The Word Made Fresh
1Praise the LORD, O my soul!
You are mighty, LORD, my God,
and clothed with honor and majesty.
2You are enrobed in light.
You have stretched the sky overhead like a tent,
3and set its foundations on the waters.
The clouds are your chariot,
and you ride on the wings of the wind.
4You use the winds as your messengers,
and fire and flames are your servants.
5You established the earth on its foundations,
and it will never be shaken.
6You clothed it in deep waters,
which rose above the mountains.
7But they fled at the sound of your rebuke,
and ran away when they heard your thunder.
8The waters rose above the mountains and fled down the valleys
to the levels you designed for them.
9You set their boundary, and they may not pass above it
nor ever again cover the earth.
10You order springs to arise in the valleys
and flow between the hills,
11so that the wild donkeys and every wild animal
might quench their thirst.
12The birds make their nests by them
and sing among the tree branches.
13From on high you water the mountains
and satisfy the earth with the results of your works.
14You provide grass for the cattle and plants that people can cultivate
and use for food from the good earth.
15You provide wine to gladden our hearts,
and oil to make our faces shine,
and bread to make our hearts strong.
16Your trees are well watered,
including the Lebanon cedars which you planted.
17The birds make their nests in them.
The stork makes its home among the firs.
18The tall mountains provide a home for wild goats
and the rocks provide a home for the badgers.
19You made the moon to signal the seasons,
and the sun knows when it is to set.
20You made the darkness for the night,
and all the forest creatures venture out.
21The young lions roar over their prey,
their food, which comes from God.
22At dawn they all slip back into their dens
23while people arise and begin their work,
and labor until sunset.
24LORD, we look at all the things you have done.
All of them were made according to your wisdom,
every creature that lives on the earth.
25The sea is there. It is wide and deep, and creatures
great and small live there, too numerous to be counted.
26Ships sail over the waves alongside Leviathan,
the beast you formed to play in them.
27All of them depend on you to feed them season after season.
28They gather the food you provide with open hands,
and they are filled with good things.
29But when your face is hidden, they are unsettled,
and when you take their breath, they die and return to dust.
30When you send your spirit to them, they spring to life,
and you replenish the earth.
31May the glory of the LORD last forever,
and may the LORD rejoice in everything the LORD has made.
32When God looks down on the earth, it trembles.
When God touches the mountains, they smoke.
33And so, I will sing to the LORD my whole life long.
I will sing praises to my God as long as I have breath.
34May my meditation be pleasing to God,
in whom I rejoice.
35Let those who disobey the LORD be taken from the earth
and the wicked will be no more.
36Praise the LORD, O my soul!
Praise the LORD!
1-4: It’s easy to read this psalm as an example of unabashed adoration, even gushing praise, for God. And that it is, but it is also a very powerful theological discourse on the nature of God. Light, the heavens, the waters, the clouds, the winds, fire – these are things that have always possessed great mystery for us. What they all have in common, of course, is that they are merely part and parcel of God’s creation.
5-9: The imagery in these verses may be foreign to us, but a clear picture is presented of God protecting the earth. Actually, the author is using the creation story in Genesis 1 as the canvass on which to paint a picture of God the Creator. These verses capture the third day of creation from Genesis 1:9-10.
10-13: The psalm doesn’t follow the creation story precisely, though, but skips around to touch here and there on whatever marvel of nature comes to the author’s mind. Here we see springs and rivers flowing between the mountains into the valleys, with animals and birds gathering to quench their thirst. None of this happens willy-nilly, though. God is directing the show.
14-23: With a few deft strokes we are treated to a sweeping panoramic view of the plant and animal kingdoms. Cattle feed directly on the grass of the field, but wine and oil and bread require human hands to process. Still, all is attributed to the gracious hand of God. God is the source of the rain that waters the trees, and the birds benefit as well. The rocks and mountains are pictured as the abode of the goats and badgers of course, but the psalm’s special twist is that God did that just for them. God provides for the sun to go down just so the lions can come out and stalk their prey in the darkness. The sun rises so people can come out and go about their business.
24-26: The scene opens up to the wide world full of critters and the great wide ocean filled with more critters, including people in ships and whales splashing in the waves.
27-30: All of it is choreographed and made possible by God. Because of God all of us are alive. God gives life and takes it away, and creation is renewed day by day.
31-35: All of this results in an outpouring of praise. If everything in creation depends upon the wit and will of God, praise is certainly the natural occupation of all who have voice. The wicked are therefore seen as a threat to the very existence of it all, and that is why the psalms so regularly beg God to do away with them.
It all belongs to God. God made everything; God rules everything. God made the world in such a way that all its creatures are provided for. We have to work at it, of course. People have to plant and harvest or hunt and butcher. Animals and insects and fish and other creatures have to search for their food in order to survive and provide for their offspring. In other words, in order for us to exist we have to cooperate with God and God’s good creation. What an incredible world we live in! Take some time today to praise and thank the LORD and ask for guidance on how to live in God’s good creation.