Out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Genesis 2:9

 

According to Genesis 2:9, God made “every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we considered the ordering of this account, noting the priority of “pleasant to the sight.” Today, I want to reflect a bit more on this phrase.

I would suggest that “pleasant to the sight” helps us appreciate the double gift of beauty. Genesis 2:9 could have said, simply, that God created lovely trees, emphasizing the aesthetic qualities of the trees themselves. But “pleasant to the sight” assumes their beauty, putting the focus on the experience of the observer. Trees are “pleasant to the sight” of those who perceive them.

And who might these perceivers be? Surely God should be included in this number. Genesis 1 reveals God’s tendency to see what he had made and recognize its goodness. Scripture leaves little doubt that trees are pleasant in God’s sight. But, as beings made in God’s image, we also have the created capacity for aesthetic delight. Trees can be pleasant in our sight as well as the vision of the Creator.

Thus, beauty is, in a sense, a double gift. God made the world, including trees, to be beautiful. That’s the first part of the gift. And God made us with the capacity for appreciating beauty. That’s the second part.

All sorts of implications flow from this truth. Personally, I find our capacity to perceive beauty to be a compelling reason for believing that human beings were in some profound sense created by God and not merely the result of mindless natural selection. But, in today’s devotion, I want to point our hearts in the direction of gratitude. When someone gives you a good gift, it’s right to say “thank you.” When you get a double gift, double thanks are in order. So, I’d invite you to join me in expressing gratitude to God for the double gift of natural beauty and the ability to enjoy it.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

Have you ever thanked God for your ability to perceive beauty? Why or why not? When have you been most impressed by the beauty of the natural world? As you remember this experience (or these experiences), might you wish to thank God for his double gift?

PRAYER:

Gracious God, thank you for creating the world to be beautiful. You are the ultimate artist, the source of all beauty. You have made stunning sunsets, expansive canyons, towering mountains, not to mention an extraordinary variety of trees. Thank you for the towering redwoods and dense jungle forests, for the fresh green of spring leaves and the rich canopy of summer, for the multicolored palate of autumn as well as the stark beauty of ice-laden branches in winter.

Thank you for giving us the ability, not just to see all of this and so much more, but also for the ability to see it as pleasant to our eyes. Thank you for making us like yourself, with the capacity to delight in beauty. Thank for forming us to see beauty even in places where it is obscured.

For all of your good gifts, especially the double gift of beauty, we give you thanks, gracious God. Amen.