Theme: The Psalm’s Surprise
In this week’s lessons, we see that not only does creation rejoice in God its Creator, but also God himself takes joy in what he has made.
Scripture: Psalm 104:1-35
At the very end of the psalm we come to what I referred to once before this week as its “surprising” second part. Here God is said to rejoice in his creation, just as the creation has already been said to rejoice in God.
The work I referred to before by John Piper, the Minneapolis pastor and author, calls attention to Job 38:4-7, where God asks Job where he was when God created the universe “and all the sons of God (angels) shouted for joy?” Piper argues that since the angels are spirit beings, as God is, up to this point there must have been no matter or anything like matter in the universe. No angel had ever seen a star, a cloud, a sunset or anything else that has form, weight, motion, texture or color. Piper imagines God to have said, “Watch this!” Then he spoke the galaxies into existence. “Imagine the awe and wonder that exploded among the angels. They had never seen or even imagined matter. They are all ‘ministering spirits’ (Heb. 1:14) and have no material bodies as we do…. It was absolutely, totally, unimaginably new! And the response of the sons of God was to shout for joy.”1
It is true that Job 38 does not exactly say that God shouted for joy, but can we doubt that he did? Especially when Psalm 104 says that he still rejoices in creation? And what did the angels do? They thrilled with what they saw, but they did not worship creation. Instead, they turned back to God alone and gave him the glory.
And this is how the psalmist ends, too, vowing to sing to the Lord all his life and praise him as long as he lives. As far as he was concerned, an entire lifetime of praise would be insufficient to honor God properly.
There is only one jarring note, the writer’s wish that “sinners might vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more” (v. 35). To us this desire seems harsh, self-righteous and unnecessary. But it was not perceived that way by the biblical writers. They looked for a harmonious universe, and the only thing that was marring it for them was rebellious man. It is helpful to note that the psalm ends with the word hallelujah, meaning “Praise the LORD!” This is the first occurrence of hallelujah in the Psalter, and it is significant that it is joined to a prayer for the destruction of the wicked, just as it is in Revelation 19. Sinners will perish. To God be the glory!
1John Piper, The Pleasures of God (Portland: Multnomah, 1991), p. 85.
What caused the sons of God to shout for joy? What did they then do?
How does the psalmist end his psalm? What is the significance of ending this way?
What does the psalmist desire for the wicked? Why?
Application: How does your praise of God need to improve?
For Further Study: In stirring and powerful language, Psalms helps us to have an enriched view of God as both our Creator and Redeemer. The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is offering James Boice’s classic exposition on all 150 psalms at 25% off the regular price.