THE MUSIC OF THE SPHERES
In the late 1800s a young preacher named Maltbie Babcock walked almost every day along a hill above Lake Ontario in upstate New York. Nearly every time he left the house he told his wife, “I’m going out to see my Father’s world.” His daily walks led him to pen a poem that was later set to music by his friend Franklin L. Sheppard. The hymn became the beloved classic, “This is My Father’s World.”
In the poem’s first verse, Babcock wrote a line that may seem odd to modern ears:
This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
What was Babcock’s “music of the spheres”? It was an ancient observation that the mathematical harmony and proportion of the universe—the dance of the celestial bodies like planets, moon, and sun—is so orderly and beautiful that it is like a song, each natural law an instrument in a symphony of creation all playing to the glory of God.
THE BEAUTY OF SHALOM
Beauty, we learn from Babcock’s poem, is reflected not only in sunsets and colorful birds, but in something much deeper and enduring: the Shalom of God. Shalom is a Hebrew term that refers to wholeness, wellness, completeness, and peace. It is the underlying structure of good things working the way God intended them to work, undergirded by God’s everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27). When God created the world, He created it with a perfect balance and order that reflected His own personhood and shalom.
SHALOM AS A COMFORT IN SUFFERING
Shalom is not just theoretical—it is intensely practical. In dark times, remembering God’s perfect design in creation can revive our spirits and bring us hope.
Even Job—the man afflicted by suffering—benefited from a reminder of God’s shalom in creation. One of Job’s friends, Elihu, defended God’s goodness by appealing to the wisdom in His music of the spheres. “God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ So that everyone He has made may know His work” (Job 37:5–7). Elihu even appealed to the water cycle as an argument for God’s beauty and goodness: “He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams; the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind” (Job 36:27–28).
God Himself helped redirect Job’s misguided thoughts about His justice by appealing to His natural laws—the music of the spheres—and reminding Job that nothing in this universe is outside of His control: “Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?” (Job 38:33). The point is clear: even when we suffer, we can look around at the beautiful structure of the universe and remember that the same God who made the world in all its intricate beauty also sustains us with His love and care. When we acknowledge this beauty in the midst of our suffering—and bow down to worship God just as Job did—we find the peace, joy, and hope that we need.