Earth Day, Glacier National Park, and Psalm 148

This post originally appeared in Ethics Daily as part of a series of articles for Earth Day. You can read the whole series HERE. Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22.

By Matt Sapp

By Matt Sapp

Glacier National Park is one of my favorite places on earth. I’ve never been anywhere where God’s majesty is so clearly on display. And there’s one spot in the park that stands out in my mind—Apgar Lookout.

The only time I’ve been there, I was hiking with my brother. After hiking more than three miles through a wooded mountainside and climbing nearly 2000 feet, my brother and I came around a bend and into an open plateau, and there for the first time we saw the grandeur of God’s Montana handiwork stretched out in front of us.

The view from Apgar Lookout in nearly indescribable.

It took me a second to realize what I was looking at. It was as if my brain had to adjust to the scope of the scene to properly comprehend just how big the view was. When it did, what my eyes saw literally took my breath away. My heartbeat quickened and so did my steps as I hurried further out into the open to take in the whole view.

Lake McDonald, a pristine glacial lake, was stretched out thousands of feet below me, serenely reflecting the clouds in the sky thousands of feet above me. Forests rose from the lake’s edge to snow-covered Rocky Mountain peaks that appeared to stretch on forever. It was almost other-worldly.

Apgar Lookout gets its name from an old ranger station/fire tower that precariously sits just where the land begins to steeply fall away toward the lake below.

I climbed up onto the fire tower and sat on the edge of the railed walkway with my feet dangling over the edge of the world and stared slack-jawed out into the clear Montana sky as I ate a sandwich I’d brought with me.

It reminded me so much of a Dave Matthews Band lyric that I played “Lie In Our Graves” on my iPod before I moved another inch. “Would you not like to be/sitting on top of the world with your legs hanging free?” Matthews sings.

After lunch, I explored the rest of the plateau, drinking in the view from every conceivable angle. I felt like I was in a dream. The sun was shining warmly, birds were chirping as if on cue, the wind was rustling through the trees, and the air was legitimately sweet with the smells of spring.

I’ve never experienced a moment like it before or since. It was perfect as I imagine God to be perfect.

Psalm 148 is one of the “Hallelujah” psalms--so named because each psalm in the group begins and ends with the word, “Hallelujah,” or praise the Lord. Psalm 148 imagines that all of creation gathers together to praise God as if with one voice.  

The psalmist writes that the sun, moon and stars praise the Lord. The ocean depths and the highest heavens praise the Lord. Lightning, hail, snow and wind praise the Lord. Mountains, hills, fruit trees and cedars praise the Lord. Wild animals, woodland creatures and songbirds praise the Lord.

Kings and princes, men and women, young and old all join in the psalmist’s chorus, too, saying, “praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens” (Psalm 148:13).

I never read Psalm 148 without remembering my afternoon at Apgar Lookout. I imagine the trees, the birds, the clouds in the sky and everything else from the depths of Lake McDonald to the snow-capped peaks of the surrounding mountains singing “Hallelujah” together. And I imagine my little voice as part of the chorus, too.

On Earth Day, we remember that “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). The earth is to be treasured, celebrated, and preserved. As the psalmist reminds us, the majesty of the earth both reflects and announces the majesty of its Creator.

We have a responsibility to nurture and care for all that God has created. We should actively seek to maximize our positive impact and minimize our negative impact on the natural world, always remembering that the only appropriate response to God’s creative initiative is unending praise.

So, this Earth Day, go outside. Take a few minutes to read Psalm 148. Imagine your place in the chorus. And sing, “Hallelujah.”

Happy Earth Day.

See you Sunday.