Providence at Work

Psalm 104 opens with the same phrase that began the previous psalm, “Bless the LORD, O my soul!” In fact, the same phrase appears in the final verse of both psalms as well. Thus, they are linked not only by their proximity but also by their form. However, the connection grows even stronger when we examine their contents. A quick comparison of the wording found in Psalm 103:20-21 and Psalm 104:4 is sufficient to demonstrate that the latter psalm picks up the same theme introduced in Psalm 103:19-22 as if it were too grand a thought to treat so sparsely. And I must agree. In a world that worships at the altar of scientific arrogance coupled with philosophical nonsense, Psalm 104 offers a gentle reminder that a majestic Creator not only made the heavens and the earth but also provided a means to sustain it for as long as needed to fulfill its purpose as the home of those made in the image of God.

The psalmist presents creation as the royal robe of the King of kings (Psa. 104:1-2), a fitting metaphor signifying the grandeur of the One one who reigns, and then proceeds to describe creation in all its glory. Nature did not work itself out through millennia, but the LORD established the interaction of heat from the sun, air in the atmosphere, and water throughout to create the phenomena we see displayed in the weather, all carried on through God’s providence, as the role of angels makes clear (Psa. 104:2-4). While the LORD created the earth as the ideal environment for man, the subsequent flood of Noah changed its landscape and atmosphere tremendously. Nevertheless, the LORD’s care continued, causing the floodwaters to abate, the storms to retreat, and the rainbow to come as a reminder of the finality of that form of judgment as well as His promised future care (Psa. 104:5-9)—providence. The LORD ensured that water now would nourish the ground and quench the thirst of all His creation (Psa. 104:10-13). Through the LORD’s providence, He provided food for all creation, both for animals and men, as well the means for shelter (Psa. 104:14-18). His providence gave night, with the moon for light and opportunity for nocturnal animals to find their food (Psa. 104:19-21), and then gave day so man can see to do his work (Psa. 104:22-23). The oceans and seas are home to countless other creatures, but the LORD cares for them as well (Psa. 104:24-29). Indeed, His providence ensures their ongoing life (Psa. 104:30). Then, in earnest, the psalmist, building to a crescendo, moves His focus to man, just as God did the week of creation when He declared finally with the creation of both man and woman that it was very good (Psa. 104:31). But man needs guidance, prompting the psalmist’s allusion to the giving of the Law on Sinai (Psa. 104:32), and for this attention and care—a care that extends beyond the realm of nature to embrace the soul and eternity—we should respond with reverent worship in praise to the God (Psa. 104:33) and fill our minds with His will so that our lives might please Him, bring us joy, and avoid the judgment of those who ignore the One to Whom they owe so much (Psa. 104:34-35).

“Bless the LORD, O my soul!” This simple phrase declares the adoration due to the One who made us—a love born out of dependence, nurtured through life, and matured into an eternal relationship, a relationship that extends to the depths of the soul. The realization that only God could be responsible for the existence of man and the entire universe demands the conclusion and exclamation, “O LORD my God, You are very great.” But He deserves so much more, because He has done so much more. The LORD is not simply our Creator, but also our Provider. He not only provides for our bodies but also for our spirits. Our God sees in us the possibilities of eternity, and for this we should respond with adoration, “Bless the LORD, O my soul! Praise the LORD!“ (Psa. 104:35b).

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Refuge in Life

In God We Trust. The national motto of the United States of America rings hollow today considering the rampant march toward immorality perpetrated by her government. And yet this hypocrisy demonstrates, by its irony, the importance of real trust. Throughout the Bible, trust always serves as the central characteristic of a strong relationship with God. Broken trust severs that relationship. Hollow trust ignores it. Binding trust restores it. But perfect trust established it. The beautiful prophecy of the Messianic Psalm 91 illustrates this latter fact perfectly. The wording of the pronouns throughout this psalm make it difficult to establish the extent of the application intended. However, it would appear that the inspired anonymous psalmist (perhaps Moses in a sequel to Psalm 90) developed the theme of personal trust in the LORD (Heb. 11:6) that Satan applied to Jesus directly in the process of temptation (Matt. 4:6) and that Jesus fulfilled perfectly in overcoming all temptation (Heb. 4:15).

Although many pay lip service to the essentiality of faith toward God, here the psalmist establishes that God Himself must be the epicenter of our trust. And yet this is no mere passive belief in a Creator but a meaningful and personal trust based upon a deep understanding and appreciation for who God is—the Most High, who transcends His creation; the Almighty, who governs His creation; My God, who has the power to help His creation; and the LORD—Yahweh—who, in offering a covenant relationship, is always there for His creation (Psa. 91:1-2). This is the substance of trust, and living by faith is its manifestation (2 Cor. 5:7). However, contrary to modern applications that equate faith with wish fulfillment, trusting God is a direct response to what God Himself has offered us. As the psalmist develops His theme, he offers three examples of what God has spoken that both require and deserve our trust. He has given us truth by which w can build spiritual knowledge as a foundation for life (Psa. 91:3-4; John 17:17). He has offered His protection for His people in day to day care so that we need not live life in fear (Psa. 91:5-8). This does not relieve us of responsibility or keep us from all pain and discomfort in life, as Jesus Himself saw and experienced, but it reminds us of God’s presence and care even during the trials that go with the nature of this life (Heb. 13:5-6). Third, God has made us precious promises, especially in regard to His providence (Psa. 91:9-13). This is not magical safety net against harm, but it surely demonstrates that God can operate within nature by angelic means to turn events as He wishes for the benefit of His people. In the final section of this beautiful poem (Psa. 91:14-16), the inspired writer offers God’s own response to faith that trusts Him completely: a listening ear, promised presence, deliverance and victory, and blessing and salvation in life. He promises a great future.

Jesus, as even Satan recognized, lived by this kind of trust. He died still holding fast to this kind of trust. And God rewarded Him for having this kind of trust. And the beauty of what Jesus accomplished by doing so is that we who trust Him and what He did can enjoy the same reward (John 14:1-6).

The Privilege of Providence

We take far too many things for granted today. We wake up in the morning and do not consider how that can even happen—and be refreshed. We enjoy running water, easy access to food of all kinds, indoor plumbing, instant communication around the world, advanced warning of and preparedness for many natural disasters, personalized music choices, electric lighting, a closet full of clothes, mobile phones, central air and heating—the list could go on and on! And while some people do not share all of these things, they likely have a list just as impressive in its own way. In fact, from the view of history, most of the things cited above are extremely new to civilization. In some places it has become common to use all these items as evidence of some inherent character flaw in society. Society has its problems, but the items listed above are not among them. Instead, they offer evidence of just how blessed we are. And that is why we cannot afford to take them for granted.

Three thousand years ago, before any of the aforementioned luxuries existed, David recognized this same principle and turned to God as the One worthy of praise (Psa. 65:1-2). And even then David saw that the greatest blessings he enjoyed were God’s willingness to forgive sin and accept worship on His terms (Psa. 65:3-4). He had confidence in God’s righteousness, salvation, and help because He took the time to notice what God had already done in His creation (Psa. 65:5). David looked at the mountains and was awed by them (Psa. 65:6). He looked at the seas on either side of the land and saw a God in control of them (Psa. 65:7), as He is over all the earth (Psa. 65:8). He recognized that man does not provide the water and the grain that provides for farmers to grow food. God does (Psa. 65:9-10), and He does so for man’s benefit and for the land’s (Psa. 65:11-12). He saw firsthand how God provides animals for food, as well as crops, and also provides what is necessary for them to grow and flourish (Psa. 65:13). And all these things remain true today.

Some children honestly believe that their food comes from a grocery store. They have no concept of a farm or dairy. Such reports often receive attention in social media, sometimes to make fun of the child, sometimes to make fun of the schools, or sometimes to expose a problem. But many people today cannot see that all of this and more actually comes from God who blesses and blesses again. He chose not to care for us miraculously throughout the ages but chose to work providentially through nature, but that does not negate the love, care, and attention that went into His provision, and it should not dampen, in any way, our thankfulness to Him. David saw these things as worthy of praise and further evidence of what God can do for us spiritually. We would do well to do the same.

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