The psalm we considered this morning covers a lot of territory, from the forces of nature to human culture, from the food the animals eat to the thoughts that men think. In all of these things, the psalmist points to some common themes:
- First, there are no ‘forces of nature’ in the way we commonly mean it, any more than there are ‘creations of man’ in the way we commonly mean that. All these things come from the hand of God.
- Second, there is only one proper response to this: to praise the Lord, and to make your thoughts sweet to Him.
We find it difficult to do this, because we focus on the things we do not like, and so zoom in on those tiny things that we refuse to see anything else. You must praise God even for those things, and my charge to you this week is to follow the strategy of the psalmist. Back off, look at the whole world, and praise God for all of it. Then, in that context, re-examine your discontents, and praise God for those things too.
I always had trouble understanding this chapter because it seems kinda pantheistic, blurring the distinction between God and the creation.
If I might ask, what particular statements seem pantheistic to you?
I guess the main one is this:
30 When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.
It’s one thing to argue that God indirectly created everything in existence, but to state that the Holy Spirit plays an active role in what appears to be a natural animal birth seems strange.
But God didn’t indirectly create everything in existence. He upholds all things by the word of His power; nary an electron whizzes by its nucleus nor a dog whizzes by a fire hydrant without His sustaining hand — and every bit of it fairly shouts at us to glorify God and be thankful to Him.
‘Natural law’ is idolatry, a bid for the governing power of the universe to be impersonal rather than personal. He isn’t impersonal at all, and His hand is in all of it. God rules the world in a law-like way, because He wants us to co-rule it with Him. But that’s not the same thing as thinking of the universe as governed by laws. At the cosmic level, there is no rule of law; only the rule of Yahweh. He feeds the beasts of the field; He makes the sun to rise and the moon to set; He gives life and breath to all things, and when they die, it is because He has taken it away.
We pray this way, yes? “Dear God, please protect me on the road tonight.” We don’t mean “…except for falling rocks, because that’s just a natural phenomenon and I know You don’t have anything to do with that directly.” Well, lex orandi, lex credendi — literally.