Psalm 104 and the End Times

Wisdom's Friend

Psalm 104 and the End Times

At first glance, it may not seem that this psalm has anything to say to us about the end times. Rather, it is full of many descriptions about the beginning times, when God created the universe and this world in it. These are glorious words describing the glorious creation of heaven and earth by a God of glorious light. Yet tucked in all these wondrous words are hints of a darkness that will one day be allowed a brief moment in the grand and glorious plan of God for his creation. For that gloomy darkness will only serve to make more obvious the contrasting glory of the light of God. Even the coming darkness is part of God’s plan.

“The LORD works out everything for his own ends– even the wicked for a day of disaster” (Prov. 16:4 NIV).

How can this be? God allows the wicked to prevail for a while? Yes, but only for a while. Jesus knew this full well. When the forces of darkness came to arrest him in the Garden, he said:

“Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour–when darkness reigns” (Lk. 22:53 NIV).

And surely no one with his or her eyes open can help but see the great wickedness in this world that so often seems to reign over it, as the servants of righteousness are pushed aside as helpless dolts. But rest assured that this will not always be, for God cannot and will not allow wickedness to reign longer than is given to it by the very hand of God, for his own great and often hidden purposes. The passage quoted above from Proverbs, about God allowing the wicked to rise in power, concludes that this is only so that they can be destroyed by his greater power in the day of their disaster. This is confirmed explicitly in the verse that follows that one:

“”The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished” (Prov. 16:5 NIV).

Therefore, we must not be downcast by all the great wickedness we see in the world about us. It is nothing new and the increase thereof has been foretold, even by the psalmists of long ago, and Psalm 104 makes brief mention of this, which is now examined more closely.

As was mentioned, much of this psalm is a wonderful account of some of the many glories which God placed in this world, to reflect his own glory and to give witness to man of that. The first seventeen verses follow this pattern. But starting in verse eighteen comes the first deviation from this paradisaical pattern. There comes the first vague hint of darkness, and all it says is that in the mountains “the rock badgers find safety in the cliffs.”

The need for having a safe refuge implies that there is danger outside. Now, of course, this is common knowledge among us, being only an ordinary observation of predation and other dangers among the world in which we all live, man and animal alike. But this common bit of knowledge also serves the psalmist to begin directing his discourse to deeper things of our existence in this creation, things relating to its end and our preservation–or destruction–by God, depending upon one’s relationship with him who is the judge of all mankind and of creation itself.

So having given just the slightest hint of this new, broader and deeper topic, by referring to an animal of nature and its protection provided by its creator, how does the psalmist then proceed? He begins by a reference to time. For as Scripture has elsewhere noted, there is a time for everything, darkness as well as light (Ecc. 3:1). The psalmist notes this preordained schedule in God’s plan with a reference to the broader scope of seasons or ages–“​​​​​​He made the moon to mark the months”–and then proceeds down to the daily life of men and animals–“and the sun sets according to a regular schedule” (Ps. 104:19 NIV).

So, though the psalm has entered into a more troublesome portion of its description of God’s plan for this world, there is also the reassurance that it is still all within that plan: Though the moon may represent longer ages of history and seasons, during some of which darkness is allowed by God to reign, there is also the daily assurance that though the sun sets, it also rises the next day; darkness lasts only for a while, until the new day dawns. This is part of the regular schedule ordained by God.

“​​​​​​You make it dark and night comes, during which all the beasts of the forest prowl around. ​​​​​​​The lions roar for prey, seeking their food from God” (Ps. 104:20-21 NIV).

Beasts. Another writer of Scripture had this to say about the beast-like or animal-like nature and wicked deeds of evil men:

“These men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals–these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them!” (Jude 1:10-11 NIV).

Woe to them because their day of punishment is coming, when they will be judged and punished by God. Now, in our world, they prowl around, looking for whom they may deceive and devour (1 Peter 5:8). But the day is coming when they will be held accountable for this by God. Woe to them indeed. Nevertheless, until that great day of judgment, God does allow evil to find its prey in our evil world, just as the lion is provided food in the natural world. For those who refuse to enter into the protection in Christ which is provided for them from evil (2 Th. 3:2) find themselves at risk to that evil (Rom. 1:24, Rom. 1:26, Rom. 1:28). But for the believer, it is a different story:

“I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:17-18 NIV).

This does not mean that the believer will never suffer physical harm or attack from wicked men. For the one who wrote this was Saint Paul, who suffered much from the hands of such (2 Cor. 11:23-27). Yet his soul is safe, protected by the one to whom he has entrusted the safekeeping of that soul.

“And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:11-12 NIV).

That day. There is a day coming when God will no longer allow any evil to exist, when all will be judged and set right. He will send all those who prowl around like mighty lions in their wickedness, seeking someone to devour, to flee from the glorious light of the coming of his Son. They will slink back into their holes in the mountains, seeking to hide in the darkness from his glorious light.

“​​​​​​When the sun rises, they withdraw and sleep in their dens” (Ps. 104:22 NET).

But this will not be the ordinary sleep from which they will arise to go forth again to do their wicked deeds, but the sleep of death, from which they shall never rise but which shall be their fate forever.

“They said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to withstand it?'” (Rev. 6:16-17 NIV).

Who is able to withstand that day? Another Psalm answers that question for us:

“Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob” (Ps. 24:3-6 NIV).

Jesus is the one who has made us clean and able to stand before the Lord, unafraid in his great day of judgment. But before that great day comes, there is still much evil in the land, and Scripture asks those who serve the Lord this question:

“Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?” (Ps. 94:16 NIV).

Until that great day, those who belong to the Lord are not to sit around idly waiting to be delivered, but to work hard to bring others to knowledge of salvation so that they too may escape the coming wrath of God. The evildoers may slink back into their dark holes of the caves in the mountains in a futile attempt to escape that day, but they will be found out by him from whom no one can hide:

“Not one will get away, none will escape. Though they dig down to the depths of the grave, from there my hand will take them. Though they climb up to the heavens, from there I will bring them down. Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, there I will hunt them down and seize them. Though they hide from me at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent to bite them” (Amos 9:1-3 NIV).

So, while the wicked seek to hide on that great day, before it comes, the righteous will not join them but will be bold as a lion (Prov. 28:1) in seeking to spread the good news of God’s salvation to the world. The wicked may do their wicked deeds in the darkness of night and hide when the sun comes up, but it is just the opposite with the righteous. For when the darkness fades and morning light comes,
“Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening” (Ps. 104:23 NIV). For the worker of the Lord knows that the time is short and that today is the day of salvation and the time to labor for the Lord.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:2-3 NIV).

Again, there is no sparing of God’s workers from having to deal with evil, just as Jesus himself was not spared but had to go through with the destiny assigned to him on the cross. Like him, those who follow him also must be like lambs among wolves–and lions. Yet in the midst of the danger and the darkness, their light shines out for all to see (Mt. 5:16).

These are trying times in which to live, and the darkness will only get worse. Yet so also will the light of God in his people become brighter and brighter. We are to be the light of God in this dark world that needs that light ever so greatly. We are to be “blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe, as you hold out the word of life” (Phil. 2:16-17 NIV).

Therefore, let us take courage amidst the tribulations that beset us and continue to hold out the word of life to a dark and dead world. We must have the attitude of our Lord Jesus, who said:

“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (Jn. 9:4 NIV).

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