“Praise the Lord, my soul. Lord, my God, you are very great, you are clothed in splendor and majesty” (Psalm 104:1). So begins the 104th psalm, a long prayer of praise for God, the Creator of all that is seen and unseen. It goes on to describe many of the things of God’s glorious creation, revealing the divine power and the endless imagination of God. It is a prayer filled with wonder at the beauty and the diversity of God’s created earth.
Verse 5 begins the second section of the psalm praising God for “setting the earth on its foundations…You covered it with watery depths as with a garment, the waters stood above the mountains, but at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them….” (verses 5-8ff). This is only the beginning of the descriptions of the land, the waters, the birds and animals, and the people that God has made. It is really an extended poetic and prayerful rendering of the creation story in the Book of Genesis. The psalmist is overwhelmed with awe at the endless power of God and can not help but praise him for all that he sees in the creative wonder and beauty around him.
As I write this devotion, I am in a place along the great Columbia River in Washington State. The early morning is perfectly still and quiet. The river’s surface is like a mirror, and the silence of the world around me is broken only by the chatterings of small birds, and the thrum of a hummingbird’s wings. The sun has lit the face of the thousand foot high cliffs across the river and they are bright with high desert colors. This is the environment in which I said my morning prayers this morning, sitting outside on the deck in the chill morning air. As I prayed, Psalm 104 came to my mind. I opened the scriptures to the Book of Psalms and, as I read over the psalm, my mind and my soul filled up with the same awe and deep emotions of praise that I believe filled the psalmist when he wrote this beautiful psalm of praise to God. Everywhere I looked, everything I heard, overwhelmed me with indescribable awe and wonder and my heart overflowed with a desire to praise God for all the great gifts and graces he has given us.
I also remembered the short poem that I used to teach to my students. It is a poem of praise for God’s creation by the 19th century, English poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins. It is called, “Pied Beauty”
“Glory be to God for dappled things–/For skies of couple-color as a brinded cow;/ For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;/ Fresh firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;/ Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;/ And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;/ Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)/ With swift, slow; sweet, sour, adazzle, dim;/ He Fathers-forth whose beauty is past change./ Praise him.”
Yes. Praise him who has created all that is in the world, above it, and beneath its waters. It is to him, to his creative love and majesty that we humbly bend our knees in joyful praise and thanksgiving. Let us remember that in all of his glorious and beautiful creation, he made us, alone, to know him and to love him and our neighbors (and all of his creation) as we love ourselves. Let us praise God by living his commandments, serving one another and all of his creation with love. In doing this we will be praising God with our whole being. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!
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