Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land!
Psalms 96: 1, 11-12
O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth . . . Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall the tress of the forest sing for joy.Read Psalm 96:1,11-12 Take-Aways »Read Calvin’s Commentary on Psalms »Read The New Interpreters Bible Commentary »
Psalms 19: 1-4
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.Continue Reading Psalms 19: 1-4 »Read Psalm 19:14 Take-Aways »Read Calvin’s Commentary on Psalms »Read The New Interpreters Bible Commentary »Read Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible »
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host! Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.Continue Reading Psalms 148 »Read Psalm 148 Take-Aways »Read Calvin’s Commentary on Psalms »Read The New Interpreters Bible Commentary »Read Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible »
Romans 1: 20-23
Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he had made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.Continue Reading Romans 1: 20-23 »Read Romans 1:20-23 Take-Aways »Read New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary »
Revelation 5: 11-13
TContinue Reading Revelation 5: 11-13 »Read Revelation 5:11-13 Take-Aways »Read The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary »
Psalm 96:1,11-12 Take-Aways
What is the significance of the psalmist summoning “all the earth” to sing a song to the Lord? In what way can it be said that “the trees of the forest sing for joy?” This psalm clearly portrays creation as delighting in its creator as much as humanity does. Is there anything we can learn from creation’s song? Is humanity’s song to God in any way incomplete without the harmony our fellow creatures supply? Though the pinnacle, humanity is but one part of God’s vast creation. Yet, too often we take a myopic view. We despoil creation without thought or care in order to satisfy our own desires. Instead of tuning in, we mute creation’s song through acts of neglect, negligence, and greed.
Calvin’s Commentary on Psalms
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom11.iv.ii.html 11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad. With the view of giving us a more exalted conception of the display of God’s goodness in condescending to take all men under his government, the Psalmist calls upon the irrational things themselves, the trees, the earth, the seas, and the heavens, to join in the general joy. Nor are we to understand that by the heavens he means the angels, and by the earth men; for he calls even upon the dumb fishes of the deep to shout for joy. The language must therefore be hyperbolical, designed to express the desirableness and the blessedness of being brought unto the faith of God. At the same time, it denotes to us that God does not reign with terror, or as a tyrant, but that his power is exercised sweetly, and so as to diffuse joy amongst his subjects. The wicked may tremble when his kingdom is introduced, but the erection of it is only the cause of their fear indirectly.
The New Interpreters Bible Commentary
Because God rules the world, it is not sufficient to gather a congregation less than “all the earth” (vv. 1,9). This includes humans, to be sure (see v. 7), but it also includes “the heavens,” “the earth,” itself, “the sea,” “the field,” and “all the trees” (vv. 11-12). The ecumenical and inter-faith implications are profound; we are somehow partners with all the “families of the peoples” (v. 7). The ecological implications are staggering; we humans are somehow partners with oceans and trees and soil and air in glorifying God. The destiny of humankind and the destiny of the earth are inseparable. We–people, plants, and even inanimate entities–are all in this together (see Ps 150:6; Hose 4:1-3; see also Ps 8; 104) (Volume IV, p1066).
Psalms 19: 1-4
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
Psalm 19:14 Take-Aways
With wordless words and speechless speech, heaven and earth proclaim the glory of God. Think what it must have been like for the psalmist who beheld this truth, but had only mere words with which to express it. Everyday, millions of people worldwide utter praises to God and reflect on God’s majesty. How often do we stop to consider that creation may do the same as well? Through all the earth, at every moment creation is reminding us of the glory of God. We only need ears to hear and eyes to see. Psalm 19 ends with the familiar petition, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” What could be more acceptable than to meditate on the truth proclaimed by God’s creation?
Calvin’s Commentary on Psalms
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom08.xxv.i.html 19.1 …He only makes mention of the heavens; but, under this part of creation, which is the noblest, and the excellency of which is more conspicuous, he doubtless includes by synecdoche the whole fabric of the world. There is certainly nothing so obscure or contemptible, even in the smallest corners of the earth, in which some marks of the power and wisdom of God may not be seen; but as a more distinct image of him is engraven on the heavens, David has particularly selected them for contemplation, that their splendor might lead us to contemplate all parts of the world. When a man, from beholding and contemplating the heavens, has been brought to acknowledge God, he will learn also to reflect upon and to admire his wisdom and power as displayed on the face of the earth, not only in general, but even in the minutest plants…When we behold the heavens, we cannot but be elevated, by the contemplation of them, to Him who is their great Creator; and the beautiful arrangement and wonderful variety which distinguish the courses and station of the heavenly bodies, together with the beauty and splendor which are manifest in them, cannot but furnish us with an evident proof of his providence. Scripture, indeed, makes known to us the time and manner of the creation; but the heavens themselves, although God should say nothing on the subject, proclaim loudly and distinctly enough that they have been fashioned by his hands: and this of itself abundantly suffices to bear testimony to men of his glory. As soon as we acknowledge God to be the supreme Architect, who has erected the beauteous fabric of the universe, our minds must necessarily be ravished with wonder at his infinite goodness, wisdom, and power.
The New Interpreters Bible Commentary
Psalm 19 is not anti-science, but it does offer a view of the universe as something more than an object to be studied and controlled. To be sure, nature is not divine, but it is incomprehensible apart from God. In some sense, nature “knows” God (v. 2), and thus it can proclaim God’s sovereignty. In short, like the human who addresses God as “next of kin” (see v. 14, [where redeemer is sometimes translated “next of kin“]), the creation is related to God. On some level, we are all part of the same family. The Hebrew language itself recognizes the family resemblance–the word for “humanity” is Hebrew adam, and the word for “earth”/”ground” is Hebrew adama. The ecological implications of this view of the world are astounding. In God’s ordering of the cosmos, the future of the creature is linked inextricably to the future of creation (Volume IV, p753).
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible
The Glory of God’s works The heavens so declare the glory of God, and proclaim his wisdom, power, and goodness, that all ungodly men are left without excuse. They speak themselves to be works of God’s hands; for they must have a Creator who is eternal, infinitely wise, powerful, and good. The counter-changing of day and night is a great proof of the power of God, and calls us to observe, that, as in the kingdom of nature, so in that of providence, he forms the light, and creates the darkness, Isa 45:7, and sets the one against the other. The sun in the firmament is an emblem of the Sun of righteousness, the Bridegroom of the church, and the Light of the world, diffusing Divine light and salvation by his gospel to the nations of the earth. He delights to bless his church, which he has espoused to himself; and his course will be unwearied as that of the sun, till the whole earth is filled with his light and salvation. Let us pray for the time when he shall enlighten, cheer, and make fruitful every nation on earth, with the blessed salvation. They have no speech or language, so some read it, and yet their voice is heard. All people may hear these preachers speak in their own tongue the wonderful works of God. Let us give God the glory of all the comfort and benefit we have by the lights of heaven, still looking above and beyond them to the Sun of righteousness.
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host! Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created. He established them for ever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed. Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds! Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and women alike, old and young together! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the Lord!
Psalm 148 Take-Aways
As with other psalms, Psalm 148 calls upon all of creation to praise God, providing an extensive list of animate and inanimate objects that should give praise (see Take-Aways for Psalm 19 and Psalm 96). Here, the occasion for this praise “from the heavens” and “from the earth” is God’s role as creator (vv. 5-6). Why do the Psalms repeatedly emphasize God’s role as creator? Consider God’s other roles, including righteous judge, redeemer, and savior. Compared with these, how often do we reflect on God as creator? Does such reflection shed any light on how we view ourselves and the rest of creation?
Calvin’s Commentary on Psalms
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom12.xxxii.i.html 3. Praise him, ye sun and moon This passage gives no countenance to the dream of Plato, that the stars excel in sense and intelligence. Nor does the Psalmist give them the same place as he had just assigned to angels, but merely intimates that the glory of God is everywhere to be seen, as if they sang his praises with an audible voice. And here he tacitly reproves the ingratitude of man; for all would hear this symphony, were they at all attent upon considering the works of God. For doth not the sun by his light, and heat, and other marvelous effects, praise his Maker? The stars when they run their course, and at once adorn the heavens and give light to the earth, do they not sound the praises of God? But as we are deaf and insensible, the Psalmist calls upon them as witnesses to reprove our indolence. 5. Let them praise the name, etc. As he speaks of things wanting intelligence, he passes to the third person, from which we infer that his reason for having spoken in the second person hitherto, was to make a deeper impression upon men. And he asks no other praise than that which may teach us that the stars did not make themselves, nor the rains spring from chance; for notwithstanding the signal proofs we constantly have before our eyes of the divine power, we with shameful carelessness overlook the great author. He says emphatically — for He Himself created, intimating that the world is not eternal, as wicked men conjecture, nor made by a concourse of atoms, but that this fair order of things which we see, suddenly sprang forth upon the commandment of God. And, speaking of the creation, he adds what is even more worthy of observation, that he gave that law to them which remains inviolable. For many, while they grant that the world was made by God, lapse from this into the senseless notion that now the order of nature stands of itself, and that God sits idle in the heavens. The Psalmist very properly insists, therefore, that the works of God above us in the heavens were not only made by him, but even now move forward at his disposal; and that not only was a secret power communicated to them at first, but while they go through their assigned parts, their operation and ministry to their various ends is dependent upon God. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom12.xxxii.ii.html 11. Kings of the earth, etc. He now turns his address to men, with a respect to whom it was that he called for a declaration of God’s praises from creatures, both above and from beneath. As kings and princes are blinded by the dazzling influence of their station, so as to think the world was made for them, and to despise God in the pride of their hearts, he particularly calls them to this duty; and, by mentioning them first, he reproves their ingratitude in withholding their tribute of praise when they are under greater obligations than others.
The New Interpreters Bible Commentary
Whereas vv. 1-6 focus on praise “from the heavens” (v.1), vv. 7-14 focus on praise “from the earth” (v.7). As in the first section, a jussive invitation to praise (v. 13a, which is identical to v. 5a) immediately precedes the reasons for praise in vv. 13b-14. By the end of the psalm, the word “praise (Hebrew hillel) has occurred eleven times as a verb and once as a noun. (v. 14). This impressive repetition in itself suggests the inclusivity of praise, which Psalm 148 invites. The intent to be inclusive–indeed, universal–is reinforced by the prepositional phrases in vv. 1,7 (see also NRSV, “above heaven and earth” in v. 13) and by the repetition of “all” in vv. 2-3, 7, 9-11, 14. Then, of course, there is the actual listing of beings (heavenly and earthly) and things (animate and inanimate) that are invited to praise God. The effect of the structure and stylistic features of Psalm 148 is even more inclusive than the climactic final verse of the psalter, for in Psalm 148 it is not just a matter of “everything that breathes” praising God (150:6). Rather, it is also a matter of everything that is praising God. Not unexpectedly, v. 8 recalls Ps 147:15-18, both in terms of the elements of creation involved and of the creative power of God’s “word.” The list again is reminiscent of Genesis 1-2–”earth” (see Gen 1:1; 2:1,4; the phrase “earth and heaven” occurs only in Gen 2:4 and Ps 147:13); “sea monsters” (see Gen 1:21); “deeps” (see Gen 1:2); “fruit trees” (see Gen 1:11); “wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds” (see Gen 1:21, 24-25). As in Genesis 1, the culminating focus in Psalm 148 is on humanity (see vv. 11-12). Those whom human beings recognize as sovereign are to acknowledge the ultimate sovereignty of God (v. 11), as are all general categories of people (v. 12). Verse 11 recalls Ps 2:1-2, 10-12, which as the beginning of the psalter calls for recognition of God’s sovereignty (see also Ps 149:5-9). Quite appropriately, the reasons for praise in v. 13b proclaim God’s sovereignty. The word “exalted” (Hebrew sagab) occurs elsewhere in the context of the proclamation of God’s kingship (see Isa 33:5 in the context of 33:17-22), and the word “glory” (Hebrew hod) regularly describes royalty, both human (see Pss 21:5; 45:3) and divine (see Pss 96:6; 145:5). In keeping with the two divisions of the psalm, v. 13b affirms that God’s sovereignty is over “earth and heaven.” In short, God rules the cosmos (Volume IV, p1271).
Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible
Like the other Hallel psalms (146-150), this psalm is introduced (v. 1) and concluded (v. 14) by the imperative “Praise the Lord!” As a hymn this psalm functions therefore to persuade its hearers or readers to praise the Lord. To this end the poet introduces two “choirs” – one to praise the Lord “from the heavens” (vv. 1-6) and the other to praise him “from the earth” (vv. 7-14). The message the poet is conveying is that the entire cosmos must praise the Lord. The first strophe (148: 1-6) – praising the Lord “from the heavens” – comprises a call to praise (vv. 1-4) and the grounds (vv. 5-6) for praising the Lord. The dominant feature of vv. 1-4 is the seven imperatives. V. 1 tells us that the mighty chorale which the created world must sing to its creator must echo from the highest place in creation – the heavens. In v. 2 a metaphor is used to depict the celestial court in which the sovereign Lord rules, surrounded by his servants. In v. 3 the heavenly bodies are personified. They are seen as the Lord’s servants and called upon to praise him. In the ancient Near East the sun, moon, and stars were often deified; here they are explicitly presented as the Lord’s handiwork and called upon to praise him. V. 4 concludes the imperatives and is a partial echo of v. 1 (cf. “heavens,” v.1, with “heavens” and “highest heavens,” v. 4). In vv. 5-6 grounds are given for the preceding imperatives to praise the Lord. The first reason adduced for praising the Lord is that he created the universe by a mighty word or command. Psalm 148 describes the creation in the same way that Genesis 1 does. The Lord not only created the world but also sustains it and protects it from the powers of chaos. In contrast to other creation stories of the ancient Near East, where creation is said to be accomplished in the midst of conflict, in the biblical story the Lord creates by a mighty word. The second strophe (148: 7-14) is the second choir in this great recital, this time echoing “from the earth.” This strophe is parallel to the first one in that the imperatives to praise the Lord (vv. 7-12) are followed by grounds for praising him (vv. 13-14). In contrast to the first strophe, where the highest regions of the cosmos were summoned to praise the Lord, this one starts with the depths of the earth. The first to be summoned are the “sea monsters,” which in the creation myths of the ancient Near East had the connotation of being hostile monsters of chaos (cf. Pss 74: 12-14; 89:10). Here they are demythologized, for these majestic monsters are the Lord’s handiwork and are called upon to praise the Creator. The habitat of the monsters (“deeps”) is personified and called upon to praise. These “deeps” or primordial floods also have mythological connotations and are related to powers of chaos (cf. Tiamat in the Babylonian creation myth). The point is that the Lord is not at war with the primeval waters, but that they, too, are summoned to praise him. The natural phenomena of the skies are also called upon to praise the Lord (v. 8): “fire and hail,” “snow and frost,” and “stormy wind.” These dangerous natural forces against which humans are powerless are subject to the Lord and praise him. Terra firma (“the solid earth”) – represented by the voices of the mountains and hills – is likewise enjoined to praise him (v. 9). The vegetable kingdom, the animal realm, and humankind are summoned in ascending order to voice their praise. Starting with the leaders (“kings,” “princes,” “rulers”), the whole of human society – male and female, old and young – is exhorted to praise. Although the summons to praise reaches a climax in the address to humans, it should be noted that human beings are not set apart. They are summoned on a par with the rest of creation to sing in a choir of praise to the Lord. The reasons for the praise are found in vv. 13-14. The grounds advanced for praise are that “his name alone is exalted.” As in the previous strophe, there is a polemical element. The Lord alone is exalted – no other gods can aspire to this. The same universal element is apparent as in the previous strophe: the Lord’s glory extends above heaven and earth, that is to say, everywhere. The expression “above earth and heaven” (v. 13) in a sense fuses the two strophes (cf. “from the heavens,” v.1, and “from the earth, v. 7) into one. V. 14 advances another reason for praising the Lord: “he has raised up a horn for his people.” The horn symbolizes power (cf. Ps. 89:17), and here it probably refers to a specific historical act by the Lord. Most exegetes rightly believe this to be a reference to the deliverance from the exile. Thus the psalm reaches its climax in the invocation of salvation history as grounds for the imperatives to praise the Lord. Because the Lord has proved himself to be the one and only God – both in creation and in history – universal praise is due to him (p 434).
Romans 1: 20-23
Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he had made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.
Romans 1:20-23 Take-Aways
How many times have we beheld a beautiful scene in nature and been overcome by a sense of certainty that there must be a creator? The Apostle Paul here states that by reflecting on God’s creation, we are drawn to the Creator. Who among those who profess faith in God can look at the majestic mountains or a radiant sunrise and not see evidence of God’s goodness and grace? If creation is one means by which we come to know God, does that imply any duty or obligation on our part to it? Do we see God in sky scrapers the same way we do in the ocean? Does it do anything to our perception of God, or ourselves, when we see creation despoiled?
New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary
God’s self-revelation has displayed what can be known; this revelation takes place in the created order, rendering all without excuse; humans have refused to honor God in the appropriate way. These verses have had to bear the weight of debates about “natural theology” (the question of whether, and to what extent, the truth of God is accessible through the created order without the aid of special revelation). As with some other doctrines that have wandered to and fro seeking biblical support, this on has fastened upon certain brief passages, in this case the present one and a few others (notably Acts 17: 22-31, which has other affinities with this passage in Romans), none of which offers a full-dress exposition of the matter, but only an allusion on the way to making some other point. Nevertheless, however brief the statement, Paul clearly does believe that when humans look at creation they are aware, at some level, of the power and divinity of the creator. The problem, of course, is that this knowledge does not save those who possess it, but only renders them guilty. Paul does not say that saving knowledge of God may be had through observing the creation; nor, however, does he say that there is nothing that can be known of God that way. Indeed, granted his belief in the renewal of the human mind by grace, we must assume that in his view the Christian can indeed discern the truth of God by observing creation. But that is not his point here. IN fact, like several of his Jewish contemporaries, he believes – consonant with the Jewish belief that the world was made by a good creator – that signs of the creator are visible within this world (see, e.g., Wis 13:5). But these never permit humans to gain over the creator the kind of power that comes with knowledge. On the contrary, they are simply enough to ensure that when humans rebel – as they do – they are manifestly guilty. The appropriate response to the divine self-revelation in creation would have been worship and thanksgiving. Instead, however, human thought became futile and foolish, and human hearts (not “minds” as NRSV, though the two ideas are not far apart in Paul) became darkened. This unfolding of the dense v. 18b prepares the way for vv. 22, 24-25 and above all vv. 28 and 32. The result of refusal to know God through creation is the false boast of humans and the corruption of the worshiping instinct into idolatry. Here Paul is deliberately, though covertly, retelling the story of Genesis 3, on the one hand, and of Israel in the wilderness, on the other. Talk of God the creator has prepared the way for the first of these. When, in Genesis 3, the serpent tempts Eve, what is on offer is fruit that will, supposedly, make humans wise (Gen 3:6). The primal sin was a matter of obeying instructions, or at least suggestions, not from the creator in whose image humans were made, but from an agent within creation itself. Instead of recognizing wisdom as an attribute of the creator, to be gained by worshiping and serving that God, humans boasted in a wisdom that consisted in supposed independence. But this wisdom consisted in the greatest folly possible – namely, giving allegiance instead to images of humans and also of birds, animals, and reptiles. This “exchange” of God’s glory for an idol echoes Ps 106: 20, which speaks of Israel in the wilderness swapping the living God for the golden calf. Here Paul corrects the implicit narrative of the Wisdom of Solomon, written most likely not long before his own day, by referring back to Scripture: In Wisdom, Israel in the wilderness may commit sins, but it will receive only a mild, correcting rebuke. In general, the people stand out from the pagan Egyptians. For Paul, as for the psalmist, Israel rejected the covenant God and fell away into copying the pagans . . . This not only anticipates the explicit turn in the argument at 2:17, but it also looks ahead to 7:7-12, where once again the narratives of Adam and Israel are woven together. The first part of Paul’s basic charge is now complete. The human race, called to worship and reflect the image of the creator, has turned to idolatry – and has sought to dignify it by claiming it as the true wisdom. The results follow swiftly (Vol. 10, pg 432-433).
Revelation 5: 11-13
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, ‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever!’
Revelation 5:11-13 Take-Aways
“And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor glory and might forever and ever.’” Here John envisions the whole cosmos praising God. Why does every creature bow to God? Because, as the New Interpreters Bible says, Jesus Christ is a king who rules without arms, without exploiting the worlds inhabitants and resources. Instead, Jesus’s rule is one of witness. He transforms the cosmos through grace not violence. As ministers of God’s grace, as witnesses to this kind of kingdom, do we strive to care for the world in this same kind of way?
The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary
In Revelation 5, the transformation of heaven rather than that of humanity is the issue, though the consequences of that transformation are for the cosmos as a whole. That is done not by the conquering of heaven through violence. The secret of the heart of God (cf. 13:8; 1 Pet 1:20) and the qualification for proximity to God are rooted in the death of the Lamb. The character of God is revealed in that God did not spare God’s own Son but gave him up for us all (see Rom 8:32). This is the identity of the true ruler of the kings of the earth, whose sovereignty does not come by force of arms or by the exploitation of the inhabitants of the world and its resources, but by the costly witness (cf. Phil 2:5ff).