On occasion, when I travel, Kimberly (my wife) will often tuck a note somewhere in my suitcase. When I arrive at my destination and begin to unpack my things, I find this greeting from someone back home who loves me.
After spending a week hiking 5 National Parks in America’s west with my family (and driving over 3,000 miles in the process), I sat down last night for my daily Bible reading in my One Year Chronological Bible (an organized Bible reading plan that walks through the biblical texts in the order in which the events happened.) I have been reading this Bible all year, and the reading plan is not personalized in any way . . . in other words, the reading for July 8 is the reading for July 8 for everyone who uses this plan all over the world ever since this reading plan was put together decades ago. Additionally, the text of the Scripture I read has not changed for the 2,700 years it has been in existence. That said, as I read the Scripture last night, in the midst of a trip far from home, I could not help but see the Scripture as a precious note, tucked inside my bag, from my Heavenly Father back Home who loves me.
The Scripture reading included Psalm 104. I have read this Psalm many times before, but last night, its text really spoke to me powerfully. The Psalm begins with a general call for my soul to “bless the Lord.” God is the one who receives praise and adoration in this Psalm, and the particular reason we are to bless the Lord in this Psalm is because of God’s work in creation. The Psalm unfolds following the rough path of the creation order in Genesis 1, stopping along the way to praise God for His greatness declared through what He has made.
The Psalm begins in the sky (verses 1-4). The vastness and beauty of the heavens, with the lights of the sun, moon, and stars, and the beautiful arrangement of the clouds causes the Psalmist to imagine these things like the clothing of the King, revealing His splendor. I was reminded of the stars I saw in the night sky in the desert last week, and the colors of the sunset over the mountains . . . these things were not just “beautiful” – they pointed to the God of beauty.
Next the Psalmist focuses attention on the land (verses 5-9). Across the American west, we saw numerous mountains and valleys. This topography was formed by the movement of glaciers and the receding of ancient waters. This story was told by the many placards and visitors centers at each National Park. However, the Psalm reminds me that regardless of HOW the valleys and mountains were formed, it was GOD who ultimately formed them — the glaciers and ancient seas were but the pencil in the Hand of our loving Creator.
Once the sky and the earth are examined, the Psalm now turns to what happens upon the earth (verses 10-18). The entire circle of life is described here, how the Lord has created unique environments for each living creature and provides the water and food necessary for their survival. The intricate balance of this world is seen by the Psalmist 2,700 years ago, but felt by me still today as I saw how certain trees grow in specific environments, and how different animals thrive in different environments as a part of the scripted dance of life. These things did not just accidentally happen — they were planned and prepared by God.
Even our clock and calendar have meaning (verses 19-23). God created the night and the daytime, and appointed a meaning for both. We sleep, but creation does not. As we go to sleep at night, the wilderness comes alive. God never sleeps and His creation always brings forth praise!
The conclusion that the Psalmist comes to is that the entire world is dependent upon God for all things (verses 24-30). If He had not designed it the way He did . . . if He did not continue to hold it together the way He does . . . it would not exist. Therefore, it is RIGHT for us to PRAISE HIM as we look upon creation (verses 31-35). Let us not miss the opportunity to exegete the heights of Half Dome, and parse the meaning of the high desert, and illuminate the glory of the sunset. Through them all may we “sing to the Lord as long as we live; may we sing praises to our God while we have our being (104:33).”
One more thing from this Psalm (and from creation), however, that cannot be missed. God created this amazing place FOR US. To sustain our life. On this trip, my wife and I have been reading Lee Strobel’s excellent new book “The Case for Miracles.” In it, my friend Mike Strauss (a renowned Physicist) is interviewed by Strobel concerning the miracle of creation. Mike’s conclusion from the scientific evidence is that the universe is precisely designed to sustain human life on planet earth. The universe appears vast and large and old to us, but is actually the minimum size and age to allow for you and I to exist. The elements of the world that we call natural (hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, etc.) only exist if the universe is tuned precisely the way it is. Any variation and life ceases to be a possibility. Given this info, I look again at the Psalm to see how the earth is set up for human life:
- The sky is like a “tent”, set over the world by God (vs. 2). The Lord setup this earth as a campsite for you and me. Not our forever home, but a vantage point from which to learn about Him and “bless Him.”
- The oceans in their boundaries and the dry land raising up to form continents creates a habitat suitable for us (vs. 9).
- Plants and livestock provide a variety of food, and rain provides water so that human life is sustained (vs. 13-15). Not only that, but God created a variety of foods and gathered the waters in a variety of beautiful ways (streams, rivers, lakes, oceans, and waterfalls) because He loves us, and pursues us, and invites us into a relationship with Him. He could have made all things grey and made all food bland, and made water only flowing from magic springs. OR He could have made life not needing any of those things in some way . . . but in His grace, He makes the world so diverse so that we might enjoy it . . . and Him in the process who created it.
- Also, many predators that could pose threats to humanity typically hunt at night, while humans often work during the day (vs. 21-23). The circle of life is tuned in such a way that mankind has multiplied into the billions and spread out over the face of the earth.
- God created this world, and it was good. But good for what? It was good to sustain life as we know it. It was good to create an environment where people created in the image of God could get to know God . . . and worship Him.
So, last night, as I opened my suitcase and pulled out my Bible, I saw a note from Home, reminding me of the One there who loves me . . . and you. And I just wanted to respond and Bless His name. I invite you to do the same.