Psalm 104:28

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 28. That thou givest them they gather. God gives it, but they must gather it, and they are glad that he does so, for otherwise their gathering would be in vain. We often forget that animals and birds in their free life have to work to obtain food even as we do; and yet it is true with them as with us that our heavenly Father feeds all. When we see the chickens picking up the corn which the housewife scatters from her lap we have an apt illustration of the manner in which the Lord supplies the needs of all living things -- he gives and they gather.

Thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. Here is divine liberality with its open hand filling needy creatures till they want no more: and here is divine omnipotence feeding a world by simply opening its hand. What should we do if that hand were closed? There would be no need to strike a blow, the mere closing of it would produce death by famine. Let us praise the open handed Lord, whose providence and grace satisfy our mouths with good things.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 28. -- That thou givest them they gather. This sentence describes The Commissariat of Creation. The problem is the feeding of "the creeping things innumerable, both small and great beasts," which swarm the sea; the armies of birds which fill the air, and the vast hordes of animals which people the dry land; and in this sentence we have the problem solved, "That thou givest them they gather." The work is stupendous, but it is done with ease because the Worker is infinite: if he were not at the head of it the task would never be accomplished. Blessed be God for the great They of the text. It is every way our sweetest consolation that the personal God is still at work in the world: leviathan in the ocean, and the sparrow on the bough, may be alike glad of this; and we, the children of the great Father, much more.

The general principle of the text is, God gives to his creatures, and his creatures gather. That general principle we shall apply to our own case as men and women; for it is as true of us as it is of the fish of the sea, and the cattle on the hills: "That thou givest them they gather."

  1. We have only to gather, for God gives. In temporal things: God gives us day by day our daily bread, and our business is simply to gather it. As to spirituals, the principle is true, most emphatically, we have, in the matter of grace, only to gather what God gives. The natural man thinks that he has to earn divine favour; that he has to purchase the blessing of heaven; but he is in grave error: the soul has only to receive that which Jesus freely gives.
  2. We can only gather what God gives; however eager we may be, there is the end of the matter. The diligent bird shall not be able to gather more than the Lord has given it; neither shall the most avaricious and covetous man. "It is vain for you to rise up early and to sit up late, to eat the bread of carefulness; for so he giveth his beloved sleep."
  3. We must gather what God gives, or else we shall get no good by his bountiful giving. God feeds the creeping things innumerable, but each creature collects the provender for itself. The huge leviathan receives his vast provision, but he must go ploughing through the boundless meadows and gather up the myriads of minute objects which supply his need. The fish must leap up to catch the fly, the swallow must hawk for its food, the young lions must hunt for their prey.
  4. The fourth turn of the text gives us the sweet thought that, we may gather what he gives. We have divine permission to enjoy freely what the Lord bestows.
  5. The last thing is, God will always give us something to gather. It is written, "The Lord will provide." Thus is it also in spiritual things. If you are willing to gather, God will always give. --C.H.S.

Verse 28. -- Gather. The verb rendered "gather" means to pick up or collect from the ground. It is used in the history of the manna ( Exodus 16:1 Exodus 16:5 Exodus 16:16 ), to which there is obvious allusion. The act of gathering from the ground seems to presuppose a previous throwing down from heaven. --J.A. Alexander.

Verse 28. -- Thou openest thine hand. The Greek expositors take the opening of the hand to indicate facility. I am of opinion that it refers also to abundance and liberality, as in Ps 145:16: -- "Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing." Using this same formula, God commands us not to close the hand, but to open it to the poor. -- Lorinus.