Summary: May 19, 2002—The Day of Pentecost Psalm 104:25-35, 37. Color: Red Title: “A Psalm of symmetry, ecological balance and majesty of creation.”
May 19, 2002—The Day of Pentecost
Psalm 104:25-35, 37.
Title: “A Psalm of symmetry, ecological balance and majesty of creation.”
This is an individual Hymn of Praise, offered in the course of Temple worship, probably at the Autumnal harvest festival, given its theme of creation. It comprises “reflections,” upon Yahweh’s mighty power and loving care. It is a poem celebrating the order, symmetry, ecological balance and majesty of creation.
This psalm has much in common with the first account of creation in Genesis 1-2:4a with its “seven day,” structure. Compare the first day, the creation of light, with verses one and two (a); the second day, the creation of the firmament, with verses two(b) to verse four; the third day, the separation of heaven and earth, with verses five to nine; the fourth day, the creation of sun, moon and stars, with verses nineteen to twenty; the fifth day, the creation of fish, with verses twenty-five to twenty-six; and the sixth day, the creation of animals and humans, with verses twenty-one to twenty-three and verses twenty-seven and twenty-eight. Compare the seventh day, the day of rest, with verses thirty-one to thirty-five. The psalmist did not copy from Genesis or have a copy of it in front of him. In fact, his reflections are much more profound and poetic, reflecting not the facts of what God made in the past, but how he continues to act in the present. Psalm 104 stresses and addresses God the Creator more than creation itself, his compassion more than his omnipotence.
The Jewish people sung this psalm on Yom Kippur as they began a new year in repentance for past sins. The Church sings it on Pentecost, as she begins a new year, celebrating the forgiveness of sins.
THE CREATION OF THE HEAVENS
Verses one to four 1 Bless the LORD, O my soul.
O LORD my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
2 wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
3 you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,
you make the clouds your chariot,
you ride on the wings of the wind,
4 you make the winds your messengers,
fire and flame your ministers.
The psalmist expresses his wonder and awe at the greatness of the God he worships. He paints a picture of Yahweh, clothed in the royal finery of his creation-light, clouds, wind, fire, creating the heavens like a tent covering the earth. In verse three, you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,you make the clouds your chariot,you ride on the wings of the wind,
The Hebrews pictured the world as a three-storied house. The first floor was the earth, surrounded by water; the second floor, the heavens, a firmament keeping the waters above it in check; and the third floor, more water. God lived above that, in his palace, and Sheol, the abode of the dead, was in the basement.
THE CREATION OF THE EARTH
The creation of the earth is seen in terms of the ancient myth of the battle between order and chaos, good and evil. The primeval waters, chaos, are commanded by the “roar,” thunder, of Yahweh to retreat to their assigned boundaries, thus enabling the dry land, based on foundations sunk into the cosmic sea, to subsist. Earth is surrounded by water, the potential enemy of terrestrial life, on all sides, above and below. Yahweh harnesses these powers, once only destructive, for his own purposes, enabling them to be a means of life and sustenance. Instead of overwhelming the earth, they are now made to serve the creatures of God.
THE CREATION OF LIVING BEINGS in verses ten to eighteen.
Yahweh, having conquered the deadly water-chaos and turned it into fountains of life that refresh the animals of the field and birds of the air, has graciously arranged it that this water produces growth of trees and plants. The plants provide food for living beings, animal and human. He did not just create them; he sustains them in being and life by nourishment and breath.
In verse fifteen, wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart.
Oil, but one of God’s many wise gifts, is used for a variety of purposes. It could be applied for the skin’s protection, or for healing. It could be used in sacrifices, in anointing, as a sign of gladness, as fuel for lamps, and for cooking. Along with grain bread and grapes wine, oil was considered one of the staples of life.
In verse eighteen, high mountain…wild goats: God has found a use for even the most inaccessible places, useless to humans, but a home for wild animals. In God’s creation there is a purpose and a place for everything and everyone.