Reflections on Psalm 104:24-34

Reflections on Psalm 104:24-34


     Hello again Canton! It has been a great week here at First Baptist, from celebrating our graduates on Sunday to preparing for our upcoming VBS event at the end of this month. As I better get to know your community, I will be including more updates about First Baptist in future posts. But for now, more devotion and reflections! In my post earlier this week, I advocated for the Lectionary as a useful tool for Christians, both as a guide in reading Scripture and as a way of maintaining unity within the big-C Church. Baptists—people of the Book—know already that Scripture is like oxygen for the body of Christ. God has breathed these words, invisibly moving the minds and hearts of human authors as an unseen breeze moves large branches. The rhythm of the Lectionary can help the ecumenical Church come into sync and breathe in unison as God breathes into us through Scripture; one thinks of that holy CPR by which God breathed life into Adam’s nostrils and made him a living soul (Gen 2:7). We celebrate the outpouring of the Spirit this Pentecost Sunday and remember that it is God’s Spirit, His breath, that animates and strengthens the Church, and, as we shall see, all of creation. As it is largely through Scripture that the Spirit speaks to us and encourages us, we look to the Lectionary as a helpful guide for reading Scripture with the rest of the Church.

    Of course we should also be wary of relying on a tool as though it were the Breath of God itself, for while the Spirit may move powerfully through the Lectionary, the Spirit also leads us to be discerning to assure that we read Scripture for all it’s worth. One crucial guiding principle to remember as we celebrate the Lectionary together is that no biblical passage is an island. Every verse finds its place within the context of a paragraph or poem, furthermore within a chapter or subsection of a book, and those pieces within a larger book in which God moved human authors to write with larger intentions, themes, and coherency — and those books in the even larger narrative of God’s story. By keeping these things in mind we avoid missing out on the bigger picture and the ways that context always sheds light on the smaller pieces. I encourage us to be mindful of this as we listen for God’s voice in our weekly Lectionary texts.

Today we’ll be looking at Psalm 104:24-34:

O Lord, how manifold are your works!
    In wisdom you have made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.
Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
    creeping things innumerable are there,
    living things both small and great.
There go the ships,
    and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.
These all look to you
    to give them their food in due season;
when you give to them, they gather it up;
    when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
    when you take away their breath, they die
    and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created; 
    and you renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
    may the Lord rejoice in his works—
who looks on the earth and it trembles,
    who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.


    The preceding psalm, Psalm 103, shows the Psalmist launching into a lengthy song of praise for the Lord’s steadfast love, His unfailing mercy, His justice for the oppressed, and His faithful patience towards His people (103:4-12). The Psalmist’s gratitude can hardly be contained; blessings and thanks to the Lord are overflowing in response to how faithfully the Lord loves His children — Bless the Lord, bless the Lord, bless the Lord!, all of creation, bless the Lord for his perfect kindness! 

    In Psalm 104 this outburst of praise continues as the Psalmist’s gaze turns to creation — the Lord can be seen not only in his love for humanity but in every nook of creation. There are the heavens, stretched out as a celestial tent for the Lord’s dwelling, the beams of which reach down to the ocean; the chaotic waters themselves — a dangerous and untamed landscape, especially to ancient people — are subdued under the mighty hand of God. The interdependency of all creation is grounded in the Lord’s masterful guidance; he makes the water give life to things that grow, he makes the plants bear fruit for humans, and the forests serve as a home for animals. Verses 24-30 present an intimate perspective on God’s relationship with the created world — creation is fed from God’s open palm; when God hides his face, all living things mourn; when God breathes out his spirit, life springs into being; a glance from his eyes, and the earth starts shaking; a touch from his fingers makes the mighty mountains smoke. The Psalmist’s overflowing joy is a reflection of the Lord’s own joy in his masterpiece; “may the Lord rejoice in his works!” (v. 31). And like God in Zephaniah 3:17, who rejoices over his people with loud singing, the Psalmist cannot help but burst into song — “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live! I will sing praise to my God while I have being! May my meditation please him, for I rejoice in the Lord!” (vv. 33-34).

    We have much to learn from the Psalmist in these chapters! First we notice the Psalmists’ readiness to praise the Lord, to give him thanks through poetry and singing. This is no reluctant recitation of thanks; the Psalmist reflects deeply on the the goodness of God, a deep meditation that bubbles to the surface in exuberant song. 

    Second, this posture of praise makes the Psalmist aware of God’s kindness in very specific ways. The lens through which the Psalmist views the world sees God’s love from top to bottom, from the highest heaven to the depths of the sea. There is no facet of creation in which the Psalmist cannot find the grace of God. 

    Third, this pervasive grace of God is considered in very intimate terms. This is no distant God, disconnected from a world running like clockwork. Rather, we hear of God’s hand, his careful wisdom in creating, his face and his touch, his emotion and his breath, all in relation to his world. The combination of these intimate images with the Psalmists’ praise leaves no room for impersonal deism. Rather, God is working all around us! 

    Fourth, we notice that these cosmic reflections are concluded with “I” statements by the Psalmist. As we worship with these words, we can see God’s reign over the world reflected by the entire congregation praying the words together, as has been done for centuries; yet we also see that God’s specific intentionality in creation is reflected in the personal language of the Psalmist, crying out as one overwhelmed by a relational God - I praise you! I will sing to You as long as I live! Whatever others may do, this personal gratitude grounds the intimate connection the Psalmist feels with the Creator. May the Psalmist’s personal meditation be pleasing to the Lord! And so may ours. As we say the Psalm, we do so both as a body and as individuals. We are challenged to see the our-ness of God, that he is in all creation and relates to all of us; yet we are also challenged to meditate personally, to look for God in our lives and the world around us, to cry out in song when we glimpse the goodness of God, both within and without the congregation.

    May we be challenged by the Psalmist’s God-inspired reflections as we find God this week both in his loving mercy towards us and in his intimate connection to all creation. May we respond to God’s goodness with heart-felt praise, both on our own during the week and with the congregation on Sunday. Holy Spirit, help us to see you blowing through our lives and the world that you give life to, and to give praise when we glimpse the loving hand of our God at work. Amen!



Posted by Linda Clark on June 9, 2019
Thank you Riley for a beautiful, thought-provoking devotional. It gave me a sense of peace just reading and thinking on it. Keep up the good work! God bless you in your preparations!
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