Opening The Old Testament
A Song for Creation: Reflections on Psalm 104
How far we are away from Job here in Psalm 104! Leviathan is no longer the feared denizen of the deep. Now he is seen by God to sport and play in the waters that God has made. One could readily say that Leviathan has become YHWH's rubber ducky, fashioned precisely by its maker to enjoy a watery life of fun and joy. Ships need have no fear of Leviathan, who is too busy enjoying a free life of unlimited delight, given to it by YHWH who likes nothing better than an afternoon in the divine bathtub with God's favorite toy monster!
Psalm 104:10-23 is a catalogue of the wonders of divine creation, from the world's wind and water, to the animals who drink, wild asses, birds, cattle, mountain storks, wild goats, young lions, and, yes, you and I who go out to our work, just as the sun rises, sending the animals back to their dens. But how do all of these survive? "They all look to you to give them their food in due season" (v. 27), that is, at the right time. "When you send forth your spirit (your "breath"—the word means both things), they are created, and you renew the face of the ground" (v. 30).
And just as YHWH loves to play with and to watch and admire Leviathan at play, so YHWH is bid by the poet to "rejoice in God's works." Yes, we created ones are to rejoice in God's works, of course, but this God, too, rejoices in God's works, because God sure likes to have a good time! As Annie Dillard says it, "The Lord loves pizzazz!"
Indeed, God loves, adores the creation, all of it, all the clacking, buzzing, whistling, howling, shouting, laughing, weeping cacophony of it. And so must we. If we are to help save our aching earth, our despoiled home, we must first love it, as God loves it. God said to Job, in glorious and frustrated poetry, "It is not all about you, Job! It is about mountain goats, and ravens, and even ostriches." Job had demanded his construal of justice, and God's response was, "Have a look at my ostrich!" And God's answer was not at all beside the point. We all must have a longer look at God's ostrich, at God's soil, at God's mountains. And we must love them—all. If we do not, God's great gift of creation will wither and retreat and dry up, and we will have destroyed our home.
"May the glory of YHWH endure forever," shouts the poet of Psalm 104, and may God's great creation live forever, too. I trust that YHWH will live forever, but the future of earth is not nearly as certain.
John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.