Lectionary Year B
June 8, 2003
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Step IV: Broader Context


Early Christians used Psalms to express praise and supplication to God. Jesus quoted at least one Psalm (22) on the cross. Doubtlessly, His followers read, studied and recited Psalms as they did other parts of what we now call the Old Testament. They also, surely, employed Psalms in worship in the homes of believers in the first century and thereafter, too. Such statements as the Psalms could certainly give Christians being persecuted some hope and even confidence. The Psalms are so God-centered, definitely, their sentiments and witness could focus immature and faltering followers of Christ on their Savior’s revelation of God’s providence. The “in due season” idea in verse 27 of our text is repeated in Matthew 24:45 as well as elsewhere in the New Testament and the Apostle Paul mentions traveling on the sea and respects it as much as the Psalmist of 104. Someone remarks that as God rejoices in 104:34, so also, responders rejoice, compared with Philippians 4:4-7. Neophyte Christians referred to the Psalms as being “of David” in Mark 12:36f, Acts 4:25f and Romans 6:6-8, as was the custom then.


Several commentaries note this Psalm’s reminders of the Creation Saga in Genesis, the first chapter, especially verses 20f. Arnold B. Rhodes notes, in The Layman’s Bible Commentary, “In the Old Testament the meaning of ‘Leviathan’ varies. Sometimes it refers to the dragon (see Isaiah 27:1 and the comment on Ps. 74:12-17), sometimes to the crocodile (Job 41, see margin), and, as here, sometimes to a huge marine animal (Job 3:8).” Doubtlessly, the ancient civilizations before Christ both feared and revered the sea. Consequently, they could appreciate the part of this Psalm that calls their attention to the God who created the sea and provides for those who are in and on it.


These Greek speaking philosophers were scattered out all through the ancient near east, Asia Minor and south eastern Europe. The sea touched many of their lands and played a large part in their view of the expanding known world. Would the mention of wisdom in the opening verse make any impression of the Hellenists? The distinctions between God’s giving and taking away the spirit, in verses 28f, might provoke some dialogue on these activities and their consequences. The logical sequences of God’s hiding His face and the peoples’ dismay, removal of their spirit and their expiration and returning to dust and the sending forth of God’s Spirit and the peoples’ being created and the ground’s being renewed could make appeal to the Hellenists’ interests. If they noticed a distinction between matter, the ground, the sea, etc., and the spirit and the Spirit in this Psalm, they might enjoy discussing it. Could they find meaning in how this Psalmist gets inspired to praise God upon consideration of the sea and its creatures and their providence?

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