Psalms For Life
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Psalm 104

God of all creation

God isn’t sequestered in some remote corner of the galaxy. He’s more involved here than we are. Worshipping our Maker-sustainer, we must cherish creation and care for its goodness just as he does.

Worship YHWH, my soul within me!
How awesome you are, YHWH my God
robed in honor and majesty!
2 You’re robed in incandescent light
you who stretched the heavens out
overhead like a tent.
3 He set the beams of his exalted home
on the primordial sky-sea
and made storm clouds his chariots
riding on the wings of the wind.
4 He appointed the winds as his messengers
lightning bolts his ambassadors.

5 He set the earth on such a firm foundation
that nothing can ever shake it.
6 You draped ocean over it like a robe
covering its mountains with water.
7 Then at your rebuke the waters fled:
the crash of your thunder made the waters retreat
8 with mountains rising and valleys sinking
to the level you’d assigned for them.
9 You set a boundary the waters couldn’t cross
so they’d never cover the earth again.
10 You release springs that gush into streams
flowing out between the mountains
11 enabling wildlife to drink their fill
wild donkeys to quench their thirst.
12 Birds happily nest in the nearby trees
filling their branches with song.
13 From his heavenly home
he waters the mountains
filling the earth with the fruit he produces.

14 You make grass grow for livestock to eat
and plants for farmers to cultivate
producing food from the earth:
15 wine bringing joy to people’s hearts
oil making their faces glow
bread giving them the strength to go on.
16 YHWH’s trees are well watered
the cedars he planted in Lebanon.
17 Birds make their nests there
storks in the tops of the fir trees.
18 The mountain heights are home to wild goats
and coneys shelter there too among the crags.
19 He made the moon to mark the seasons
the sun that knows when to end each day.
20 When you make it dark night falls
letting all the animals in the wild prowl about.
21 When powerful lions roar for their prey
they’re seeking their food from God.
22 Then as the sun rises
they head back to their dens
to sleep the day away
23 just as people head out
to the work that occupies them until dark.

24 What diversity
you’ve imbued the created order with, YHWH!
What wisdom and ingenuity
is behind all the creatures
you’ve filled the earth with!
25 There’s the ocean
deep and wide
teeming with all sorts of lifeforms
great and small.
26 Ships ply its waters too
while the Leviathan deep dives there
the sea monster you created to frolic with.
27 All the creatures you’ve made look to you
to give them their food when it’s time.
28 They take whatever you give them:
you open your hand
and they eat their fill of nourishing food.
29 But they panic when you turn away
and when you withhold their breath
they perish and return to dust.
30 Then breathing your breath anew
you create new life
renewing everything on earth all over again.

31 May YHWH’s glory endure forever
and YHWH delight in all he’s made!
32 He merely glances at the earth
and it trembles.
His hand only grazes the mountains
and they smoke.
33 I’ll sing to YHWH my whole life long
sing praise to my God till I breathe my last.
34 May all my thoughts please YHWH
as I delight in him.
35 May those who rebel against God
be thoroughly displaced
till there’s no more wicked people
living carelessly anywhere on earth.
Worship YHWH, my soul within me!
Hallelujah!


Like Psalm 103, this psalm starts and ends with the psalmist’s self-summons to worship the incomparable YHWH. With her* overarching message that everything God has made is good, she celebrates his active participation in creation, right from the start. In poetic, not scientific, language, she shows God harnessing the elements he made—floodwaters, clouds, wind, lightning, all forces at Baal’s command in Canaanite mythology. YHWH does everything for good in a creation he’s filled with beauty and birdsong.

While the Israelites’ neighbors worshipped the sun and moon, YHWH appointed these celestial bodies only to mark seasons and days. God opens springs, plants sturdy cedars, and gives us food for our animals, wine’s enjoyment, olive oil’s healthful glow, and bread’s nourishment. God waters his trees, providing homes for birds. He feeds and rules over wildlife and humans alike, as each seeks their provision within the ecosystems he established. And far from being treacherous, the vast open sea is God’s backyard pool, Leviathan his water toy! Everything points to God’s wisdom and delight in his creation.

Though it’s never to be worshipped, creation is God’s handiwork, given to us in sacred trust. So the psalmist wants to live wholly for her incomparable God—as if creation belongs to him personally, which it does. And she prays for the day when God renews the earth, making it a place where everyone exercises the same kind of care for God’s creation as he does.

I marvel at your creation’s brilliance, Jesus, and rejoice in its rich bounty. Help me to do my part to steward creation wisely, knowing you’ve given it to us in trust. I worship you as I await the day when you renew the entire cosmos and your will is finally done perfectly on earth. Amen.

During your free moments today, pray these words:

Worship YHWH, my soul within me!
How awesome you are, YHWH my God
robed in honor and majesty!

 

*I imagine the psalmist here as a woman of faith, like Miriam, Deborah, Hanna, or the Virgin Mary (see further, my answer to the question: Who wrote the psalms?).

Why YHWH?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH or YHVH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and sometimes transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Likewise, all modern translations either translate or transliterate it. Some other options for translating it are “the Eternal,” “the Almighty,” or “the Sovereign Lord.”

While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it seems to me more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. This roots it more firmly in the biblical story as the name God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. Meaning “the self-existent One who answers to no one,” the name YHWH set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. I’ve chosen to transliterate only YHWH’s consonants since the earliest Hebrew manuscripts contain only consonants, the vowels being added much later. My aim in doing so is to honor God’s name and set it apart, as unique.

One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it out of reverence. (They read Adonai instead whenever they come to YHWH in the text.) I take the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard, who advocated pronouncing it as Yahveh (Yah·vay). He favored that over the standard Yahweh since the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish. It also makes it sound more robust, period.

Finding strength in the ancient psalms

May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.