Psalm 104 – LORD of All Creation
“This Psalm has no title either in the Hebrew or Chaldee; but it is attributed to David by the Vulgate, Septuagint, Ethiopic, Arabic, and Syriac.” (Adam Clarke)
“The Psalm gives an interpretation to the many voices of nature, and sings sweetly both of creation and providence. The poem contains a complete cosmos: sea and land, cloud and sunlight, plant and animal, light and darkness, life and death, are all proved to be expressive of the presence of the Lord.” (Charles Spurgeon)
A. The glory of God’s creation in light, angels, earth, and waters.
1. (1-2) Praising the God of honor, majesty, and might.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, You are very great:
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment,
Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.
a. Bless the LORD, O my soul: Repeated three times in the previous psalm, this phrase is a call to worship God in spirit and in truth, and to do so from one’s inmost being.
b. You are very great: The psalmist worshipped Yahweh as his God, and as the great One who is clothed with honor and majesty. The idol gods of the nations were often described as crude and shameful in their conduct, but Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, is known for His honor and majesty.
i. “The verse sums up the whole of the creative act in one grand thought. In that act the invisible God has arrayed Himself in splendour and glory, making visible these inherent attributes. That is the deepest meaning of Creation. The Universe is the garment of God.” (Maclaren)
c. Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment: God’s honor and majesty are as apparent as a person’s clothing, and so is the light-like purity of His being. Just as the creation in Genesis begins with describing the creation of light, so the psalmist first mentions light.
i. “The patterns are close enough to show that the psalmist had Genesis in mind as he worked on his composition. We will not be far wrong if we think of Psalm 104 as a poetic reflection on the more factual account in Genesis.” (Boice)
ii. “The structure of the psalm is modelled fairly closely on that of Genesis 1, taking the stages of creation as starting-points for praise.” (Kidner)
iii. In a small way, we can understand this idea of light as a garment by consider the appearance of Jesus at His transfiguration: His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light (Matthew 17:2).
iv. 1 Timothy 6:16 says God dwells in unapproachable light. Perhaps this is another description or allusion to light as a garment. “If light itself is but his garment and veil, what must be the blazing splendour of his own essential being! We are lost in astonishment, and dare not pry into the mystery lest we be blinded by its insufferable glory.” (Spurgeon)
d. Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain: God’s power is also apparent as the One who created the vast heavens. Since the Creator is greater than His creation, the God who created the heavens is impressive, indeed.
2. (3-4) The supreme might of God seen in creation.
He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters,
Who makes the clouds His chariot,
Who walks on the wings of the wind,
Who makes His angels spirits,
His ministers a flame of fire.
a. He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters: The God of all creation can build and do what no one else can. He does not share the limitations of the creation; He makes the clouds His chariot and He walks on the wings of the wind.
i. The picture described is full of activity and excitement. “The metaphor of his taking up its parts and powers as his robe, tent, palace and chariot invites us to see the world as something he delights in, which is charged with his energy and alive with his presence.” (Kidner)
ii. “The Lord is surrounded by his servants, whether they be created like the angels or be powers inherent in his created order (winds, lightning). The Creator-King is, as it were, driving his chariot, symbolic of his governance of his creation.” (VanGemeren)
iii. Upper chambers: “The ‘chambers,’ built above the first story of a house for the purpose of privacy and seclusion (cf. 1 Kings 17:19; 2 Kings 4:10), represent God’s involvement with and separation from his world (Amos 9:6).” (VanGemeren)
b. Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire: God also rules over the angels, equipping and commissioning them as it pleases Him.
i. Later, the writer of Hebrews quoted Psalm verse 4 and revealed that the His in that verse refers to the Messiah, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:7). This confirms the deity of Jesus the Messiah, because the angels belong to Him – they are His angels and His ministers.
3. (5-9) The power of God evident at the flood and its aftermath.
You who laid the foundations of the earth,
So that it should not be moved forever,
You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
The waters stood above the mountains.
At Your rebuke they fled;
At the voice of Your thunder they hastened away.
They went up over the mountains;
They went down into the valleys,
To the place which You founded for them.
You have set a boundary that they may not pass over,
That they may not return to cover the earth.
a. You who laid the foundations of the earth: The psalmist understood that God was the Creator of all things, and that it was He who laid the foundations of the earth. It did not happen by chance or random events. There is a Creator behind all things.
i. In some ways, the modern age is significantly defined by man’s rejection of God as Creator. Having abandoned this fundamental truth, humanity drifts without a proper sense of responsibility or accountability toward its Creator.
b. So that it should not be moved forever: What God built, He built well. The earth’s foundations are solid and will not be moved until God Himself moves them.
i. The foundations of the earth: “Upon itself, or its own weight, whereby it stands as fast and unmovable, as if it were built upon the strongest foundations imaginable; which is a stupendous work of Divine power and wisdom.” (Poole)
c. You covered it with the deep: The psalmist had in mind two events. The separation of the waters at creation (Genesis 1:9-10) and the global flood described in Genesis 7. From reading Genesis 7:19-20, the psalmist understood that the waters stood above the mountains (And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered).
i. “Indeed, the process at the creation was so exactly similar to that at the deluge, with regards to the circumstances here mentioned, that it matters not to which we apply the beautiful and truly poetical passage before us.” (Horne)
d. At Your rebuke they fled: When the waters had covered the earth long enough, God made them recede (Genesis 8:3), and the psalmist poetically described it as God’s rebuke of the waters. God’s voice is poetically described as thunder.
i. Centuries later, God the Son would rebuke waters and calm them (Matthew 8:26).
e. To the place which You founded for them: The waters receded to the place God had appointed for them, and He set a boundary for the waters so they could never again cover the earth, as He promised (Genesis 8:11-17).
i. “The waters of the sea are not only prevented from destroying the earth, but, by a wonderful machinery, are rendered the means of preserving every living thing which moveth thereon.” (Horne)
4. (10-13) What God did with the waters of the earth.
He sends the springs into the valleys;
They flow among the hills.
They give drink to every beast of the field;
The wild donkeys quench their thirst.
By them the birds of the heavens have their home;
They sing among the branches.
He waters the hills from His upper chambers;
The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works.
a. He sends the springs into the valleys: In the previous section, the psalmist referred to what God did with the waters of the earth after the flood in Noah’s day. Now he considers how God distributed waters across the land, sending springs into the valleys to give drink to every beast of the field.
b. The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works: The psalmist considered how the water, plants, and animals of the earth each find their place in God’s plan and order. The wild donkeys drink their water, the birds have a home so they may sing among the branches. He saw a good, harmonious world in nature and knew Yahweh was responsible for it.
i. Wild donkeys: “Which he mentions, partly because they are dry and thirsty creatures; and partly because they live in dry and desolate wildernesses, and are neither ruled nor regarded by men, and are most stupid creatures, and yet are plentifully provided for by the care and bounty of Divine Providence.” (Poole)
ii. They sing among the branches: “If these little choristers of the air, when refreshed by the streams near which they dwell, express their gratitude by chanting, in their way, the praises of their Maker and Preserver, how ought Christians to blush, who, besides the comforts and conveniences of this world, are so indulged with copious draughts of the water of eternal life, if, for so great blessings, they pay not their tribute of thanksgiving, and sing not unto the Lord the songs of Sion!” (Horne)
B. The glory of God’s creation in living things, plants and animals.
1. (14-18) God’s wonderful world of nature.
He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the service of man,
That he may bring forth food from the earth,
And wine that makes glad the heart of man,
Oil to make his face shine,
And bread which strengthens man’s heart.
The trees of the LORD are full of sap,
The cedars of Lebanon which He planted,
Where the birds make their nests;
The stork has her home in the fir trees.
The high hills are for the wild goats;
The cliffs are a refuge for the rock badgers.
a. He causes grass to grow for the cattle: The psalmist continued his thoughts on nature, seeing how God provides grass for animals and vegetation for the service of man.
i. “Divine power is as truly and as worthily put forth in the feeding of beasts as in the nurturing of man; watch but a blade of grass with a devout eye and you may see God at work within it.” (Spurgeon)
b. That he may bring forth food from the earth: God designed the ecology of the world so that with work, man may bring forth food. Under God’s blessing and man’s work, the food brought forth is wonderful. God’s earth gives us wine, oil, and bread – each with their own blessing and goodness.
i. Wine that makes glad the heart of man: “Wine, in moderate quantity, has a wondrous tendency to revive and invigorate the human being. Ardent spirits exhilarate, but they exhaust the strength; and every dose leaves man the worse. Unadulterated wine, on the contrary, exhilarates and invigorates: it makes him cheerful, and provides for the continuance of that cheerfulness by strengthening the muscles, and bracing the nerves. This is its use. Those who continue drinking till wine inflames them, abuse this mercy of God.” (Clarke)
c. The trees of the LORD are full of sap: The psalmist had a vision of how healthy and vigorous nature is. He thought of the mighty cedars of Lebanon and how, in their sap-filled health, they give a place where the birds make their nests.
i. They are the trees of the LORD in the sense that no human hand planted them; He planted these mighty trees. “Who ever planted the seeds of the cedars of Lebanon, or of the thousands of woods and forests on the globe? God himself sowed those seeds, and they have sprung up and flourished without the care of man.” (Clarke)
ii. “What would our Psalmist have said to some of the trees in the Yosemite Valley? Truly these are worthy to be called the trees of the Lord, for towering stature and enormous girth. Thus is the care of God seen to be effectual and all-sufficient. If trees uncared for by man are yet so full of sap, we may rest assured that the people of God who by faith live upon the Lord alone shall be equally well sustained.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “You will observe that the word ‘sap,’ is inserted in italics; it is not there in the Hebrew. ‘The trees of the Lord are full,’ or rather, which gives the meaning clearly, ‘The trees of the Lord are satiated – are satisfied – the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted.’” (Spurgeon)
iv. “A traveler tells us that in the wood bark, and even the cones of the cedar there is an abundance of resin. They are saturated with it so that he says he can scarcely touch one of the cedars of Lebanon without having the turpentine or resin of them upon his hands. That is always the way with a truly healthy Christian, his grace is externally manifested.” (Spurgeon)
d. The stork has her home: The birds have their nests, but the other animals have their homes also, including the stork, the wild goats, and the rock badgers. A wise and loving God provides for them all.
i. “The badger is a misnomer for the hyrax, a small and shy rock-dweller (cf. Prov. 30:26).” (Kidner)
2. (19-23) The sun and moon bless the world God created.
He appointed the moon for seasons;
The sun knows its going down.
You make darkness, and it is night,
In which all the beasts of the forest creep about.
The young lions roar after their prey,
And seek their food from God.
When the sun rises, they gather together
And lie down in their dens.
Man goes out to his work
And to his labor until the evening.
a. He appointed the moon for seasons: The psalmist turned his attention to the moon and the sun. They operate according to God’s plan, providing darkness so that all the beasts of the forest creep about.
i. “The moon is named first, because the Hebrew day began with the evening.” (Maclaren)
ii. “Canaanites attributed rain, sunlight, and the lunar cycle to specific deities. For Israel the Lord sovereignly rules over all creation and establishes order by his wise administration.” (VanGemeren)
b. When the sun rises: Just as God provided for the night, He also provided for the day, when lions and other nocturnal animals lie down in their dens. When the lions sleep, man goes out to his work until the evening. All operate according to God’s wise plan for creation.
i. “God feeds not only sheep and lambs, but wolves and lions. It is a strange expression that young lions when they roar after their prey, should be said to seek their meat of God; implying that neither their own strength nor craft could feed them without help from God. The strongest creatures left to themselves cannot help themselves.” (Caryl, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. “And as it would not be convenient for man and the wild beasts of the forest to collect their food at the same time, he has given the night to them as the proper time to procure their prey, and the day to rest in. When MAN labours, THEY rest; when MAN rests, THEY labour.” (Clarke)
3. (24-26) The wonder of the sea God created.
O LORD, how manifold are Your works!
In wisdom You have made them all.
The earth is full of Your possessions—
This great and wide sea,
In which are innumerable teeming things,
Living things both small and great.
There the ships sail about;
There is that Leviathan
Which You have made to play there.
a. O LORD, how manifold are Your works: The psalmist continues in amazement as he looks at nature and creation. He sees it all not as the result of random and purposeless events, but as the wise works of a great God who has right of ownership over all of it (Your possessions).
i. Your works…. Your possessions: “They are all God’s property, and should be used only in reference to the end for which they were created. All abuse and waste of God’s creatures are spoil and robbery on the property of the Creator.” (Clarke)
b. This great and wide sea: The psalmist thought of the greatness of the oceans (in his case, the Mediterranean Sea). The vast waters contain innumerable teeming things, including great and mysterious things such as Leviathan which is also described in Job 41.
i. “There is not in all nature a more august and striking object than the ocean.” (Horne)
ii. Leviathan: “This may mean the whale, or any of the large marine animals. The Septuagint and Vulgate call it dragon. Sometimes the crocodile is intended by the original word.” (Clarke)
iii. “As for Leviathan, a name which can have a sinister ring (see on 74:13-15), he makes his appearance simply as some large and sportive creature, whose very existence glorifies and delights its Maker.” (Kidner)
C. God and the world He created.
1. (27-30) Creation’s dependence upon God.
These all wait for You,
That You may give them their food in due season.
What You give them they gather in;
You open Your hand, they are filled with good.
You hide Your face, they are troubled;
You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
You send forth Your Spirit, they are created;
And You renew the face of the earth.
a. These all wait for You, that You may give them their food: The psalmist considered all kinds of created things from the land, sea, and air. He recognized that they all depended upon God, who provided for them in due season.
i. In due season: “God has a timing for all things, and does not feed his creatures by fits and starts; he gives them daily bread, and a quantity proportioned to their needs. This is all that any of us should expect; if even the brute creatures are content with a sufficiency we ought not to be more greedy than they.” (Spurgeon)
b. What You give them they gather in: God feeds the animals, but does not from heaven pour food into their mouths. He provides, but they must gather in.
i. “When we see the chickens picking up the corn which the housewife scatters from her lap we have an apt illustration of the manner in which the Lord supplies the needs of all living things – he gives and they gather.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “The verb rendered ‘gather’ means to pick up or collect from the ground. It is used in the history of the manna (Exodus 16:1, 5, 16), to which there is obvious allusion. The act of gathering from the ground seems to presuppose a previous throwing down from heaven.” (Alexander, cited in Spurgeon)
iii. This is a wonderful way for God’s people to think of His provision. God provides, but we must gather in. His provision is all around us, and we simply need the wisdom and effort to gather it in.
iv. This principle also has application to evangelism: “God will give us souls if we pray for them, but we must seek after them. When the Lord calls a man to speak in his name, he intends to give him some success, but he must be on the watch to gather it.” (Spurgeon)
c. You hide Your face, they are troubled: Creation is so dependent upon God that if He were to hide His presence or take away their breath, they would soon perish. There is a real sense in which creation is much more responsive and surrendered to God than humanity.
d. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created: The withdrawal of God’s presence or favor means ruin for all creation, but the outpouring of His Spirit means life and renewal.
i. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created: “The Spirit of God creates every day: what is it that continueth things in their created being, but providence? That is a true axiom in divinity, Providence is creation continued.” (Caryl, cited in Spurgeon)
2. (31-32) Blessing the God of all creation.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
May the LORD rejoice in His works.
He looks on the earth, and it trembles;
He touches the hills, and they smoke.
a. May the glory of the LORD endure forever: As the psalmist considered the power and wisdom of God in all creation, it made him long for His glory to endure forever.
i. “His works may pass away, but not his glory. Were it only for what he has already done, the Lord deserves to be praised without ceasing.” (Spurgeon)
b. May the LORD rejoice in His works: The psalmist also wanted God to find pleasure in what He had created. This implies that His creatures that are gifted with rational choice (such as humanity) should deliberately choose to give God reasons to rejoice in His works.
i. “This is perhaps the highest and most daring note in all this wonderful song of praise. So impressed with the glory and wonder and beauty of creation was the singer, that he positively called upon God to rejoice in what He had wrought.” (Morgan)
ii. “As he did at the creation, when he saw all to be good, and very good; so still, it doth God good, as it were, to see the poor creatures feed, and men to give him the honour of all.” (Trapp)
iii. “There is nothing irreverent in this. It is rather an expression of the soul’s profound understanding of what God actually feels in view of His own mighty and marvelous works.” (Morgan)
c. He looks on the earth, and it trembles: The shaking earth and smoking hills may be a reference to God’s manifested presence at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19). These are reminders of the overwhelming power and might of God.
3. (33-35) A determination to praise God in song and in meditation.
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
May my meditation be sweet to Him;
I will be glad in the LORD.
May sinners be consumed from the earth,
And the wicked be no more.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Praise the LORD!
a. I will sing to the LORD as long as I live: This remarkable psalm has little or no focus on God as redeemer and savior. Its focus is on the greatness and goodness of God as displayed in creation. Yet that was enough to make the psalmist determined to say I will sing to the LORD as long as I live. The God of all creation is worthy of our life-long praise.
i. “As far as he was concerned, an entire lifetime of praise would be insufficient to honor God properly.” (Boice)
ii. This again shows the importance of knowing God as Creator. The rejection of God as Creator has had deep and terrible effects upon the hearts and minds of the modern world.
b. May my meditation be sweet to Him: The psalmist understood that God is also worshipped by our thoughts. What we choose to set our mind on is a measure of what we truly value. Knowing the greatness and goodness of God as revealed in creation, the psalmist wanted his thoughts to be pleasing to God.
i. Creation is a wonderful subject for sweet meditation, but we have even greater subjects. “Redemption is a choicer theme for meditation than creation is, for its wonders are far greater.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “The last words ever written by Henry Martyn, dying among Mohammedans in Persia, was: I sat in the orchard and thought with sweet comfort and peace of my God, in solitude my company, my Friend and Comforter.” (Spurgeon)
c. I will be glad in the LORD: We again sense a note of determination. He chose to be glad in the LORD, making a rational choice in light of God’s revelation of Himself through creation.
d. May sinners be consumed from the earth: This seems a strange and solemn declaration in this psalm. Yet it is the logical consequence for those who reject God as Creator. Paul later developed this thought in Romans 1, speaking of the guilt and consequences due to those who reject God as Creator and worship the creature rather than the Creator.
i. “The psalmist is not vindictive in his prayer against the wicked but longs for a world fully established and maintained by the Lord, without outside interference.” (VanGemeren)
e. Bless the LORD, O my soul: The psalmist was compelled to consider the dark consequences due to those who rejected the Creator God, but he could not end this remarkable psalm on a dark note. He ends with another rousing call to His own soul to bless the LORD, and to praise the LORD. This is the fitting response of the creature to the Creator.
i. Praise the LORD: “This is the first psalm which closes with Hallelujah (Praise Jehovah).” (Maclaren)
ii. “This is the first occurrence of hallelujah in the Psalter, and it is significant that it is joined to a prayer for the destruction of the wicked, just as it is in Revelation 19.” (Boice)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org