Psalm 104: Introduction

What do we mean when we call the Scriptures divine revelation?

Many things.

One thing we mean: Scripture is text that expresses and inculcates a way of seeing everything (i.e., our lived world, everything that we are to some extent capable of seeing). It is transcendent-truthful vision: “Transcendent” meaning that it shows more deeply than our ordinary vision, touching and moving our spirit by enabling—more than enabling, imparting, if we are receptive—a glimpse of a truth that may otherwise often elude us. “Truthful” in the highest sense, i.e., not in the banal senses of corresponding to facts that anyone can perceive directly anyway or of agreeing with our human-theoretical interpretations of such facts, but in the sense of seeing from a point of view beyond the (routinely deceptive) obvious.

So far this is not more than good poetry can do. To say this is not to diminish Scripture. It is to recognize with gratitude that human language, that most magnificent of the gifts that are exclusive (though not without some wonderful resonances and quasi-participations in the animal and plant kingdoms) to our species, is not yet completely debased and disembowelled, not yet completely bereft of its capacity for imitating to some extent the world-instituting and world-revealing speech of The Poet, the Ποιητής, which means The Maker.

But we also mean more than this. We mean that Scripture is in some sense the language not just of humans peering into the beyond that lies all around us—not only in the unfathomable depths of the skies and the seas and the subatomic fabric of material being but also in every rock, every tree, and even in a slightly more difficult sense in every desk and hot dog and railroad car. It is that, but it is also more than that: it carries the voice of the Maker. A wise man once said that the first task of a leader is to define reality. The Maker is the Leader par excellence, not only creating reality but telling us what it means, not out of having discovered what it means but out of having given it that meaning.

The speech of the Ποιητής is performative and creative and interpretative all at once. The speech of the Ποιητής (the Poet) is Λόγος (Logos). It is logic, the impartation of meaning that is also adornment, such that what is, is Κόσμος (Cosmos), an artfully arranged whole. This Logos is constitution, it is law, and it is grace. We Christians believe that the fullest and final expression of the Logos—the essence of the Logos—is not a book but the person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But we honor the Bible as the fullest written expression of the Logos.

So we read a poem like Psalm 104 as a gracious and beautiful revelation of the truth of the world around us. As a truthful vision that can orient us correctly and comprehensively to reality before we dive again into the residual without-form-and-void of the messes that we are tasked with setting right.

What better way to begin a day than by meditating on these words?

Bless the LORD, O my soul.
O LORD my God, thou art very great;
thou art clothed with honour and majesty.
Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment:
who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:
Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters:
who maketh the clouds his chariot:
who walketh upon the wings of the wind:
Who maketh his angels spirits;
his ministers a flaming fire:
Who laid the foundations of the earth,
that it should not be removed for ever.
Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment:
the waters stood above the mountains.
At thy rebuke they fled;
at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.
They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys
unto the place which thou hast founded for them.
Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over;
that they turn not again to cover the earth.
He sendeth the springs into the valleys,
which run among the hills.
They give drink to every beast of the field:
the wild asses quench their thirst.
By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation,
which sing among the branches.
He watereth the hills from his chambers:
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.
He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle,
and herb for the service of man:
that he may bring forth food out of the earth;
And wine that maketh glad the heart of man,
and oil to make his face to shine,
and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.
The trees of the LORD are full of sap;
the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;
Where the birds make their nests:
as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.
The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats;
and the rocks for the conies.
He appointed the moon for seasons:
the sun knoweth his going down.
Thou makest darkness, and it is night:
wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.
The young lions roar after their prey,
and seek their meat from God.
The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together,
and lay them down in their dens.
Man goeth forth unto his work
and to his labour until the evening.
O LORD, how manifold are thy works!
in wisdom hast thou made them all:
the earth is full of thy riches.
So is this great and wide sea,
wherein are things creeping innumerable,
both small and great beasts.
There go the ships:
there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.
These wait all upon thee;
that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.
That thou givest them they gather:
thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.
Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled:
thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.
Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created:
and thou renewest the face of the earth.
The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever:
the LORD shall rejoice in his works.
He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth:
he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.
I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live:
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
My meditation of him shall be sweet:
I will be glad in the LORD.
Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth,
and let the wicked be no more.
Bless thou the LORD, O my soul.
Praise ye the LORD.

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