Psalm 104/A Hymn of Creation and Providence

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The Eleventh Decade of Psalms


In this psalm, among many other truths, we see that the Holy Spirit of God is the one who gives us all forms of life. “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created” (v. 30). And in the Nicene Creed, which we recited today, we confessed that we believe “in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.” He is the one who brooded over the face of the deep at the first creation, and He is the one who was poured out upon the first residents of the new creation at Pentecost. He is the giver of life, and the giver of new life. He gives life because He is life itself. And in this psalm we are invited to exult in the related truths of creation and a detailed providence.

The Text:

“Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; Thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain: Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind: Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire: Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever . . . (Ps. 104:1-35).

Summary of the Text:

The psalmist summons up all his internal resources in order to bless the Lord, who is great, and honored, and majestic (v. 1). Jehovah puts on light itself as if it were a coat, and all the starry heavens are no more than a curtain to Him (v. 2). Think of the curtain of a royal pavilion. His beams are set in the waters above, the clouds are His chariot, and He walks on the wind (v. 3). His angels are both wind and fire (v. 4). He set the deep footings of the earth, making them immoveable (v. 5). He covered the earth with an ocean cloak, covering even the mountains (v. 6). But then He rebuked the waters and they retreated to their proper place (vv. 7-8), and He set the beach for a boundary (v. 9). God is the one who sets springs in the valleys of the hills (v. 10)—and He does this to quench the thirst of beasts (v. 11), to supply the birds that sing (v. 12), and the hills that need watering (v. 13).

He does this so cattle might have grass, and so that men might have herbs (v. 14). God’s intention is for men to have wine for the heart, oil for the face, and bread for the heart (v. 15). The trees of the Lord are full of sap, which is referring to the resinous cedars, enormous giants. But it may be reapplied by you the next time you get an overly sentimental birthday card from a pious aunt. The trees of the Lord are full of sap. Jehovah grows trees so that the birds might have a place to live (v. 17). The high hills are for the goats, and cliffs are for rock badgers (v. 18).

The moon marks the seasons, and the sun knows what to do (v. 19). God made the nighttime, and the nocturnal beasts come out (v. 20). Young lions trust in God for their meat (v. 21). The sun comes up and they all go back to their dens (v. 22), while men get up and go to their tasks (v. 23).

The earth is crammed full of God’s riches (v. 24). Look at the ocean, which has innumerable creatures (v. 25). There are ships on the surface of that ocean, and Leviathan is in the deeps, just horsing around down there (v. 26). When it is time for dinner, they all look to God (v. 27). They are blessed because God gives to all with an open hand (v. 28). If God turns away, they are unsettled; if God removes their breath from them, they return to the dust (v. 29). If God sends out His Spirit, these creatures come to life, and God renews the face of the earth (v. 30).

The glory of God is constant, and God rejoices in His own creative work (v. 31). He likes what He has done. If He just looks at the earth, so solid to us, it shakes and trembles, and if He touches the mountains, they smoke (v. 32).

This requires music from us, and it is required from us as long as we live (v. 33). Our meditation of Him shall be sweet, and we will be glad (v. 34). Deal with the wicked, Lord—and soul? Bless the Lord, o my soul (v. 35).

A Creation Poem:

The Septuagint credits this psalm to David, and we don’t have a good reason for disputing it. What we basically have here is a creative retelling of the creation of the world. The psalmist begins by singing of the light and the firmament (vv. 1-6), which is what was created the first and second days of creation. He then moves on to the separation of land and sea, the formation of creeks and rivers, the spread of vegetation, which is all appropriate for the third day (vv. 7-18). The fourth day is celebrated by his song of the sun and moon (vv. 19-23). In verses 24-30, he talks about the creatures that were created on the fifth and sixth day. The crowning achievement of the sixth day, the creation of man, is represented by the psalmist, the one singing about all of this. And we can see the Sabbath rest in the final words (vv. 31-35).

Also please note something important. Even though all of creation is ultimately for the glory of God and underneath that it is for the dominion of man, God does many things for the sake of beasts and sea creatures themselves. How many beasts have lived and died, given every meal by God Himself, without ever coming into contact with man at all? Their lives are not pointless.  

Praise Itemizes:

This psalm, just like the previous one, is a praise sandwich (vv. 1, 35). “Bless the Lord, o my soul.” He begins and ends with an invitation to himself to bless God and to do so with everything that he has. And what does he do in between? The whole psalm is a mass of particular details. And what this should show us is that since the mentioned details only encompass less than one percent of what could be said, they are meant to make us think of the whole created order. But the cosmos is beyond enormous, and when God painted it, He didn’t use a roller or a sprayer. The entire thing was painted by an infinitely wise miniaturist, with the smallest of brushes. We can look at anything else in the created order, make a list of all sorts of things not mentioned in this psalm—sea lions and hummingbirds, say—and we will see the same exquisite attention to detail. Whether we are talking about subatomic realities or starry nebulae, God placed every atom right where it is.

Did You Know . . .?

Did you know that whales and dolphins sleep one half of their brain at a time? Did you know that some birds do the same? And what about sentry birds on the ends of a row of birds? And then the sentries switch places so that the other half of their two brains can get some shuteye?

Did you know that one strand of your DNA unwound would be about 2 meters long? And because you have trillions of cells in your body, with each cell containing one of those strands, if you put them all end to end, the resultant library would stretch to about twice the diameter of the Solar System. And did you know that, unlike the twenty foot extension cord in your garage, these strands don’t get tangled up?

During an eclipse, have you ever wondered why the moon fits right over the top of the sun, like you were stacking a couple of quarters? And both of those objects are supposed to be the detritus in the aftermath of a huge explosion?

Did you know that some fish are best described as “little brown jobs,” while other exotic fish look like they are auditioning for a role as the empress of all the fan dancers of Vegas?

The Issue of Glory:

When the Darwinists seek to explain the world around us—a world that is just crawling with life—we must never forget that they are engaged in a flight from glory. God is very great. He is clothed with honor and majesty, and devotees of a blind purposelessness do not want to give Him that glory (Rom. 1:21). And it is axiomatic that when sinners do not want to give God glory, the reason is because they want to take it. And wanting to take glory for ourselves is to sin, and to sin is to fall short of glory.

And this is what leads us straight to gospel, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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