First Mennonite Church
September 26, 2021
The Lord Rejoices in All His Creation
Text: Psalm 104
We cannot read the book of Psalms without noticing a pervasive theme: creation or nature as a powerful element of praising God. Throughout the book we encounter clear reminders of the psalmist awareness, keen observation, and useful inclusion of creation themes as elements for worship and praise. Let me just give you a few examples of that:
3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? 6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: 7 all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, 8 the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
Psalm 19: 1
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
Psalm 33: 6-9
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars[a];
he puts the deep into storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the people of the world revere him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. 12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
There are many more references about creation and nature in the book of Psalms. Today, I would like for us to take a brief time to reflect on a chapter dedicated to God’s work of creation in the book of Psalm: chapter 104.
It is important for us to know that there is a close connection between Psalm chapter 103 and 104. Psalm 103 opens with the heartfelt invitation to praise the Lord: Praise the Lord oh my soul. This self-reminder to praise the Lord and of not forgetting all his benefits concludes with an invitation to “all God’s works to praise the Lord” (Psalm 103:21, 22). Therefore, chapter 104, opens with the same invitation:
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Lord my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
2 The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
4 He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.
These verses set the foundation for praise. God is sovereign. Lord you are “gadal,” great, magnificent, honorific, extremely eminent, and clothed with splendor and majesty. The Lord deserves our admiration. God is worthy of exaltation. God is light, dwells in light and is clothed in light. He designed the structure of the universe and makes the elements of nature his servants. So, what might God be telling us through the drought, the flooding, hurricanes, and so forth? Are they only meteorological phenomena? Or is the Lord trying to communicate something to us?
5 He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.
6 You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
8 they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
9 You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.
10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
There is a resounding echo of Genesis one in this psalm. Genesis tells us that at the command of God the waters receded, revealing the dry land. If you look at verses seven and eight, there is a poetic description on how the rivers and streams were formed. At the command of God’s words over the waters, they rushed down from the mountains, creating gorges; thus, giving birth to rivers and streams flowing through the valleys. Along the banks of these rivers and streams, the beasts of the field come to quench their thirst. In the trees that flourish along the wet lands, the birds sing their praises to the Creator (v.12). Animals, birds, fish, vegetation are all satisfied by God who created, sustains, and rejoices over his creation.
14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
15 wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.
16 The trees of the Lord are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the junipers.
18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.
19 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21 The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
23 Then people go out to their work,
to their labor until evening.
These verses describe the intricate and yet interconnected ecological interdependence there is in the natural world. God makes grass to grow, but humans also cultivate their food from the earth. The psalmist suggests that God not only provides the basics for life, but he also gives wine to gladden their heart and oil to highlight their joy.
In the wild, the trees provide hospitality the birds and the crevices of rocks shelter to terrestrial critters. It is significant that the trees are claimed to belong to the Lord (v.16). Thus, from the Pygmy Forests of California to the giant sequoias, all belong to the Lord.
The moon and the sun are the cosmic clocks that mark the times and seasons. They also dictate who goes out during the day to find their food and who goes out. They determine the time everyone go into their shelter. This marking of time applies both to man and animals. Here humans are not set apart and much less above the rest of creation. Humans, birds, and animals all depend on God for their food.
24 How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
27 All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
How plentiful and diverse are your works, oh Lord! In wisdom you have created every living thing. Here is something for us to ponder. While scientists say that some animals, birds, or other living creature have had to evolve in order to adapt or survive in their environment, here the psalmist declares that God created numerous and diverse kinds of creature. He was not only the architect, but the artisan. Therefore, for example the moth with an extremely long proboscis might not be a sign of evolutionary adaptation. The sphinx moth of Madagascar that has a proboscis almost a foot long was designed by God to collect nectar at the deep base of flowers. The psalmist declares that God created diverse creature with wisdom, adapted to their particular habitats. God created large and small creature and all depend on God for their food. Some only live 24 hours, as the mayfly, others, as the Galapagos tortoise can live over 100 years. Harriet, the Galapagos tortoise which lived in a zoo in Australia, lived 175 years.
However long or short their lives are, God cares for each of the creatures he created.
The truth the book of Hebrews speaks about is also true for all other creatures. It is appointed for everyone to die. We all will die. And although animals will not have to give an account to God when they die, humans will. We will have to give an account to God, one day.
The psalmist, concludes his reflection about creation with praise.
31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the Lord.
35 But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Praise the Lord.
The psalmist was not only a religious man; he was also a theologian and environmentalist. He knew the intricate interconnectedness and interdependence there is between air, soil, water, plants, and animals, including humans. Man and earth or ground are intrinsically bound together in God’s creation. Man—adam, and ground—adama, find both their origin and destiny in the Creator God. Man was taken from the ground and will finally turn to dust and earth. The psalmist’s awareness that everything is interconnected did not come from science. His awareness came from worship and praise to God. His environmental consciousness was not like that of the environmentalists of our times. Concerns for the environment today are motivated by self-preservation of the human species. Environmentalists of today are motivated by a sense of obligation towards the coming generations. They want to secure the same kind of lifestyle there is today for the coming generations. Their concern is motivated by fear that the world’s resources will not be available to those coming ahead. And although any concern for the environment is noble, the concern that should motivate us to care for creation is our awareness that God created everything. As our New Testament passage declares about Jesus. “Through him and for him all things were created.” All things were created through Christ. All things were created for Christ.
Often times, the motivation is to protect only those things that are “useful.” Many times, for the sake of “progress” or “economic gain” God’s creation is violated. Species go extinct because they are not so useful or stand on the way of progress or economic gain. God’s creation is abused for economic gain.
As for us, we should be concerned for the birds, trees, animals, fish, streams, and the earth/ground and pray with the psalmist: May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in all his works. Praise the Lord! Amen!