Lions? And Tigers? And Bears? Oh my!

(24) How marvelous are your works, 0 Lord!
You made them all wisely.
The earth is full of your created things.

(25) This sea, great and wide across,
In which are uncountable creatures,
Living things, both small and great —

(26) There the ships travel;
Leviathan which you made,
Plays in it. — Psalm 104:24-26 (My translation, available here)

Were you ever frightened by monsters in the closet or under the bed as a child? I don’t recall closets or under the bed, but I do recall being worried about something nasty being in the woods. For many years as I was growing up we lived in the country, and I often had to pluck up some courage to walk through places that were truly safe.

Adults tend to respond to these fears by checking. You know, look under the bed—no monsters. Look in the closet—no monsters. But monsters are still very frightening things. We react to things that we perceive. In our minds, it doesn’t matter so much what is actually there as what we think is there. Of course a healthy mental attitude involves trying to be as certain as possible that what we think is there actually is there.

Medieval maps used to carry the inscription “Here be dragons” in places that were unknown. I’m not sure how many of those mapmakers really believed there were dragons in the desolate places, but it looked good, and many people were frightened by what sort of nasty, monstrous creatures might be found in unknown places.

We can, like Dorothy, say “Oh my!” when confronted with danger. Though having said “Oh my” Dorothy did what she had to do. We can choose to run away. We can choose to confront.

I’d suggest a great point of perspective. Re-read Psalm 104:26 above. Leviathan was a terrible monster in the ancient world. The idea of fighting with him was like fighting the devil himself. It was the work of various gods to deal with such situations. You didn’t think of Leviathan “playing.”

But from God’s perspective, Leviathan is just this creature. God made him. God placed him where he belongs. He is playing in the ocean. We try to identify what type of real creature a “Leviathan” might be, but that’s not the point. Take all the terrors of the ancient Mediterranean world, wrap them up together, package them with all the nasty, scary features you can think of, and then release the resulting creature into the wild. That’s Leviathan.

Now imagine that creature playing, doing what God says, simply part of God’s creation. Yes, you can say “oh my.” You can run from the monsters. You can confront them trembling with terror or filled with courage. But with God, you can cut the monsters down to size.

Everything in the world comes ultimately from God. Even the nasty stuff (Isaiah 45:7). It may not result directly from God, but rather from the fact that he has made creatures and given them freedom, which they sometimes abuse. But he is the source of all.

Everything gets cut down to size in his presence, even our monsters. Wow! Oh my!!!

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