Commentary on Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Often, friends and congregants ask about the connection a psalm has with the other lessons, or what good news the psalm may convey for our world today. For Pentecost, in each year of our three-year cycle, we are invited to sing or read responsively parts of Psalm 104. Why this psalm on this day? What does it tell us about Pentecost? What good news can one find in this biblical text? Rather than an exegetical work, I want to share my understanding of this psalm as Immigrant and Pastor to find the good news for refugees and other immigrants like myself.
To understand more clearly this portion of Scripture, it is good to consider the whole of Psalm 104. After reading the entire psalm, I realize that the major theme is that God is the master of creation, able to control all creatures – even the Leviathan. Verse 24, which begins our text for today, reveals clearly that in wisdom God made all creatures. Verses 27-28 explain how God gives to all creatures whatever they need. Therefore, experiencing God’s love and power throughout creation, the psalmist proclaims that he will sing to the Lord as long as he lives, and he will praise God while he has his being (Psalm 104:33).
On this Pentecost Sunday, Psalm 104 is a call to discover the power of God’s Spirit, the climax in understanding the Pentecost celebration. It is the day that the Holy Spirit filled the Apostles and they were able to speak in other languages (Acts 2:4) so that people heard the Apostles’ words in their own native tongues (Acts 2:5). In Psalm 104, God sends forth the Spirit to create and to renew the face of the earth (Psalm 104:30). This is the Spirit of God in action, the mystery of Pentecost revealed, and the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise to send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit (John14:26). Psalm 104 then becomes a call to be aware of God’s presence by the Holy Spirit through which Christians become heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17a).
There are immigrants and refugees in our world today who are afraid every day, often feeling excluded and not welcomed. We watch the news about children being separated from their parents and we hear of deportations on a daily basis. Meditating on this portion of Psalm 104 brings comfort and consolation to me as an immigrant. This psalm tells me that immigrants and refugees are also creatures of God. God who is Lord of creation loves them. The good news today for refugees and immigrants is that on this Pentecost Sunday, Psalm 104 brings confidence that our God can and will protect those who seek refuge in God. I am consoled to discover that God is master over creation and that no creature is beyond God’s control. God is God!
When I meditate on this Psalm and look back on my life, I discover that I cannot avoid applying the psalmist’s words to myself. I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will praise God while I have my being. In fact, I came to America as an asylum seeker in September 2011. I was obliged to flee my home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, where my life was threatened and I was about to be killed. I arrived in the United States where I was granted asylum status after 9 months and I was able to start my life again. On July 20, 2018, I became a U.S. citizen. Today, I am free, and I experience God’s presence in my life. I realize that God is in control of my life. I am the Crispin I am today because God has been in control of my life – feeding me, leading me and filling my life with good things. Today I am very happy to sing, “Bless the Lord, O my soul. Hallelujah!”
On Pentecost Sunday, Psalm 104: 24-34.35b is a revelation. God sends the Holy Spirit to all creatures – among them immigrants and refugees. God gives them food (Psalm 104:27-28) and the breath of life, without which they could not survive (Psalm 104:29-30). Praise be to God who is in control of who we are, now and forever.
The Rev. Crispin Ilombe Wilondja
Good Samaritan Lutheran Ministry
Stone Mountain, Georgia