thanks to Dean Ohlman of The Wonder of Creation for this poignant reminder of our calling to join God's creatures in worshiping our mutual Creator ...
I’m not sure how many churches today still incorporate in their worship the traditional “Doxology” sung to the tune of the “Old Hundredth.” It was so common in the past and familiar enough now that in almost any crowd gathered anywhere in the English-speaking world, if you started singing it, you’d likely be joined by the majority—much like the singing of “Amazing Grace.” I’ve always loved it:
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
The thought of “all creatures here below” praising God captured my imagination as a kid. But it was not until I was older that I realized how much the Bible says about animals (even trees, rivers, mountains) worshiping God. The most direct instance is this passage in the book of the Revelation:
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13-14, Today's New International Version).
This heavenly praise to Christ who is about to ascend the throne of the Kingdom comes after the wonderful truth rendered so poetically in the previous chapter: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (4:11, TNIV). The KJV says, “For thy pleasure they are and were created” (emphasis added). I like that translation. From Job 38-41 we know that God takes delight in even the most ferocious and quirky creatures.
Most important, however, is that “all creatures here below” offer their praise in response to the fact that Jesus, the Lamb, died to redeem fallen mankind—those who were initially supposed to be their righteous caretakers—a task we have mostly failed at. Our becoming once again what God made us to be is, in fact, just what Paul hints at in his letter to the church in Rome about nature: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:19-21, TNIV).
This post is part of a series on pets, but in reality we shouldn’t forget that our pets are merely the animals closest and most dear to us. But in some mysterious way, all living creatures—in their own natures—have a capacity to respond to their Creator. The response we read of most frequently in Scripture is that of praise. We believe that they praise God by doing the work God gave them to do. However else they may praise Him is beyond us—and between them and their Creator (and where we should not interfere). Here’s a thrilling truth about our pets—about all animals: we are all worshipers together! And nature itself is looking forward to our once again becoming, as redeemed “children of God,” not just righteous caretakers, but righteous caregivers.
Theologian Richard Bauckham in his recent book, Living With Other Creatures: Green Exegesis and Theology, has given us some important words to consider:
It is much more obvious that other creatures can help us to worship God than that we can help other creatures to. In the order of praise in Psalm 148 ... all other creatures are called to worship before humans are called to join them. The creatures help us to worship primarily by their otherness that draws us out of our self-absorption into a world that exists not for us but for God’s glory. ... The more we praise God with the other creatures, the more we shall want to resist the relentless trend towards total humanizing of the world in which the rest of creation will have become no more than the material from which we have fashioned a world of our own creation. ... It is not our vocation to absorb the whole created world into our own human life this way. ... At the present juncture of our history with creation, it is probably most important to emphasize that we need, much more than we have done, to allow creation’s praise by letting it be [pp. 154-155, link added].
We all take “road kill” in stride, not being bothered much about animal slaughter on our highway—unless, of course, it is a pet. But I don’t think their Creator “takes it in stride.” We might be benefited by allowing the sight of such “collateral damage” of human technology to be a reminder to pray again for God’s will “to be done on earth as it is in heaven” when animals will no longer fear us but stand side by side with us in praise and worship of our mutual Creator and Savior.