Verse 8. Who covereth the heaven with clouds. He works in all things, above as well as below. Clouds are not caused by accident, but produced by God himself, and made to assume degrees of density by which the blue firmament is hidden. A sky scape might seem to be a mere fortuitous concourse of vapours, but it is not so: the Great Artist's hand thus covers the canvas of the heavens. Who prepareth rain for the earth. The Lord prepares clouds with a view to rain, and rain with an eye to the fields below. By many concurrent circumstances all things are made ready for the production of a shower; there is more of art in the formation of a rain cloud and in the fashioning of a rain drop, than appears to superficial observers. God is in the vapour, and in the pearly drop which is born of it. Who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. By the far reaching shower he produces vegetation where the hand of man is all unknown. He cares not only for Goshen's fertile plains, but for Carmel's steep ascents. God makes the heavens the servants of the earth, and the clouds the irrigators of the mountain meadows. This is a kind of evolution about which there can be no dispute. Nor does the Lord forget the waste and desolate places, but causes the lone hills to be the first partakers of his refreshing visitations. This is after the manner of our God. He not only causes rain to descend from the heavens to water the grass, and thus unites the skies and the herbs by a ministry of mercy; but he also thinks of the rocky ledges among the hills, and forgets not the pastures of the wilderness. What a God is this!
"Passing by the rich and great,
For the poor and desolate."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 8-9. Mountains ... ravens. Wonderful Providence which takes cognisance of the mountainous and the minute alike. The All Provider descends from august and sublime heights to save the meanest creature from starvation -- extending constant care to the wants of even those abject little objects, the young ravens, Heb. "the sons of the raven." -- Martin Geier.
Verse 8. Clouds ... rain ... grass. There is a mutual dependence and subordination between all second causes. The creatures are serviceable to one another by mutual ministries and supplies; the earth is cherished by the heat of the heavens, moistened by the water, and by the temperament of both made fruitful; and so sendeth forth innumerable plants for the comfort and use of living creatures, and living creatures are for the supply of man. It is wonderful to consider the subordination of all causes, and the proportion they bear to one another. The heavens work upon the elements, the elements upon the earth, and the earth yieldeth fruits for the use of man. The prophet taketh notice of this admirable gradation: "I will hear the heavens, and the heavens shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and the corn, and the wine, and the oil, shall hear Jezreel" ( Hosea 2:21-22 ). We look to the fields for the supplies of corn, wine, and oil; but they can do nothing without clouds, and the clouds can do nothing without God. The creatures are beholden to one another, and all to God. In the order of the world there is an excellent chain of causes, by which all things hang together, that so they may lead up the soul to the Lord. --Thomas Manton.
Verse 8. Who prepareth rain? The rain cloud parts with its contents only when God commands it, and as he commands, whether in the soft gentle shower or in the drenching downpour that floods the fields and obstructs the labours of the husbandman. -- Thomas Robinson, in "Homiletical Commentary on the Book of Job", 1876.
Verse 8. Who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. The wild grasses are taken, as it were, under the special providence of God. In the perennial verdure in regions above the zone of man's cultivation, we have a perpetual proof of God's care of the lower animals that neither sow nor reap. The mountain grasses grow spontaneously; they require no culture but such as the rain and the sunshine of heaven supply. They obtain their nourishment directly from the inorganic soil, and are independent of organic materials. Nowhere is the grass so green and vigorous as on the beautiful slopes of lawn like pasture high up in the Alps, radiant with the glory of wild flowers, and ever musical with the hum of grasshoppers, and the tinkling of cattle bells. Innumerable cows and goats browse upon them; the peasants spend their summer months in making cheese and hay from them for winter consumption in the valleys. This exhausting system of husbandry has been carried on during untold centuries; no one thinks of manuring the Alpine pastures; and yet no deficiency has been observed in their fertility, though the soil is but a thin covering spread over the naked rocks. It may be regarded as a part of the same wise and gracious arrangement of Providence, that the insects which devour the grasses on the Kuh and Schaf Alpen, the pastures of the cows and sheep, are kept in check by a predominance of carnivorous insects. In all the mountain meadows it has been ascertained that the species of carnivorous are at least four times as numerous as the species of herb eating insects. Thus, in the absence of birds, which are rare in Switzerland, the pastures are preserved from a terrible scourge. To one not aware of this check, it may seem surprising how the verdure of the Alpine pastures should be so rich and luxuriant considering the immense development of insect life. The grass, whenever the sun shines, is literally covered with them -- butterflies of gayest hues, and beetles of brightest iridescence; and the air is filled with their loud murmurs. I remember well the vivid feeling of God's gracious providence, which possessed me when passing over the beautiful Wengern Alp at the foot of the Jungfrau, and seeing, wherever I rested on the green turf, alive with its tiny inhabitants, the balance of nature so wonderfully preserved between the herb which is for man's food and the moth before which he is crushed. Were the herbivorous insects allowed to multiply to their full extent, in such favourable circumstances as the warmth of the air and the verdure of the earth in Switzerland produce, the rich pastures which now yield abundant food for upwards of a million and a half of cattle would speedily become bare and leafless deserts. Not only in their power of growing without cultivation, but also in the peculiarities of their structure, the mountain grasses proclaim the hand of God. Many of them are viviparous. Instead of producing flowers and seed, as the grasses in the tranquil valleys do, the young plants spring from them perfectly formed. They cling round the stem and form a kind of blossom. In this state they remain until the parent stalk withers and falls prostrate on the ground, when they immediately strike root and form independent grasses. This is a remarkable adaptation to circumstances; for it is manifest that were seeds instead of living plants developed in the ears of the mountain grasses, they would be useless in the stormy regions where they grow. They would be blown away far from the places they were intended to clothe, to spots foreign to their nature and habits, and thus the species would speedily perish.
The more we think of it, the more we are struck with the wise foresight which suggested the creative fiat, "Let the earth bring forth grass." It is the most abundant and the most generally diffuse of all vegetation. It suits almost every soil and climate. -- Hugh Macmillan, in "Bible Teachings in Nature", 1868.
Verse 8-9. The Hebrews had no notion of what we denominate "secondary laws", but believed that God acted directly upon matter, and was the immediate, efficient cause of the solemn order, and the varied and wonderful phenomena of nature. Dispensing thus with the whole machinery of cause and effect, as we employ those terms in philosophical language, their minds were brought into immediate contact with God in his manifold works, and this gave, both to devotion and the spirit of poetry, the liveliest inspiration and the freest scope of action. Heaven and earth were governed by his commands; the thunder was his "voice", the lightning his "arrows." It is he who "causeth the vapour to ascend from the ends of the earth." When the famished city should call upon the corn, the wine, and the oil, and those should call upon the earth for nourishment, and the parched earth should call upon the heavens for moisture, and the heavens should call upon the Lord for permission to refresh the earth, then Jehovah would hear and supply. He gave the rain, and he sent the drought and famine. The clouds were not looked upon merely as sustained by a law of specific gravity, but God spread them out in the sky; these clouds were God's chariot. The curtains of his pavilion, the dust of his feet. Snow and hail were fearful manifestations of God, often sent as the messengers of his wrath. --G. Hubbard, in "Bate's Encylopeaedia", 1865.
Verse 8-9. God by his special providence prepares food for those who have no other care taken for them. Beasts that live among men are by men taken care of; they enrich the ground with manure and till the ground; and that brings forth corn for the use of these cattle as well as men. But the wild beasts that live upon the mountains, and in the woods and desert places, are fed only from the heavens: the rain that from thence distils enriches those dry hills and maketh grass to grow there, which else would not, and so God giveth to these wild beasts their food after the same manner of Divine Providence as in the end of the verse he is said to provide for the young ravens. --Henry Hammond.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 8. God in all. The unity of his plan; the cooperation of divine forces; the condescending mercy of the result.