Verse 24. O Lord, how manifold are thy works. They are not only many for number but manifold for variety. Mineral, vegetable, animal -- what: a range of works is suggested by these three names! No two even of the same class are exactly alike, and the classes are more numerous than science can number. Works in the heavens above and in the earth beneath, and in the waters under the earth, works which abide the ages, works which come to perfection and pass away in a year, works which with all their beauty do not outlive a day, works within works, and works within these -- who can number one of a thousand? God is the great worker, and ordainer of variety. It is ours to study his works, for they are great, and sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. The kingdom of grace contains as manifold and as great works as that of nature, but the chosen of the Lord alone discern them.
In wisdom hast thou made them all, or wrought them all. They are all his works, wrought by his own power, and they all display his wisdom. It was wise to make their -- none could be spared; every link is essential to the chain of nature -- wild beasts as much as men, poisons as truly as odoriferous herbs. They are wisely made -- each one fits its place, fills it, and is happy in so doing. As a whole, the "all" of creation is a wise achievement, and however it may be chequered with mysteries, and clouded with terrors, it all works together for good, and as one complete harmonious piece of workmanship it answers the great Worker's end.
The earth is full of thy riches. It is not a poor house, but a palace; not a hungry ruin, but a well filled store house. The Creator has not set his creatures down in a dwelling place where the table is bare, and the buttery empty, he has filled the earth with food; and not with bare necessaries only, but with riches -- dainties, luxuries, beauties, treasures. In the bowels of the earth are hidden mines of wealth, and on her surface are teeming harvests of plenty. All these riches are the Lord's; we ought to call them not "the wealth of nations," but "thy riches" O Lord! Not in one clime alone are these riches of God to be found, but in all lands -- even the Arctic ocean has its precious things which men endure much hardness to win, and the burning sun of the equator ripens a produce which flavours the food of all mankind. If his house below is so full of riches what must his house above be, where
"The very streets are paved with gold
Exceeding clear and fine"?
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 24. -- O Lord, how manifold are thy works! etc. If the number of the creatures be so exceeding great, how great, nay, immense, must needs be the power and wisdom of him who formed them all! For (that I may borrow the words of a noble and excellent author) as it argues and manifests more skill by far in an artificer, to be able to frame both clocks and watches, and pumps and mills, and granadoes and rockets, than he could display in making but one of those sorts of engines; so the Almighty discovers more of his wisdom in forming such a vast multitude of different sorts of creatures, and all with admirable and irreprovable art, than if he had created but a few; for this declares the greatness and unbounded capacity of his understanding. Again, the same superiority of knowledge would be displayed by contriving engines of the same kind, or for the same purposes, after different fashions, as the moving of clocks by springs instead of weights: so the infinitely wise Creator hath shown in many instances that he is not confined to one only instrument for the working one effect, but can perform the same thing by divers means. So, though feathers seem necessary for flying, yet hath he enabled several creatures to fly without them, as two sorts of fishes, one sort of lizard, and the bat, not to mention the numerous tribes of flying insects. In like manner, though the air bladder in fishes seems necessary for swimming, yet some are so formed as to swim without it, viz., First, the cartilaginous kind, which by what artifice they poise themselves, ascend and descend at pleasure, and continue in what depth of water they list, is as yet unknown to us. Secondly, the cetaceous kind, or sea beasts, differing in nothing almost but the want of feet. The air which in respiration these receive into their lungs, may serve to render their bodies equiponderant to the water; and the construction or dilatation of it, by the help of the diaphragm and muscles of respiration, may probably assist them to ascend or descend in the water, by a light impulse thereof with their fins...
Again, the great use and convenience, the beauty and variety of so many springs and fountains, so many brooks and rivers, so many lakes and standing pools of water, and these so scattered and dispersed all the earth over, that no great part of it is destitute of them, without which it must, without a supply other ways, be desolate and void of inhabitants, afford abundant arguments of wisdom and counsel: that springs should break forth on the sides of mountains most remote from the sea: that there should way be made for rivers through straits and rocks, and subterraneous vaults, so that one would think that nature had cut a way on purpose to derive the water, which else would overflow and drown whole countries. --John Ray (1678-1705), in "The Wisdom, of God manifested in the Works of the Creation."
Verse 24. -- How manifold are thy works! When we contemplate the wonderful works of Nature, and walking about at leisure, gaze upon this ample theatre of the world, considering the stately beauty, constant order, and sumptuous furniture thereof; the glorious splendour and uniform motion of the heavens; the pleasant fertility of the earth; the curious figure and fragrant sweetness of plants; the exquisite frame of animals; and all other amazing miracles of nature, wherein the glorious attributes of God, especially his transcendant goodness, are more conspicuously displayed: so that by them, not only large acknowledgments, but even gratulatory hymns, as it were, of praise have been extorted from the mouths of Aristotle, Pliny, Galen, and such like men, never suspected guilty of an excessive devotion; then should our hearts be affected with thankful sense, and our lips break forth in praise. --William Barrow, 1754-1836.
Verse 24. -- He does not undertake to answer his own question, "How manifold?" for he confesses God's works to be greater than his own power of expression; whether these "works" belong to the creation of nature or to that of grace. And observe how the concurrent operation of the Blessed Trinity is set forth: "O Lord, how manifold are thy works," teaches of the Father, the Source of all things: "in wisdom hast thou made them all," tells of the Son, the Eternal Word, "Christ the power of God and the Wisdom of God, by whom were all things made, and without him was not anything made that was made," ( 1 Corinthians 1:24 John 1:3 ); "the earth is full of thy riches," is spoken of the Holy Ghost, who filleth the world. --Augustine, Hugo, and Uassiodorus, in Neale and Littledale.
Verse 24. -- In wisdom hast thou made them all. Not only one thing, as the heavens, Ps 136:5; but everything is wisely contrived and made; there is a most glorious display of the wisdom of God in the most minute things his hands have made; he has made everything beautiful in its season. A skilful artificer, when he has finished his work and looks it over again, often finds some fault or another in it: but when the Lord had finished his works of creation, and looked over them, he saw that all was good; infinite wisdom itself could find no blemish in them: what weak, foolish, stupid creatures must they be that pretend to charge any of the works of God with folly, or want of wisdom? --John Gill.
Verse 24. -- The earth is full of thy riches, literally, thy possessions; these thou keepest not to thyself, but blessest thy creatures with. --A.R. Fausset.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 24. --
- The language of wonder: "O Lord, how manifold," etc. Their number, variety, cooperation, harmony.
- Of admiration: "In wisdom," etc. Everywhere the same wisdom displayed. God, says Dr. Chalmers, is as great in minutia as in magnitude.
- Of gratitude: "The earth is full," etc. --G.R.
Verse 24. --
- The works of the Lord are multitudinous and varied.
- They are so constructed as to show the most consummate wisdom in their design, and in the end for which they are formed.
- They are all God's property, and should be used only in reference to the end for which they were created. All abuse and waste of God's creatures are spoil and robbery on the property of the Creator. --Adam Clarke.