Psalm 104:30 - The Creating and Renewing Spirit
When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.Psalm 104:30
At this time of the year, we marvel at how the seasons are changing. Even if people in some parts of the country have been mowing their lawns for a while now, the coming of spring is noticeable everywhere: longer days and warmer winds; budding trees and returning birds. After a brown or white winter of wet and cold weather, the earth is being renewed.
As we observe this renewal, we recall God’s words of promise from Genesis 9, “As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (v 22). Even from ancient times God has kept his promise to uphold this earth – a promise for our encouragement, also as today’s prophets of climate change frantically warn of the impending meltdown!
Particularly when the season of spring begins, God’s constant concern for his creation is in evidence. About this the Psalmist sings, “When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” (104:30). In this Psalm, the writer recounts the wondrous works of God throughout the world: the heavenly lights; the clouds and wind; the seas and their creatures; the earth and its plants, animals, and peoples. These all were created by the Almighty God.
Created by God, to be sure, but the Psalmist is more specific: all things are created with God’s Spirit. Already in Genesis 1 we see that the Holy Spirit was involved in the work of creation, for “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (1:2). This “hovering” has been called the Holy Spirit’s governing and preserving role in creation.
For some insight into what our verse says about the Spirit’s creative role, we should look at this Psalm’s original Hebrew. In Hebrew, there is just one word used for “spirit” (and Spirit), “breath,” and “wind.” We could say then, that when the Father created by his commands, it was as if his breath – or his Spirit – left his mouth. This accords with the poetic picture in Psalm 33:6, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” Job says a similar thing: “By his breath the skies became fair” (26:13).
When God speaks, his “Spirit” goes forth, and with the Spirit He creates. Not that the Spirit is only some impersonal force, emitted by the Father. Rather, this shows that the Holy Spirit is closely involved in the Father’s work, granting life to what He has created. As we confess in the Nicene Creed, the Spirit is “the Lord and Giver of life.”
This same Holy Spirit now renews the earth that God has made. As the seasons change, it isn’t simply because the earth tilts on its axis in a certain way, relative to the sun. The seasons change, again because of God’s powerful and providential command. God speaks, his Spirit goes forth, and the earth is renewed. God sends his Spirit and the snow melts; the animals come out of their dormancy; the grass begins to grow again. In this way He guides every season and He sustains every life.
Since the beginning, God’s creating “breath” has not diminished at all in power. That’s why Paul compares God’s words back then to God’s words today. In the beginning, God simply spoke into the darkness of nothingness and there came miraculous light. Today, God speaks into the darkness of our sinful lives and again there comes miraculous light, the light of Spirit-given faith.
For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ (makes) his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God2 Corinthians 4:6
This connection between God’s breath, creation, and our re-creation by the Spirit is underlined in John 20:22. There Jesus breathes on his disciples and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And the Father and the Son continue to send us the Spirit, to renew us “inwardly ... day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). By God’s breath, we were created (see also Genesis 2:7) and by his breath, we are recreated.
Meanwhile, another of God’s steadfast promises still remains, that this earth will be truly and completely renewed. For God has said that one day it will be a place for Him and his holy people to have perfect fellowship once again! The project that the Triune God began long ago, the project that He continues today, is a project that He will surely finish!