“Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.” – Psalm 104:30
Every year brings new and amazing discoveries. This is due in part to the growth in knowledge of the world of nature. There was a time when every natural phenomenon was thought to be the immediate effect of some arbitrary fiat of the Almighty. The eclipses of the sun and moon, thunder and lightning were thought to be manifestations of God’s displeasure. But when it became known that the heavenly bodies move in orbits and cast their shadows on one another, the terrors of an eclipse departed. When electricity was recognized as one of the latent forces of nature, lightning ceased to be thought of as a special instrument of Divine power.
The ever-increasing knowledge of the laws of the universe does not, however, make it any less marvellous. We merely come into a truer understanding of the laws by which the Lord operates in the world, and the world seems to be more perfect rather than less. God is not removed from His creation. It can be seen more clearly than before that “it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves.” Certain principles emerge which can now be rationally seen.
The first of these is that in order that any finite thing may live there must be an infinite and uncreated source of life, and that all the forms of life which we see about us and which we ourselves are must derive their existence from the One who is life itself. This is the meaning of the name Jehovah, by which the God of heaven and earth made Himself known to the Israelites: the “I am,” He who is in and of Himself. This conception of God lies at the foundation of all orderly thinking concerning Him. “Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, Jehovah, the creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?” Creation is but the effect of the outpouring and communication of life from Him. This life is called in the Scriptures His breath or spirit. Accordingly we have such statements as that of our text: “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created.”
But He who sends forth His vivifying spirit is hidden from our natural sight, and the spirit or power that goes forth from Him is also invisible. And so those who do not lift up their thoughts above nature are tempted to deny His existence. A little rational instruction, however, shows us that there are other and higher things than those which can be seen by the physical eye. The spirit of God and all else that is spiritual lie within and above the domain of the senses. Life flows from within outwards. What we see is the external effects of life; we do not see the life itself. Our own spiritual natures are concealed from outward view. We look upon the bodily form and features of a friend, but we cannot see his soul. The soul is made known to us through the body, but as something interior to and distinct from it. When the soul is withdrawn, the body dies. He from whom the soul proceeds is the inmost fountain of all being. “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created.”
It has often been imagined even by those who believed in a personal God that He created the world once and for all and then let it go on by itself according to a system of laws provided for its government. This idea has arisen from two causes, one being that He keeps Himself out of sight and the other that it was taken for granted that His ways would be exactly like the ways of men. A carpenter builds a house and as soon as it is built goes away, perhaps never to return. But far different is the plan on which the Lord works. The life imparted by Him when He creates never ceases to flow. He is never absent from any part of His creation. By His presence He keeps the universe alive, just as He originally called it into being. Were He to separate Himself from the things which He has made, they would all perish. The very same impulse that fashioned them preserves them from destruction. Existence is perpetual creation. This is precisely what our text declares in saying “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created.” We are told in it not that the Lord sent out His spirit many ages ago, but that He sends it now. The language is not that things were created once upon a time, but that they are created. The present tense makes this statement a universal law.
It is so, too, with the second part of our text: “Thou renewest the face of the earth.” Allusion is obviously made in the sense of the letter to the changes continually going on in nature – the succession of one generation by another and the endless alternation of the seasons. The earth is just as fresh and young today as it was in most ancient times. It constantly receives new life. Not a moment passes without the renewal of the face of the earth.
If we know this, we come into the realization of the nearness of our Heavenly Father. Nature seems more alive than ever in the light of this truth. We see the Lord’s presence in the sunlight, we feel it in the breezes, and we hear it in the sound of the waters. His strength is in the rock that supports us, His majesty in the vastness of the universe. Wherever we look, we may behold Him end see His spirit creating and renewing the face of the earth. How strange it is that the discovery of the powers in nature should lead many to a disbelief in the Divine personality, as if will and intelligence, thought and affection could not coexist with an influence always present and active in creation! Were the universe a formless chaos, were all its parts disconnected from and unrelated to one another, and were it not marvelously adapted to the use and enjoyment of its inhabitants, we might believe that God had no share in designing it. But as the case stands, the love and wisdom of the Creator could not be more plainly written before our eyes.
God is Love and Wisdom. The Divine Love Itself is Life Itself. There is no life whatever of any kind which is not dependent upon the Divine Love, which is the living center of all being. You and I and all men live because God loves us.
The created objects are but the visible forms by which the Divine Love expresses itself. This is taught in the writings in the statement that God did not create the universe out of nothing – for of nothing nothing comes – but from Himself. This means that the love which He Himself is has descended by successive steps or degrees until it is presented to outward view in the concrete substances of nature. These are nothing but Divine love variously finited in adaptation to its purpose of forming human beings who shall receive, enjoy, and reciprocate it.
The Lord comes to us outwardly in all the beneficent influences of nature, and in the varied dispensations of His providence, while inwardly He seeks to make us happy with His love and to enlighten our minds with His wisdom, enabling us in our finite ways to will and to think and to exercise goodness and intelligence.
These are but a few of the many things involved in our text. Few as they are, they should enable us to see clearly the truth of the words “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.”
We should be thankful in this assurance of the Lord’s presence with us, whether it is felt through the wonders of our natural surroundings or whether we feel His presence in our souls, trying to redeem us from our iniquities and to create us anew by the influx of life and love and happiness from Him.