************ Sermon on Genesis 1:1-2:3 & Psalm 104 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 12, 2010
Genesis 1:1-2:3 & Psalm 104
"The Lord Rejoices in His Works"
If you will turn to the insert in the bulletin, you will notice that I have Genesis 1 side-by-side with Psalm 104 – to show you that Psalm 104 is a poetic version of Genesis 1. I will read the portion from Genesis and I ask you to respond with the portion from Psalm 104. After each portion I will preach. Then we will sing a stanza or two of Psalm 104 from the Psalter Hymnal. And then we will go on to the next portion of Genesis 1 and Psalm 104.
Let's begin by reading Psalm 104:1 from the handout ... READ SCRIPTURE
Six years ago the world's smartest atheist changed his mind. I am talking about Antony Flew, ranked as the world's top atheist philosopher. Over the years, he has written many articles and books arguing against belief in God. But, then, in 2004, Flew abandoned atheism saying, "I must go where the evidence leads" – and the evidence pointed him to a Creator of enormous intelligence and power.
What changed his mind? Recent scientific discoveries that show the complexity of something as simple as a cell persuaded Flew that the origin of life did not just happen. Or, to use the language of Psalm 104:
(Ps 104:24) How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.Flew examined creation and knew there must be a God.
This does not mean that Flew became a Christian. Instead, he became a deist. Which means Flew believes a powerful, intelligent Being made the world, got life started, and then left it to run on its own. Notice, no faith in a personal God. No faith in a God Who remains involved with His creation. No faith in a God Who covenants with and looks after what He has made. No faith in a God Who loves us in Jesus Christ. Yet, Antony Flew stepped away from atheism. Sad to say, Flew died before becoming a Christian. Another reminder that no man knows his time.
The author of Psalm 104 goes much, much further than Flew. He looks at creation, knows there must be a God and praises that God. Hear the words of verse 1 again:
(Ps 104:1) Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.This is the psalmist's reaction to God's creation.
Did you know that God, too, has a reaction to His creation? Look at verse 31 on the flip side of your sheet:
(Ps 104:31) May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works ...This is not a wish. This is not a prayer. Rather, this is a certainty. In creation, God sees the reflection of His glory so God rejoices in His works. This is God saying "YES" to His creation. This is God taking pleasure or joy in His creation.
Genesis 1 may not use the exact same language but there, too, we see God delighting in His work. Five times, God looks at His creation and pronounces the verdict that it is "good" (Gen 1:4, 12, 18, 21, 25). God was pleased and happy with His work in creation. It gave Him pleasure.
Let's now turn to Day One. Again, I will read from Genesis 1 and if you will respond with the reading from Psalm 104 ... READ SCRIPTURE
On Day One God made the light and the light was good. Did you hear what the psalmist said about this? "He wraps himself in light as with a garment" (Ps 104:2). God uses light the way we use clothes. How do we use clothes? To enhance and adorn our appearance, to say something about ourselves, and to cover ourselves. God does something similar when He puts on light as a garment. He creates light to adorn Himself, to show His glory, and to hide Himself from the direct gaze of anyone. As Paul wrote:
(1 Tim 6:16) [God] who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
Think of a fashion show or a beauty contest. Do the contestants dress in old clothes or in their best clothes? Don't they dress in clothes that make them look their best? Aren't they like peacocks displaying their feathers? That is what God does when He dresses Himself in light. He shows His glory. He rejoices to wear the light He Himself made.
Let's sing PH #206:1 ... SING
Let's now turn to Day Two. Again, I will read from Genesis and if you will respond with the reading from Psalm 104 ... READ SCRIPTURE
On Day Two God make the sky – the heavens. What does God do with the sky according to the psalmist? The radiant God "stretches out the heavens as a tent" (Ps 104:2). The wording of the psalmist is significant. Today, we look up and talk about "space" – empty space, vast areas of nothingness. According to the psalmist, the vast realm beyond earth isn't empty space; no, not at all. Rather, it is where God has spread His tent, and He is present there in glory and divine joy. As for the clouds, they are His chariot. The winds are His angelic messengers. Flames of fire and flashes of lightning are His servants, acting on His orders (Ps 104:4; cf Heb 1:7).
Obviously, God does not need a literal chariot to thunder around the universe. He is already present everywhere. He also doesn't need clothes to wear or a tent to live in. No tent, even one that stretches across all galaxies, is able to contain God. As Solomon said, "The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you" (2 Chron 6:18).
So, why all this talk about God's tent, clothing, chariot, messengers, and so on? Because they show God's glory!
Let's sing PH #206:2 ... SING
Let's now turn to Day Three. Again, I will read from Genesis and if you will respond with the reading from Psalm 104 ... READ SCRIPTURE
On Day Three God separated the dry ground from the waters. According to Psalm 104, God's creation activity on Day Three explains why water flows downhill. We take it for granted that water gathers in low-lying places instead of simply covering everything like the atmosphere covers everything. According to the psalmist, water acts this way because it is under orders from God.
What would happen, do you think, if water was not under orders from God? Would rain fall upward? Would ice sink instead of float? Would water flow uphill? Would the oceans creep onto the land and overwhelm everything? The so-called "laws of nature" that control water are really standing orders from God.
Take note of those times that God gave different orders to the waters. I think of the time God wanted to save His people when the Egyptians were behind them and the Red Sea was in front of them. So what did God command the waters to do? God commanded the waters of the Red Sea to separate so there was a wall of water on the right and a wall of water on the left and the Israelites went safely through the sea on dry ground (Ex 9:21-22). I think also of the time Jesus and His disciples were exposed to a storm on the Sea of Galilee. The waters formed big waves that threatened to capsize the boat. So what did Jesus command the waters to do? Jesus commanded the waters to be still – and they were instantly still (Lk 8:24).
We should praise the Lord for those times He makes water form walls or become calm. According to Psalm 104, we should also praise the Lord for those times when water flows downhill. Whether water is obeying special orders – as with a miracle – or obeying standing orders, either way, God is the One directing it to His glory and delighting in His work.
Let's sing PH #206:3-4 ... SING
Let's now turn to the second part of Day Three. Again, I will read from Genesis and if you will respond with the reading from Psalm 104 ... READ SCRIPTURE
God commanded the earth to be fertile. The earth is not fertile on its own. Mother earth produces vegetation, but only by the command of God. Psalm 104 recognizes this. God makes grass and plants grow. God provides wine and oil, pizza and coke, spaghetti and milk. God waters the trees.
Notice how Psalm 104 goes further than Genesis 1. The plants and vegetation that God provides for food also double as a home for birds and storks. God provides high mountains as a home for wild goats strolling along impossible cliffs. It is God Who provides glaciers and ice water for penguins. It is God Who provides deserts for the cactus and the camel. Our almighty Creator matches unusual creatures with unusual homes.
Those with the eye of faith see God and His glory in all of this.
Let's sing PH #206:5-6 ... SING
Let's now turn to Day Four. Again, I will read from Genesis and if you will respond with the reading from Psalm 104 ... READ SCRIPTURE
The regular rhythms of day and night, the changing seasons, and the marking of days and months and years are all God's work. All this came about on Day Four when God made the sun, moon, and stars. The behavior of the sun, moon, and earth in relation to each other are not just mechanical movements. They are the Creator's doing.
The Bible tells us of a day that lasted 48 hours by the command of God so His people could win a victory (Josh 10:13-14). God is the One Who halted the earth's rotation that day. But He is also the One Who sets the length of every other day. "The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down," says the psalmist (Ps 104:19). It is God Who directs the regular pattern of day and night so that everyday is exactly 24 hours.
Let me say something about the length of the days of creation. Let's do this by asking a question of Moses' audience – the children of Israel leaving Egypt, going across the wilderness, and to the Promised Land. How long did they understand the days of Genesis 1 to be? According to them, how much time passes every time Moses wrote, "and there was evening, and there was morning – the first day, the second day, the third day ..." Even before the rising and the setting of the sun, they knew and understood all seven days of creation to be 24 hours in length. And when the 4th commandment speaks of God's six days of work and one day of rest, how long did they understand the days to be? Again, 24 hours in length.
God is a God – to us – of boring repetition. Small children and puppy dogs love repetition. I cannot tell you how many times I read "Cat in the Hat" or "The Berenstain Bears" or "Green Eggs and Ham." Yet, the boys would demand that I read it again and again. The same thing happened with games – they would yell, "Again. Do it again." Somehow, when we get older, we lose the joy of repetition. "Oh no," we think to ourselves, "not again!"
God loves repetition. Every day He tells the sun, "Again. Do it again." So, every day the sun rises and every day the sun sets. Every month He says the same thing to the moon. So, every month there is a new moon and every month there is a full moon.
Hours and days and years and ages – they are all so repetitious. Each one exactly like the one before. But that's the point, isn't it?! How would you like days that vary? So, when you get up you don't know whether you have 12 hours or 24 hours or maybe even 48 hours? How do farmers know when to plant their crops if sometimes a lunar month is 10 days and other times it is 50 days? This sure would mess up a lot of things.
God loves repetition. Look at the repetition in Genesis 1. There sure is lots of repetition:
-"according to their/its kinds" - ten times
-"good" - seven times
-"create" - five times
-"blessed" - three times
-"and there was evening, and there was morning" - six times
The world keeps going and certain things keep happening because a God of endless life and joy and energy keeps shouting, like a little kid, "Again. Do it again!" The things we see as dull cycles are really the rhythms of a joyful Creator. God delights in the repetition He has built into His universe.
Let's sing PH #207:1-2 ... SING
Let's now turn to Day FIVE. Again, I will read from Genesis and if you will respond with the reading from Psalm 104 ... READ SCRIPTURE
What did God do on Day Five? He made the sea creatures. The psalmist looks at this and is staggered by the sheer number of "living things both large and small" (Ps 104:25). Suddenly the God of boring and endless repetition – thank God for this – is also the God of endless and even wild variety. When Ruth and I were in Tahiti we were amazed at the fish we saw when we went snorkeling by a coral reef. They were entirely different from the fish we saw when we went snorkeling in Belize or by Cancun. Stick your head into the ocean sometime and you see a world blazing with color and swimming with life.
Let's sing PH #207:3 ... SING
Let's now turn to Day Six. Again, I will read from Genesis and if you will respond with the reading from Psalm 104 ... READ SCRIPTURE
On Day Six God made the animals. And, God made man. Again, the psalmist is left breathless by the sheer variety and numbers. Some people get excited about the question of whether bacteria might once have lived on Mars. They should get even more excited about all the life God put on earth – so much that scientists can barely keep track of it all.
"In wisdom you made them all," says the psalmist (Ps 104:24). Saying what? Saying that evolution and blind chance are not responsible. God is.
Let's sing PH #207:5 ... SING
Let's now turn to the second part of Day Six. Again, I will read from Genesis and if you will respond with the reading from Psalm 104 ... READ SCRIPTURE
Scripture makes clear that every living thing is created by God and continues to need God at every moment: "These all look to you to give them their food ..." (Ps 104:27).
This world is not a machine that God started up and left to run on its own. It is upheld every moment by the Creator.
This utter dependence upon God is humbling, but it is also uplifting. It is humbling because we need God every hour and every moment; without His blessing, all our work and all our plans come to nothing. It is uplifting, because we know all things are in His hands and not ours.
Let's sing PH #207:4
Let's now turn to Day Seven. Again, I will read from Genesis and if you will respond with the reading from Psalm 104 ... READ SCRIPTURE
You may wonder at the connection between Genesis 2:1-3 and Psalm 104. What lies at the center of Day Seven? Rest. That is, God enjoying His creation. That's what the psalmist mentions: the Lord rejoices in His works (Ps 104:31).
But it isn't only God Who rejoices in creation. The psalmist does too. So the psalmist sings praise to the Lord and rejoices in the Lord (Ps 104:33-34).
There is one major difference between Genesis 1 and Psalm 104. The difference is sin. The good and perfect creation of Genesis 1 is marred by sin in Psalm 104. So what does the psalmist pray for? "But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more" (Ps 104:35). It is sin that destroys the rest of the seventh day. It is sin that mars God's enjoyment of His creation. So the psalmist prays for the end to sin.
From the vantage point of the New Testament, we know two things have to happen before the end to sin when the creation perfectly displays, again, the glory of God. First, Jesus needs to come to pay for sin. Second, Jesus needs to come again to judge sin. So, the psalmist actually prays for the coming of Jesus.
Let's end by singing PH #207:7 ... SING
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