As we noted in yesterday’s lesson, the final stanza of Psalm 98 calls on the entire creation to praise God. The Bible’s teaching about nature is threefold. First, this is God’s world. Second, the world is not now what it was created to be. Third, one day this fallen suffering world will be renewed.
Do you remember how C. S. Lewis developed this idea in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? In the first section of that book, when Narnia was under the power of the wicked Witch of the North, the land was in a state of perpetual winter. Spring never came. But when Aslan rose from the dead the ice began to melt, flowers bloomed, and the trees turned green. It is fine imaginative writing, and it describes something that will actually happen. Poetically the rivers will clap their hands, the mountains will indeed sing and we will all join in that great chorus.
Isaac Watts was thinking of this final transformation when he wrote of the end of God’s curse on nature as a result of Adam’s sin in verse three:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
And even more! For in the fourth and last verse of this most joyful of all the carols, Watts looked beyond even the earth’s eventual transformation to the final, triumphant reign of Christ in righteousness, crying:
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness
And wonders of his love.
Christianity is a realistic religion. We do not shut our eyes to the suffering of the world, as some religions do. We see the evils of the world in all their ugly features. Even more, we see them as an offense to our great God. Nor do we seek to escape into some mystical nirvana of the mind. While we are here we grapple with this world’s problems and strive for human betterment as best we can.
But this is not the limit of our perspective. If we were to look only at the world, we would be pessimists. But we do not look only at the world. We look backward in time to Jesus, who came to earth on that first Christmas day to be our Savior, and look forward to His return in righteousness to set everything right once more. This makes us fundamentally joyful, which is why we sing, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come.” Yes, and coming again!