This Is My Father’s World - Hymns 4 Him - Part 3
Happy Father’s Day! I would like to honor all the dads here this morning. If you are a father, would you stand? [Applaud them.] If you are a grandfather, would you stand? [Ask each one how many grandchildren?] Whether you’re a dad or a granddad, isn’t it wonderful to know that you have children and grandchildren to follow you? Mary Kay and I marvel as we have seen our family grow.
We are in the Hymns 4 Him sermon series this summer. When it came to our Father’s Day hymn, I knew I wanted to use, “This Is My Father’s World,” by Maltbie Babcock. And not just because it has the word Father in it. Babcock was a Presbyterian minister in upstate New York State in 1882-87. At his first pastorate, he would often get up early in the day and go for a walk along the Niagara Escarpment. He would walk to where he could view Lake Ontario - full of God’s beautiful nature. As he would leave in the mornings, he would tell his wife that he was going out again into His Father’s World. One day as he was sitting out looking over Lake Ontario, he penned the words to this song, his legacy song.
#1 - What ___LEGACY___ am I leaving behind?
“One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” Psalms 145:4
We all leave a legacy of some kind - people we influence, children, co-workers, the words we speak or write. Who knows what ends up happening with all we say and do on social media platforms? It might be worth asking if what I have posted reflects the kind of legacy I would like to leave behind?
When the Bible talks about this idea of “legacy,” it’s always in reference to and connection to God and His works, His mighty acts. The words we leave behind will either reflect God and His greatness… or not. It’s worth thinking about whether the legacy I leave to others is all about my greatness or about the greatness of God!
In the case of Maltbie Babcock, he and his wife Katherine, were not able to raise the family of their dreams. They had two sons born to them but both died in infancy. We can easily imagine Maltbie walking along the Niagara, looking over the beauty of Lake Ontario, and allowing the beauty of God’s glorious creation to encourage him.
Sing 1st Verse
Can’t you almost picture the beauty of upper state New York in the late 1800s? Nature sings. Rock and trees. Skies and seas. Now knowing the pain of losing an infant son, we can see why he sought out the peace of His Father’s world. How did Maltbie write it? “I rest me in the thought… of rocks and trees, of skies and seas.” Maltbie certainly isn’t the first to find that he could sense the Almighty Creator in the midst of His creation. But it does cause us to ask the question:
#2 - Am I ___LISTENING___ to hear God speak?
“God does speak - sometimes one way and sometimes another - even though people may not understand it." Job 33:14 NCV
Whenever you or I are having a hard time hearing God speak, it’s usually not because He isn’t speaking. It’s usually because we are having a hard time listening. This passage in Job talks about lots of ways that God will talk to us, sometimes in dreams, sometimes in prayer, sometimes through other people, sometimes through pain, sometimes through an angel or other messenger (and yes, fellows, sometimes that messenger can be your wife!) And sometimes, in Maltbie’s case it’s through the beauty of nature. Personally I can really identify with that.
The second line of Maltbie’s lyric is “to my listening ear.” Are we listening? Do we want to hear from God? We are all different. But as created human beings we all have the built in ability to hear from God! Have we thought through how God speaks to us? Do we make time to hear from God? If we say that we see God more in nature than in church… ok, but are we spending lots of time in nature so that we can hear from God?
One last thought before we leave this idea of ___listening___. God’s Word has God’s words in it! Do we prioritize listening to God speak to us through His Word? We might find that the more we focus our internal ears by prayer, by reading God’s Word, by stepping away from the busyness of our lives, and maybe even just going for a walk, we might hear God speak more!
Sing Verse 2
God speaks to me everywhere!!!
#3 - God is with me ___EVERYWHERE___.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Not only are there many way and places to hear God speak to you, there also is no place you can go where God is not there with you. No matter what you are going through, no matter how challenging, no matter how hard your life becomes, God is there with you. We often focus our attention on being strong and courageous, but those words ring hollow if they are dependent upon us pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and being positive no matter what. No POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE here. No! It’s be strong and courageous BECAUSE God is with you wherever you go! No fear! No discouragement? Why? Because God is with you wherever you go!
Sometimes - when life is really tough - we have to get away and focus to see God in other places. Through a bird song. Through a sunrise. Through the flowers. Even in the rustling of grass. God can speak to us everywhere because He is with us everywhere.
For the moment, forget me preaching to you. Forget my words of advice and encouragement. Listen instead to what the LORD God Himself says to you in Psalm 139:1-12. Close your eyes and listen…
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:1-12
God is with me everywhere. God hears me everywhere. I can hear God everywhere. God knows me better than I know myself. He knows what I’m going to do before I do it. And He still loves me. He still wants to be with me and wants me to want Him to be with me. There is no darkness that is too dark for Him. No matter what dark days you must live through God’s light can still shine through.
Sing Verse 3
#4 - God is still ___RULER___!
“Ah, Sovereign LORD, You have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah 32:17
There are some experiences of life that make no sense to us. We can’t explain it away. We can’t rationalize. Some wrongs just can’t be made right in our minds. If we live in a world of our own creation and we live as masters of our own fates, then we are also forced to live with the consequences and burdens of everything that happens around us. For most of us - that’s just too much. It can cause sadness, depression, and even death.
Yet - if God is ruler… if God is sovereign… if we are His creation along with the rest of creation, then ultimately the burdens and the consequences are His to handle. He is infinitely more equipped to deal with those things that make no sense to us. He is supremely able to handle evil and wrong and malevolence that repulse us to our core.
It’s our choice. Is God the ruler in our lives? Or are we? Is God in charge of all the problems and the unexplainable? Or are we?
On this Father’s Day - a day of celebration, a day of remembering legacy, a day of rejoicing - it’s worth remembering that not everyone celebrates, not everyone wants to remember, not everyone rejoices. What do we do with them? Just sing louder? “This is my Father’s world: why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King: let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad!”
The same man, the same pastor, the same musician, Maltbie Babcock, who penned those words in the early 1880s lost his life to suicide in 1901. By this point he was a highly successful preacher with his 3rd pastorate in NYC, by one report receiving a salary of $30,000, a princely salary for anyone let alone a pastor! In 2022 dollars that’s over $1 million in today’s money. Most people would know him and respect him as one of the greatest preachers of his day. Yet, as he was returning from a visit to the Holy Land, he was hospitalized in Italy for what was then called “Mediterranean Fever,” what we would call Brucellosis today. He died in the hospital by gruesome self-inflicted means at the young age of 42.
No one then - and no one since - has ever been able to explain it. Maltbie was at the peak of an amazing ministry that provided well for him and his wife. Why did he do it? Most people believed him to be out of his mind. That may be so. But it still doesn’t explain away the unexplainable tragedy.
A few years later, Katherine, released this poem that would became the song, “This Is My Father’s World.” Katherine never stopped believing in Maltbie. More importantly, she never stopped believing in the Lord God’s sovereignty in even the hardest times, when the wrong seems oft so strong. She knew the truth that it was God Who was ruler still.
Many people sing this hymn today without ever knowing the faith that it took for Katherine to release the song. Most people don’t know this legacy that Maltbie and Katherine left to the church. Because this is so much more than a song about finding God in the beauty of His creation. When you know the story behind the song you also know the importance of knowing Who is really the Writer - of your life and mine!
“This is my Father’s world:
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!”
Who is writing your story? Who is leaving your legacy?