1 Kings 18; 1 Thessalonians 1; Ezekiel 48; Psalm 104
“O LORD MY GOD, YOU ARE VERY GREAT; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.” So we read in the opening verse of Psalm 104. In this psalm the evidence of the Lord’s greatness is bound up with the created order. Some reflections:
(1) In the opening verses (Ps. 104:1-4) the string of metaphorical touches is revealing. God wraps himself in light; he stretches out the heavens like a tent; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; he makes winds his messengers. Pantheism merges god with the universe; robust Christian theism not only makes God separate from the universe as Creator is to creation, but in these metaphors suggests that God delights in what he has made. The mood is not only exalted, but almost playful. If pantheism is ruled out, equally there is no scope for deism. The created order is alive with God’s presence as he delights in what his hands have made.
(2) In this psalm there is a strong emphasis on the way all of life depends on the sustaining providence of the Almighty. God makes springs pour water down ravines, and in consequence the beasts of the field drink, trees grow, birds of the air nest in the branches (Ps. 104:10-12). God is the One who makes grass grow for the cattle, and makes other plants for human consumption (Ps. 104:14). The lions roar and seek their food from God (Ps. 104:21). As for the sea, with its teeming millions of life forms, “These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time” (Ps. 104:27). The sheer abundance and diversity of life forms testifies to God’s imagination, power, wisdom, and incalculable wealth. Life itself is sustained by God’s sanction. If he takes away their breath, they die (Ps. 104:29-30). The assumption is not the animism of the pagan world. There is an orderliness to the whole (note the rhythm of light and dark, Ps. 104:19-24) that makes science possible. But God never withdraws from active, providential rule over every single element of the universe’s operation, with the result that it is not only appropriate but essential to confess that all of life is daily dependent on God for its quotidian supply of food.
(3) All the created order elicits delighted and faithful praise from the unnamed psalmist (Ps. 104:33). There is just a hint that we ought to be thinking about God in these terms; we want our meditation to be pleasing to him (Ps. 104:34). And before the closing lines of praise, there is a quiet reminder that despite the glory and beauty of the created order, sin has made this more of a war zone than a museum or a choir (Ps. 104:35).