In 1848, Cecil Frances Alexander wrote the words to the hymn we know as “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” This great hymn reminds me of the tone and text of Psalm 104. The hymn’s chorus says,
“All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful,
the Lord God made them all.”
Then it goes on to specify what God has done, with verses like
“The purple-headed mountain,
the river running by,
the sunset, and the morning
that brightens up the sky.”
In much the same way, we are reminded in the hymn we know as Psalm 104 that our Creator God “set the earth on its foundations.”
The writer of Psalm 104 gives us a sense of the interrelatedness of God’s creation. God has a plan; from the waters rushing from the mountains to the valleys to feed the animals and us human beings, to the cattle eating the grass cultivated by man, along with other foods and wine and oil “and bread to strengthen man’s heart.” God also waters the trees and cares for the birds. Everything has its place in God’s good creation. God not only made it all happen “in the beginning,” God is the caretaker of it all.
This is important news for Israel and her neighbors. Ancient civilizations had many “gods” that ruled each day. Egypt, Persia, and Rome each had their own gods for the sun, the harvest, fertility, local dwellings, and more. Psalm 104 makes it clear that Yahweh, the God of the Israelites, is a one-stop God. No others are needed. God, indeed, makes this very clear in the commandments given to Moses: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
In the psalmist’s list of things that happen as a natural part of creation, we find verse 23: “People go out to their work and to their labor until the evening.” We are part of God’s plan to care for creation. In Genesis 1, humans are told to “have dominion,” but that does not mean that creation belongs to us.
In Psalm 24, humans are given a more supporting role. This affirmation continues in Psalm 104. The heavens and the earth belong to God, who is still creating. Yet, we are in a relationship with God, adding our work and labor to care for what God has created. What might this mean for our relationship with the land, rivers, and oceans, with the air, plants, animals, and each other? As part of creation, we are to join with God in caring for and tending creation.
The psalm begins and ends with praise. “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” The worship of the Lord is the source of our strength for all our labor, our starting point for each new day.
Questions for thought
- How often do we see ourselves as separate from God’s creation, independent and self-sufficient?
- What choices in our lives give us that impression?
- How can we be more intentional about how we care for God’s creation?
God of heaven and earth, God of butterflies and bees, we acknowledge and appreciate all that you continue to create and to manage out of your great love. Show us the work you would have us do with you, and empower us to make it happen. Amen.
This Bible study comes from Shine: Living in God’s Light,
the Sunday school curriculum published by Brethren Press and MennoMedia.