Text: Psalm 65
‘Your God is too small’ By presenting God in his true stature, this psalm encourages us to expect great things from God, and to attempt great things for God.
May have been composed for the Feast of Tabernacles.
God is front of stage, and centre. God is praised as the great welcomer, peacemaker, and giver.
1. God the great welcomer, 1-4
God hears our prayers, v2. Whatever else God may be, if he were deaf to our cries, where would we be? We may quickly tire of being talked to, but God is never wearied by our prayers.
God forgives our sins, v3. Lit. ‘makes atonement for sins’. Feast of Tabernacles came just 5 days after Day of Atonement. The blood of sacrificed animals was sprinkled on the cover of the ark of the covenant to symbolise the covering over of our sins. This has been fulfilled by Christ. ‘Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself’ (Heb 7:27).
God welcomes us into his presence, v4. Brought near to dwell in ‘your courts…your house…your holy temple.’ ‘We are filled with the good things of your house.’
Psa 16:11 – ‘You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’
2. God the great peace-maker, 5-8
God of power – ‘formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength,’ v6.
But God’s power is not coercive, but peace-making.
V7 – ‘Who stilled the roaring of the seas’ reminds us of Jesus’ stilling of the storm.
But he is not only God of the implacable mountains, and of the raging seas. He also stills ‘the turmoil of the nations’, v7. Think of the violence, instability, tyranny and corruption of the nations. Only God can bring order out of this chaos. So let us pray for peace and ‘make every effort to do what leads to peace’ (Rom 14:19).
3. God the great giver, 9-13
A wonderful picture, culminating in the harvest fantasy of the hills and fields dressing up in their finery having a jolly good party, v12f.
‘You care…you enrich…you provide…you drench…you soften…you bless…you crown…’ Everything is ascribed to God.
Of course, God has always called us to co-operate with him in growing, harvesting, processing, distributing, and sharing the good gifts of his creation. So it was in the beginning: ‘God planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God put [the man] in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it’ (Gen 2).
John Stott tells the story of the gardener who was showing a clergyman the beauty of his garden, with its colourful herbaceous borders and its ripe fruit and vegetables. Duly impressed, the clergyman broke out into spontaneous praise of God. The gardener, however, didn’t think that God should get all the credit. “You should ‘have seen this ‘ere garden,” he said, “when God had it to himself!” He had a point. “Nature” is what God gives us; “culture” is what we do with it. Without a human cultivator, every garden or field quickly degenerates into a wilderness.
We plough the fields and scatter
The good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered
By God’s almighty hand.
It would not be wrong to flip the coin:
God plants the lovely garden
And gives the fertile soil,
But it is kept and nurtured
By man’s resourceful toil.
But in this psalm, everything is traced back its first cause. Behind all our own endeavours, lies the bountiful goodness of God. If inanimate nature shouts for joy and sings over its God-given abundance (v13), shall we remain silent? ‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights’, from God the great giver.
We have a picture, in vv1-4, of God’s people streaming towards Jerusalem. But the river keeps breaking its banks!
V2 – ‘to you all men will come.’
V5 – ‘the hope of all the ends of the earth.’
V8 – ‘Those living far away fear your wonders’. From utmost east (‘where morning dawns’) to utmost west (‘where evening fades’) God calls forth ‘songs of joy’.
What will impel us to have the same attitude of universal welcoming, peace-making, and giving?
A sense of solemn duty will get us started.
A knowledge of deep necessity will take us further.
An awareness of our great privilege will take us another step up the ladder.
But it is the experience of abounding joy – the joy that permeates this psalm from beginning to end – which will prove to be the most powerful motivator.
It is a moral impossibility for a person a truly thankful soul to be turned in on itself; impossible to have a heart full of praise, and yet live a life that is stubbornly selfish.
Praise is not a sedative, but a powerful stimulant.
‘Praise is a soul in flower’ (Thomas Watson). And it will not be long before the flower-laden soul matures into a fruit-bearing soul.
We ‘have been enriched in every way so that we can be generous on every occasion.‘ (2 Cor 9:10)
There is joy in having received so much from God. And even greater joy in giving it back for God. ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35).
Do we know God as the Great Welcomer? ‘Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you.’ (Rom 15:7)
Is God the Great Peace-maker? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’
Have we experienced God as the Great Giver, the one who has ‘richly provided us with everything for our enjoyment?’ (1 Tim 6:17). ‘Freely you have received; freely give.’ (Mt 10:8)