Around the turn of this century, a New York pastor named Maltbie Babcock used to go for long walks up a steep escarpment that overlooked rolling orchards and beautiful Lake Ontario. When asked before any of these hikes where he was heading, he smilingly replied “…out to see my Father’s world“.
It was on one of these strolls that he penned lyrics to one of my favorite hymns.
This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.
No song I know celebrates the creativity and intimacy of the Father as uniquely. Babcock paints a picture of a playfully artistic God who first paints and then visits the earth out of pure love.
Living in Florida with its seascape vistas, white sandy beaches, lush tropical foliage and heart-stopping sunsets, it is easy for me to remember the majestic nature of the One who made it all.
Each of the verses of this hymn are powerful, but one in particular is shaping my heart of late.
This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.
The daily barrage of bad news can quickly blind the eyes of my heart to both the beauty of the creation and ultimacy of the Kingdom. I am so quick to sink in the mire of humans behaving badly, nations warring wickedly, nature reacting violently and friends hurting deeply that I forget that life as I see it is not all there is to see.
The constant battle both inside my still-wounded soul and outside with powers of darkness wearies me and in the fog of exhaustion I can get disconnected with a Father who refuses run away from the mess we’ve made of His world.
Living in a world of violent insurrection, heartless terrorism, natural disaster and relational dis-integration, it is easy for me to forget the merciful heart of the One who sees it all.
But this is still my Father’s world.
The bounty and beauty of creation reveals the pure heart of a good God. His ultimate intention was that the people He made would live in the world He had crafted with all they could dream and desire satisfied in their love for Him.
The mystery and mission of the Kingdom unveils the passionate heart of a great Redeemer. His intimate incarnation was so that the people He had saved could live in the Kingdom He had crafted with all their needs and hurts healed in His love for them.
Creation and Kingdom go hand-in-hand because they are sourced by the same Spirit. The God who fashioned the creation with artistry and vision is also forging a Kingdom with wisdom and purpose.
The created order is not on a crash course with devastation, but on a distinct path of destiny. God did not make the world to surrender it to the decay of sin and only rescue a few stragglers who were lucky enough to figure out who He is.
God had a design before the creation of one molecule and He has not capitulated the fate of that dream to the whims of His enemy. He is a big enough God to have figured into the eternal equation any evil with which Darkness would infect His creation.
God’s redemptive plan is not subject to the malevolent devices of His inferior enemies. The cross and resurrection of Jesus was the sure sign that the Father had not abandoned His world and that His original dream for us would come true.
Isaiah predicted that of “the increase of His (Jesus, the Messiah) government and peace there would be no end”. The Master himself affirmed it by stating that His Kingdom was “forcefully advancing” even when it looked like it was ultimately failing.
The clandestine and covert nature of the Kingdom sometimes causes us to forget that the “Father is always working”. The Increase of Jesus rule is advancing as surely as a glacier can be sliding unnoticed under the feet of an explorer. But unswervingly advance it does.
This is still my Father’s world.
When Jesus on two separate occasions sought to instruct His disciples on what prayer that changed the world was really like, the hinge pin of that prayer was, “let Your Kingdom come, let Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
The core of history-shaping prayer is that the place we live will look like the place He lives.
And that it will. “Jesus who died will be satisfied and earth and heav’n be one.”
So as I walk through this day when “the wrong seems oft’ so strong” I can with assurance and hope cling to the ultimate reality that “God is the Ruler yet”! In the face of the groaning creation, I can embrace the growing Kingdom. In the midst of a ruptured society, I can rest in His righteous rule.
In a culture of fractured relationships, alienated by the very technology that supposedly unites us, I can revel in the real and intimate connection I have with my God and Father–Author of the world and Architect of the Kingdom.
This IS my Father’s world.
This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone.
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known.
This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam
Whate’er my lot, it matters not,
My heart is still at home.