to give them their food in due season;
when you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.
As we near the end of EnviroLent we approach the end of Psalm 104, with just vv. 31-35 left for next week. The psalm began with declarations of God’s role in creating the world, “You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken” (Psalm 104:5). From there the psalmist then recounted the many ways in which God has provided habitats and provisions for all creatures through creation’s gifts, “You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst” (Psalm 104:10-11).
Our verses for today continue this theme of God and creation’s provision, stepping back from the individual examples of earlier verses to uncover a broader truth: God is sustainer. The psalmist surveyed creation and saw its beauty, witnessing the myriad of ways in which it provides abundantly for all life forms. Now the psalmist turns to God who stands behind it all, “These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things” (Psalm 104:27-28).
The following verse, “When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust” (Psalm 104:29), does not stand as a threat but rather a reminder: we should never take these gifts for granted. Unfortunately, in this day and age it is all too easy to forget these things. Most folks can hop into a car, drive a few short miles, walk into a grocery store, and have whatever food they happen to be in the mood for at the time. This ease of access hides the actual processes and costs beneath cheap and accessible food. The reality of provision is lost.
Our passage today ends with the statement, “When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground” (Psalm 104:30). God is both Sustainer and Creator. The Lenten theme of humanity’s fragility and mortality resounds once again. We are reoriented toward God and away from any false sense of autonomy. We are called to turn from abuse and greed of creation’s gifts that it may prosper, offering provisions to all of God’s creatures.
By William Wellman, ecotheo.org staff
Questions & Actions
- Read through the entirety of Psalm 104 and take note of the many ways the psalmist sees God at work in providing for the world and its creatures. Where do you see God’s provisions in your life? Where do you see God’s provisions in the world around you?
- What distracts you from acknowledging the source of creation’s gifts? What are some ways you can overcome these distractions?
- Next week is Holy Week, in preparation for this read John 5:17 and Colossians 1:15-20–think over its connection to Psalm 104, particularly today’s passage.