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Day 3

The Joy of Jesus
Imagine standing with Jesus, right next to him, in prayer to his Father. Read this passage of praise aloud. As you do so, consider that you are praying along with Jesus, your two voices becoming one as you bless God.  
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
   and all that is within me,
   bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity
   who heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the pit,
   who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5)
Psalm 104:1-2, 19-24; 27-31
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
   O LORD my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
   covering yourself with light as with a garment,
   stretching out the heavens like a tent. . . . 
He made the moon to mark the seasons;
   the sun knows its time for setting.
You make darkness, and it is night,
   when all the beasts of the forest creep about.
The young lions roar for their prey,
   seeking their food from God.
When the sun rises, they steal away
   and lie down in their dens.
Man goes out to his work
   and to his labor until the evening.
O LORD, how manifold are your works!
   In wisdom have you made them all;
   the earth is full of your creatures. . . .
These all look to you,
   to give them their food in due season. . . .
When you give it to them, they gather it up;
   when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
   when you take away their breath, they die
   and return to their dust.
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
   and you renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works.
What Is This Psalm About?   
Psalm 104 blesses the LORD I AM for the very rhythms of life on the earth. The psalmist rejoices that, as Calvin would comment centuries later, “[T]he whole world is a theatre for the display of the divine goodness, wisdom, justice, and power” (Commentary on Psalm 104). Similarly, the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins would write, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God” (“God’s Grandeur”). When we look at creation against the backdrop of the Creator’s goodness, order and plan, even the mundane thrills us. So the prophet declares, “He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is his name” (Amos 5:8).
God ordered the cosmos with reliable laws, and faith understands that God’s steadfast love undergirds this constancy. Consequently, what seems routine sparkles as extraordinary. Wonder is everywhere: Days and seasons. Earth and sky. Birth and death. Growth and decay. Work and rest. Animals nocturnal and diurnal. Evergreens and leaf-droppers. Rainy seasons and dry. Cold and heat. The very dance of electrons to the slow inexorable glacier flow sing forth the beauty of the Creator. Thomas Chisholm’s beloved hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” encapsulates this lovely theme of Psalm 104: “Summer and winter and seedtime and harvest, / Suns, moons and stars in their courses above / Join with all nature in manifold witness / to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.” 
What Might This Psalm Have Meant to Jesus?
Paul writes of the Son of God that “by him all things were created in heaven and on earth . . . all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:6-17). Paul also tells us that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Galatians 4:4), and “he emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). The eternal Son took up a real humanity. As Jesus, he made his way as we do. He had to develop, study, ask questions, reason, work, eat, wash, rest, deepen and explore. Jesus as a human had to become aware of what he had known from eternity as the Son of God—he is his Father’s unique Son.
As a child, Jesus encountered the world as children do—just receiving what is as it is. Spilled milk is not first a mess, but something wet and cool to put a hand in. A dog slurp is first something that makes you laugh, only later something that makes you sticky. He experienced and loved all the ordinary moments of regular days. 
In his ministry, Jesus would have to undertake the grim business of engaging evil. He would have to fight against illness, arrogance, oppression, and every manner of brokenness. But I don’t believe he ever lost the joy of life that he experienced as a child. 
As we consider his teaching, we see Jesus’ awareness and appreciation of daily life. There is abundant evidence in his illustrations that Jesus had been shaped by Psalm 104 in his prayers:  
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matthew 6:28b-29)
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. (Matthew 10:29)The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. (Mark 4:26-27)
When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ (Matthew 16:2-3)
Jesus loves the beautiful adornment of flowers and the birds on the wing. He knows his Father has his eye on the sparrow. He acknowledges the mystery of how seeds sprout and plants grow. He watches the signs of weather and lives close to the change of seasons and the daily sunrise and nightfall. 
As Jesus prays Psalm 104, we can imagine his deep contemplation. The song turns from lyrically naming aspects of creation to exploring the very mystery of living and dying. The Hebrew word for “breath,” “wind” and “spirit” is the same. Thus, animals live by the breath, or Spirit, of God. The breath of God gives the breath of life. When that Spirit is withdrawn, creatures perish. We, like the animals, made of dust, rise from the earth and return to it in due time, under the sovereignty of God.
Jesus discerns the hope that follows the psalm’s lines about death. Seemingly out of order, we read how God sends forth his Spirit, his divine breath, to quicken these creatures who have perished. But the Hebrew word can mean “revive” as well as “create.” This gives a sense of resurrection. “[A]nd you renew the face of the earth.” As the years go by and Jesus considers the cross that will be before him, how precious would the joyful hope of this psalm be to him!
Praying with Jesus
You encountered the world from within a real human life.
I love to think of your joy in being alive,
In seeing order, rhythm, design everywhere.
Mary and Joseph told you of the Creator.
So you received everything as a gift from his hand. 
As a child, you felt 
The vastness of the world,
The power of the waves,
The depths of the waters
And the height of the hills.
You saw animals born and die.
You saw the harvest joy
And the heartbreak of crops that failed.
You anticipated the routine of daily meals,
And regular prayers,
Sabbath rest and hours when toil demanded.
You knew cool nights and hot days.
Always you grew in knowing your Father
As the source and goal, the originator and finisher.
All of this revealed his beauty to you.
With you, Jesus, 
I will sing to your Father as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God and your God,
For the beauty of the earth,
With you, Jesus, I rejoice in the LORD,
Your Father and mine. 


Posted in: Lent