The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 20
You will not meet with a sublimer ode than this 104th Psalm in all the wide range of poesy, sacred or profane. It is a grand, sustained strain of praise to the All-mighty and All-wise Creator and Preserver. The language is of the richest poetical beauty, and the images employed, whether we isolate them or regard them in their groupings, are surpassingly lovely; while the description is as faithful as it is eloquent. Though the Psalm has no title and no author's name prefixed, it has been ascribed by many expositors to Israel's sweet singer, David. Its close connection with the 103rd Psalm greatly strengthens this opinion; though it must be acknowledged that many—Hengstenberg amongst the number—are against the Davidic authorship. Undoubtedly the Psalmist's object is to set forth the majesty and might of Jehovah in the work of Creation, and His beneficence and bountifulness in Providence. He seems to behold the Almighty clothed in a glistening garment of light: he seems to hear His authoritative commands—done as soon as spoken: he seems to see His plastic hand moulding matter to the fair designs of His will: and he marks the lavish profuseness with which all things needed for the sustenance and comfort of His creatures have been provided. With such a theme it is not to be wondered at that he whose harp had many notes, and whoso soul was capable of passionate adoration, should almost surpass himself.
Careful critics have detected a plan in the composition well worth a passing remark. The author's model is the first chapter of Genesis. He recounts the six periods of God's work, viewing them as perpetually prolonged in the preservation of all; and at the close he appropriately hints at the seventh period of rest, wherein the Lord rejoices in His works. If you will turn for a page 6 moment to the Psalm, you will see the justness of this principle of interpretation. Verses 3—8 refer to the first and second "days"—as we call them—when the Light was created, and the firmanent was built up and called Heaven. Verses 9—13 refer to the third "day" when the earth and sea received their appointed bounds, and the grasses, the herbs, and the trees clothed the barren land with a raiment of many-hued loveliness. Verses 14—19 refer to the fourth "day," when the two great lights were hung on high—the sun to rule the day, the moon to rule the night—and when the stars were sprinkled through the wastes of space. Verses 20—30 refer to the fifth and sixth "days," when the fowls of the air, the fish of the sea, the living creatures of the field and forest,—and man, their monarch—were placed in their prepared homes. And in verso 31 there is an allusion to that Sabbatic rest, which some identify with this lengthened dispensation of grace, wherein God waits for the return of prodigal wanderers to His love and His bosom.
Now, set in the very heart of this Psalm, which is almost wholly about God and His work, we have something about man and his work. God is spoken of as working and working always, because His work is without weariness, because the pouring forth of His energy is without exhaustion. But man, because of his frailty, because he is liable to fatigue, though under the law of labour, yet has a limit assigned to his labour. He is not to be, like the Eternal Jehovah, ceaselessly working; nor is he to toil by day while the stork is making her house in the fir trees, while the wild goats are gleaning their food on the tops of the high hills, and by night, too, when all "the beasts of the forest do creep forth." Man has a time for labour, and that time is the day. Man has a limit to his labour, and that limit is the evening. "Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening." We have here, then—