Thursday, December 13, 2012

Psalm 104 - Bless Our Providential LORD


Bible-believing Christians hold that God created all things.  But what do we believe about His continuing role in upholding the creation?  As our scientific knowledge has progressed and natural laws have been formulated, have we begun to view God’s providence over creation as a past event?  Did God create a self-sustaining system?  And if not, what does it mean for my life?

The truth is that God is actively involved in His creation.  Psalm 104 is a celebration of God’s creation and His continued providential care over all that He has made.   The psalmist begins by describing different parts of creation as God’s garments (vv1-2), His habitation (vv2-3), His chariot (v3), and His wings (v3).  In this, the grandeur of the creation speaks of the grandeur of the Creator.

He then describes God’s past acts in creation:
 5 He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved.
 6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.
 7 At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.
 8 The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed for them.
 9 You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth.

These verses speak of the permanence of God’s work as well as the meticulous detail. The mountains are where they are because He put them there.  The water stays where it is because God made it so.

But beginning in v10 is an account of God’s continued providence over and in the world He has created.  For example, vv10-11:  You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills; they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.  In other words, rivers flow because God makes them to do so.  Likewise v13 declares that God Himself waters the mountains with rain – “the earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your work.”  The chapter is full of such celebrations of God’s perpetual activity in the world.  He causes the grass and plants to grow so that man can enjoy food, wine, bread, and oil (vv14-15).  He waters the trees to provide a home for the birds (vv16-17).  He marks the seasons with the moon and the sun (v19).  He brings darkness every night (v20). 

Even the animals depend upon the providence of God: “the young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God (v21).  This is true not only of the animals on the land, but also those in the sea; the very earth depends upon Him for its existence:
 27 These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.
 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
 30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.

What are the implications of this for you and me?  One area in which we may give little thought to God’s providence is in our own work.  “My work is my responsibility.  If it get’s done, it is because I did it.  If it doesn’t, it is because I failed to do it.”  While this is true in a sense, Psalm 104 would tell us that even our own work depends upon God’s providence.  v23 reads, Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening.  We might take this to imply that what man accomplishes depends upon himself.  But v23 is part of a section on which v27 comments: These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.  The following verses note that the success or failure of our work depends upon the giving or withholding of God’s hand. That should cause us to approach our work with humility, understanding that ultimately we depend upon God's blessing.

But there is an even more significant way in which I am constantly dependent upon God.  v29 implies that each breath I take is given by God.  It is up to His providence to give that breath or withhold it.  If He gives it, I live.  If He withholds it, I die.  What this means is that my life, every second of every day, is held in the palm of His hand.

This should be comforting to me as a believer.  If God is so intimately involved in something as simple, yet consequential as the breaths I take, how can He not also be in the other details of my life?  My circumstances?  My concerns?  And if He can be trusted with my life, how can He not also be trusted in lesser things? 

Psalm 104 speaks of the wondrous power of God’s providence.  It also tells us the appropriate response to this providence.  The first and last verses of the psalm both declare, Bless the Lord, O my soul!  That is, worship Him!  Worship this God who upholds all things, including your own life.

Posted by Greg Birdwell

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