The Glory of the Lord Displayed in Creation

a brief study of Psalm 104, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 30 April 2010

Psalm 104 is not as well-known as Psalm 102 and 103 or 105 and 106. It is however a beautiful psalm filled with pictorial descriptions of God’s wonderful creation. We may entitle this psalm, the “Glory of the Lord Displayed in Creation.”

The structure of this Psalm is actually quite straightforward even if it may not be as orderly as we may like it to be.

It begins with a self-exhortation to praise the LORD (v. 1). Then the material or reason for praise is given through a description of creation roughly according to the creation account in Genesis 1 (v. 2-26); as well as a brief summary of God’s governance and providence over creation (v. 27-32). It concludes with a reminder that all men ought to praise the LORD (v. 32-35).


1. Self-Exhortation to Praise the LORD

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.

We have, you will realise, a very similar self-exhortation in the beginning of Psalm 103, where we read: “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” But there, the reason for praising the Lord is his work of redemption; whereas here, the reason is His work of creation.

We must bless the LORD when we think of how great a salvation he has granted us. We must also bless the LORD when we behold His wondrous creation.

The child of God who is right in his heart cannot but burst forth in praise when he beholds God’s wondrous creation, whether it is on the massive scale as the Grand Canyon or Mount Everest or the Marinas Trench; or it is on the micro scale as in the design of a microscopic insect or a single cell or even an atom.

When we behold these things, we need not that men teach us, but our hearts should pour forth praise for the greatness and majesty of our wise and wonderful God: thou art very great; [Oh Lord] thou art clothed with honour and majesty!

But seeing how our hearts are often cold and our tongues often slow, the Lord our Saviour gives us words that we may sing in union with Him by enumerating God’s work of Creation. This constitutes the bulk of this psalm.


2. Praise the LORD for His Work of Creation

Now, we noted that the enumeration of creation follows roughly the order of creation recorded in Genesis 1.

Well, verse 2 alludes to the 1st day of creation—

2 Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:

The LORD we must bless in our soul is he who created light that man may with our eyes see a shadow of his glory and majesty. Remember that our Lord does not dwell in material space, much less use light as a garment. These words given for us to sing speak really of how great our LORD is. He is brighter than the brightest light for He is transcendently holy. He is greater than the whole expanse of heaven for He created all things.

Verse 2 alludes to the 2nd day of creation—

3 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind: 4 Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:

On the second day, God created the atmosphere of the earth and separated the waters of the ocean from the waters in the clouds. The physics of it is of course much more complicated than that. But it is a fact that the cloud is really water suspended in the air. When the creationist talks about the canopy of water surrounding the earth before the flood, the canopy is basically water vapour and cloud.

Like light, the clouds and all associated with it, such as wind and lightning, all point to God’s majesty and power. Who can ride the clouds in the paths of the wind but the LORD himself and His angels?

God’s angels were created on the first day, but the wind and lightning bolts provide us with a sensible reminder that they are powerful beings. The word rendered wind and spirit in verses 3 and 4 is the same word in Hebrew (ru’ach).

But now, the 3rd day of creation is referred to in verses 5-18…

5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever. &c.

On the third day, the LORD created the dry land and the vegetation in it. How was the dry land created? The picture given in our text, verses 6-10, is that the dry land was made to rise out of the ocean. As the land rose, the water, as it were, fled away (v. 7). Then rivers and streams were formed as water flowed off the sides of the mountains (v. 8, 10). Seas and lakes were also formed with their shores appointed by the LORD (v. 9).

By the springs and streams, the LORD waters the land, making the grass, the crops and the trees (v. 13-15) to grow. And these in turn become food and a source of food for the enjoyment and sustenance of man and of all the birds and animals in the land (v. 14-15).

Now, the birds were created on the 5th day and land animals are created 6th day, but these are highlighted here because of the way life is so tightly intertwined in creation.

Now, the 4th day of creation saw the creation of the sun and moon and stars, and this is reflected in verses 19-20—

19 He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down. 20 Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.

We must not take for granted the sun and the moon. They are God’s mighty creation, and when we look at them, we should remember that the LORD is far greater than them. Our hearts should then be lifted up to praise the LORD.

Now, the 5th day of creation is a bit off order in this psalm. In the 5th day, God created the birds of the air and the creatures of the sea, both gigantic and microscopic. This is reflected in verses 24-26.  Remember that this psalm is not intended to give us a historical account. The reason why the 6th day is described first is due to the flow of ideas. For example, there can be no ships in the sea (v. 26) until man is created.

Well, in any case, the creation of the 6th day is reflected in verses 21-23. The lion (v. 21-22), the king of the animal kingdom, was made on that day. And so too man, who is created in God’s image and given dominion over all the creatures (v. 23).

Man and lion and all other creatures all depend on the sun for their cycle of work and rest. As the redeemed of the Lord, we may recall that the sun is given as a shadow of the Sun of Righteousness, and so praise God that through Him we may rest from sin and be fruitful unto good works.

But even without the knowledge of the Sun of Righteousness, the marvel and power of the sun and all the creatures on earth which depend on it should spur us to praise the LORD, verse 24—

 24 O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.

And not just creation, but let us praise the LORD for how He governs and provide for all Creatures.


3. Praise the LORD for His Work of Providence

27 These [all these creature great and small] wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. 28 That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. 29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. 30 Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.

Life on earth in all its variety is sustained by the power of God. In Him we live and move and have our being. The LORD brings them into existence. He upholds them in existence by the word of His power. He enables them to live by giving them food according to their needs (v. 27). And when the time for them to return to the dust is come, then the Lord. This will be so until in the fulness of time God renews the face of the earth (v. 30).


4. Call to All to Praise the LORD

31 The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.  32 He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.

The LORD our God is powerful and everlasting. His glory shall endure forever and he shall rejoice in his works (v. 31). Yes, even the mighty volcanoes (v. 32) that are able to send out enough smoke to cripple the world’s economies and destroy all life-forms on earth are in his hand.

How shall I respond to the reminder of His power and His greatness, but to sing of His mighty power as long as I live? Indeed, my heart will be filled with sweetness, awe, gratitude and joy when I think about the Lord:

33 I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. 34 My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.

Oh who could remain silent and refuse to praise the LORD, but such as are ungrateful and undeserving of the LORD’s bountiful blessings. Therefore, verse 35—

35 Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the LORD, O my soul. Praise ye the LORD.


Conclusion

We must conclude. There are two books that teach us to how and why to praise the LORD. One is the Bible. It teaches us who God is, what God has done, and how he has saved us. The other book is the Book of Creation and Providence.

Of this second book, and what it teaches, the apostle Paul says:

“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20).

Beloved brethren and children, if the unconverted in the world are without excuse when they behold creation and fall down to worship the creature; how much more should we as believers be well-acquainted with this book. Let us seek to be so acquainted by actually going outdoors to observe nature and also by availing ourselves to whatever material there is available that can help us to marvel at God’s wonderful creation—including books and videos of which there are a plenty today.

Unless we hold down the truth in unrighteousness, nature in all its wonders will always point us to our Creator so that we are stirred to praise him from the bottom of our hearts in the way that this psalm enjoins us to. Amen. Ω