May 20, 2020 by Tim O’Connor
“The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God.” (Psa 104:21)
Psalm 104 is a hymn of praise to God for the power and providential care He displays throughout creation. Its opening words are the basis of a contemporary worship song often sung at ECC, and its closing words are the basis for a song popular in my college days. It loosely parallels the days of creation in Genesis 1.
The poetic form of the Psalms often repeats the same idea in slightly altered words, as we see in Psalm 103:
He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
Psalm 104 puts an interesting twist on this poetic style that has deep theological significance:
19 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21 The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
Notice that certain regular recurring events – the sun’s rising and setting, predatory animals seeking prey to eat – are described both as natural processes and as things that God does. The link between regular natural occurrence and divine providential action is underscored in v. 27, when, speaking of creatures generally, great and small, the psalmist says “These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.”
When I was growing up, a commercial would allow you to hear a bit of singing and ask,
“Is it live, or is it Memorex?” (Memorex being a brand of audio cassette tape). It has to be one or the other, and the challenge is to figure out which, based on the evidence of your hearing. Sometimes, contemplating some striking feature of our world, Christians wonder, “Did this come about through natural causes, or is it a work of God?” Psalm 104 teaches us that, unlike with the Memorex challenge, here we do not have to choose. When it comes to God and his creation, the correct answer is generally “both.” Did you develop from a fertilized egg to a newborn baby by a natural process involving rapid cell division and the like, or did God ‘knit you together in your mother’s womb’ (Psa 139:13)? Did stars slowly form from hot gasses over long periods of time, or did God ‘cover [him]self with light as with a garment’ (Psa 104:2). Both.
The Psalm writers frequently meditate on the natural world not because they all had the kind of curiosity that leads some of us to become scientists, but because they saw in every square inch of it the ceaseless working of their gracious King, tending to the needs of “creatures beyond number – living things both great and small” (v.25).
Open my eyes, Lord, to see you at work not only in those rare miraculous ‘signs’, but always and everywhere, that I might sing to you all my life; sing praise to you as long as I live.