We read Psalm 104 last Sunday morning; and I mentioned that we often read it at our Harvest Thanksgiving services, because it describes God’s faithfulness and the ways that he provides for us and for all his creatures. And so, when thinking about which passage to preach from for our evening Thanksgiving Service, I decided to return to Psalm 104.
If you glance back to the beginning of Psalm 103, you’ll notice that Psalm 103 and Psalm 104 begin in the same way. They both begin with the words:
Praise the Lord, O my soul.
This suggests that these psalms belong together as a pair; and whereas Psalm 103 is about praising the Lord because he’s our Saviour, Psalm 104 is about praising the Lord because he’s our Creator. Psalm 103 is about how the Lord delivers us from our sin and misery: so, he’s the one who forgives our sins; he’s the one who heals us of our diseases; he’s the one who will redeem our life from the pit of death; and he’s the one who will crown us with love and compassion and with everlasting life in his presence. So, Psalm 103 is about praising the Lord because he’s our Saviour who redeems us from our sin and misery by his Son. Psalm 104, however, is about praising the Lord and giving thanks to him for making all things and for sustaining all things.
Link to Genesis 1
Many of the Bible commentators have noticed that Psalm 104 follows the order of Genesis 1. In fact, some of the scholars view this psalm as a kind of poetic version of Genesis 1; or it’s Genesis 1 set in verse and put to music. That’s why I read Genesis 1 earlier so that we can compare the two passages and see how they match one another.
So, what happened on Day 1 of the creation week? Well, when God made the heavens and the earth in the beginning, the earth was formless and covered in water and it was dark. But on Day 1, the Lord said: ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light. And the light he called ‘day’ and the darkness he called ‘night’. Well, how does Psalm 104 begin? It begins with the psalmist comparing the Lord to a great king, who is clothed with splendour and majesty, and who wraps himself in light as with a garment. Genesis 1 tells us the Lord created the light; in Psalm 104 we’re told in poetic language how he wears light like a coat.
On Day 2 the Lord created the sky to separate the water above — which is where the rain comes from — from the water below which covered the earth at that time. Well, in verses 3 and 4 of Psalm 104 the Lord is depicted as a master builder who stretches out the heavens like a tent; and the heavens above — which are depicted as God’s upper chambers, or the upper room of his palace — are built upon the waters above the overhead sky.
On Day 3 the Lord separated the sea from the dry land. And having formed the dry land, he commanded that the land should produce all kinds of vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it. Well, in verses 5 to 18 of Psalm 104 we read how the Lord rebuked the waters so that they fled from the Lord and went down into the valleys to the place the Lord assigned for them. This is a poetic way of saying that he separated the sea from the dry land. And he did not leave the dry land as a barren, waterless place, because he also made springs pour forth in order to water the land so that plants are able to grow in abundance as food for animals and people.
On Day 4, the Lord created the sun, the moon, and the stars to separate the day from the night and to mark out the seasons. And so, in verses 19 to 23 of Psalm 104 we read how the Lord made the moon and the sun.
On Day 5, the Lord created the birds of the air and the fish in the seas. And in verse 24 to 26 of Psalm 104 we read how the sea — vast and spacious — is teeming with creatures beyond number.
And on Day 6 of the creation week, the Lord created living creatures on the land: all kinds of animals that move along the ground as well as man in his own image. The Lord made them all. And in verses 27 to 30 of Psalm 104, we read how the Lord opens his hand and feeds the creatures he has made.
And, of course, in Genesis 1, once the Lord had finished his work, he looked at everything he had made and he pronounced it very good. And in the same way, the Psalm ends with the Lord rejoicing in his works. So, we’re to imagine the Lord, looking out over all that he has made, surveying all of his works, and being delighted, because it was all very good.
Psalm 104 is about praising the Lord, because he’s the one who made all things and who sustains all things. And as the Psalmist meditated on what we read in Genesis 1, and as he thought about all that the Lord has made and all that he does for us to sustain us, he was moved to praise the Lord and to give thanks to him.
What I want to do this evening as we look at this Psalm, is to think about three things which arise from this Psalm. First of all, let’s think about God our Creator. Secondly, let’s think about God our Sustainer. And thirdly, let’s think about how this Psalm connects with the great hope the Bible gives for the future. So, God made us; God sustains us; and then there’s God and the future.
God our Creator
And so, let’s think about how God made us. The Bible scholars are aware of an ancient Egyptian hymn of praise which is very similar to Psalm 104. However, the Egyptian hymn of praise is a hymn of praise to the sun, which the Pharaoh at that time regarded as the true god who ruled and reigned over all. Well, the Psalmist makes clear that the sun is not a god to be worshipped, because the sun is only a part of God’s creation. Instead of worshipping the sun, we should worship the Lord, who made all things and who rules and reigns over the heavens above and the earth below.
So, he’s the one who, according to verse 2, made the heavens, stretching them out like a tent. The heavens above seem vast to us; and its such an effort for humans to send spaceships into space to explore the planets. But for the Lord, making the heavens above was so simple it can be compared to erecting a tent. And according to verse 5, he’s the one who set the earth on its foundations so that it can not be moved. In other words, he’s made the world stable and secure so that it’s built to last.
And he’s the one who made the dry land and who has marked out a boundary which the sea cannot now cross. At the end of verse 9, where the Psalmist says that ‘never again will they cover the earth’, he’s perhaps referring to the time of the flood. So, whereas once the Lord covered the whole earth with a flood, he has now promised that he will never again do that; he will never again destroy the whole earth with a flood like that. So, while we have floods today, and terrible floods which cause so much damage, nevertheless they’re always confined to one particular place and they do not affect the whole earth as the great flood did in the days of Noah.
And, according to verse 19, the Lord is the one who made the moon and the sun and the night and the day. So, whereas people have always been tempted to worship the sun, and whereas people often think the stars above determine the course of their lives, so that they’re always checking their horoscope, nevertheless the truth is that the sun and the moon and the stars are all part of God’s creation and they are subject to him and he’s the one who determines what the future holds.
And then, according to verse 24 the earth — which the Lord made — is also full of the creatures he made. And the sea is teeming with life, from the tiniest lifeforms which you need a microscope to see, to the great Leviathan, which was perhaps a mythical creature or it was perhaps the name they gave in those days to a great whale.
God our Sustainer
The Psalmist makes clear that the Lord is the Creator, the one who made the heavens and the earth and all that they contain. But he’s also the one who sustains us, isn’t he? He’s the one who provides us with all that we need.
And the Psalmist makes this clear in a number of ways. In verse 10, for instance, he tells us how the Lord made springs pour forth in order to give water to all the beasts of the field. So, the wild donkeys — and because they’re wild they can’t rely on the farmer to water them — the wild donkeys are still able to quench their thirst, because the Lord provides for them. And the birds of the air are able to make their nests by the waters, so that they too can quench their thirst. And because they’re satisfied, the birds sing for joy. Even the tops of the mountains are watered by God, who sends the rain which falls on them; and the earth too is satisfied by what he does. Then, because he sends the sun and the rain, he makes the grass grow which provides food for the cattle to eat and which provides plants for people to cultivate. And so we’re able to produce food for ourselves: and not just simple food, but wine that gladdens our hearts as well as bread to sustain us. And the Lord ensures the great trees of Lebanon — which were famous at that time — were well watered, so that the birds could build their nests in them. And there’s even a place for the wild goats and these creatures which we read about in verse 18 called conies. The Lord provides food and drink and shelter for all his creatures.
According to verses 19 to 23, the roaring lion looks to the Lord for food. And so, the Psalmist is depicting the lion’s roar as a kind of cry to the Lord for food. And the Lord enables men and women to go out to work and to make a living.
And God’s faithful provision for all his creatures is described in a wonderful way in verses 27 to 30 where the Lord is depicted as a farmer. So, just as the farmer will open his hand and dispense feed to his cattle and sheep, so the Lord opens his hand and gives food to all. And when he gives it to them, they gather it up and are satisfied with the good things he provides. This, of course, parallels what the Lord Jesus said about the Lord’s care for the bird and the flowers. Do you remember? The birds don’t sow or reap or store away in barns; and yet the Lord feeds them. The flowers don’t labour or spin; and yet the Lord dresses them in splendour. So, we may worry about what we will eat or what we will drink or what we will wear, but our heavenly Father knows what we need and he’s able to provide it for us. He makes the sun shine; and causes the rain to fall; he makes the crops grow; and he provides us every good thing we need. If ever he hides his face from us, as the Psalmist says, we’re terrified, because we’re utterly dependent on his provision; and without his aid, we are lost. And so, we’re to look to him and to trust in him for all that we need.
So, the Lord is the one who made all things and he’s the one who sustains all things. He made the heavens and the earth and all that they contain; and he sustains us and he provides for us day after day. The Lord is good to all. And so, the Psalmist began this Psalm with the words:
Praise the Lord, O my soul.
After meditating on all of God’s works, the Psalmist was moved to praise the Lord and to give thanks to him.
In Romans 1 the apostle Paul teaches us that ever since the creation of the world, God’s eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what he has made. This is so because the heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the work of his hand; day after day they pour forth speech; and they say to us and they say to all the world that the one who made all things and the one who sustains all things is great and glorious and worthy of our praise and thanks.
However, not everyone praises him, do they? In fact, most people do not give thanks to him. Why is that? Well, the apostle Paul explains that because of their godlessness and wickedness, sinful men and women have suppressed the truth about God. Though everything around them speaks to them of God’s glory, they push the knowledge of God out of their thoughts; and they suppress the truth about God and about his creation which he has revealed to us. And so, instead of acknowledging the Lord and giving thanks to him for his good gifts, they disregard him and turn their backs on him; and in their sin and rebellion, they even claim that there is no God.
And, of course, this has enormous consequences, doesn’t it? Disregarding the Lord and what he has revealed to us about himself and about his creation has enormous consequences for the way people think about the world and about themselves. Let me mention just three things.
Firstly, it has enormous consequences for how we live and what we do. Let me explain: Since God is the only Creator, then he’s the only one who has the right and the authority to determine the way things are in the world. So, to illustrate what I mean: think of a child who is playing with lego. Since it’s his lego, he can make what he wants. And so he decides to build a house one day; the next day, he decides to build a boat; the next day, he decides to build a space ship. He can build whatever he wants, because it’s his lego and he’s free to do whatever he wants with those bricks. And since the Lord is the only Creator, and the only one who made all things, he’s free to make the world whatever way he wants. So, as we’ve been reading, he’s the one who made the sky to separate the heavens from the earth. And he’s the one who made the sea and the dry land and set a boundary for the sea. He’s the one who made the sun and moon and who oversees the changing of the seasons. And he has the right and the authority to determine these things and to say this is the way it ought to be, because he’s the one who made all things.
And, of course, he’s also the one who determines what is true; and what is right and wrong; and what is good and what is evil. And he has the right and the authority to determine these things and to say this is the way it ought to be, because he’s the one who made all things. But in their sin and rebellion, sinful men and women have suppressed the truth about God and his creation which he has revealed to all the world. And sinful men and women have denied God’s right to say this is the way things ought to be. And instead they believe that they are the measure of all things and it’s up to them to decide what’s true and what’s false; what’s right and what’s wrong; what’s good and what’s evil. It’s up to them. And so, all over the world, people call things good what the Lord declares to be evil; and they call evil those things which he declares to be good. And the result is that men and women have fallen deeper and deeper into sin and into all the misery it causes. They plunge right into it, believing that what they are doing is right and good, even though the Lord who made all things has said that it is evil.
Secondly, it has enormous consequences for human sexuality. We were discussing a couple of weeks ago the subject of homosexuality and transgenderism. What’s at the root of these things? Well, once again these things occur because sinful men and women have suppressed the truth about God and his creation which he has revealed to us. He has determined the way things are; and, when he made us, he made us male and female; and from the beginning he decreed that marriage is between a man and a woman only. But in their sin and rebellion, sinful men and women have disregarded what the Lord has decided, and they believe they can decide what marriage is and what gender is. And the result is that men and women have become confused and mistaken about the nature of human sexuality and they have fallen deeper and deeper into sin and into all the misery it causes.
And thirdly, it has enormous consequences for our sense of meaning and purpose. Since God is the Creator, he’s the one with the right and authority to determine what we’re for and what the purpose of our life should be. And as every child who is brought up on the Shorter Catechism knows, our chief end and purpose in life is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever. That’s what we’re for; that’s why God made us. But in their sin and rebellion, sinful men and women have suppressed the truth about God and his creation which he has revealed to us. And instead they believe it’s up to them to decide what the meaning and purpose of life is. But after disregarding what God has decided, and after relying instead on human wisdom to guide them, the result is only confusion and despair and a sense of meaninglessness, because once someone denies the existence of God, then they will never ever ever come to a true understanding of their chief end and purpose in life, because their chief end and purpose in life is to glorify the God they deny.
And so, God’s good world has been spoiled, because men and women in their sin and rebellion have suppressed the truth about God and about his creation and they no longer know how to live in the world; and they no longer know how to love as they should; and they no longer know what their life is for. In the beginning, when the Lord looked over all that he had made, he rejoiced in his good creation and he rejoiced in all his works. But ever since sin came into the world, his good world, his perfect world, has been spoiled.
And the Psalmist acknowledges this, because right at the end of the Psalm, in verse 35, he says:
May sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more.
The Psalmist is expressing his hope that the day will come when God’s good creation will no longer by spoiled by our sin but will instead be pristine and perfect again.
And this leads us to the hope of the gospel, because in the gospel we learn how God the Son came into this sinful world. And when he came, he came as one of us in order to take the blame for us and to suffer in our place the penalty we deserve for our sin and rebellion. On the cross, he suffered and die for sinners, so that those who believe in him are forgiven by God and accepted as righteous in his sight. And the Lord Jesus who died to pay for our sins, did not remain dead, but he was raised from the dead on the third day. And his resurrection from the dead marked the beginning of God’s new creation.
And all who believe in the Lord Jesus are made new by God’s Spirit who dwells in us, so that even though outwardly and physically we are wasting away as the days go by and as we get older and our bodies wear out, nevertheless inwardly we’re being renewed day by day. Inwardly we’re being renewed day by day in the image of our Saviour, so that we’re able more and more to know and to do God’s will and to turn from evil and to do what’s good.
And day by day we’re looking forward to that great day when the Lord Jesus Christ will return to make all things new. This broken world, which has been spoiled by sin, will be made new. And on that great day, our old, broken bodies will also be made new and glorious like our Saviour’s glorious body.
And then we will live with him for ever and ever, not in this old creation — which has been spoiled by sin — but in a new heaven and a new earth, where nothing sinful will be allowed to enter and nothing will ever be allowed to spoil it.
The Lord Jesus was raised from the dead as the beginning of God’s new creation. Whoever believes in him will be renewed inwardly day by day. When the Lord comes again, whoever believes in him will be renewed outwardly too. And so, we’ll be with the Lord in the new creation — the new heaven and earth — for ever and for ever.
And so listen: that’s why we all need to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, because when the Lord Jesus returns to make everything new, those people who never believed in him and who never gave thanks to him will be condemned by God and will be sent away to be punished forever. But those who believe in the Saviour will be made new and will be with the Lord for ever and ever in his new and perfect creation. So, you need to believe in him in order to receive the assurance of sins forgiven and the hope of everlasting life. And you should give thanks to him for all his good gifts and for all the ways that he helps you and sustains you each day. And you should look forward to the coming of the Lord when those who have believed in him will be brought in to enjoy his new creation. And when he comes, there will be no more sin, no more shame, there will be nothing to spoil the new heavens and the new earth; and for ever and for ever we will praise the Lord.