The Mighty Works of God (Psalm 104)
The Mighty Works of God
One of the most popular verses from the book of Psalms is probably 19:1 - “The heavens declare the glory of God and the expanse declares His handiwork.”
You and I both have, from time to time, looked at the beauty of God’s creation and stated - “How can anyone not believe in God?” That sentiment is expressed here in Psalm 104, our fifth psalm we will study together this year: The Mighty Works of God…
GOD’S GREATNESS - 104:1-4:
We begin here with the greatness of God. The psalmist - whomever it may have been - calls on his soul to bless the Lord, which is a statement of praise and honor. Why?
Because God is great. How can we say more about the nature of God than that?
But notice what the psalmist says about the greatness of God:
1. He is great in His clothing. He is clothed with splendor and majesty. He is also covered in light as if it were a cloak (ver. 1-2). Paul tells us that God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16) and John states very simply that God is light (1 John 1:5).
2. God is also great in His works. He stretched out the heavens like a tent. He laid the beams of His upper chambers in the waters. God is over all; He is above all; He controls all.
3. God is great in His transportation. His chariot is the clouds. Where are the clouds? Every where. All over the place. Such is God’s ability to be every where, all the time. God walks upon the wings of the wind. Again, where is the wind? It’s everywhere. Wherever there is wind - there is God. Not that the wind is God, but God is in all places, just as the wind is.
4. God is great because of His servants. God can transform the wind into His messengers, His angels. He can turn flaming fire into His ministers. The Hebrew writer quotes this verse in Hebrews 1:7 as He contrasts Jesus, the Son, with the angels of heaven. God makes wind His messengers, or angels; He makes them flames of fire. But the Son, God sets Him on the throne and gives Him the scepter forever. There is a great contrast between the Son and the angelic creation.
GOD’S GREATINESS IS SEEN IN THE CREATION OF THE EARTH - 104:5-9:
When God created the earth, He designed it to be dependable, as it was to meet the needs for human beings and their physical support for a very long time. Verse 5 is not talking about the earth being eternal. It is suggesting that the earth is stable enough to support human life.
God designed man to need water - lots and lots of water. So, verse 6 points out that God covered the earth with water. In the beginning, God covered even the mountains with water. That’s how deep the water is.
But, verse 7 reflects the destruction of the world during the days of Noah and the flood. No, the waters at the very beginning did not cover Mount Everest. During the flood, notice the waters “fled.” They “hurried away.” Much dry land would eventually appear from the flood. We do not know what the original land mass we call earth looked like. Geologists refer to it as “Pangea” and based on the shapes of the continents, it sure looks like they all fit together at one point. Maybe they did. But notice in verse 8 that the mountains “rose” and valleys “sank down.” In other words, the world, the continents after the flood looked very different than the world before the flood. God was in control of it all; God is the one who established a place for the mountains, the valleys, and the water to go. God had intended for the world to become more and more populated, so He designed the world to do just that.
In Acts 17:26, we hear Paul saying that God created from one man all the nations of mankind to dwell on all the face of the earth. God established the continents for all these different nationalities. Remember that they all spoke one language until the tower of Babel. Then God confused their languages and they scattered. The world may have been all one continent before that point.
Notice also in verse 9: God set a boundary for the waters not to pass over, so that they will not return to cover the earth. Doesn’t that sound like global warming is not going to flood the world? It certainly sounds like it. So, in addition to God’s statement in Genesis 8:22 that summer and winter and day and night will not cease - mankind is not going to destroy this planet. That’s not to say that we should not make reasonable decisions to keep our planet healthy. “Reduse, reuse, recycle” is a good thing to do. I just bought a battery-operated lawn mower to reduce my use of fossil fuels and especially the noise! But we are not going to destroy our planet!
GOD’S GREATNESS IS SEEN IN PROVIDING WATER - 104:10-13:
Speaking of water, the palmist praises God for the abundance and provision of water. We have studied in our Wed night class from the book of Numbers how frequently Israel complained to God about not having water to drink.
Notice what the psalmist says: God provides springs in the valleys (ver. 10). God gives drink to every beast of the field. God provides for the wild donkeys to quench their thirst (ver. 11). Even the birds of the heavens sing praises to God - so to speak (ver. 12). They have their needs provided. In verse 13, from His upper chambers, God waters the mountains. The earth is satisfied with the fruit of God’s works. In other words, God provides for everyone and everything!
One of our favorite passages, isn’t it, in Matthew 10:29-30 that two sparrows are sold for one cent and yet if one falls to the ground God knows about it? Isn’t that great? Doesn’t that show the greatness of God?
GOD IS GREAT WHEN WE LOOK AT HIS NATURE - 104:14-23:
We just mentioned how much God takes care of the birds. Listen to the psalmist…
God provides grass for the cattle to eat and He provides vegetation for the use of man (ver. 14). God created man with the ability to grow his food in the earth and eat that food.
God provides wine - the juice of the grape - regardless of where it is in its fermentation process, it is for man’s use, to make his heart glad. Because most of us would rather drink something besides water! God provides oil so that man’s face can glisten. That is, oil is used for perfume, for medicine, even for food. The word “food” in verse 15 is actually bread. It sustains man’s heart.
The trees - they drink their fill. Specifically the psalmist praises the well-known “cedars of Lebanon.” The trees in which the birds of the heavens can build their nests and the stork who lives in the trees.
Listen to the poem about trees from Joyce Kilmer:
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is rest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
God has created the mountains for the wild goats (ver. 18). The cliffs are for the “shephanim” - the marginal translation says “small shy furry animals.” In a reflection of the work of creation, God made the moon for the seasons (ver. 19) and the sun has its own place of setting. God created light and He created darkness for the rest and benefit of man and animals (ver. 20). God designed some animals to be active during the daytime and some animals to be active at night.
Lions were wide-spread throughout Israel during the days of the monarchy and the psalmist mentions them here in verse 21. They roar after their prey; yet it is God who gives them their food. When it becomes daytime, the lions withdraw to their dens. Similarly, man goes to his work and labors until evening when he returns to his home for rest (ver. 23).
Everything has its place. Everything has its cycle.
GOD’S GREATNESS IS SEEN IN THE OCEAN AND SEAS AND EARTH - 104:24-30:
How many are Jehovah’s works? Quite frankly, they are innumerable! Yet, in wisdom, God made them all. The beauty and perfection of the earth shows that a wise and discerning God had designed and created it all. It all belongs to Him (ver. 24).
Think about the sea, the ocean - it is great and broad and swarms of animals are in the sea, both great and small (ver. 25). God created it all and God designed it all. Back in 2010, our family went to Florida so I could check Florida off my Bucket List. While we were there, we went to Sea World. I had been to Sea World a few times when I was young; we lived in Florida in 1977-1978 and my parents owned a house they rented out. When my family was there 12 years ago, we went to Sea World because I remember vividly the show with Shamu, the killer whale. He swam to the bottom of the tank and he turned and swam toward the surface and the trainer stood on Shamu’s nose and as Shamu broke the water with his nose, the trainer jumped off his nose and dived into the water. It was an awesome sight and we marvel at how smart these animals are and how they can be trained. When we went, it was a few months after a killer whale killed a trainer at the Sea World in California, so the trainer was not in the water with the while when we were there. Incidentally, Ana was in the show although she wasn’t in the water either.
The ships move as well as “Leviathan” (ver. 26). I do not believe the “Leviathan" is any more a mythological creature than the lion, the birds, the mountain goats and the wild donkey that he has already mentioned. It is quite baseless to suggest that the Leviathan is some kind of mythological creature. From the description in Job (chapter 41), it very much sounds like it could be a dinosaur but it was surely an animal that no longer lives on the earth. Here, the psalmist quite plainly says that God formed the Leviathan to sport in the seas.
God gives all these animals their food in “due season” (ver. 27). They might have to “gather it up” (ver. 28) but God gives it to them. God opens His hand and feeds them so they’ll be satisfied with the good.
If God were to hide His face, the creatures of earth (including man) would be dismayed. If God were to take away their breath (spirit), they would expire (ver. 29) and return to dust. That’s how dependent on God the world and everything on it is. God sent forth His Spirit and creates what He desires (ver. 30) and God can renew the face of the ground when He chooses.
A FINAL EXHORTATION - 104:31-35:
In this final paragraph, the psalmist calls on God’s glory to endure forever. In other words, it is a wish that all future generations of human beings glorify God because of His marvelous works (ver. 31). May the Lord be glad in the works of His hands. It’s almost like a parent who says to the child, “be proud of what you have done.” The psalmist is saying to God, “be proud of what you have done!”
God is still in control and God can do what He wants with the earth. He looks at it, and it trembles. He touches the mountains and they put out smoke (ver. 32).
So the psalmist… He will sing to the Lord as long as there is breath in his body (ver. 33). He will sing praises to God while he has his being.
In fact, the psalmist states that his meditation ought to be pleasing to God (ver. 34). As for himself, he will be glad in the Lord - motivated from his experience of nature.
In contrast, in verse 35, the psalmist calls for retribution from God on the “sinners” - not those who are polluting the earth. That’s not in the psalmist’s mind. But, those who, by their refusing to acknowledge God and His works, are “polluting the earth.” He prays that God will cause the wicked to be “no more.” Indeed, one day, all those atheists will acknowledge that God is the creator of the world.
So he ends with a call for his soul to bless God and he concludes with the Hebrew word, “Hallelujah!” Praise the Lord! That Hebrew expression is found 27 times in the book of Psalms and no where else.
Take home message: We should always and frequently praise God for the creation of the world around us in all of its intricacies. The evidence of God’s wisdom, power, and love are all around us. How can we doubt?