The glory of God: 25,000 orchids have their say!

November 29, 2008

I’m currently in Asia doing work on behalf of my college. The trip started in Singapore where I had the chance to visit The National Orchid Garden. I’m an amateur orchid grower so when I noticed the garden was close by I had to visit. Orchids are an amazing flower. The Orchid family (Orchidaceae) is the largest family of the flowering plants. It has been estimated that there are 880 genera and nearly 22,000 accepted species. However, the exact number is unknown and has been estimated at 25,000. This is four times the number of species of mammal. The variety is incredible; orchids vary in size, colour shape, number of blooms and frequency of flowering.

As a Christian I believe that God created these flowers. But why? Why 25,000? Would 2,000 have done, or even 20? Genesis 1 is helpful and helps us to understand that God takes pleasure in his creation. In Genesis 1 we not only have recorded the order of creation, we see here that God looks at it with pleasure. He stood back (so to speak) and “..saw that it was good" (Gen 1:4, 12, 18, 21, 25). And when he had finished all of his creative work he declared that “…it was very good."

God seems to be delighted in his work; it gives him pleasure. The Psalmist also helps us to gain a sense that God takes pleasure in his creation, indeed, he rejoices in it.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever, may the Lord rejoice in his works (Psalm 104:31)

The works of God are an expression of his glory, and as long as God’s glory endures (and Psalm 104 suggests this will be forever), he will take pleasure in his works. And the wonderful thing is that the 25,000 varieties of orchids, and in fact all of creation, brings ongoing praise to God. In fact the Psalmist (Psalm 148) calls on creation itself to praise the Lord:

Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD from the heavens,
praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels,
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for he commanded and they were created.
He set them in place forever and ever;
he gave a decree that will never pass away.
Praise the LORD from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds,
kings of the earth and all nations,
you princes and all rulers on earth,
young men and maidens,
old men and children.
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendour is above the earth and the heavens.
He has raised up for his people a horn,
the praise of all his saints,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.
Praise the LORD.

God’s 25,000 varieties of orchids bring praise to him simply by being what they were created to be in all their amazing variety. As well, they reveal the wonder of his knowledge and wisdom (Psalm 104:24):
How many are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

And God’s creation should also move us to look to the one who created them (Is 40:26):

Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

As I marvelled at God’s orchids I was moved to consider how great God must be. If his work in one family of flowering plants is so amazing, just how amazing must God be himself. Again, the Psalmist (Psalm 104:31-34) has some words that point us in this direction:

May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works-
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
I will sing to the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the LORD.
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