Having given glory to God as the powerful protector of this earth, in saving it from being deluged, here he comes to acknowledge him as its bountiful benefactor, who provides conveniences for all the creatures.
I. He provides fresh water for their drink: He sends the springs into the valleys, Ps. 104:10. There is water enough indeed in the sea, that is, enough to drown us, but not one drop to refresh us, be we ever so thirsty—it is all so salt; and therefore God has graciously provided water fit to drink. Naturalists dispute about the origin of fountains; but, whatever are their second causes, here is their first cause; it is God that sends the springs into the brooks, which walk by easy steps between the hills, and receive increase from the rain-water that descends from them. These give drink, not only to man, and those creatures that are immediately useful to him, but to every beast of the field (Ps. 104:11); for where God has given life he provides a livelihood and takes care of all the creatures. Even the wild asses, though untameable and therefore of no use to man, are welcome to quench their thirst; and we have no reason to grudge it them, for we are better provided for, though born like the wild ass’s colt. We have reason to thank God for the plenty of fair water with which he has provided the habitable part of his earth, which otherwise would not be habitable. That ought to be reckoned a great mercy the want of which would be a great affliction; and the more common it is the greater mercy it is. Usus communis aquarum—water is common for all.
II. He provides food convenient for them, both for man and beast: The heavens drop fatness; they hear the earth, but God hears them, Hos. 2:21. He waters the hills from his chambers (Ps. 104:13), from those chambers spoken of (Ps. 104:3), the beams of which he lays in the waters, those store-chambers, the clouds that distil fruitful showers. The hills that are not watered by the rivers, as Egypt was by the Nile, are watered by the rain from heaven, which is called the river of God (Ps. 65:9), as Canaan was, Deut. 11:11, 12. Thus the earth is satisfied with the fruit of his works, either with the rain it drinks in (the earth knows when it has enough; it is a pity that any man should not) or with the products it brings forth. It is a satisfaction to the earth to bear the fruit of God’s works for the benefit of man, for thus it answers the end of its creation. The food which God brings forth out of the earth (Ps. 104:14) is the fruit of his works, which the earth is satisfied with. Observe how various and how valuable its products are.
1. For the cattle there is grass, and the beasts of prey, that live not on grass, feed on those that do; for man there is herb, a better sort of grass (and a dinner of herbs and roots is not to be despised); nay, he is furnished with wine, and oil, and bread, Ps. 104:15. We may observe here, concerning our food, that which will help to make us both humble and thankful. (1.) To make us humble let us consider that we have a necessary dependence upon God for all the supports of this life (we live upon alms; we are at his finding, for our own hands are not sufficient for us),—that our food comes all out of the earth, to remind us whence we ourselves were taken and whither we must return,—and that therefore we must not think to live by bread alone, for that will feed the body only, but must look into the word of God for the meat that endures to eternal life. Let us also consider that we are in this respect fellow-commoners with the beasts; the same earth, the same spot of ground, that brings grass for the cattle, brings corn for man. (2.) To make us thankful let us consider, [1.] That God not only provides for us, but for our servants. The cattle that are of use to man are particularly taken care of; grass is made to grow in great abundance for them, when the young lions, that are not for the service of man, often lack and suffer hunger. [2.] That our food is nigh us, and ready to us. Having our habitation on the earth, there we have our storehouse, and depend not on the merchant-ships that bring food from afar, Prov. 31:14. [3.] That we have even from the products of the earth, not only for necessity, but for ornament and delight, so good a Master do we serve. First, Does nature call for something to support it, and repair its daily decays? Here is bread, which strengthens man’s heart, and is therefore called the staff of life; let none who have that complain of want. Secondly, Does nature go further, and covet something pleasant? Here is wine, that makes glad the heart, refreshes the spirits, and exhilarates them, when it is soberly and moderately used, that we may not only go through our business, but go through it cheerfully. It is a pity that that should be abused to overcharge the heart, and unfit men for their duty, which was given to revive their heart and quicken them in their duty. Thirdly, Isa. nature yet more humoursome, and does it crave something for ornament too? Here is that also out of the earth—oil to make the face to shine, that the countenance may not only be cheerful but beautiful, and we may be the more acceptable to one another.
2. Nay, the divine providence not only furnishes animals with their proper food, but vegetables also with theirs (Ps. 104:16): The trees of the Lord are full of sap, not only men’s trees, which they take care of and have an eye to, in their orchards, and parks, and other enclosures, but God’s trees, which grow in the wildernesses, and are taken care of only by his providence; they are full of sap and want no nourishment. Even the cedars of Lebanon, an open forest, though they are high and bulky, and require a great deal of sap to feed them, have enough from the earth; they are trees which he has planted, and which therefore he will protect and provide for. We may apply this to the trees of righteousness, which are the planting of the Lord, planted in his vineyard; these are full of sap, for what God plants he will water, and those that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God, Ps. 92:13.
III. He takes care that they shall have suitable habitations to dwell in. To men God has given discretion to build for themselves and for the cattle that are serviceable to them; but there are some creatures which God more immediately provides a settlement for. 1. The birds. Some birds, by instinct, make their nests in the bushes near rivers (Ps. 104:12): By the springs that run among the hills some of the fowls of heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches. They sing, according to their capacity, to the honour of their Creator and benefactor, and their singing may shame our silence. Our heavenly Father feeds them (Matt. 6:26), and therefore they are easy and cheerful, and take no thought for the morrow. The birds being made to fly above the earth (as we find, Gen. 1:20), they make their nests on high, in the tops of trees (Ps. 104:17); it should seem as if nature had an eye to this in planting the cedars of Lebanon, that they might be receptacles for the birds. Those that fly heavenward shall not want resting-places. The stork is particularly mentioned; the fir-trees, which are very high, are her house, her castle. 2. The smaller sort of beasts (Ps. 104:18): The wild goats, having neither strength nor swiftness to secure themselves, are guided by instinct to the high hills, which are a refuge to them; and the rabbits, which are also helpless animals, find shelter in the rocks, where they can set the beasts of prey at defiance. Does God provide thus for the inferior creatures; and will he not himself be a refuge and dwelling-place to his own people?
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