Psalm of Orientation: Creation
Last week we talked about Psalms of Orientation. These are Psalms about where you are. Way things are. The way the world is. Today we are going to bee looking at a Praise Psalm, that is also a creation Psalm, which means it is a Psalm of Orientation.
With the rise of Enlightenment, philosophers supposed that nature ran itself by laws of cause and effect. God became a god of rationality. A rational God had created a rational world to be understood by rational people.
It was if God were a celestial clock maker who had made the perfect timepiece, wound it up, and then stepped out to let it run. We might call this Deist. God is there but out there somewhere. Many of our founding fathers of the United States would fall under this category because they viewed God through the eyes of the Enlightenment.
When it was devised this way of thinking was supposed to give great glory to God. The perfection and order of all things mirrored His perfection and order. In fact, however, it made God irrelevant. He was reduced to a “first cause” and man was left, if not to run the show, then at least to understand the show by his autonomous reason. Thus, God had abdicated His authority, and man was in charge.
Today, scientists are more humble than the Enlightenment philosophers. They see an expanding universe that holds both order and indeterminacy in dynamic tension. It is just this indeterminacy that opens the door for a God who holds all things together in His governing, providential care. In fact, the God of the Bible shows His intensive care for this planet. This is the thesis of Psalm 104.
Bless Yahweh, O my soul. O Yahweh my God, you are very great. You clothe yourself with splendor and majesty, you who cover yourself with light as with a garment, who stretch out the heavens like a tent curtain, the one who sets beams in the waters for his upper chambers, who makes clouds his chariot, who rides on the wings of the wind, who makes his messengers the winds, his attendants a flame of fire. He established the earth on her foundations, so that it will not be moved forever and ever. You covered it with the deep as with a garment. The waters stood above the mountains. At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they ran off. They ascended the mountains and drained though the valleys to the place that you established for them. You set a boundary that they may not cross over, so that they would not return to cover the earth. You are the one who sends forth springs into the valleys; they flow between the mountains. They give drink for every beast of the field. The wild donkeys quench their thirst. Along them the birds of the heavens abide. From among the branches they sing. You are the one who waters the mountains from his upper chambers. The earth is full with the fruit of your labors: who causes grass to grow for the cattle and herbs for the service of humankind, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine that makes glad the heart of man, so that their faces shine from oil, and bread that strengthens the heart of man. The trees of Yahweh drink their fill, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted, where birds make their nest. The stork has its home in the fir trees. The high mountains are for the wild goats; the cliffs are a refuge for the rock badgers. He made the moon for appointed times; the sun knows its time for setting. You make darkness, and it is night, when all the animals of the forest creep about. The young lions are roaring for the prey and seeking their food from God. When the sun rises, they gather together and lie down in their dens. Humankind goes out to its work, and to its labor until evening. How many are your works, O Yahweh; all of them you have done in wisdom. The earth is full of your creatures. This is the great and wide sea, in which are moving animals without number, living things small and great. There the ships sail. Leviathan is there that you formed to play with. They all wait for you to give them their food at the proper time. You give to them; they gather it. You open your hand, they are filled with what is good. You hide your face, they are terrified. You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. You send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. May the glory of Yahweh endure forever. May Yahweh be glad in his works, the one who looks at the earth and it quakes, and touches the mountains and they smoke. I will sing to Yahweh throughout my life; I will sing praise to my God while I remain alive. May my meditation be pleasing to him. I will be glad in Yahweh. Let sinners perish completely from the earth, and the wicked not remain alive. Bless Yahweh, O my soul. Praise Yah.
A Psalm of Orientation
A Psalm of Orientation
In this psalm the broad canvas of creation is surveyed. God is praised for His glory, revealed in the heavens. Everywhere His active presence is seen.
It is a companion hymn to Psalm 103. It begins with the same words that end that psalm. This psalm alludes to the Noahic covenant and the six days of creation. It resembles ancient Near Eastern text in form and content. This psalm is an argument against sun worship. This is not a science book it is a book about God and his creation in a world that worships the sun.
The great God that is clothed with majesty and splendor. Who is identified with light. and light signifies the Lord’s presence in Jerusalem. Light was the first created element, Dispels darkness and reveals evil. God is the light. The absence of God except in the beginning and the end may reflect that this hymn was borrowed from Egypt, and was originally about the creation rather than the Creator.
But in this it became a Psalm of praise. That the speaker assigned all of the descriptive participles to Yahweh (a word formed from a verb (e.g., going, gone, being, been ) and used as an adjective (e.g., working woman, burned toast ) or a noun (e.g., good breeding ). In English, participles are also used to make compound verb forms (e.g., is going, has been ).)
God is active and at work in his creation.
God’s Creation of the Land and its Inhabitants
Benefits to Man
The Benefits to animals
Animals Work at Night
Man works in the Day time
God’s creation of the Sea and its inhabitants
This Psalm is structured in what is called a Chiasm. X Shape. There are 49 Psalms in Chiasm
It emphasizes God is active in his creation and mankind is the worker in God’s creation. It is not a curse or a special burden. it is the proper function of Man in God’s creation.
In this passage God designs and controls the ecosystems of nature. Man and beast are fed from the earth. Trees provide for the birds, and hills and cliffs house appropriate animals. All of this again reveals the direct care of God Himself. He makes it all happen.
It is God who “appointed the moon for seasons [‘set times’]” (v. 19). In Canaan the Hebrew year followed the West Semitic calendar with a year of twelve lunar months. The first day of each new month was considered holy. Thus the monthly “new moon” was associated with the weekly Sabbath (see Is. 1:13; Col. 2:16). Unlike her neighbors, for Israel the moon is no god. It functions under Yahweh’s rule.
Next, “The sun knows its going down.” This happens by God’s design: “You make darkness, and it is night” (see Gen. 1:4–5). Now “all the beasts of the forest creep about” (v. 20). This is made specific by the “young lions who roar after their prey, / And seek their food from God” (v. 21).
After the night passes, “the sun arises,” and the lions return to their dens “and lie down” to sleep (v. 22). It is man’s turn to work now, and he does “his labor [‘service’] until the evening.” So God commands, “Six days you shall labor” (Ex. 20:9). In his work he reflects the creative work of God (see Gen. 2:2–3).
God commands the calendar. The seasons and the nights and days are His.
And the awareness of God leads the us into spontaneous wonder, gratitude, and praise. This Psalm makes us aware that God rules in such a way that leaves and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and unfruitful years, food and drink, death and sickness, riches and poverty and everything else come to us not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.
It is not about cosmology (science) it is a psalm that gives assurance of the reliable orientation of the world.
As Calvin says,
It is also intended to strengthen our confidence in regard to the future, that we may not live in the world in a state of constant fear and anxiety, as we must have done had not God testified that he has given the earth for a habitation to men.
God is active in his creation
God is active in his creation
As we look at this we have to ask is God present and active in yours. He is all around you, but sometimes we keep him out of our lives.
Our orientation is not one of God is ever present light but one of He is there or not.
It affects how we interact with the world. If you believe that God is active you believe that HS is in your life with power. Then you live with power. To often we say we do but then we live like he is off somewhere. Not here and active.
Do you believe that God is active in your life?
Is God active in your life?
Do you live as if he is present?
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Brueggamann, Walter. “Psalms and the Life of Faith: A Suggested Typology of Function,” JSOT 17 (1980):3–32.
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Singerman, Barbara, Beyond Surrender. Hannibal Books, 2003
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John Calvin. Commentary on the Book of Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979.