You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills,
giving drink to every wild animal;
the wild asses quench their thirst.
By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation;
they sing among the branches.
From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the human heart.
The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
In them the birds build their nests;
the stork has its home in the fir trees.
The high mountains are for the wild goats;
the rocks are a refuge for the coneys.
You have made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting.
You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.
The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
When the sun rises, they withdraw
and lie down in their dens.
People go out to their work
and to their labor until the evening.
O Lord, how manifold are your works!NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
One of the indicators of the well-being of our faith is how we handle “normal” life. Most of us let it slide by as a filler between the major events. During the work week, we look forward to the weekend, and we count the days until our next vacation. Our church years are often geared towards the next major event, like the season of Lent preceding Easter and the season of Advent leading to Christmas. We might fall into the habit of downplaying the “normal” days because our focus is on the special days to come.
Of course, we know better than to ignore how God works in “normal” days. The stories of the life of Jesus are filled with encounters with others on normal days, and the parables of Jesus are filled with references to normal, daily activities. We also know that the “fields are ripe for harvest” not just on special occasions, but always.
Still, that isn’t what caused this psalmist to break forth into song. This psalmist wasn’t writing about an extraordinary encounter in a normal day, but praising God for creating a normal day! It is God whose power makes the sun rise every morning, that brings autumn after summer, that creates and sustains the life-giving cycles that form our ecology. It is for that very normality that God deserves praise.
We have a cultural bias that encourages us to miss the beauty of these patterns of life. In modern Western societies, our models for thought tend to be linear — A causes B, which causes C; X happened first, then Y, then Z. We are biased towards seeking a logical causality in anything, and we tend to see anything in a de-constructive fashion as the sum of its parts. Thought patterns like this have driven the Industrial Age and encouraged the creation of myriad inventions that have reshaped our world.
To give us a different perspective on the scriptures, and on life, we occasionally ought to consider other patterns of thought. In the time the Psalms were written, the predominant Eastern philosophies emphasized circular thinking rather than linear thinking. What was will be again, just as the sun arcs through the sky daily, and the moon proceeds through phases, and the seasons follow one another in orderly fashion. That which broke the cycle often meant bad news, as in the rainy season that failed to come, or the unexpected flood, or the earthquakes that cracked and shifted what had appeared solid ground.
In our linear thinking, we’re drawn to what is different; maybe we should also be drawn to what remains the same. We can live our lives waiting for the big blessings to come, or we can thank God for the surety of the blessings we receive every day, and in doing so, make ourselves more available to serve God on the “normal” days.
Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.