January 22 lesson: Praise God the Creator
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Praise God the Creator
Winter Quarter: Creation – A Divine Cycle
Unit 2: Praise from and for God’s Creation
Sunday school lesson for the week of January 22, 2017
By Helen and Rev. Sam Rogers
Lesson scripture: Psalm 104: 1-4; 24-30
Background Scripture: Psalm 104
We begin this lesson with a confession: We’re glad the scripture for this lesson is limited! However, please do read all of Psalm 104. The fullness and richness of its sweep will inspire and uplift any who take the time; but for our study purposes, we’re happy there are limits!
“Bless (Praise) the Lord, O my soul,” is both the opening and closing refrain of the Psalm. In Hebrew, the word is hallelujah. Praise God! The personal conversation of the Psalmist with God is evident throughout. All is written in the second person. There is no third person standing by as an uninvolved observer. The writer is talking directly to God.
Another important observation: the soul in Hebrew is not separated from the whole life of the person. Our understanding of soul as an entity separated from the physical body is of Greek origin. The Psalmist is praising God with the entirety of his being. Nothing is held back.
Beginning with a powerful metaphor stretching back in time to the dawn of creation, we have the picture of God putting light on like a robe. As you read, keep the Genesis accounts in chapters 1 and 2 in mind. The poetic imagination of the writer is vividly illustrated with pictures of God “stretching out the heavens like a tent,” and “laying the beams for building God’s dwelling place” (verse 3). God then “rides in a chariot of clouds…pushed on the wings of the wind.”
There was a time, in our younger days, when we sailed. Our little sailboat had no motor, so we learned to move from place to place “pushed (on a ‘reach’ or pulled on a ‘close haul’) on the wings of the wind!” What a glorious feeling! Remember, the Psalms are not science, but “songs of the heart.” Enjoy the imagery and revel in the meaning of God as Creator – don’t get hung up on being literal!
The next verses are not part of the lesson, but the vivid descriptions of God’s wondrous creations, the way God did it, and the amazing diversity of the natural world are well worth the read. The Flood is remembered, but, afterward, the emergence of the multiplicity of life forms is enumerated following this tragedy. We human beings focus so much on our appearance in the order of the Creation drama, we forget God declared after every day and everything created, “…and it was good.”
The lesson scripture continues with this list of what God did and the divine “wisdom” underlying all. People become upset when the existence of a species interferes with practices we deem necessary to our well-being. The study of ecology reminds us all life is inter-connected. You cannot destroy a rain forest, or the polar ice cap, or a species of fish, or another tiny creature without doing something harmful to the rest of creation. All are dependent on the other. The environmental impact of digging a pipeline, or drilling an oil well, or opening a housing development, or building another mall are all part of “the wisdom of the Lord who made them all.” Such wisdom may seem irrelevant in the immediacy of economic gain, but God’s wisdom in creation covers all of life on this planet for all time. Without careful thought we can even become enemies of the “wisdom of God.”
Verses 27-30 recount the dependency of all creatures and all of creation on the providence of God. God’s good gifts of food, water, and the stuff of life are the foundation of everything. Take them away and the result is death. Once again the Hebrew word “ruah” appears. This word is used for breath, wind, and spirit in the Old Testament. In the Genesis account, God “breathed” into Adam to bring him to life. Here, when that same breath is removed, death is the result. The intimacy of “ruah” to God’s life-giving spirit cannot be overstated. Continue that train of thought and connect it with the Holy Spirit! Powerful! Necessary! – for life now and forever.
The Psalm connects the rhythm of life with our participation in the process of caring for creation. There is no better word to describe human co-operation with God than stewardship. In our churches in the fall we are building programs and budgets. To fund this effort, we have Stewardship Campaigns. However, don’t confuse financial stewardship with this personal connection with God in the stewardship of the creation surrounding us.
This effort can be very personal!! In Georgia we are in the midst of a major draught. Don’t let the water run the whole time you are brushing your teeth or bathing! We said this was personal! Recycling should become automatic. Don’t use the plastic bags at the grocery store or Wal-Mart. Carry your own cloth bags.
We are called to be stewards of God’s gifts, not consumers of them. In Genesis, humans were given dominion over the earth. Too often we take this commandment to give us license to use everything as seems best for us. We are sinful, self-centered creatures, and our desires and presumed needs can easily be contrary to having dominion (control) as befits children of the Creator.
If we are to exercise dominion faithfully in creation, our example must be God’s dominion: bestowing life, not abusing; sustaining the myriad of species, not the eradication of one or more. Faithful dominion is the stewardship of the gifts of creation over time, not exacting what I can get for me or my generation. As my Water-keeper son reminds us, “We all live downstream!” Another piece of wisdom comes from the Native American culture: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
Psalm 104 calls us not only to praise the God who created all, but also to continue God’s work by nurturing the richness and diversity of life on this planet. Frankly, there is enlightened self-interest in recognizing the value of conservation and preservation. Life itself is at stake. “And I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Helen and Rev. Sam Rogers are a retired clergy couple. They can be reached at email@example.com.