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Sunday, November 29, 2020

“How Many Are Your Works, O LORD!” [Matt's Messages]

“How Many Are Your Works, O LORD!”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
November 29, 2020 :: Psalm 104

Psalm 104 is a rhapsody about our Creator God.

Psalm 104 is a little different from most of the others psalms we’ve studied this Fall.  It’s a little longer so I won’t be able to share as much color commentary as we read it. 

And it’s also not so much about us, about you and me and other human beings.

We show up in it, and we’re supposed to sing and live it. But we’re not the main focus...and we’re not the secondary focus, either.

Like all of the Psalms, the main focus is the LORD, Yahweh, the God of the Bible. He is the main focus as we shall see and sing.

But unlike other Psalms where we might be the secondary focus, and our relationship with Him be what brings the two foci together, this Psalm is a rhapsody about God’s role in the whole of creation.

That is that the LORD made the whole creation and sustains the whole creation and maintains the whole creation and manages the whole creation and provides for the whole creation and causes the whole creation to thrive.

The whole creation is the secondary focus of Psalm 104.  This song gets totally energetic in celebrating the Creator. 

Psalm 104 is a rhapsody about our Creator God. Which is perfect for this Sunday in Pennsylvania when the seasons come together. We celebrate the harvest coming in, we go out in the woods chasing after wild game, and we wrap ourselves in flannel as winter is around the corner.

We look out on the beauty of the earth that God has made, and we marvel at its Maker.

That’s what this song does. It marvels at the Maker.

I’ve chosen the title for this message from what the songwriter says in verse 24, “How many are your works, O LORD! The earth is full of your creatures.”

The psalmist is astonished at the creative power of Yahweh.

He can’t get over how powerful and wise God is to have made a world like this one so replete with diverse and amazing creations.

And so he sings about it, and I hope we do, too.


Psalm 104, verse 1.

“Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.”

Psalm 104 begins and ends just like the previous Psalm, 103, which we looked at together on Celebration Sunday two months ago.

The psalmist begins by preaching to his own soul and telling his own self to get his praise into gear. But then he immediately begins talking straight to God in prayer. “O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.”

He addresses God as King. He tells Him how regal and glorious and magnificent He is. Yahweh is the Lord on high. Verse 2.

“He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.”

This is exalted poetry. This is not to be taken literally but literarily. It’s exalted poetry to get at the glorious splendor of the King of the Universe.

He wraps himself in light.

That’s His royal robe. Light itself is God’s royal robe!

And He has set up camp; He has set up His throne room above everything.

And He rides the clouds and the wind. He rides the storms. And the wind and the lightning do His bidding. The things that often scare us are simply His servants.

Notice that the psalmist has changed from talking to God to talking about God? He does that throughout this Psalm. He toggles from You to Him, and Him to You.

I’m not sure exactly why he does that, but I think it’s because he’s both praying to God and at the very same time reminding everyone else (including his own self) Who this God really is.

God is the radiant glorious sovereign King over and above everything.

In verse 5, the song goes from the celestial above to the terrestrial below. Yahweh is Lord of both. Verse 5.

“He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. [It cannot be toppled by anyone but Him.] You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them. You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth.”

Now some scholars think that he’s singing about the flood of the days of Noah, and that’s quite possible given the language here.

But I tend to think, with others, that this psalm roughly follows Genesis chapter 1 and he’s singing here about the third day of creation when the Lord told the “water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry ground ‘land,’ and the gathered waters he called ‘seas.’ And God saw that it was good” (that’s Genesis 1:9&10).

The point here in this song is that God told it all where to go...and it went!

Again, this is not scientific, this is poetic and it’s theological.

The psalmist is saying that God did it and nobody else.

All He had to do was speak, and the waters ran away!

And they stay away unless the Lord says differently.

This part of the psalm is talking about the solidity of our world and the reliability of our world.

This is why we can have science in the first place. Because God holds everything together and keeps the right things apart!

We often say, “Well, the sun will come up tomorrow.”

But why? 

It will come up tomorrow because the Lord says so.

The world is reliable because the Lord has made it so.

Verses 10 through 13 tells us more about the water that God supplies. He not only bounds the water, He provides it. V.10

“He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.”

That’s a key word there for this psalm, “satisfied.” It means flourishing. It means thriving.

All of the thriving in the world that comes from life-giving water comes ultimately from the generous hand of God.

I love all of the list of all of the wild creatures that God is providing for.

God doesn’t just care for the domestic creatures, but also all of the ones out there in the wild. God’s work is in places that man does not even live. Does not even know about.

Have you ever thought about that? God sees places in this world that no one else sees, and is even providing water and food for creatures that no one else knows even exist! “The earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.”

The big theological word for this is “providence.” God’s sovereign provision and management of His entire creation. 

Verse 14. And here we finally get briefly mentioned at the center of the song. Verse 14.

“He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate–bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.”

That’s Thanksgiving right there for you.

The Lord provides the grass, the cattle, and the ability to bring in a harvest. So that we don’t just survive, but sometimes we thrive! He doesn’t just provide sustenance but also abundance.

I hope there was a big ole spread on your table this week. We had roasted chicken, and braised red cabbage [with bacon!], and smashed potatoes and Heather’s homemade sourdough bread and Judy Carlson’s sweet homemade applesauce and a cranberry curd tart for dessert!

The heart of this man was “gladdened,” and I know that it all came from the Lord.

And it’s not just we that benefit from God’s providence. Even the trees do. Verse 16.

“The trees of the LORD are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.”
 
The word for “well watered” there is the same word for “satisfied” that we saw in verse 13.

The trees are satisfied! And the birds that live in them. Verse 17.

“There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the pine trees. The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys.”

Do you know what a coney is? Me neither. My wife tells me that they are rock badgers or hyrax. But I don’t know what that is either.

But the Lord does! God knows all about them and provides for them, too.

And these animals are unclean. According to the Law, Israel was not allowed to eat things, but the Lord provided for  them anyway.

Do you get a sense of how great God’s providence is? How far it extends?

This is a great big ginormous glorious world, and it is run by God!

God governs it with order. Verse 19.

“The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down.”

Some scholars have noticed similarities between this psalm and an Egyptian song that worships the Sun the “Hymn to Aten.” But Psalm 104 says that the sun does what the Lord says it ought to do!

“The sun knows when to go down.” Because God is the God over time itself! V.20

“You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl. The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. [Creatures of the night.] The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. [Then it’s our turn.] Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening.”

There is order, there are cycles, there are rhythms to this world because God is a God of order.

There is regularity that we can count on because God is orderly and reliable.

Do you see how this psalm is a rhapsody about our Creator God?!

In verse 24, the psalmist just explodes! “How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number–living things both large and small.”

The psalmist moves from the celestial to the terrestrial to the oceanic.

And He says that God is the God of everything in the sea.

Now, remember, the Hebrews didn’t like the sea. It was chaotic and uncontrollable and scary to them.
But that wasn’t because God was not in control of it, too!

He is the Lord of the high seas, as well. Verse 26.

“There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.”

Probably talking about whales. The “leviathan” was a great frightening formidable sea creature. 

But to God? He is just like a little fish in the fish tank for God to watch play around! You formed leviathan to frolic there!

My son Isaac loves marine biology. He’s taking it as a class right now, and he loves to regale us at the dinner table with all of the amazing diversity of marine creatures out there under the sea.

God knows every one of them. He made them. He watches them play.

And He feeds them. He feeds anyone who gets fed. Verse 27.

“These [all creatures, great and small] all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. [Same word in Hebrew. If anyone is satisfied, however briefly, it came from the Lord. We are totally dependent on Him. V.29]  When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.”

We are totally dependent on this God.

When He opens His hand, we are satisfied.

When He closes His hand, we are done.

He gives, and He takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.

How do we respond to this fortifying truth?

The psalmist escalates this rhapsody to a glorious climax of application at the very end of his song.

After singing about God’s providential care, he breaks out into some powerful prayer requests, each one beginning with the word “may.”

And I think they make fitting applications for us today. V.31

“May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works–he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke.”

#1. MAY THE LORD REJOICE IN HIS WORKS!

It’s all about Him! May God get the glory for making the whole creation and sustaining the whole creation and maintaining the whole creation and managing the whole creation and providing for the whole creation and causing the whole creation to thrive.

And may the whole creation bring Him pleasure!

He deserves it.

He is holy. Don’t miss that. Verse 32 makes it clear that just as God made the world, He can unmake the world just with a look or a touch.

He made this all; He can unmake it.

And one day He will...and then make it all new.

But this is simply a request that God enjoy what He has made.

The psalmist wants God to relish His own work in providence.

And he wants to join Him in that rejoicing.

#2. MAY I REJOICE IN HIS WORKS! Verse 33.

“I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD.”

As I think about what God has done in making all of this, may I sing and sing and sing my heart out in rejoicing in Him.

If God rejoices in His work, how much more should we?!

We should be singing the praises of our Creator God.

We should rhapsodizing about how amazing He is in wisdom for making all of this, and maintaining all of this, and providing all of this.

We should not take it lightly that we have all of this!

Heather and I went up to the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania for our retreat back in October, and we were just astonished at the beauty of autumn with all of the fall colors.

And our hearts just sang!

Because we know Who made all of that.

Let that roll around in your heart so that your meditation is pleasing to Him.

May I rejoice in His works.

#3. MAY ALL REJOICE IN HIS WORKS.

Verse 35 has a twist that I never see coming. It always feels like it comes out of nowhere. Look at verse 35.

“But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more.”

He hasn’t been talking about sinners.

He hasn’t mentioned sin.
He hasn’t mentioned the fall.
He hasn’t mentioned the curse.

He’s been singing about Genesis 1, not Genesis 3.

But we live in a world tainted by Genesis 3.

This song gets sung in a world tainted by Genesis 3.

There is sin. 
There is brokenness.
Things are not all as they should be.

But this song sings of day when everything will be made new again.

A day when everything is right again and the way it should always have been.

And in that day, all of the sin will be gone which means all of the sinners be gone and all of the wicked be gone.

And all that will be left are those who have repented of their sins and embraced the Savior and rejoice in all of the works of the LORD.

I hope that includes you.

May that day come soon.

“O let [us] never forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the Ruler yet.

This is [our] Father’s world:
The battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied.
And earth and heav’n be one.”


So Psalm 104 ends as it began. Verse 35.

“Praise the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD.”


***

Fortifying Truth - Fall 2020

01. Majestic and Mindful - Psalm 8
02. All Our Days - Psalm 90
03. "The LORD on High Is Mighty!" - Psalm 93
04. "The LORD Is My Shepherd" - Psalm 23
05. "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!" - Psalm 103
06. "The Blessing of Aaron's Oily Beard" - Psalm 133
07. "A Dying Thirst for the Living God" - Psalm 42
08. "Our Fortress" - Psalm 46
09. Unrestless - Psalm 131
10. "Sun and Shield" - Psalm 84
11. "With Songs of Joy" - Psalm 126
12. "His Love Endures Forever" - Psalm 136

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