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Psalm 104

God of all creation

God isn’t sequestered in some remote corner of the galaxy. He’s just as involved and active here as we are. Worshipping our maker-sustainer, we must cherish creation and care for its goodness just as he does.

Worship Yahveh
my soul within me!
How awesome you are
Yahveh my God!
You’re clothed in honor and majesty
2 robed in incandescent light
having spread out the heavens like a tent.
3 He set the beams of his exalted home
on the primordial sky-sea
and made storm clouds his chariots
riding on the wings of the wind.
4 He appointed the winds as his messengers
lightning bolts his ambassadors.

5 He set the earth on such a firm foundation
nothing can ever shake it.
6 You draped ocean over it like a robe
covering the mountains with deep water.
7-8 Then at your rebuke the waters fled:
with mountains rising and valleys sinking
the crash of your thunder made the waters retreat
to the level you’d assigned for them.
9 You set a boundary they couldn’t cross
so they’d never cover the earth again.
10 You release springs that gush into streams
flowing between the mountains
11 enabling wildlife to drink their fill
wild donkeys to quench their thirst.
12 Birds happily nest in the nearby trees
filling their branches with song.
13 From his heavenly home
he waters the mountains
filling the earth with the fruit he produces.

14 You make grass grow for livestock to eat
and plants for farmers to cultivate
producing food from the earth:
15 wine bringing joy to people’s hearts
oil making their faces glow
bread giving them the strength to go on.
16 Yahveh’s trees are well watered
the cedars he planted in Lebanon.
17 Birds make their nests there
storks in the tops of the fir trees.
18 The mountain heights are home to wild goats
coneys find shelter there too among the crags.
19 He made the moon to mark the seasons
the sun to tell us what time to end each day.
20 Night falls when you usher darkness in
bringing all the animals in the wild to life.
21 When powerful lions roar for their prey
they’re seeking their food from God.
22 Then as the sun rises
they head back to their dens
to sleep the day away
23 just as people go out to their work
which they stay at until dusk.

24 What diversity
you’ve imbued the created order with, Yahveh!
What wisdom and ingenuity is behind
all the creatures you’ve filled the earth with!
25 There’s the ocean
deep and wide
and teeming with all sorts of lifeforms
great and small.
26 Ships ply its waters too
while Leviathan deep dives there
the sea monster you created to frolic with.
27 All the creatures you’ve made look to you
to give them their food at mealtime.
28 They take it when you give it to them:
you open your hand
and they eat their fill of nourishing food
29 but they panic when you turn away.
And when you withhold their breath
they perish and return to dust.
30 Then breathing your breath anew—
creating new life—
you renew everything on earth all over again.

31 May Yahveh’s glory endure forever
and Yahveh delight in all he’s made!
32 He merely glances at the earth
and it trembles.
His hand just grazes the mountains
and they smoke.
33 I’ll sing to Yahveh my whole life long
sing praise to my God till I breathe my last.
34 May all my thoughts please Yahveh
as I delight in him.
35 May those who rebel against God
be thoroughly displaced
till there’s no more wicked people
living carelessly anywhere on earth.
Worship Yahveh
my soul within me!

Like Psalm 103, this psalm starts and ends with the psalmist’s self-call to worship the incomparable Yahveh. With its overarching message that everything he made is good, the psalm celebrates God’s active participation in creation, right from the start. In poetic, not scientific, language, the psalmist shows God harnessing the elements he made, using floodwaters, clouds, wind, lightning—all gods in Canaanite mythology—for good in a creation he’s filled with beauty and birdsong.

He’s appointed the sun and moon—worshipped by Israel’s neighbors—only to mark days and seasons. God opens springs, plants sturdy cedars, and gives us animal fodder, wine’s enjoyment, olive oil’s healthful glow, and bread’s nourishment. God waters his trees, providing homes for birds. He feeds and rules over wildlife and humans alike, as each seeks his provision within the ordered systems he established. And far from being treacherous, the vast open sea is God’s backyard pool, Leviathan his water toy! Everything points to God’s wisdom and delight in creation.

Not to be worshipped, creation is ours in sacred trust. So the psalmist wants to live wholly for her incomparable God—as if creation belongs to him personally, which it does. And she prays for the day when he makes earth a place where everyone lives always by that rule.

Lord, I marvel at your creation’s brilliance and rejoice in its rich bounty. Help me to think and live wisely, knowing that your world is ours only in trust, stewarding it well. I worship you while I await the day when your will is at long last done perfectly on earth—just as it is in heaven. Amen.

During your free moments today, pray these words:

Worship Yahveh, my soul within me!
Yahveh my God how awesome you are
clothed in honor and majesty!

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.