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God’s Word for You

Psalm 104:5-18

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, May 29, 2018

In this part of the psalm, the writer brings us back to the Third Day of creation, to look both at the creating that took place on that day, and on the things that were created—the land with its formations, the grass, the plants—and he even places some of the animals (which didn’t come until later) into the scene to complete the picture.

    5 He set the earth on its foundations;
      it can never be moved.
    6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
      the waters stood above the mountains.
    7 But at your rebuke the waters fled,
      at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
    8 they flowed over the mountains,
      they went down into the valleys,
      to the place you assigned for them.
    9 You set a boundary they cannot cross;
      never again will they cover the earth.

Just as the Lord himself was wrapped in light “as with a garment” in verse 2, so the earth itself is covered with the deep “as with a garment.” On the Third Day of creation, God set down the limits of the sea and brought dry land up from under the ocean. The “boundary” of the sea cannot cross is most apparent in Israel itself. If a person stands on the heights overlooking the Sea of Galilee, he can still see the Mediterranean Sea (which is at sea level), and below him, hundreds of feet below sea level, the thirteen-mile long lake we call the Sea of Galilee. Farther down the Jordan, 1300 feet below the level of the sea—the lowest place on earth a person can stand without being beneath the sea—is the deep trough of the Dead Sea. These places are just a few miles from the Mediterranean, but Lord had raised up the mountains between as a boundary to keep each in its place.

    10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
      it flows between the mountains.
    11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
      the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
    12 The birds of the air nest by the waters;
      they sing among the branches.
    13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
      the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.

Without water, there is death. And in Israel, as in other desert lands, the rainy season is vital to life. The few springs that dot the landscape are equally important. They bring wildlife and keep it there, and together with the morning dew, the rains and springs allow the land to produce enough vegetation for man and animal alike to survive.

The Lord gives us what we need. But we seldom thank him for these things. How often do we whine or complain that we don’t have this or that luxury, when in fact God is keeping us healthy and safe in an oasis from the poverty, disease and death in other parts of the world?

    14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
      and plants for man to cultivate—
    bringing forth food from the earth:
      15 wine that gladdens the heart of man,
    oil to make his face shine,
      and bread that sustains his heart.
    16 The trees of the LORD are well watered,
      the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
    17 There the birds make their nests;
      the stork has its home in the pine trees.
    18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
      the crags are a refuge for the coneys. (NIV)

The writer of the Psalm has moved up into the hills, and is looking northwest to Lebanon with what was once a vast pine forest. In North America, the legend of Paul Bunyan ends with the great lumberjack roaming to the woods of the northwest—the orientation and the forests are (or were) the same. Our picture of Israel as a sandy, stony wasteland is a recent development. Various invading armies have deforested the area, but perhaps none more so than the crusaders, who cut down staggering numbers of trees during the first four Crusades beginning in about 1100 AD.

In verse 15, the three basic staples of Israel are mentioned: wine, oil, and bread (or grain). These three things gave the people virtually everything they needed to survive: bread for food, wine to drink (mixed about half-and-half with water; the alcohol in the wine also killed the impurities and germs in their water), and oil. Oil served as the great solution for everything. Oil did duty as lotion, sunscreen, medicine, lubricant from cartwheels and other mechanical things—and, yes, as a condiment at the dinner table. In all of these things, God was taking care of his people. (For the animals described in verses 17-18, see comments on Leviticus 11:5 and 11:19).

Praise God, who made heaven and earth for us to enjoy, subdue, and care for.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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