O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom has Thou made them all!
Psalm 104 can rightly be called “The Psalm of Creation.” It is read at Vespers every evening. In the Orthodox Tradition, the day begins with the sunset. So, as the sun sets on Saturday night, we offer the Vespers for Sunday. Vespers is a service of anticipation, while Orthros and Divine Liturgy are services of fulfillment. This is why the Old Testament is read at Vespers while the New Testament Scriptures are heard in Orthros and Divine Liturgy. The Old Testament was the anticipation or prophecy of the New Testament while the New Testament is a fulfillment of the Old Testament. As a new day begins with the Vespers service, each night we go back to the beginning by reading the Psalm of Creation.
Many verses of Psalm 104 outline the various steps that God took in creating the world, beginning with covering Himself “with light as with a garment.” (104:2) The first thing created by God was light. The next thing created was the firmament that separated the heavens from the waters below. (v. 2-3) Next we read about the creation of the earth, with mountains and valleys being created and separated from the waters. (v. 8-9)
The beasts and the birds have their thirst satisfied with water that flows from springs into rivers. (v. 10-13) Grass satisfies the cattle and plants are given to man, so that he may cultivate wine, oil and bread. (v. 14-15) It is interesting that of all the foods that are available on earth, this Psalm of creation mentions water (prefiguring baptism), wine and bread (prefiguring the Eucharist) and oil (prefiguring Holy Unction). Long before the Incarnation of Christ, the ingredients of our sacraments are mentioned in the Bible.
Each animal has a place in creation. The birds have the trees, the mountains are for the goats and the rocks are for the badgers. For those who doubt that God created the world, the shear complexity of creation couldn’t possibly happen without a Divine Creator. Just the things mentioned in this Psalm are overwhelmingly miraculous, much higher than the capacity of a human being to create. Who could create the first badger, the first rock, the first tree, the first wind, the first water, other than God Himself? In today’s world, we can create other things out of these elements, but we didn’t create the elements ourselves.
In verses 19-20 we read “Thou hast made the moon the mark the season; the sun knows it’s time for setting. Thou makest darkness, and it is night.” It is amazing to think of the creation of things we can see, but how about the things we can’t see? God made the stars, the sun and the moon, but He also made the earth rotate, so that the sun rises and sets. He made the day to have the appropriate amount of hours and the year to have the appropriate number of days. These periods of time direct us in working and sleeping, in planting and gathering.
Finally, there is the place for man in all of this creation. We are the crowning jewel. When God sends His Spirit, this is needed for the creation of the human being. (v. 30) We are then called to a response, to give glory to the Lord, and rejoice with the Lord in His works (v. 31), to sing the praise of God for as long as we live (v. 33), to meditate on things and do things that are pleasing to God, (v. 34) to rejoice in the Lord (v. 34) and to bless the Lord with our souls (v. 35).
In order to be a Christian, one has to believe in God. One has to believe that Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Son of God who have redeemed us from sin and corruption through His Crucifixion and Resurrection. One has to believe in the Holy Spirit that sustains creation by coming into each of us and endowing us with a soul, and sending down grace to help care for the soul throughout our lives. One has to also do the works of faith, and repent of sin.
However, before any of this can happen, one has to believe that God created the world. One greater than us created us. This sets in line the relationship between Creator and creation. That we are not the center of the universe, God is. I’ve often written that if we want to bolster our faith, we should go out into the creation and see the stars, the sun, the waves of the ocean, and the majesty of the mountains. Because on a given day, when we are stuck in our offices and around our homes, we are not able to get out into creation, Psalm 104 paints a beautiful tapestry of the creation in words. And meditating on these words will remind of the majesty of God in creating the world, even on a day we are stuck inside.
Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, Thou art very great! Thou art clothed with honor and majesty, Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment, Who hast stretched out the heavens like a tent, Who hast laid the beams of Thy chambers on the waters, Who makest the clouds Thy chariot, Who ridest on the winds of the wind, Who makest the winds Thy messengers, fire and flame Thy ministers. Thou didst set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be shaken. Thou didst cover it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At Thy rebuke they fled; at the sound of Thy thunder they took to flight. The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place which Thou didst appoint for them. Thou didst set a bound which they should not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth. Thou makest springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild asses quench their thirst. By them the birds of the air have their habitations; they sing among the branches. From Thy lofty abode Thou waterest the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of Thy work. Thou dost cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen man’s heart. The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon which He planted. In them the birds build their nests; the stork has her home in the fir trees. The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the badgers. Thou hast made the moon to make the seasons; the sun knows it’s time for setting. Thou makest darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep forth. The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God. When the sun rises, they get them away and lie down in their dens. Man goes forth to his work and to his labor until the evening. O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all; the earth is full of Thy creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, which teems with things innumerable, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan which Thou didst form to sport in it. These all look to Thee, to give them their food in due season. When Thou givest to them, they gather it us; when Thou openest Thy hand, they are filled with good things. When Thou hidest Thy face, they are dismayed; When Thou takest away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, they are created; and Thou renewest the face of the ground. May the glory of the Lord endure forever, may the Lord rejoice in His works, who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke! I will sing of the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to Him, for I rejoice in the Lord. Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more! Bless the Lord, O my soul! Praise the Lord. Psalm 104
Indeed, how great are the works of God. In wisdom, He made them all, including you and me!