By Henry Law
A splendid picture is here exhibited of the greatness of God in creation and providence. Vows follow that the praises which are due shall be devoutly rendered.
1. "Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, You are very great; You are clothed with honor and majesty."
A noble opening is herald to this hymn. Let us awaken our souls to render blessings unto Him whose blessing rests on all His works. Is He not worthy? Truly His greatness is unsearchable. What thought can estimate the honor and majesty which clothe Him!
2-3. "Who covers Yourself with light as with a garment; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain; who lays the beams of His chambers in the waters; who makes the clouds His chariot; who walks upon the wings of the wind."
What mortal eye can look upon His glory! His robe is light. The sun in all its splendor pales in His presence. When He uplifts the light of His countenance the darkness of sin and ignorance and impurity flee away. Who can proclaim the habitation of His glory! The heavens enwrap it as a curtain. His chambers rest upon the waters above the firmament. When He comes forth as a mighty potentate, the rolling clouds are represented as His car of state. The mighty winds expand their wings to be His seat. Let the image be pondered. Enlargement only weakens.
4. "Who makes His angels spirits; His ministers a flaming fire."
Angels are intelligences created by His will. They are marvelously formed as spirits without outward frame. Swiftly do they fly to execute His purpose; brightly do they shine as kindled flames. Let us give thanks that they are all created to do His pleasure, and to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation.
5-9. "Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed forever. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At Your rebuke they fled; at the voice of Your thunder they hurried away. They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys to the place which You have founded for them. You have set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth."
Behold the earth, which is the work of His hands! He makes it to rest on solid foundations. No power can change its form or bring it to decay. Behold, also, the sea! It is His, and He made it. Imagination is encouraged to go forth and view all the waters at His command rushing into the basin prepared for them, and forming ocean's wide expanse. View, also, the boundaries by which it is encircled. His mighty voice curbs the wild billows, and says, "Thus far and no further."
10-18. "He sends the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. They give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches. He waters the hills from His chambers; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works. He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man that He may bring forth food out of the earth; and wine that makes glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengthens man's heart. The trees of the Lord are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which He has planted; where the birds make their nests; as for the stork, the fir-trees are her house. The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats, and the rocks for the conies."
Marvelous is the adaptation of all things to man's comfort. All who breathe the breath of life are objects of God's care. Do they thirst? Springs of water give refreshing supply. Do they hunger? The earth is a table of sufficient food. Creatures untamed by man have also full provision. Branches are supplied on which the songsters of the air give melody. Pre-eminently man's comfort is the main care. There is provision made that his strength should be recruited, and that joy and gladness should sparkle on his brow. The Psalm commenced with, "Bless the Lord," and let us here pause, reiterating, "Bless the Lord, O my soul!"
19-22. "He appointed the moon for seasons; the sun knows his going down. You make darkness, and it is night; wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their food from God. The sun arises, they gather themselves together, and lay down in their dens."
The devout mind finds rich meal in reading nature's volume. The construction and maintenance of the world is a large field for thought to traverse. The firmament claims foremost admiration. In it two grand luminaries shine. The sun and moon rule the hours of work and rest. They know their appointed times. They move with regularity, ordering the division of day and night. The light restores recruited powers to toil. Darkness calls the wild beasts to their prey. The inhabitants of the forest are thus heaven's care. They rove in darkness, and in light seek rest.
23-24. "Man goes forth unto his work, and to his labor, until the evening. O Lord, how manifold are Your works! in wisdom have You made them all; the earth is full of Your riches."
Man is pre-eminent in heaven's plans. Creation's order subserves his needs and comforts. Who can ponder the arrangement without adoring the wisdom of God. High thought ordains nature's revolving course.
25-30. "So is this great and wide sea wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. There go the ships; there is that leviathan, whom You have made to play therein. These all wait upon You, that You may give them their food in due season. That You give them they gather; You open Your hand, they are filled with good. You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the earth."
Not less marvelous are the provisions of the sea. On its bosom ships ride, transporting men and commerce from climate to climate. Within its depths innumerable creatures roam. Some boast gigantic form; others show the tiniest mold. All receive being from God. He wills, they live. He wills, they disappear. During their brief career all their nourishment is His bountiful gift. Abundance is the offspring of His power. In His open hand all support finds birth. Life and the means of living result from His sovereign will.
31-32. "The glory of the Lord shall endure forever; the Lord shall rejoice in His works. He looks on the earth, and it trembles; He touches the hills, and they smoke."
These works have a loud voice proclaiming His glory, which shall last forever. But in addition to His love and tender care, they moreover prove that His power can frown terribly. At His bidding the trembling earth strikes the inhabitants with awe. The roar and flames of the volcano show that destructions move at His command.
33-35. "I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of Him shall be sweet; I will be glad in the Lord. Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord."
Heaven-kindled piety sums up the whole. The devout soul resolves that sweet meditation shall be its employ, and that joy in the Lord's work shall captivate the inner man. It looks onward to the time when sin shall no more mar the beauties of creation. Enraptured with the thought, it again stirs up the soul to sing, and bless, and praise. But many view with unconcern these all-instructive scenes. The loveliness enchants not. The skill produces no amaze. They are as little moved as if they saw some random work or freaks of undirected change. Alas! what streams of joy flow by them untasted by their lips. They do not hear all nature's chorus hymning the Creator's praise. To them the new heavens and the new earth would bring no charms. Where did this blinded state come from? They do not know God. To know Him is to love His Word, His will, and all the wonders of His hand.