Many of those who came to listen to Jesus that day were poor. They were burdened by the cares of life, such as having enough clothing to wear and food to eat. Jesus wanted to free them from their worry, so they would have more energy to pursue God wholeheartedly.
“Look at the birds in the sky,” he told them, as he sat perched on a hillside. I like to think that he actually gestured toward the heavens as he said this. “They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are?” (Matt 6:26, CEB).
They would probably have answered yes, without thinking. But in their worry, they had become estranged from the God who cares for the tiniest sparrow.
. . .
Psalm 104, as we have seen, is a hymn to creation and its Creator. It opens with an astounding description of the God who is clothed in glory and light, who rides the clouds, establishes the earth, and commands the seas.
One is reminded of the words God thundered to Job from the whirlwind: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell me, if you know” (Job 38:4; I want to insert the phrase, “Mr. Smarty Pants” at the end, but the Hebrew won’t support it). “Who enclosed the Sea behind doors,” God continues, “when I imposed my limit for it, put on a bar and doors and said, ‘You may come this far, no farther; here your proud waves stop’?” (vss. 8a, 10-11). God schooled Job on the incomparable majesty of his creative power. And when he was done, a humbled Job essentially answered, “You’re God, and I’m not. I had no idea what I was saying. So I’m just going to shut up now.”
If you ever want an explanation of the biblical concept of the “fear of God,” just put yourself in Job’s sandals, and you’ve pretty much got it.
Psalm 104 begins with a similar cosmic vision of God. But the psalm goes on to describe God’s providential care for all his creatures:
You put gushing springs into dry riverbeds.
They flow between the mountains,
providing water for every wild animal—
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
Overhead, the birds in the sky make their home,
chirping loudly in the trees.
From your lofty house, you water the mountains.
The earth is filled full by the fruit of what you’ve done.
You make grass grow for cattle;
you make plants for human farming
in order to get food from the ground,
and wine, which cheers people’s hearts,
along with oil, which makes the face shine,
and bread, which sustains the human heart. (vss. 10-15)
God’s eye is on the sparrow — but also on every species of wild animal, and cattle, and…us. Humanity is numbered among God’s creatures. But unlike other creatures, humans are expected to add their labor to God’s provision: to get wine from grapes, oil from olives, and bread from wheat. Our work is embraced and sanctified by God’s creative intent.
Furthermore, God not only provides food but a place to live:
The Lord’s trees are well watered—
the cedars of Lebanon, which God planted,
where the birds make their nests,
where the stork has a home in the cypresses.
The high mountains belong to the mountain goats;
the ridges are the refuge of badgers. (vss. 16-18)
God’s creatures are meant to live in harmony with the rhythm of the seasons, and the cycle of night and day:
God made the moon for the seasons,
and the sun too, which knows when to set.
You bring on the darkness and it is night,
when every forest animal prowls.
The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
When the sun rises, they gather together
and lie down in their dens.
Then people go off to their work,
to do their work until evening. (vss. 19-23)
When the psalmist envisioned people going out to work, it was probably the work of planting and harvesting; crowded freeways and rush hour traffic weren’t part of the picture. And neither, apparently, was working past sunset.
Kinda makes you think, doesn’t it?
. . .
In our world, we don’t always associate power with care; when people amass power, they often “lord” it over others for their own selfish purposes. But the unimaginably mighty Creator takes delight in his creation and cares tenderly for it.
The psalmist wants us to awaken to the magnificence of creation, and know that we humans are included in the divine providence that sustains it. For when that truth begins to sink in, we just might join the psalmist and bless God with our whole being.