The Bible gives us both a negative and a positive perspective on nature depending on the direction you are facing. The world was full of nature worshipers in Bible times, and so the Bible condemns this as idolatry. Paul says the world in its folly worshiped the creation rather than the Creator and they lost out. But when we see nature as the handwork of God, and when we praise Him for His wisdom and creativity, then there is great pleasure in nature, and the Bible encourages our love of nature.
There is a house on the Southern tip of England called Land's End. It sits right on the edge of the cliff and a sign on it says, "The last house and the first house in England." It is a paradox, but easy to see how it can be both the first and the last. If you are facing the sea it is the last house you will see. But if you are coming from the sea facing the land it will be the first house you see. It all depends on your perspective whether it is first or last. So also, your perspective determines whether nature is a pleasure or a pain to your spiritual life. What we want to see is that the Psalms are filled with the pleasurable perspective on nature.
A quick review of Psalm 84 reveals a considerable interest in nature. In verse 3 we see the sparrow and swallow nesting, and having their young born near the altar of God. In verse 6 we see the valley Baca-a desert place, but also being made a place of springs with pools from the rain. Then in verse 11 God is called a sun. We go from ornithology, the study of birds, through geography to astronomy in this short Psalm. Each of these is a major study in the secular world, but also in the Bible. Volumes are written about each of these and their place in the Bible. Each of them gives a great deal of pleasure when seen from a Biblical perspective. Astronomy and geography are vast subjects, but for now we are going to focus on the animal kingdom, and birds in particular.
In verse 3 the Psalmist is actually envious of the birds for they get to nest near the altar of God, while He is, at that time, not able to get to the house of God. The birds are singing the praises of God in the very place he is longing to be. Now we all know birds can be messy and a nuisance, but from God's point of view birds have a right to be birds, and to be protected when they build their nests, even in the temple.
God gave man dominion over the birds and all other creatures. It is in man's power and authority to regulate and control what birds do. But it is to be done in accordance with God's law. In Deut. 22:6-7 we read, "If you come across a bird's nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life."
Having God's perspective on nature means being concerned for the preservation of all species He has created. Man is responsible for the extinction of bird's and other creatures that God made for His and our pleasure. In the light of God's law that long life is a byproduct of caring for nature, it is a logical conclusion that every species man eliminates could very well hold the key to the cure of those diseases that limit the length of man's life.
The pleasure of a positive perspective of nature is in seeing all that God has made is a potential blessing for our lives. Nature is not only a source of medicine for life, but it is a source of friendship that adds to the quality of life. Pets play a major role in the quality of life lived by millions. God even sees birds as potential pets. He said to Job in Job 41:5, referring to Leviathan, a huge creature, "Can you make a pet of him like a bird." Birds are now used in nursing homes all over the country because they make great pets for older people to enjoy. There are hundreds of references to birds in the Bible, and Jesus used them to illustrate His teachings, and the Holy Spirit even took on the form of a dove.
The point is, the Bible expects us to get pleasure from our perspective on birds and all of nature. We are to see God's hand in all He has made, and praise Him for His wisdom. For example, here in our text the birds referred to are not the mighty eagle, or the soaring falcon, or the beautiful flamingo, but the lowly and commonplace sparrow and swallow. Charles Spurgeon, one of greatest preachers of history, preached a whole sermon to 6,000 people on these sparrows and swallows. The essence of it was this: If God so cares for these creatures, so insignificant in the total scheme of things, how much more does He care for us who are made in His image?
There is no sinner so worthless that they are not welcome to come to the house of God, and find shelter under His wings, and have their need for rest and security met. There are no nobodies to God. Everybody is somebody, and He will provide for all who come to Him. This was the point Jesus was making in Luke 12:6-7 when He said, "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Here is a perspective that gives great pleasure. If we see the care of God in nature we can be assured of His care for us no matter how insignificant we may feel.
Because God is the God of the infinitesimal as well as the infinite, we can get great pleasure by focusing on even the most minute facts of creation. Take the large creature like the elephant, for example. Have you ever noticed how a elephant gets up? Every animal is built to get up in a way that fits its construction. A cow gets up on her hind legs first because she has a utter to protect. The horse gets up front legs first. But the elephant could very well be the only animal God has made to get up on all four legs at the same time. God did something for the elephant He did not do for other animals because it is so heavy. The hind legs bend forward so that it has four fulcrums to raise that huge body off the ground. A bit of trivia that gives you pleasure if you see the wisdom and care of God in it.
A party standing on the Matter Horn, admiring the awesome scene, were asked by one of the party to look at a fly he caught by gazing into his pocket microscope. He pointed out that the flies back home in England, where they came from, had bare legs, but this fly had legs covered with hair. The same God whom they praising for the lofty Swiss Mountains had provided socks and mittens for this little creature who lived in that awesome, but cold atmosphere. Trivial to be sure, even below the lowly sparrow, but pleasurable pettiness to those with the proper perspective.
The trivia of nature is endless, but it is an endless supply of wonder for those who see the wisdom of God. When a hen lays an egg she always drops it on the small end, and when the chick is born, it always comes out the big end. Hatchery owners who see ten thousand chicks a day hatching have never seen a chick come out the small end of an egg. Why? Because the small end is twice as thick as the large end. The egg is designed to be able to take more pressure on the small end, and be easier to crack on the large end. Doctor Walter Wilson, from whom I am getting these examples, says, don't ever break an egg on your forehead with the little end for the chances are good you will get a headache. It is the large end that is made for breaking.
One more bird trivia. The owls are the only bird Doctor Wilson ever heard of with soft feathers. They are so soft they do not make noise when the owl flies. This is because they get their food at night. He says there could be a 100 owls in a room and if you had your eyes closed you would not know they were there, even if they were flying, for they are built to be noiseless. Without this gift they would probably starve.
Anyone can look at the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, or the starry heavens, and praise God for His awesome creation. But our lives are not filled with the awesome and wondrous. They are filled with the trivial and the insignificant things of God's creation. If we are to praise God without ceasing, we need to have a perspective that sees the glory and wisdom of God in the commonplace. In Psa. 148 the angels of heaven, the Sun, moon, and stars, are all commanded to praise God for He created them. But then it goes on to command the sea creatures, the mountains, and the trees to join this chorus of creation, and then, just before man is added, verse 10 says, "Wild animals and also cattle, small creatures and flying birds........."
The small creatures and birds are to join the host of heaven in praising their Creator. The Bible does not discriminate and say only the big things God has made are worthy to praise Him. All He has made, down to the least of all creatures, are part of the Biblical picture of praise. God gets pleasure in all He has created, and we should too. All of nature is to be an aid to worship for those who see it from a Biblical perspective.
In eternity all of the redeemed will have this universal perspective. Rev. 5:13 tells us that the praises of eternity are not just from angelic beings and human beings, but from every being in nature that God has created. All He has made will be a part of eternity regardless of man's folly and destruction of it. The verse says, "Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that it in them, singing: To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever!"
Not just the porpoise, but all the fish of the sea; not just the canaries, but all the birds of the sky, and all the gophers and other creatures under the ground, and all that have the breath of life will praise God. The point of it all is that God gets great pleasure in all that He has made, and if we see all that He has made as He does we will praise Him for we too will have the pleasure of perspective.