Sunday, May 5, 2013

How Great Thou Art!

I was thinking this morning of that verse of the old hymn “How Great Thou Art” that says, “When through the woods and forest glades I wander, and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees ….” The rain has been drizzling down now for a solid day, but that in no way has diminished the beauty of the woods. Everything is green and vibrant. The animals are present in abundance. Over the last two days, I have seen four deer, two chipmunks, a wild turkey, a raccoon and numerous squirrels and birds. I hear no traffic noise, no human voices … nothing but birds singing sweetly in the trees.

I consider the beauty of God's creation … I think of how marvelous it is to be surrounded by what He has made … and remember that – even amidst such splendor – this is nothing compared to what awaits the Christian in heaven. I look forward to standing with the Lord someday. As great as this world may be, I long for “new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).

But praise God, I do not have to wait for heaven to begin experiencing its joys! Certainly there is a future event coming that will be glorious indeed, but when I repented of my sins … when I was “baptized into Christ” (Galatians 3:27) … when I received “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38) … an immediate change took place. “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, [14] in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).

In other words, there are benefits available right now, if only those who are called by His name would remove their eyes from the world (Colossians 3:2) and fix their eyes on Christ (Hebrews 12:2). Truly, it is a blessing to be surrounded by nature, but greater still is the consideration of “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).

Earthly eyes cannot appropriately apprehend such blessings. They are specifically designed for those who “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). It is so difficult for those with physical bodies to think spiritually, but this is exactly why the Lord has given His Spirit to those who are reborn into Christ Jesus. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, [13] which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13).

It is hard for us to see beyond the earthly. We consider our families, our homes and land, our belongings, our jobs, and believe ourselves to be blessed. And perhaps we are, but not all blessings are “spiritual” blessings. The Lord “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). Even evil people have jobs, land and families ... and some Christian people do not!

But the Lord has prepared something special for His people! Speaking spiritually, the prophet Ezekiel looked forward to the time of the Christ, saying, ““I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land. [14] I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. [15] I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 34:13-15).

This is not speaking of physical things, but of spiritual blessings to those who willingly submit to the leadership of the One who is “the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25). Note the separation from the ungodly (2 Corinthians 6:17), the spiritual feeding (1 Timothy 4:6), and “rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29) available for the Lord's flock.

Even today, the wilderness and the woods can be a dangerous place, full of predators. But spiritually speaking, that's why we need a Shepherd … to protect the flock. Again, the prophet Ezekiel looks forward, “I will make a covenant of peace with them and eliminate harmful beasts from the land so that they may live securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. [26] I will make them and the places around My hill a blessing. And I will cause showers to come down in their season; they will be showers of blessing” (Ezekiel 34:25-26).

What a privilege to be the recipients of that promise! “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Our dwelling place is secure, because we “are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, [20] having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone” (Ephesians 2:19-20).

All men can receive the benefit of God's physical blessings. They may appreciate the fall of the rain, the warmth of the sun, a walk in the woods, or the sound of birds singing sweetly in the trees. But only those in Christ Jesus receive the full benefits of being a part of the family of God, “for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).

“When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation, and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart. Then I shall bow in humble adoration, and then proclaim: My God, how great Thou art!”