A Playful God
See the ships sailing along,
and Leviathan, which you made to play in the sea.
Psalm 104 celebrates God the Creator who made all things. Verse 24 sums up the main theme of this psalm: “O LORD, what a variety of things you have made! In wisdom you have made them all. The earth is full of your creatures.”
The following verses focus on God as the one who made all things in the ocean, including sea animals and ships. The last part of verse 26 adds a curious detail: “[See] Leviathan, which you made to play in the sea.” Leviathan was a mythic creature, perhaps based on a whale or dolphin. According to the psalm writer, God made this creature “to play in the sea.” The Hebrew verb translated as “play” does indeed mean to play. It is closely related to a word for laughter. This verb shows up in one of Zechariah’s visions of the future kingdom of God: “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Once again old men and women will walk Jerusalem’s streets with their canes and will sit together in the city squares. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls at play” (8:4-5).
I love the thought that God made some great sea creature to play in the sea. In fact, I have seen ample evidence of this very reality. Several years ago, I was visiting a friend who had a house on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean in Southern California. As I gazed at the sea, all of a sudden I saw a massive gray whale surface, blowing spray into the air. Seconds later, another whale surfaced, leaping almost completely out of the water. These two gray whales continued to frolic for several minutes, much to my wonderment.
God created the world to be productive. He created us in his image, calling us to be fruitful and multiply. Work stands at the center of our purpose for living. But, God also created play. The example of Leviathan encourages us to enjoy life, to do things that are not necessarily productive in the ordinary sense, though they are productive of delight, health, and community. Moreover, our playfulness reflects the creative intentions of our playful God.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What do you think of play? Do you consider play as part of God’s design for creation? Why or why not? What playful activities do you enjoy?
PRAYER: All-powerful, creative God, how I thank you for the reminders of Psalm 104. The beauty and intricacy of creation reflect your brilliance and power. How blessed I am to enjoy your good gifts!
Thank you for the example of Leviathan. Thank you for creating Leviathan to play in the sea. What a stirring reminder of your intentions for us. Yes, we are to work. Yes, we are to rest. But we are also to play, to enjoy the beauty and freedom and delight of life.
Help me, Lord, to play more. Help me to play in a way that honors you. Amen.
Here’s how . . . .
This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God (www.thehighcalling.org). You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling is associated with Laity Lodge, where I work.