they flow between the hills,
giving drink to every wild animal;
the wild asses quench their thirst.
By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation;
they sing among the branches.
From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
The imagery that opens this section is of water rolling down through the valleys, giving drink to the lowland animals. After resting by the waters with the wild donkeys, the Psalmist brings the reader up to the trees above, to the “birds of the heavens” singing among the branches, then up even farther to God’s upper room. From here, the reader is drawn down again with the water that falls upon and flows down the mountains, satisfying the earth, where grass grows for livestock and plants for humans to cultivate. After once again resting briefly in the lowlands, the Psalmist raises the reader’s eyes to the great trees, where storks make their home. Rushing upwards again to the mountains, to the rocky crags where goats and rock badgers live, and even farther to the moon and the sun in the sky.
The psalmist describes the springs and waters God has caused to flow forth from both the ground and the heavens as giving drink to all kinds of living creatures (v. 11, 12), to plants and trees (v. 14, 16), to mountains (v. 13), to the very earth itself (v. 13). This imagery of water is particularly vivid within the context of ancient Israel, a people who experienced life in a dry, arid, desert region; here, God is the source of these streams, of all life.
By Taylor Telford, Princeton Theological Seminary
Questions & Actions
- Water is the source of all life, and it makes up nearly 2/3rds our bodies. It’s something we all learn early in our schooling. But what do you know about the water you consume every day? Does it come from a tap, a filter, or a bottle? Do a little digging today and track down the real source of the water. What reservoir, watershed, or aquifer feeds your home? Who else is supplied by this water? What are some of the stresses being placed on this water source (check for reporting in your local news)?
- “No, no, we are not satisfied and will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” These are the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. from his famous I Have a Dream speech. The image is taken from Amos 5:24. A never ending stream, for a community in an arid land–think of the implications! Reread the excerpt above with Amos and Dr. King in mind. What if the water that flow abundantly, that God provides, are the waters of justice?
- Many of us are ignorant of how precious water is. Consider this article from Tufts University asking, Is Clean Water the New Oil?. Today, in the spirit of Lenten fasting, seek to reduce your water usage. Don’t stop drinking it, but pay attention to moments when the water is running right now the drain. Is this a habit you could carry beyond this day?