A La Carte (10/3)

Hospitality and the Great Commission – “You know what the key to evangelism in the 21st-century will be, don’t you?’ He wasn’t talking Global South, but the Western hemisphere — and America in particular. I&#8217…

A La Carte (10/3)

Hospitality and the Great Commission – “You know what the key to evangelism in the 21st-century will be, don’t you?’ He wasn’t talking Global South, but the Western hemisphere — and America in particular. I&#8217…

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Tweetables on Abortion, Remembering, Writing garbage, Self-promoting, God’s Economy

Why most women hate women’s conferences

Avoid women’s seminars like the plague? So does Elyse, generally. And she’ll be speaking at Mars Hill Church at the end of this month.
Part of what I’m privileged to do for the Lord involves attending women’s conferences. I att…

What is Kingdom-Focused Prayer?

Henry was an ornery agnostic. His wife, Eunice, was a devout Christian. They lived in a farming community, where a yearlong drought was devastating the local economy. At the request of many of the farmers, the pastor of a local church called the commu…

Office Hours: Steve Baugh on Hebrews 1

The theme for Season 4 of Office Hours is “Hebrews: Jesus is Really Better.” Steve is Professor of NT at Westminster Seminary California. He teaches our course on Hebrews and has been studying . . . Continue reading →

Dangerous Calling

Paul Tripp talks about the unique dangers of pastoral ministry.

Two Audio Recommendations… Along with a Bar of Soap

I’ve got a couple audio recommendations.  Both are shocking, though for different reasons. In the case of Douglas Wilson’s relatively recent talks on human sexuality at IU Bloomington, the event proved nothing short of shocking, not so much because of what he said, but how his comments were received.  I could try to describe how […]

A God Who is Mighty in Wisdom and Power: An Exposition of Psalm 104:24-30

     I have always loved nature, when I was a small child I would cry because the wild deer would run away from me. The fact that they did not understand I meant them no harm and merely wanted to be their friend was a constant anguish to my young heart. However, though I loved nature, I rarely thought about from whence it came or how it came about; it was simply always there.  
     This psalm has been my favorite for as long as I can remember, I loved it even before I could read it for myself. Though I used to love it purely because of the Leviathan and the Rock Badger. As I grew a little older and I was able to read and understand for myself, I began to see this psalm in a new light. I began to think about from where this wonderful nature came and how mighty and powerful God was to bestow such a wonderfully glorious world on little old me.
     I still love nature, but now it affects me in a very different way. The sight of a purple tulip in spring will still bring a smile to my lips, but it also reminds me of how wise God is in all the intricacies of creation, and how short I fall in all my attempts to understand all His powerful works.
24 How many are your works, Lord!

In wisdom you made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.  

In the previous verses, the Psalmist praises God for the individual wonders He had made. Throughout verses 10 through 23 he paints a gorgeous picture of nature, with all her little facets. These characteristics display the caring nature of God as He accounts for and takes care of every aspect of His creation. Verse 24 comes, almost as a doxology, after this eloquent ode to God’s creative and sustaining powers as if the psalmist is unable to contain himself and must burst out in awe and amazement of God. After thirteen verses of systematically unfolding all the ways in which God upholds creation, the psalmist summarizes his entire thesis in one small verse.

How many are your works, Lord! The psalmist is stumped; at this moment he has nothing left to say. He realizes that if he tries to catalogue all the ways in which God works he would still be at it today! The only thing left for him to do is cry out in wonder at the majesty of God. 

In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. This declaration is another statement testifying to the greatness of this mind-blowing creation in which the psalmist finds himself. Not only are God’s works numerous but they are also made in God’s wisdom. We live in the midst of a creation that was created with the divine and perfect wisdom of an all-powerful God. In this verse, creatures do not merely mean the wild panda bears, or the cuddly kitten that is curled up at your feet but, we humans, are included in this list of God’s creatures. Not only are we one of His creations but we are also made in His image and bear His characteristics. We are able to reason and cultivate wisdom, unlike the dumb horse, we are able to commune with fellow humans in a small imitation of the way God communes with Himself, we are able to receive the Sprit of God which brings us not only physical animation, but an immortal soul which is able to one day enter into the presence of the everlasting Creator.         

25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,

teeming with creatures beyond number—

living things both large and small.  

26 There the ships go to and fro,

and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. 

In these verses, the psalmist has once again found his voice and continues to survey the ways in which God has worked in the world. In the previous verse the psalmist states that the earth was full of God’s creatures, here he states that the sea also teems with those He has made. In case the hearer or reader of this psalm missed the psalmist’s point that the whole of the world, earth, sea and sky, were positively filled to the brim with declarations of the existence of God, he lays it out plain and simple. By going from one area, the earth, and then to another, the sea, the psalmist explains the all-encompassing creation in such a way that lets even little children in on what he has experienced.

This psalmist is a master at painting huge pictures that then narrow down to focus on a single image which represents the whole. A ship, a rather common image, is seen traveling on these waters which he has just described as crawling with creatures and is representative of the entire human race. In just one half of a sentence, the psalmist includes humanity in this picture of God’s handiwork, and in the other half of the sentence the entire sea is symbolized in the single image of the leviathan.

27 All creatures look to you

to give them their food at the proper time. 

28 When you give it to them,

they gather it up;

when you open your hand,

they are satisfied with good things. 

The theme of food is rampant throughout this psalm. Earlier, in verses 14-15 and verse 21, the creatures of God are provided with food from the earth, cultivated by the very hand of God Himself. And again in these verses he states the all creatures, not just dumb beasts or man, are satisfied unto satiety with good things by the hand of God. The psalmist brings the common act of eating to our attention and reminds us that without the hand of God opening and providing us with our daily bread, we would never be supplied with our needs. Not only is the psalmist reminding us of our total dependence on God for our every need, he is also reminding us of what God has done in the past.

For an Israelite, the thought of gathering up food provided directly from the hand of God would not be so nebulous an idea. In the desert wilderness where the sons of Adam wandered for forty years, the people gathered to their satisfaction “manna,” the food of heaven, which appeared on the ground every morning. Every small Israelite child would know this story and about how God had provided for his forefathers.

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Deuteronomy 8:2-4

29 When you hide your face, 

they are terrified;

when you take away their breath,

they die and return to the dust.  

30 When you send your Spirit, 

they are created,

and you renew the face of the ground.

     These two verses serve as an antithesis to the two verses that come before. In verse 27 all creatures turn their faces to God in humble dependence on Him for food and in verse 29, when God hides His face from them, they are utterly terrified, terror-stricken, and convulsed. Even the humble beast without a soul or an understanding of God’s plan of redemption is left in a state of total despair and inner chaos when the face of its Creator is hidden from him. How much greater is the inner anguish found in the soul of one who has blatantly rejected the hand of grace?

When you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.  

Verse 29b continues to carry the antithetical parallel to verse 28. The hand of God abundantly gives food which sustains, but that very same hand can take away the breath of life. This seems unfair. Why does God provide food in abundance for some and hardly enough to sustain life for others? Only one sentence is needed to answer this question: because God is holy and merciful. God’s holiness means that the instant sin entered the world creation was condemned to die. For God to be holy means that nothing unholy can be tolerated in His presence. The whole wild and beautiful earth that is God’s creation was turned in an instant from a blooming paradise into an inferno filled with writhing sin. In light of this, the proper questions to ask are not, “why doesn’t God bless everything equally?” but rather “why does God bless anything at all?” Why are we sitting here writing articles and in turn reading them? Why are we privileged to have a life sustaining sun? Why are we alive and breathing at all? This is due completely to His mercy.

     When the blackness entered the wonderful creation and turned paradise into a breeding ground for festering wounds, God could have easily, beyond easily, turned right around and let fall His sustaining hand. But He didn’t; He had a plan from the beginning of eternity to save mankind, and in doing so, He brought Himself glory. Why did He do this? Why did He decide to save a withering creation at the cost of His Son? There is no answer for that besides His mercy, His compassion towards those He calls His own, and His forgiveness for those who call Him God. Never again can you dare to call God “unfair,” the very fact that we are alive means that God is “unfair.”

     When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.

     In God’s goodness He didn’t just leave the earth as it was, to spiral downwards into oblivion. Not only did He decide to continue to sustain the earth, but He decided to renew it. He didn’t merely let the former die and be done with it all, but He also sends His very Spirit to bring renewal again to the earth. Through the Spirit that is sent from His hands the old passes away and a new generation covers the earth. Not only is the psalmist presenting a fundamental characteristic of God in this verse, that He is a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, (Exodus 34:6) but he is also harkening back to a renewal God had performed in the past. He is reminding us of the story of the destruction of the earth and the renewal of the covenant of grace through Noah.

     For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. Genesis 6:17-18   

     Again and again the psalmist brings the reader or hearers attention to the seemingly ignored things of life. The beauty of the leviathan playing in the seas, the magnificence of the unshakable earth, the tall trees that provide food for one and shelter for another, the life which comes from the hand of God, and finally, how mighty and wise is the Creator of all.

When Reading, Singing, or Praying this psalm:
  • Acknowledge that God is Holy, Wise and Powerful.
  • Realize that the mighty God who is full of power is also a loving God full of mercy.
  • Understand that your life here on earth is a gift and not to be taken for granted.
  • Comprehend that this perfect God is willing to save reeking sinners.
  • Pay attention to the small things in life. Don’t rush by a perfect sunset en route to “more important things.” Stop and realize the blessing the sun is in our lives. 

Ask yourself:

  • Do I see the Creator through creation, or do I merely acknowledge His works?
  • Death is the only sure thing in life; how can I remember that God knows even when the smallest sparrow falls?
  • Though the world is full of people, how can I accept that each life is a miracle?
  • Do I resent that only God can sustain my life?
  • How can I bring renewal to those around me by sharing the gospel?
  • How can I study God’s word to better understand Him?