In the Nordics, we are blessed with spectacular nature: majestic fjords, vast forests, arctic lands encased in ice and snow, megafauna, and more. But why are we so enchanted by these northern lands? Why do we long for the awe instilled by fjords? Why do walks through quiet forests calm our restless souls? In Psalm 19, we are given an answer as to why nature plays such a crucial role in the human experience, and it’s because, when we look upon the creation, we aren’t engaging with aimless artistry or meaningless marvels, but a living canvas that says, ‘Behold the glory of God!’
Psalm 19 opens by saying, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge’ (vv. 1–2). The psalm ascribes speech to the universe; from cosmic wonders to the rotation of the seasons there is an embedded instruction concerning the divine. From day to night and back again, it is as though speech flows forth from the created order in an unending stream of natural pedagogy. Fjords, glaciers, bears, and other features of the Nordic landscape are anything but silent. They are part of a choir that gives unceasing praise to the Architect of the cosmological cathedral we inhabit. They are preachers who will not be silenced.
Mute though the created order be, it has a voice that rings clear with the tune of God’s glory. It is loud, so that none may miss it, and distinct, so that all might be able to perceive it.
But what is the aim of the creation’s pedagogy and to what end do fjords and forests preach? Psalm 19 asserts that the content of the created order’s teaching is the glory of God. Every created thing exists to declare his supreme beauty and unrivalled majesty. Though mountains, lakes, and creatures are good in themselves, their deepest purpose is in declaring the glory of their Maker. Their highest aim is to direct all people to discern Christ’s handiwork and to exhort each person to heed the knowledge of the divine that has been sown into the things of the earth and the heavens.
The psalm also affirms that the declaration of God’s glory in nature is comprehensible and ever-present. In verses three to four, it says, “There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, their words to the end of the world.” Mute though the created order be, it has a voice that rings clear with the tune of God’s glory. It is loud, so that none may miss it, and distinct, so that all might be able to perceive it. In the words of John Calvin, it is “a common language to teach all men without distinction” so that all can profit from “the mouth of the same teacher.” Even if an individual never hears the Word of God preached by the lips of a man, Psalm 19 contends that the world is a sermon in itself.
The psalmist wants his readers to know that as we gaze outward into the many wonders of the world, every aspect of the drama unfolding in the theatre of God is created to facilitate worship and instruction, to stir the soul to exalt in the supremacy of God and enjoy his glory. Why do humans love to stand at the edge of a fjord? Because it is an eloquent preacher with a sacred message, and its scenic sermon is one crafted over millennia by God himself. It is a cathedral built by Christ and filled with a hymn of praise to his glory. Fjords declare the glory of God because they communicate the divine nature of God in their serene waters, breathtaking expanses, ascending cliffs, perilous heights, and terrain awash with greenery and cascades. When we look upon this splendor, or the majesty of any created marvel, we are not simply enjoying a natural phenomenon but the wisdom of God that has crafted the world around us and the beauty of God that permeates the ordinary and extraordinary.
We are made to behold and know a beautiful God.
The enchantment found in fjords, or in the stirring of forest creatures, or in the snowfall of a winter morning is no mystery. We long for these things and we give them our adoration, because in them is a glimmer of Christ, and it is to their Creator’s glory that their voice summons us, stirring the hearts of sinners and lovers of God alike. They enliven the heart with satisfaction and healing because the God who made them seeks our satisfaction and healing. We are made to behold and know a beautiful God, and it is for this reason that Jesus has crafted a beautiful world, filling all his works with his glory, so that the loveliness of his being is on display whether we are looking down into the dirt or up into the sky. To be enchanted by the beauty of a fjord is to be enchanted by the beauty of God, because all beauty has one source, and to that singular source, the created world always directs us. But there remains a great distinction between the two. The finite and derivative beauty of a fjord can be hiked and traversed over the course of a few weeks or months, but exploring the infinite beauty of the triune God is an eternal journey. There is a reason Jesus will make a new heaven and a new earth that will never pass away; he will do this because only in a forever home could we adequately celebrate the endless heights of his excellencies. It is to this inexhaustible glory that we are summoned by the gospel, fjords, and all created things.
The Nordic landscape will never stop declaring the glory of God, since its fundamental role is to extol Christ’s majesty. Will we join in its song? With hearts hardened by sin and minds trained for self-indulgence, we face hurdles that the creation does not when it comes to glorifying God. But, if we enjoy fjords, forests, oceans, whales, and wolves, let us allow them to be our guides away from self, so that we may love and serve a beautiful Jesus who made all things to declare the supremacy of his glory.