ďHow Many Are Your Works!Ē†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† July 27, 2014
SI:† Weíre spending the summer in the Psalms.
Charles Spurgeon called Psalm 104
†† one of the loftiest and longest sustained flights of the inspired muse.
In other words, itís a lengthy and itís lovely.†
†† Itís a magnificent hymn of praise to God for creating and sustaining
†† the world and all that is in it.
INTRO:† Richard Wurmbrand was a Romanian pastor who lived through
†† the communist takeover of his country.†
In his autobiography, he tells a fascinating story about a Russian couple he metó
†† both communists, both life-long atheists, and both artists, sculptors.
Once they were commissioned to create a statue of Stalin.††
†† While they were working on it the wife said to husband, How about the thumb?
†† Isnít the thumb marvelous?† If the fingers of our hands were like toes,
†† we wouldnít be able to hold our mallet and chisels.
†† Human life as we know it would be impossible without thumbs.
If there is a God and if all he created was the thumb,
† †then he is worthy of our worship.†
Her husband got mad and told her to quit talking nonsense.
†† There is no God.† And this studio might be bugged and weíll get in trouble.
†† So get it in your head once for all.† There is nobody in heaven.
†† ďThis is an even greater wonder.† If in heaven there were the Almighty God in whom in
†† stupidity our forefathers believed, it would be only natural that we should have thumbs.† An
†† Almighty God can do everything, so He can make a thumb too.† But if in heaven there is
†† nobody, then I am decided to worship with all my heart the ĎNobodyí who has made the
Wurmbrand then writes:
†† ďSo they became worshippers of the ĎNobodyí!† Their faith in this ĎNobodyí increased with time, believing Him to be creator not only of the thumb, but also of the stars, flowers, children, of everything beautiful in life.Ē
When Wurmbrand met them and they explained their belief in the Nobody,
†† he told them they were right.† That there really is a No-body in heaven.
†† There is a being who is Spirit, a Spirit of goodness, wisdom, truth, and power.
And he told them how this being loved them and sent his Son to die for them
†† on the cross and they believed with gladness.
He said they were like the Greeks who Paul encountered in Athens
†† who worshipped at the shrine of the unknown God.
Godís revelation of himself in creation was not enough to save them,
†† but it convinced them there was a God, and that he was good, powerful, and wise.
†† And that prepared their hearts to hear the Gospel message.
When is the last time you said:† How about the thumb?
†† How often do you look at the world God has made and worship him for it?
Thatís what this Psalm is calling you to doó
†† to look at the creation and allow it to stir your soul to praise and worship the Lord.
We have to tell ourselves to do this.† We have to practice it and learn it.
How does this Psalm start and end?† ďPraise the Lord, O my soul.Ē
†† What is that?† Itís the Psalmist taking himself in hand and saying:
†† Soul, listen to me, look at the glory of Godís creation and praise him.
Why did he have to tell himself?† Why do we have to tell ourselves?
He was probably busy, just like weíre busy.
†† Busyness is not just a feature of modern American life.
†† We have particular version with bills and deadlines and email and cell phones.
But the grind is universal experience of living in a fallen world.
†† By the sweat of your brow you will earn your bread, God told Adam.
†† When your nose is to the grindstone, itís hard to stop and smell the roses.†
But Jesus did, he said:† Consider the lilies of the field.† Consider the birds of the air.
†† In this parables he talked about wheat growing in a field, storms and floods,
†† the many varieties of fish in the fishermanís net.
Our Lord was very busy.† People were constantly demanding his attention.
†† He found it very hard to ever be alone.† He didnít have much leisure time.
†† Yet he noticed things in his Fatherís world and commented on them.†
If we are going to be whole and happy people, who know God and who
†† live before him, then this is something we canít ignore.†
Psalm 104 tells us that we have to learn to take our souls in hand and say:†
†† Soul, praise the Lord for his many wonderful works in creation.
So letís look at this Psalm and see five specific ways to stir your soul
†† to praise the Lord through the admiration of his creation.† You must . . .
1.† Stand in awe of his majesty.
2.† Trust in his wisdom.
3.† Taste of his goodness.
4.† Delight in his pleasure.
5.† Long for his redemption.
MP#1† Stand in awe of the Lordís majesty.
The Psalmist looks at all creation and what is the first thing he comments on?†
Do you remember?† Verse 2.† Light.†
†† O Lord my God, you are very great, you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
†† He wraps himself with light as with a garment.†
Heís thinking about the creation account in Genesis 1.†
†† What is the first thing God creates?† Light.†
†† And God said, Let there be light.† And there was light.
Creation begins with light and thatís where this Psalm begins.
The Psalm writer looks at light and he imagines that light as a royal robe.†
The Lord of all Creation rises with the sun and puts on that robe of light.
†† And then as light grows brighter and fills the world, the Lord, robed in light
†† goes about his kingly business of governing all he has made.†
And then he looks up at the vastness of the sky and he sees massive beams of light,
†† sunlight piercing the clouds, and he imagines these are great building beams God
†† has set in place to support his kingly dwelling place.†
But did you notice that he doesnít image the Lord of Creation living in a palace or
††† castle but in a tent, like a powerful Bedouin chief.† The sky is his tent.
Then he looks at the clouds blowing through the blue Middle-eastern sky
†† and he saysóthose are the Lordís chariots.
And he feels the hot desert wind, and off in the distance he sees heat lightning
†† and he says, those are the Lordís messengers and servants.†
Then he looks at the ocean, for him that would have been the Mediterranean Sea.
†† And he looks at the mountainsóthe mountains of Lebanon in the north.
Imagines the waters of the ocean obeying this Kingís command at creation
†† and flowing into their place so that the dry land and mountains are formed.
Whatís going on here?† Is this some kind of primitive, unsophisticated fantasy?
Not at all.† This is a believerís way of pushing back against false views of nature.
For this Israelites, it was the polytheism of the surrounding nations who believed in
†† the sun god, cloud god, storm god, lighting god, sea god, mountain god.†
For us itís Darwinian evolution and scientific materialism.
†† They reduce nature to impersonal process and random mutations.
Light is just photons.† Clouds are just condensation.† Mountains just tectonic plates.
†† Nothing more.† Itís hard for us not to get pulled into the spirit of our ageó
†† to think itís just matter and natural laws.
Psalm 104 shows us how to push back against it in our hearts.
†† Donít let the grandeur of nature go unnoticed.†
†† Pay attention to the big things.
The next time you see the sunbeams piercing the clouds, sayó
†† O Lord, you are very great, you are clothed in splendor and majesty.†
If you get the privilege of going to the beach or going to the mountainsó
†† be grateful, not everybody gets to do that.†
When youíre there, look up at the mountains and worship the majesty of God.
†† Stand on the beach and look out at the horizon, the power of that water held
†† in place by God and worship him.† Stand in awe of his majesty.
It keeps you humble and grounded in reality.†
MP#2† Trust the Lord for his wisdom.
Several years ago I read a book called Life and Death in Shanghai,
†† the memoirs of Mrs. Nien Cheng.
Mrs. Chengís husband had been the head of Shell Oil in China and after he died,
†† she worked for Shell in an important managerial position.†
When Mao Tse-tung took over, she was arrested by the Red Guard and accused of
†† being a tool of Western imperialism and a spy.†
For years she was imprisoned in very harsh circumstances and feared for her life.†
†† But she tells how one day she looked in the window of her cell and saw a spider.†
†† As she watched, spider stretched a single thread of silk from one corner to other.
†† Then it put in place more supporting threads.
And then it began to meticulously weave a marvelous web.† Mrs. Cheng said:
†† ďI sat in stunned silence.† In this ugly cell, before my eyes, beauty had come into being.† The
†† spider, one of the tiniest of Godís creatures, had made me feel a part of Godís world again.† It
†† was a moment of transcendence.† God sent that spider to me.† Donít give up, he was saying to
†† me.† He had not left me alone in the prison cell.† God was there.Ē †
She said that if God was wise enough to teach the spider to spin its web,
†† then he was certainly wise enough to guide the circumstances of her life.
†† And in that moment, she lost her fear of the Communists.†
Look at verse 24 again.
† †How many are your works, O Lord!† In wisdom you made them all.†
†† The earth is full of your creatures.†
Thatís what Nien Cheng did.† Thatís what the Psalmist did.†
†† He looked at the storm clouds, the rain, the springs and rivers.† †
He noticed how the Lord oversees this remarkable water cycle to provide moisture
†† for the cedars of Lebanon and the grain fields for the farmers,
†† and he praised God for his wisdom in this intricate process.
Then he looked at birds, specifically storksówe had storks down on Marco Island.
†† They are very big birds.† Anyway, he watched them make nests high in pine trees.
†† He also watched the wild goats and coneysówhich footnote says a rock badger.
Up among the rocks, where a person cannot go, these wild animals are completely
†† at home, because God has made them and given them these abilities and instincts.†
And he listened to the lions roaring at night, seeking prey, while he was in bed.
†† He marveled that the Lord in is his wisdom arranged the day for mankind to do
†† his work, and the night for certain wild animals to come out and do theirs.†
After looking at all these wonderful things he praises God for his wisdom.
And the practical application, as Nien Cheng experienced, is the affirmation
†† that his wisdom extends to your life as well.†
Are you worried?† Are you anxious?† Maybe youíre on your iPhone too much.
†† Jesus said:† Consider the lilies.† Consider the birds.†
†† If your heavenly Father cares for them, he will care for you.† Donít be anxious.
Do you look at creation that way?† You should.† It might cure your worry.
MP#3† Taste the Lordís goodness
Thereís a line in Isaac Wattsí famous hymn, I Sing The Mighty Power of Godó
†† I sing the goodness of the Lord that filled the earth with food.
It comes from verses 27 and 28.
†† These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.
†† When you give it to them, they gather it up;
†† when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
The Psalmist looks at Godís creation,
† †and he praises him specifically for his provision of food.
†† Itís a huge part of this hymn of praise.†
He looks at fields of wheat and olives groves and grape vines,
†† he sits down to a meal of bread and oil and wine and he tastes Godís goodness.†
†† But this is more than just thanking God for a meal.
Because then the looks out at the field and watches the cattle grazing.
†† And he praises the Lord for giving grass to the cattle.
†† When is the last time you did that?
†† Maybe you have to be a farmer to really be moved to praise in that way.
But he doesnít stop there.† He also praises God for giving food the wild animals.†
†† He says when the lions are stalking their prey, those lions he hears roaring
†† in the night, they are seeking food from God.
†† Everywhere he looks he sees Godís creatures being fed.
That fills him with wonder at the Lordís goodness.
Thereís a lesson here that we all need to take to heart.
In spite of the fall,
† †there is still so much deep down goodness in creation because God is good.
And food is perhaps the most tangible expression of his goodness.
†† ďTaste and see that the Lord is good,Ē David says in Psalm 34.
I was talking to a man in our church this week, and he told me about some local
†† peaches he had bought.† And he was describing how they were just perfect.
†† At the pinnacle of sweetness and juiciness.† Just one more day and they would
†† been too ripe.† I was getting hungry just listening to his description.
He told me, I bit into one and I said:† And they say there is no God.†† I laughed.†
†† He said:† No, seriously.† How can a person eat a perfect peach and be an atheist?
†† Thatís a profound theological question.
But letís ask a more personal question.
†† Do you praise the Lord for his goodness in the provision of food,
†† or are you a functional atheist who barely notices, barely comments on it.
Even worse, are you a food complainer?† Shame on you.†
†† Praising God for his goodness in creation makes you grateful.
MP#4† Delight in the Lordís pleasure.
Letís look again at one remarkable phrase.† End of 26, start in verse 25.
†† There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond numberó
†† living things both large and small.† There the ships go to and fro,
†† and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
What is the leviathan?† Itís an interesting Hebrew word for big sea creature.
Remember back then the sea was a mystery.†
Sailors would tell stories of seeing whales, but think how those brief glances
†† must have stirred imaginations.† They didnít have scuba and underwater cameras.
Maybe this man once stood on the beach and looked out in the Mediterranean
†† and saw some whales or dolphins leaping.† He was captivated watching them.† †††
†† He describes their behavior as frolicking.† King James version says playing.†
When animals play itís impossible not to be fascinated.†
Once we were in a boat, again down on Marco Island, crossing a bay and dolphins
†† began to leap in our wake.† They were like dogs chasing a car.
I got out my camera to try to get a shot.
†† Pre-digital camera days, so I had to look through the viewfinder.
All of a sudden, everybody squealed with delight and I said, What?† What?†
†† They said, You missed it!† One jumped right up beside you.
†† It was like it was sayingóTake a picture of me.†
A little closer to home, our cat had a litter of kittens this spring,
†† and weíve spent hours just watching them stalk each other and wrestleó
†† frolicking and pouncing.†
Why did the Lord make this world with so much color and variety?
†† Why did he make so many things that can make us smile
†† like leaping dolphins and wrestling kittens?
For his own pleasure.† And since we are made in his image, for our pleasure.
You can be amused by something on TV, you can laugh at a Youtube videoó
†† but for a full experience of happiness, you have to appreciate what your heavenly
†† Father likes.† You have to learn to appreciate his tastes.†
That might take some deliberate actions on your part.
†† Like turning off the electronics.† Making your children turn them off.
†† Taking a walk.† Looking at things.† Itís good for us to delight in nature.†
It shows a side of your heavenly Father that you need to see more oftenó
†† his playful side.†
MP#5† Long for the Lordís redemption.
Look at the last verse again.
†† But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more.†
†† Praise the LORD, O my soul. †Praise the LORD.
After this magnificent hymn of praise to God for his creation,
†† doesnít that sound jarring and strange?† Yes, it does.†
But itís a wonderful verse because it takes us straight to Jesus Christ.
For all the goodness in creation, for all the manifestations of Godís splendor,
†† and wisdom and goodness and pleasureóthings arenít right here.
And the Bible tells us whatís wrong.†
†† The problem is that God made Adam and Eve and the human race
†† to be his image-bearers and stewards of this world.
And we were to live before him as immortal creatures like the angelsó
†† exploring and enjoying and exercising dominion over creation.
But instead our first parents listened to Satan and rebelled against God,
†† and sin and death entered Godís good world.
Several years ago, we were on vacation up in the mountains.
†† They were beautiful.† The majesty and splendor of the Creator was on display.
†† And we would have felt renewed and refreshed.†
But while we were there, got a phone call that someone we know had lost a child.
And then, on Sunday of our vacation, we worshipped at my Aunt and Uncleís
†† church, a very close congregation, and they were grieving the sudden death of a
†† young father in their church, who left behind four children.
And then, on the way home, we came upon a terrible wreck on I-20.†
†† I talked to a man who pulled over and tried to help, a young doctor from UAB.† There was blood on his pants and hands.† He told me that he had done all he could
†† to help one of the victims, but the manís abdominal injury was too severe.†
†† Then this young doctor started to tremble and he walked away.†
His wife turned to me and said, Whatís really bothering him is that there was a baby
†† in the car and he tried to get the baby out but the car was on fire and he couldnít.†
Those are all accidents.† Think how many deliberate and cruel things people do to
†† each other, and all the foolishness and selfishness that darkens our days here.†
You can go to the beach or watch kittens play or eat a ripe peach and those
†† good things will barely put a dent in all the ugliness and pain of life.
And think how ugly your own heart is.†
†† And how you can be thinking and plotting wicked things,
†† even as you are surrounded by so many evidences of Godís goodness.†
Lord Jesus, come quickly.
†† Usher in the new creation where every tear will be wiped away and there will
†† no longer be any death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things
†† has passed away.†
Thatís the final cry of Psalm 104.†
†† A cry for Christ the Creator to Redeem us, to redeem this fallen race, his creation.
†† And he will, because he suffered in this world he made, and died, and rose again.
Praise the Lord, O my soul.
†† Take Psalm 104 to heart and stir up your soul to worship your Lord and creator.
†† Youíll be a more humble, confident, grateful, happy, and sober Christian.†