By Rev. L. Althouse
March 12, 2006
Background Scripture: Psalms 104. Devotional Reading: Psalms 104:31-35.
Samuel Terrien, one of my seminary profs, said that in Psalm104 “the whole universe is encompassed within a single sweep of religious vision.” Its theme is set forth in the first verse: “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, thou art very great! Thou art clothed with honor and majesty…” The next 30 verses spell it out in detail.
Terrien, entitles this psalm, “The Lord of the Seven Wonders” - the Sky (vs.2-4), Earth (5-9), Water (10-13), Vegetation (14-18), Moon and Sun (19-23), Sea (24-26) and The Gift of Life (27-30). The response to these seven wonders is ecstatic worship of God’s glory (31-35).
Most of the verbs are used in participle form (“makest,” “givest,” “hidest,” “sendest”), indicating the continuity of God’s work as Creator and Sustainer. This is not just about something, which happened, but continues to happen, in his time and in ours.
Making our own lists
Through 32 of the 35 verses, the Psalmist makes no reference to himself. It is only in vs. 33, 34 that we see his personal response: “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.”
Are there any of us who cannot make our own lists and come to the same conclusion?
Yet, many of us say the words, but do not really feel them. Are we incapable of feeling praise? Given the adoration heaped upon entertainers, athletes and politicians, I think not. The barrier may be that we do not give God the same kind or duration of attention - unless we are in trouble.
The Psalmist exults because he has taken the time to think about God and contemplate what He has done and is doing. If the “Seven Wonders” do not stir you, try reading them aloud or, better still, make your own list. In short: think about God and then praising him should come naturally.
In v. 32 the Psalmist just barely touches on a serious problem: “the Lord…who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke.”
Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are just two of a sizable list of events that seem to stand in opposition to the image of God as beneficent Creator.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina there were many who asked, “But, if God’s in control, how do we explain this?”
Too often we reply: “Every thing happens for a reason,” “God’s punishing them,” or “testing us.”
Concentration camp survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel has said: “Whatever you say about God, you should be able to say standing over a pit full of burning babies.”
Revolting as that sounds, Wiesel is right: in the real world human beings kill more people and act more barbaric then Mother Nature’s Katrinas and tsunamis. So whatever we say about God needs to be said in light of both realities.
For me, the only answer is the same for both: God gives his creation a kind of free will that does not intend, but permits Hitlers and Katrinas, Holocausts and tidal waves. Often our sin combines with or shapes these disasters.
Example: In part, Katrina resulted from the gradual demise of the wetlands that could have acted as a kind of “speed bump” to the hurricane. About 25 square miles, the size of Manhattan, are lost every year to shopping malls, highways, and so forth.
The enabling decisions were of human, not divine origin. Daily, we make similar choices, either by action or inaction, to poison the air with mercury, pollute our streams, and gradually upset the balance of nature.
We need not ask, “But, if God is in charge…” but, “If we really know and “Bless the Lord, O my soul,” how can we permit these things to be?”
This farm news was published in the March 8, 2006 issue of Farm World.