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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 104". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ psalms-104.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 104". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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“This Psalm,” says Calvin, “differs from the last, in that it neither treats of God’s special mercies bestowed on His Church, nor lifts us to the hope of a heavenly life; but painting for us in the frame of the world, and the order of nature, the living image of God’s wisdom, power, and goodness, exhorts us to praise Him, because in this our frail mortal life He manifests Himself to us as a Father.” In the former Psalm God is praised as the God of grace, in this as the God of nature—the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
“In its main outline the poem follows the story of creation contained in the first chapter of Genesis. There manifestly is the source whence the Psalmist drew. Meditating on that sublime description, itself a poem, he finds in it his subject and his inspiration. And yet the Psalm is not a mere copy of the original. Breathing the same lofty spirit, it has a force and an originality of its own. In some respects the Psalm, even more strikingly than the early record, exhibits the infinite greatness, the order, the life of the universe. But the creation of Genesis is a creation of the past; the creation of the Psalm is a creation of the present. The one portrays the beginning of the eternal order, the other its perpetual, living spectacle. Hence, too, the Ode has far more animation than the Record. The latter is a picture of still life; the former is crowded with figures full of stir and movement.” … In the Psalm “we have a picture which for truth and depth of colouring, for animation, tenderness, and beauty, has never been surpassed.”—Perowne.
In the Hebrew the Psalm has no superscription; and there are no means for determining by whom or when the Psalm was composed.
THE MAJESTY OF GOD IN CREATION
The Psalmist expresses his thoughts and feelings in a strain of poetry of unsurpassed sublimity. Underlying the glorious imagery of these verses is the brilliant display in which Eastern princes delighted, in their robes and equipages and attendants. The majesty of the appearance of the Divine King, Jehovah, far exceeds their most gorgeous displays. The Poet sets before us—
I. The glorious vesture of the Lord. “Thou coverest Thyself with light as with a garment.” St. Paul represents the Lord as “dwelling in the light.” And Milton—
“Hail, holy light, offspring of heaven first-born;
Or of th’ Eternal co-eternal beam,
May I express thee, unblamed? Since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light,
Dwelt from eternity, dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate.”
But the reference in the text is not to the unapproachable, the concealing light, but to the revealing light. In the light which daily shines upon us God unfolds to us glimpses of His glory. He apparels Himself with light. There is nothing in the universe so fitted to be the robe of God as light.
1. Light is an emblem of His own nature. “God is light.” “Light unites in itself purity and clearness, and beauty and glory, as no other material object does: it is the condition of all material life, and growth, and joy; and the application to God of such a predicative requires no transference. He is Light, and the Fountain of light material and light ethical. In the one world, darkness is the absence of light; in the other, darkness, untruthfulness, deceit, falsehood, is the absence of God.”—Alford.
2. Light is essential to life and growth. Without it the earth would speedily become one vast sepulchre.
3. Light is pure and purifying. Milton: “Light ethereal, first of things, quintessence pure.”
4. Light is joy-inspiring.
“Prime cheerer, light!
Of all material beings, first and best!”
How fitting, then, for to be the robe of Deity.
II. The splendid palace of the Lord.
“Thou spreadest out the heavens like a curtain,” &c. (Psalms 104:2-3). The heavens are the expanse or firmament which God has spread to divide the waters which are under it from the waters which are above it. And in the waters which are above it God is represented as laying the beams of His chambers, the floor of His palace. His palace He has built above the expanse in the lofty and glorious heavens. He has fixed His abode in the most exalted and brilliant place in the universe. The most stately and magnificent of earthly palaces is mean in comparison of this.
III. The sublime chariot of the Lord. “Who maketh the clouds His chariot, who walketh upon the wings of the wind.” “The clouds appear as the chariot of God, because He drives them about at His pleasure, as a king his car.”—Hengstenberg. Jehovah came “in a thick cloud” at Sinai. God appeared in “a bright cloud” upon Hermon at the Transfiguration. In the last day He will “come with clouds.” On the sublime aspects of clouds, and their fitness to inspire reverence towards God, see a fine passage in Ruskin’s “Modern Painters” (1 Peter 2:0 sec. 3, ch. 4 § 35–38). He “walketh upon the wings of the wind,” controlling and directing them as He will, and they obey Him as horses do an earthly king, except that the winds never contest His authority or deviate from His will.
IV. The wonderful messengers of the Lord. Verse four is of disputed interpretation. Some of the ablest commentators renders it: “Who maketh the winds His messengers, the flaming fire His ministers.” But in this rendering the order of the words is inverted. Perowne: “The natural order in Hebrew, as in English, is verb, object, predicate, and no instance has as yet been alleged in which the predicate stands after the verb before the object. Unless the grammatical difficulty can be removed, we must render, ‘He maketh His messengers winds, His ministers a flaming fire;’ i.e., ‘He clothes His messengers with the might, the swiftness, the all-pervading subtilty of wind and fire.’ ” Alford advocates this view. See Perowne’s “Critical Note” in loco, and Alford on Hebrews 1:7. The Lord has countless messengers. He can use any of His creatures as His servants; and He can clothe His messengers with the attributes of wind and fire. His attendants are characterised by power and celerity, like the “wind;” by purity, like the “fire;” and by pervasiveness, like both “wind” and “fire.” The most numerous and splendid retinue of earthly princes, or all their retinues combined, are as nothing when compared with the countless and wonderful messengers of the Lord.
V. The firm footstool of the Lord. “He laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.” Margin: “He hath founded the earth upon her bases.” “The earth is held as firm by the omnipotence of God, without a foundation, as if it had one; He has given to the earth, which is propped up by nothing, a firm existence, like a building which rests on a solid foundation.”—Hengstenberg. Job: “He hangeth the earth upon nothing.” Milton: “And earth self-balanced from her centre hung.” Ovid: “Ponderibus librata suis,”—poised by its own weight. Yet it is immovably firm and secure. How unsearchable is His wisdom, and how unlimited His power, who thus wonderfully sustains the world! And how glorious is His majesty as manifested in the heavens and the earth!
Our text warrants the following remarks:—
First: The universe is a Divine creation. It is not eternal, not self-originated, not the product of chance or fate; but it is the creation of the Almighty.
Second: The creative energy of the Lord is in continual exercise. The participles denote continued action, and teach us to regard the exercise of the creative energy of the Lord as a present thing. Every morning God, as it were, arrays Himself anew in His robe of light, &c. The Supreme Worker is ever working. Creation is a continuous process.
Third: That the Divine creations are effected with consummate ease. With the same ease with which a man spreads out a tent curtain, God spreads the expanse of heaven—nay, with far greater ease: “He spake, and it was done,” &c.
Fourth: The universe is invested with profound significance. To the devout student it is a revelation of infinite wisdom, almighty power, Divine beneficence, &c.
Fifth: The universe is invested with Divine sanctity. It is the garment of the great God—a scene of Divine manifestation. Rightly understood the earth is a temple, instinct with the presence and resounding with the voice of God. Therefore, “Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord, my God, Thou art very great; Thou art clothed with honour and majesty.”
THE PRAISE OF THE LORD
I. The Lord should be praised with the soul. “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” “The Lord looketh at the heart.”
II. The Lord should be praised because of His attributes. “O Lord, my God, Thou art very great.” We should honour Him not only from motives of gratitude, but from motives of esteem. In Himself He is worthy of all homage.
III. The Lord should be praised because of His work in creation. This is a great hymn of creation. His works in nature are worthy of praise. We should regard them with admiration and reverence for the Great Worker. We do well to celebrate the glories of redemption, but not to the exclusion of the glories of creation.
IV. The Lord should be praised both for what He reveals and what He conceals of Himself. “Thou art clothed with honour and majesty.” Creation is the vesture of Deity. “Nature half reveals and half conceals the SOUL within.” We should be thankful for both the hiding and the disclosing. Both are merciful.
V. That man is best qualified for this service “whose God is the Lord.” “O Lord, my God.” He who trusts in and communes with God will find praise a natural and joyous service.
CREATION A REVELATION OF THE LORD
These verses suggest the following observations:—
I. The work of the Lord in creation displays His absolute power. This is manifest—
1. Over the waters. “At Thy rebuke they fled, at the voice of Thy thunder they hasted away,” &c. (Psalms 104:7-10). His control over the waters is seen
(1) in setting boundaries for them. The Psalmist represents the earth as completely enveloped in water. “Thou coverest it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.” And Milton—
“The earth was formed, but in the womb as yet
Of waters, embryon immature involved,
Appeared not: over all the face of earth
Main ocean flowed.”
At the command of God the water finds its appointed place and is confined there. This is very poetically represented as “the effect of the Divine rebuke and thunder: thrown into a state of tumultuous excitement, the waters quickly again ascend the mountains, their high abode, from which the rebuke of God had brought them down; but unable to keep themselves there they go down to the valley’s, until they find themselves in their proper situation, and enter into the place where God designs them to be.”—Hengstenberg. And there God imprisons them. “Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over, that they turn not again to cover the earth.” Though the waters of the sea are higher than the earth, yet is it confined in its “decreed place” by the command of God. He says, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” The Lord’s control over the waters is seen
(2) in distributing them. “He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. God has wisely and wonderfully distributed the waters, and in so doing has provided for the watering of the earth and the creatures that dwell thereon.” The way in which this is done is among the most wonderful and most benevolent in nature,—by that power derived from heat, by which the waters of the ocean, contrary to the natural law of gravitation, are lifted up in small particles—in vapour—and carried by the clouds where they are needed, and let fall upon the earth to water the plants, and to form fountains, rivulets, and streams—and borne thus to the highest mountains, to be filtered through the ground to form springs and streams below.”—Barnes.
2. Over the earth. “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man.” The fruitfulness of the earth is an effect of the Divine power. The earth, with its mountains and valleys, barren rocks and fruitful fields; the seas and lakes, the rivers and streams; and the heavens, with its wind-driven clouds and its glorious orbs, all display the almighty power of the Creator.
II. The work of the Lord in creation displays His delight in beauty. In this poem of creation the Psalmist brings into view the mountains and valleys, the seas and rivers, the fountains and streams, the herbs and trees, the beasts and birds; and all these contribute to the beauty of the world. That God delights in the beautiful in form and in colour is clearly manifested in His works. It is possible to conceive a world in which utility alone was aimed at, and beauty entirely ignored. But such a world would form a complete contrast to the creations of God. To take only one feature, think of the wonderful beauty and sublimity of the mountains. “Loveliness of colour, perfectness of form, endlessness of change, wonderfulness of structure, are precious to all undiseased human minds; and the superiority of the mountains in all these things to the lowlands is as measurable as the riches of a painted window matched with a white one, or the wealth of a museum compared with that of a simply furnished chamber. They seem to have been built for the human race, as at once their schools and cathedrals; full of treasures of illuminated manuscript for the scholar, kindly in simple lessons to the worker, quiet in pale cloisters for the thinker, glorious in holiness for the worshipper. These great cathedrals of the earth, with their gates of rock, pavement of cloud, choirs of stream and stone, altars of snow, and vaults of purple, traversed by the continual stars!” (See the whole passage, of which the foregoing is only a fragment, in Ruskin’s “Modern Painters,” IV. pt. V. ch. XX. § 3, 4, 5, 9). The beauty of creation
(1) increases our obligations to the Creator;
(2) should incite to holiness, which is spiritual beauty. God’s delight in spiritual beauty is greater than His delight in material beauty.
III. The work of the Lord in creation displays His great law of service. Everything which He has made has its uses. Everything has relations, is dependent, and is designed to be ministrant. The sea is made to serve man by supplying the air with ozone, man with food, &c. Fountains and streams water the earth, and quench the thirst of men and animals. The earth produces food in abundance for man and beast, and wine for the rejoicing of man’s heart. And birds, trees, mountains, rocks, all have their uses. Usefulness as well as beauty characterises all the creations of the Divine Hand.
“Oh! not in vain doth He create
Aught from His affluent love proceeding;
The meanest hath appointed state,
If only for the mightiest’s needing.
The meteor and the thunder-stone
Have use and mission of their own.”
Man is no exception to this rule. We are created by God to serve others. A useless man is a self-perversion of the idea of the Creator. He frustrates the Divine idea of his life. Are we fulfilling our part in the universal law of service?
IV. The work of the Lord in creation displays His regard for all His creatures. Psalms 104:11-18. There is no uncared-for creature. The wild asses, the fowls of the heaven, the cattle, the wild goats, the conies, all are provided for by God. The earth produces the endless varieties and the immense quantities of food required for the creatures that dwell upon it. And in trees, rocks, mountains, &c. they find suitable homes. “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not,” &c. (Matthew 6:26.)
V. The work of the Lord in creation displays His supreme regard for man. “And wine that maketh glad,” &c. God gives to man not only the necessaries but the luxuries of life. Here is “bread” for his sustenance. Here is “wine” for his enjoyment. “Here is wine,” says Matthew Henry, “that makes glad the heart, refreshes the spirits, and exhilarates them, when it is soberly and moderately used, that we may not only go through our business, but go through it cheerfully. It is a pity that that should be abused to overcharge the heart, and unfit men for their duty, which was given to revive their heart and quicken them in their duty.” Here is “oil” expressive of gladness. On festive occasions they were accustomed to anoint their heads with oil. The face is said to shine because the radiancy of joy is seen there. The face shines not because of the “oil,” but because the heart is glad. God gives to man not only support in life, but joy. He manifests special regard for man’s interests. At the Creation He gave him dominion over the earth with all its tenants and all its productions. In Christ He has displayed His interest in human well-being in a still clearer and more conclusive manner.
CONCLUSION.—The subject supplies—
1. An argument for humility. We are dependent creatures. We have no resources but such as are in God.
2. An argument for obedience. We are parts of a great and orderly system, having intimate relations and dependencies, and designed for mutual service. Let us not violate the order and harmony; let us fulfil our service, &c.
3. An argument for gratitude. The Divine regards claim suitable and proportionate acknowledgment.
4. An argument for trust. The Lord cares for “the wild asses”; will He not much more care for man who was made in His own image?—for man, redeemed by the precious blood of His Son Jesus Christ?
THE USES OF THE SEASONS
The Psalmist here refers to the work of creation on the fourth day, as stated in the Mosaic record. The sun and moon were appointed not only to give light, but for the measurement and division of time, and the indication of seasons. Of these, two—night and day—are mentioned, and their uses pointed out.
I. The uses of day.
1. The day is the season of work for man. “Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour.” Labour is a Divine institution, and the day is the fitting time for engaging in it.
(1) Man is urged to work by his necessities. He needs food, raiment, a dwelling; and to obtain these he must work. He has to encounter difficulties, he requires knowledge and skill; and to acquire these he must work. He needs pardon, moral purity, and power; and for these also he must work.
(2.) Man is fitted for work by his faculties. He has arms and hands admirably adapted for labour, brain for mental exertion, and the soul with its wondrous faculties for spiritual effort.
(3) Man is commanded to work by his Maker. Unfallen man was placed in a garden “to dress it and to keep it.” “Six days shalt thou labour” is a Divine command. “This we commanded you, that if any man would not work neither should he eat.” God Himself is the Supreme Worker. “MY FATHER worketh hitherto and I work.” “The law of nature is,” says Ruskin, “that a certain quantity of work is necessary to produce a certain quantity of good, of any kind whatever. If you want knowledge, you must toil for it; if food, you must toil for it; and if pleasure, you must toil for it. But men do not acknowledge this law, or strive to evade it, hoping to get their knowledge, and food, and pleasure for nothing; and in this effort they either fail of getting them, and remain ignorant and miserable, or they obtain them by making other men work for their benefit; and then they are tyrants and robbers.” And Carlyle: “All true work is sacred; in all true work, were it but true hand-labour, there is something of divineness. Labour, wide as the earth, has its summit in heaven.” Again—“The modern majesty consists in work. What a man can do is his greatest ornament, and he always consults his dignity by doing it.” The day is the season for work. Our Lord recognised this fact in His pregnant utterance, “I must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”
2. The day is the season of retirement for wild beasts. “The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.” We see in this
(1) An evidence of man’s original sovereignty “over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” The wild beasts still have some dread of him, and hide themselves in their dens during the hours of the day when he is most abroad.
(2) An arrangement for man’s safety. The sluggard cannot excuse himself from daily labour by saying, “There is a lion in the way.”
II. The uses of night.
1. Night is the season of rest for man. “Labour until the evening.” Man was not fitted for incessant toil. He needs frequent rest. And night is the season marked out by God for this. Its shade is a relief after the brightness, and its cool after the heat of the day. These conduce to sleep; and so man is invigorated for further toil.
“Night is the time for rest;
How sweet when labours close.
To gather round an aching heart
The curtain of repose,
Stretch the tired limbs, and lay the head
Upon our own delightful bed.”
2. Night is the season of activity for wild beasts. “It is night, wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.” Observe:
(1) Their dependence upon God. They seek their food from Him. “The roaring of the young lions, like the crying of the young ravens, is interpreted asking their meat of God.” “The natural cries of the distressed creatures are in substance nature’s prayer to its Maker for relief and help.” Here we have a hint on prayer. If God so interprets the cries of the young lions, shall He not much more regard favourably the broken cries of His children?
(2) God’s provision for them. He makes the darkness in which they go forth in quest of food, and He provides the food for them; otherwise they would go forth in vain. Here is a hint on Providence. Shall the Lord provide for the beasts of the forest, and shall He not much more supply all the needs of His people who trust in Him?
III. The moral uses of the seasons. By them He teaches us—
1. The measurement of time. “He has made the very universe to be the clock of the universe, and admonish every mortal heart of the sure and constant passage of time. We are not left to our inward judgments. Time has its measures without, in the most palpable and impressive visitations of the senses. Every twilight tells us that a day is gone, and that by a sign as impressive as the blotting out of the sun!… One season tells us that another is gone; and, when the whole circle of seasons is completed and returned into itself, the new year tells us that the old is gone. And a certain number of these years, we know, is the utmost bound of life.”
2. The preciousness of time. He appointed the sun and moon for signs and for seasons to “declare to every creature, in every world, the certain flight of time, and signify its sacred value. The gems He has buried in the sands of His rivers; on the gold He has piled His mountains of rock; the pearls He has hid in the depth of the sea; but time,—time is out on the front of all created magnificence.” Thus He silently proclaims to us constantly “that time is the most precious of His gifts.”
3. The fitness of certain times for certain duties. “The tradesman observes the seasons. The husbandman watches them for his life. Whatever we do, must be done in its time. You cannot plant in the winter, nor gather fruit in the spring. God’s times are set, and the seasons of His mercy all ordained from the beginning. There is no time of salvation but the time of God.’ ” 
 See a very suggestive and striking Sermon by Dr. Bushnell on “The Great Time-Keeper.” Genesis 1:14
THE LORD AND HIS UNIVERSE
In these verses there is allusion to the work of the fifth day of creation; and an expression of devout admiration of the number of the works of the Lord, and the wisdom displayed therein. The Poet very clearly sets forth certain aspects of the relation of the Lord to the universe.
I. The Lord as the Creator of all things. “O Lord, how manifold are Thy works!” &c. The Divine creations are here represented as characterised by—
1. Their multitudinousness. “O Lord, how manifold are Thy works!… This great and wide sea wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.” The earth, the air, and the sea all teem with life, in endless variety. The sea with its life is specially mentioned here. In its depths there is abundant life “of things small and great, a life of the coral insect, as well as of the whale, and also a life on its surface, where ‘go the ships’ carrying the thoughts and the passions, the skill and the enterprise of human hearts.”
2. Their wisdom. “In wisdom hast Thou made them all.” Every creature which God has made, in its adaptations to the ends of its existence, presents the most admirable indications of the wisdom of its Creator. How immeasurably great the wisdom represented in the whole of His countless and infinitely varied productions!
3. Their greatness. “This great and wide sea.” To us the earth seems vast, the sea vaster. But when the astronomer discourses to us, we are overwhelmed with the vastness of the heavens, and the earth and sea shrink into comparative littleness and obscurity.
4. Their usefulness. To some persons the sea seems a great waste. It is really far otherwise. It is the great highway of the world, and from its waters man draws a great portion of his food. In all the creations of God there is no useless creature, no useless thing.
5. Their continuity. “Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, they are created; and Thou renewest the face of the earth.” The miracle of creation is constantly going on in the world. Men die, but man remains. “Generation passeth away, and generation cometh.” Life succeeds death. Out of the grave of winter ariseth the bright and blooming spring.
II. The Lord as the Proprietor of all things. “The earth is full of Thy riches”—literally, “Thy possessions.” All things in earth, air, and sea belong unto the Lord. The fact of creatorship establishes the most indefeasible claim to proprietorship. The fact of the Lord’s proprietorship of all things should—
1. Inspire us with gratitude. How bountifully has He enriched us out of His storehouse!
2. Teach us humility. Our utter dependence upon the Divine resources should strip us of every vestige of pride.
3. Encourage our confidence. The resources of the Lord are inexhaustible. Depending upon Him we can never lack support.
III. The Lord as the Sustainer of all things. “These wait all upon Thee, that Thou mayest give them their meat in due season.” All creatures are dependent upon His bounty. He supplieth the wants of all creatures. The Divine support of the universe is marked by three things:
1. Regularity. “He gives them their meat in due season.” As want returns the Divine provision is bestowed.
2. Ease. “Thou openest Thine hand, they are filled with good.” The sustenance of the entire universe imposes not the slightest strain upon His resources. He has but to “open His hand,” and the needy millions are satisfied.
3. Plenteousness. “They are filled with good.” In the dispensation of His gifts the Lord is bounteous. He giveth to all His creatures liberally, and they are satisfied.
IV. The Lord is the absolute Sovereign of all things.
1. In His hand are joy and trouble. He opens His hand, and His creatures are satisfied. “In His favour is life,” and joy. He hides His “face, they are troubled.” Let Him avert His face and withdraw the tokens of His favour, and His creatures are terrified; they are filled with consternation, as of one in the presence of inevitable and utter ruin. His smile is the joy and beauty of the universe; His frown would blast and terrify it into death.
2. In His hand are life and death. “Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, they are created.” When God withdraws His support from any of His creatures, death instantly supervenes. He is “the God of the spirits of all flesh.” All life has its origin in Him, and is in His hand. “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.” Over the birth and death of individuals, over the coming and going of generations, He presides in infinite wisdom and goodness.
CONCLUSION.—What is our acquaintance with this great Being? To know Him simply as Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign, is not enough for us. We have violated the order of the Creator, abused the bounty of the Sustainer, and defied the authority of the Sovereign. But blessed be His name, He who is the Creator of all things is also the Saviour of men. Do we know Him as such? Our most urgent necessity and imperative duty is first to approach the Redeemer by faith; and then, without any faltering of the tongue or misgiving of the heart, we may join in this Hymn of Creation.
VOICES OF CREATION
(Psalms 104:24; Psalms 104:27-28)
There are three preliminary points—First: That this world is not unfavour able to moral culture. The Psalmist is holy on a planet which has been cursed, and even through the darkness of the Divine frown can see gleamings and blazings of true glory.
Second: That all agencies are under the control of an Infinite Intelligence. All forces are under the management of Divine wisdom and paternal love. Our Father knows every tempest that sweeps through the air—notes every dew-drop that quivers on the opening flower—and is acquainted with every breeze that stirs the atmosphere.
Third: That the Divine resources are equal to every exigency. The necessities of nature are endless. In all parts of the universe there are mouths opened, eyes upturned, and hands outstretched to a central Being. And what is His reply to this million-tongued appeal? “Thou openest Thine hand, they are filled with good.” Note the sublime ease which is here indicated. Compare it with the anxiety and fretfulness of man when besieged with numerous appeals. The Divine Benefactor simply “opens His hand,” and the universe is satisfied.
The Psalm suggests—
I. That the Divine existence is to constitute the central fact in all our contemplations of the universe. GOD was the central fact in the Psalmist’s contemplations. This fact serves three purposes—
First: It disproves the speculations of Pantheism. Pantheism teaches the identity of God and nature; but in this Psalm we have more than fifty references, by noun or pronoun, to the existence and attributes of a personal agent. The Psalmist distinctly teaches the existence of a Being who is infinitely above the powers and glories of nature, and for whose pleasure they are and were created.
Second: It undermines the materialistic theory. This theory teaches the non-existence of mind. What we call mind, it denominates a refinement of matter. The entire Psalm, however, proclaims and celebrates the presence of Infinite Mind.
Third: It invests the universe with a mystic sanctity. Everywhere we behold the Divine handiwork. As the architect embodies his genius in the stupendous temple or noble mansion, so has God materialised His wisdom and power in the physical creation. To me the wind becomes sacred, as I remember that it is written, “HE WALKETH UPON THE WINGS OF THE WIND.”
II. That the principle of dependence is everywhere developed in the universe. “These all wait upon Thee,” &c. The Psalmist ignores the presence of “chance,” or “accident;” in his view GOD is enthroned, and the Divine dominion is over all! We infer, then—
First: The existence of an absolutely self-dependent power. Finite conception is totally unequal to the comprehension of such an existence. Our want of comprehension, however, does not affect the sublime doctrine of God’s infinite independence.
Second: The special mission of each part of the universe. The Psalmist in his wide excursion and minute observation detects nothing that is wanting in purpose.
Third: The profound humility by which every intelligence should be characterised. Seeing that we are dependent on God for “life, and breath, and all things,” it becometh us to dwell in the dust of humility. Men of genius! Men of money! What have you that ye have not received?
III. That a devout contemplation of the universe is calculated to increase man’s hatred of sin. Having beheld the symmetry, the adaptation, and the unity of the Divine works, the Psalmist directs his gaze to the moral world, and, beholding its hideous deformity and loathsomeness, he exclaims, “Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more;” as though he had said, “There is one foul blot on this glorious picture; one discordant note in this enrapturing anthem. Let this spot be removed, and the picture will be perfect; bring this note into harmony, and the melody will be soul-enthralling” … I would consume the sinner by consuming his wickedness. Christ came to consume the sinner by taking away the sin of the world.
CONCLUSION.—First: God must be the central fact in your being. Second: What is the highest relationship you sustain to the Creator? You must sustain one relationship to God, viz., that of a dependant. The worm beneath your feet, if gifted with utterance, would say, “I, too, am a dependant.” I call you to be the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. Third: This beneficent Creator also reveals Himself as man’s Saviour. You revere the God of nature; I ask you to accept Him as the God of salvation. Fourth: The extinction of sin should be the good man’s supreme object. “He who converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save,” &c. “They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever.”—Joseph Parker, D.D.—Abridged from “The Cavendish Pulpit.”
THE RENEWAL OF THE FACE OF THE EARTH AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE RENEWAL OF THE SOUL
(Psalms 104:30. “Thou renewest the face of the earth.”)
The renewal of the face of the earth which takes place every spring speaks to us
(1) Of the presence of God. He effects the great and beautiful change. “Thou renewest.”
(2) Of the faithfulness of God. (Genesis 8:22.) Every returning spring is an additional witness to the Divine constancy.
(3) Of the tenderness of God. How tender are the young leaf, the primrose, and the violet! Faintly, yet truly, they mirror forth the tenderness of God. “The Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.” “Thy gentleness hath made me great.”
(4) Of the Divine delight in beauty. All the beauty of the season is an outflow of the Divine beauty; it tells us that God loves beauty, that “God is beauty and love itself.” We regard the renewal of the face of the earth as an illustration of the renewal of the soul.
I. The renewal of the face of the earth succeeds to the dreary and seemingly dead state of nature in winter. Black, bleak, barren, and lifeless is the aspect of the earth in winter. The unrenewed soul is “dead in trespasses and sins.” Apart from the renewing influence of the Divine Spirit there is no beauty, no love, no life in the human soul.
II. The renewal of the face of the earth is marked by life and freshness. Buds, leaves, blossoms, grass, all are fresh and new in spring. The man who has passed from the winter of sin and death into the spring of life and grace is “a new creation, old things have passed away, all things have become new.” He is “created in Christ Jesus unto good works;” he enters upon a new career, having new sympathies, new purposes, new delights, new fellowships, new conduct.
III. The renewal of the face of the earth is very gradual. Only by slow degrees does spring vanquish winter, and cover the earth with the proofs of her gracious reign. So is it with the renewal of the soul. Though the soul is quickened into divine life, yet the full beauty and promise of the spiritual spring will not be manifest until many a battle has been waged with the sinful tendencies and habits that formerly ruled in us. The work of God both in nature and in grace is very gradual.
IV. The renewal of the face of the earth is irresistible. However reluctant winter may be to relinquish his reign in favour of spring, relinquish it he must. So with the renewed soul. Its progress may be very gradual, but it is certain. If the life of grace is in the soul, it will produce the flowers and fruits of grace.
V. The renewal of the face of the earth is initiatory to a glorious season of maturity. Spring prepares the way for the bright and beauteous summer, and the bounteous and beneficent autumn. This is the spring-time of our spiritual life. And God will lead us on into the summer and autumn, into the beauty and perfection of our life. Only we must use the spring-time and its opportunities well. If we would reap bountifully we must sow bountifully.
The most glorious of all renewals is yet in the future. The spring-time of the world is not yet, but it comes on apace. (Isaiah 61:11; Psalms 85:11.) The whole world shall be arrayed in the freshness and beauty of spiritual and divine life.
THE HARMONY OF CREATION RESTORED
The poet brings the Psalm to a close with the expression of the desire that the glory of God may be universal and perpetual. In so doing he presents for our consideration—
I. The glory of the Lord in His works. “The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever,” &c.
1. He manifests His great power in His works. “He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth; He toucheth the hills, and they smoke.” When the Lord came down upon Sinai “the smoke ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.” So great are His majesty and power that He has, as it were, merely to look upon the earth, and it is awed and fearful before Him; He has but to touch the mountains, and they smoke as with His wrath. By His omnipotence He sustains the universe, and in a moment He could blot it out of existence.
2. He realises joy in His works. “The Lord shall rejoice in His works.” When He created the world, He looked upon His works with complacency, and pronounced them “very good.” He still rejoices in the order, beneficence, and beauty of His creations. In His redemptive works also He realises great joy.
3. He is praised by His intelligent and loyal creatures. “I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.” With joy the godly man resolves—
“I’ll praise Him while He lends me breath;
And when my voice is lost in death,
Praise shall employ my nobler powers:
My days of praise shall ne’er be past,
While life and thought and being last,
And immortality endures.”—Watts.
4. This glory is perpetual. “The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever.” The glory of man and of his works passeth away, but the glory of the Lord shall continue and increase for ever.
II. The joy of the righteous in the Lord. “My meditation of Him shall be sweet; I will be glad in the Lord.” Hengstenberg: “May my meditation be acceptable unto Him.” Perowne: “Let my meditation be sweet unto Him.” The desire of the Psalmist is that his meditation on the works of the Lord may be an acceptable offering unto Him. He rejoiced in the Lord. All his joys centred in the Lord. Such joys are pure. They are one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22.) Strengthening. “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Constant. “That My joy might remain in you, and your joy might be full.” “Your joy no man taketh from you.” Perpetual. “In Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” “This is the truest, highest harmony of creation; God finding pleasure in His creatures, His reasonable creatures finding their joy in Him.”
III. The desire of the righteous concerning the wicked. “Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more.” The glorious harmony of creation “has been rudely broken; the sweet notes of the vast instrument of the universe are ‘jangled out of tune.’ Sin is the discord of the world. Sin has changed the order (κόσμος) into disorder. Hence the prophetic hope that sinners shall be consumed, that the wicked shall be no more, that thus the earth shall be purified, the harmony be restored, and God once more, as at the first, pronounce His creation ‘very good.’ ”—Perowne. The eradication of evil should be the earnest desire of every good man. (See the remarks of Dr. Parker on this point in his sermon on “Voices of Creation,” on a preceding page.)
CONCLUSION. Here is a glorious prospect. The broken harmonies of creation shall be restored. The “Very good” of ancient time shall again be heard; and heard over a world never more to be marred by sin. For the realisation of this prospect let us pray and labour.