A Doxological View of Grasses,
with Special Attention to Matthew 6:28-30 and Luke 12:27-28
James J. S. Johnson, JD, ThD, MSGeog
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. (GENESIS 1:11-12)
Each blade of grass is a soil-rooted witness, giving evidentiary proof of God’s Creatorship. Furthermore, each blade of grass is a growing doxology, directing us to worship the LORD.
Recently Mike Matthews, of Answers in Genesis (and Editor-in-chief of ANSWERS magazine), observed the following truth about grasses, calling them “green factories”:
These [grasses] are God’s creation. They perform a fundamental biological process—photosynthesis—that still astounds scientists. The thousands of chemical equations [that describe the grass-housed photosynthesis process] would fill a wall. Yet every day, these green factories churn out the sustenance of life. They remind me that a lowly sinner like me can glorify my Maker and Life-giver, who gave His life for me.
[Quoting Michael Matthews, “Green Factories”, ANSWERS, 11(4):86 (October-December 2016), emphasis added.]
Now that is sound science!—that is meaningful analysis of what grasses are really here for, revealing details of God’s immeasurably creative glory, simultaneously with recognizing the value of His bioengineering providence. Why? So that we can better know and appreciate our God for Who He really is! If our hearts are not stirred to worship, we have failed to understand the meaningful value of His creation.
Grass seems so plain, so un-exciting – it dominates many parts of the world, so we deem it common-place (see Job 5:25).
But a careful study of grasses, observing the many moving parts within their complicated living systems (and interactions with their environments), leads to an appreciation for their God-designed purposes, programs, and complexities.
Yet it is not enough to learn the “geeky” science data (such as the biochemical mechanisms that power the plant photosynthesis pathways), such as whether this or that plant uses the C3 version (or the C4 version) of carbon dioxide-to-carbohydrate photosynthesis.
Even so, the ecological and agricultural details — far beyond the scope of this short perspective article — exhibit how God uses growing grasses, which are here today and gone tomorrow (Isaiah 40:7-8), to feed both mankind and many animals.
He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth. (PSALM 104:14)
If we, as creatures who owe God glory and gratitude, fail to personalize the lesson that His living creation provides—including doxological lessons from blades of grass—we have failed to be true creation scientists. The ultimate purpose for learning about grasses is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, as the Westminster Confession reminds us (see also 1st Corinthians 10:31 & John 10:10).
Recently I participated in an evening lecture series, at ICR, called “Grassland Habitats: God’s Providence in Plain View — Living in Prairies and Pampas, Steppes and Savannas (Grasses, Grazers, Grazer-Grabbers, and Grasshoppers)”.
Suffice it to say, the opportunities for learning about bioengineering details that God has designed, programmed, installed, and maintains – in the various grasslands of the world – could be packaged as a full-length college course (such as APOL 557, “Grasslands and the Genesis Mandate”, an elective in ICR’s Master of Christian Education degree program).
And it’s not just above-ground photosynthesis that grasses facilitate, because the root systems of grasses, unseen by humans, busily perform many valuable functions – such as processing nitrogen compounds in ways that facilitate protein synthesis (e.g., in legumes), mineral recycling, the hydrologic cycle, and abatement of soil erosion. Grasses work hard, honoring God by their very existence and operations – regardless of whether any humans “have eyes to see” it or not.
But why is there no emphasis on the doxological aspect of grasses?
Once again, listen to the insights of Mike Matthews, as he hits the bull’s-eye on what is usually missing from “natural science” publications, and even from many “geeky” studies in “creation science” literature.
First, what’s with the photo on the last page [of ANSWERS magazine, October-December 2016 issue] ?
I’d like to open my heart wide here. … I’m a literature guy. What fires my engines each morning is not the [geeky] details of science, as interesting as they are. It’s knowing God better. …
For a believer to know Him is to be devoted to Him. It means being so overwhelmed by the perfections (or glories) of His being –and by His creation—that we can’t help but renew and deepen our dedication to serve Him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.
The term devotional has gotten a bad rap these days. For some reason, it has the connotation of light and fluffy. The root meaning is just the opposite. It’s associated with love, loyalty, enthusiasm, worship. …
The Almighty God is so glorious that He effortlessly tosses priceless gems into every nook and cranny of our lives. Everywhere we look, even lowly blades of grass, the Lord gives us reminders of His grace and majesty.
[Quoting Michael Matthews, “Devotional Isn’t a Trite Word”, ANSWERS, 11(4):10 (October-December 2016), emphasis added.] Finally! It’s about time that someone emphasized the valuable role of devotional theology — and doxological creation apologetics. (Apologetics is firstly a matter of “sanctifying the Lord God” in our hearts — only secondarily is it a matter of providing witness of God’s truth to those with ears to hear — see 1st Peter 3:15).
Yes, Mike, we see countless doxologies in creation, every day, if we “have eyes to see” it. God’s providential care and splendor are ubiquitous (Acts 14:17), so there is no excuse for us to lose our “first love” for Him (Revelation 2:4).
The ultimate reality and focus of all creation is not primarily about people, even though humans are quite valuable – the main reality is about God being the Creator! All of creation, therefore, especially our own lives, can and should be an ongoing doxology for Him (Revelation 4:11). And yet, that doesn’t mean we should shirk or flee from the “geeky” side of creation studies; rather, we should harness such observations for God!
In fact, the Lord Himself emphatically encouraged the study of wildflowers and field-grasses, according to Matthew (6:28-30) and Luke (12:27-28) — and I must thank my research assistant, Jared Watkins (of Tyndale Theological Seminary), for the New Testament Greek research that undergirds these philological insights.
Specifically, Matthew reports Christ using an imperative verb that means to intensely learn, to thoroughly study (καταμαθετε) – to carefully observe (i.e., what empirical scientists call “research”). Matthew’s verb is related to the Greek noun translated “disciple” — so our study of wildflowers and field-grasses should involve the due diligence of a disciple!
But there’s more. Luke complements Matthew’s record, reporting that Christ also used an imperative verb meaning to intensely mind, to thoroughly think through (κατανοησατε) – to carefully understand (i.e., what empirical scientist call “analysis”).
In short, Christ’s exhortations – preserved in Scripture by Matthew and Luke – obligate us to practice faithful-to-the-details “research and analysis”, so that we can reverently and admiringly appreciate God’s providence, for the supposedly “simple” wildflowers and field-grasses.
And the photosynthetic (and other) providences of such “green factories” point to even greater providences — including God’s personalized care for our own lives and futures.
Accordingly, paying attention to these grassy “green doxologies” can and should encourage us to expect God’s greater providences in our own lives, as higher creatures – being uniquely created with life in God’s own image – plus having our lives salvaged from our sinfulness by the completed redemptive work of His crucified-and-resurrected Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (Psalm 102:18; Ephesians 2:8-10, Luke 10:20).
So, if I am obedient, daily, to Matthew 6:28-30 and to Luke 12:27-28, I will daily recognize that (so-called) “simple” blades of grass, plus their underground root systems, are Earth-rooted doxologies, pointing our minds and hearts heavenward. ><> JJSJ