PSALM 65 TALK: PRAISE THE LORD OF THE HARVEST

PSALM 65 TALK: PRAISE THE LORD OF THE HARVEST

(A Psalm that explores how God gives us all good things out of his grace – unmerited love and how we must respond to him with heartfelt praise.)

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INTRODUCTION

When I was 10 years old my parents moved to the outskirts of South – West Sydney in 1960 where they built a new home in a town called Liverpool. Liverpool in 1960 still had many farms fully operating around it but bit-by-bit these were being sold to housing developers who made new roads and land plots for both government and private housing.

I attended the historic Anglican Church in Liverpool called St Luke’s, which is the oldest, still standing and still being used church building in Australia. Every year in early spring St Luke’s ran a big Harvest Festival Church service and because of the operating farms in the area the church was filled with all sorts of farm products which added to the elaborate harvest festival decorations that always was put together on the day of this special service.

As time went along the farms disappeared and the food at the front of the church changed to canned and packet food products that were donated by St Luke’s church to a church agency that distributed food to poor people in Sydney.

When there was real farm products on display there was very visible evidence of the provision of God’s Harvest. Of course in bad years like times of drought the need for earnest prayer for God’s gift of rain was also evident by the lack of produce or the poor quality of the farm produce displayed.

In a T.V drama I recently watched a police man from the city was stationed on a farm to guard a witness for a up coming court case and another policeman decided to cook some food and use herbs grown on the farm. The city policeman refused to eat the food because some of the ingredients came straight from the ground. Children today in the city often do not know that the milk they drink comes from a cow or the food they eat originated from growing in the ground.

At the old Harvest Festivals at St Luke’s Liverpool the hymn, “All things Bright and beautiful” by Cecil Frances Alexander was usually sung. Alexander is said to have written this hymn in an attempt to teach children the meaning of the Apostles Creed and its opening phrase, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth”.

His simple words capture the truth of who is the Lord of the harvest because he both made and sustains the world we live in. The first verse goes like this,

All things bright and beautiful

All creatures’ great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

Psalm 65 seems to be a Hymn of praise to the Lord of the universe and particularly the Harvest who through his grace or undeserved love provides this great and bountiful harvest for his people to enjoy each year. The Hebrew heading attributes the Psalm to David and one commentator I looked up, named Derek Kidner said that the occasion for the writing of this Psalm could have been from a choice of three possible scenarios, which are:

“1. A autumn festival, which looks ahead to a coming year of plenty,

  1. A spring celebration such as the offering of first fruits at Passover,
  2. A national deliverance after famine”.

Interestingly this Psalm follows eight previous Psalms (except Psalm 58) that feature the themes of refuge (or protection) and deliverance from the enemies of God. In most of these Psalms it seems David is writing them in the context of his escape from his son Absalom. David was protected and ultimately delivered from the murderous intentions of his eldest son Absalom. In each of these Psalms David speaks of the right response to God’s refuge and deliverance is singing praises to the God who protected and delivered him, as we saw in the last verse of the previous Psalm,

“Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; let all the upright in heart praise him!”

Now we come to Psalm 65, which is a hymn or song of praise to a mighty God who provides a great harvest through his grace in so many ways for his people. Maybe this Psalm was written not long after the Absalom affair for a spring festival or for an autumn festival looking forward to the coming year of plenty as Kidner suggested. We will see that this Psalm has some veiled references to the Passover escape from Egypt so this too could suggest the spring Harvest festival.

In ancient Israel like my early years in Liverpool the reality of bountiful or poor harvests was very real and the temptation of Israel right throughout its long history was to turn to the pagan God’s of fertility like Baal. These pagan God’s falsely offered bountiful harvests and blessings for the people who worshipped them using temple prostitution and idol worship which stood in direct opposition to the law of the one true God of Heaven and earth revealed to them through the ten commandments and other laws given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

So in this Psalm we will explore the mighty God of heaven and earth who because he is a God of Grace (unmerited love) provides bountifully for his people if they are in a right relationship with him.

With this in mind my breakdown for the Psalm is:

  1. PRAISE THE LORD WHO ANSWERS PRAYERS AND FORGIVES (1 – 4)
  1. PRAISE THE LORD WHO IS POWERFUL AND MIGHTY (5 – 8)

3.  PRAISE THE LORD OF THE HARVEST (9 – 13)

  1. PRAISE THE LORD WHO ANSWERS PRAYERS AND FORGIVES (1 – 4)

Even though the word’s grace or love does not appear in this Psalm it is an underlining concept behind it. David and his people did not deserve the many blessings God gave them stated clearly in this Psalm. David and his people and all people as well only deserve God’s judgment for there many sins but the God of the bible promises that those who turn to him in repentance and faith will receive the gift of his forgiveness.

This is spoken of in this first section of the Psalm but is clearly stated in many places in the New Testament, like the famous John 3: 16 verse that says,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

I have broken this first section of the Psalm down into two parts:

  1. God must be praised (vs. 1)
  2. Why God must be praised? (2 – 4)
  1. God must be praised (vs.1)

The Psalm commences with a call to praise God,

“Praise awaits you, O God in Zion”

This seems to be a strange way to call the people of Israel to praise and worship but careful analysis of these words reveals how wonderful this call to praise God actually is.

The opening words of the Psalm, “Praise awaits you”, is translated a number of ways, here are a couple of examples besides the NIV,

English Standard Version:

“Praise is due to you, Oh God in Zion”.

Aramaic Bible in plain English,

“Praise is fitting for you, Oh, God in Zion”

And then there are those who interpret the Hebrew as speaking of Silence, like The New American Standard Version which reads’

“There will be silence before you and praise in Zion”.

Albert Barnes in his Notes on the Whole Bible explains this interpretation well with these words,

“The Hebrew is, “To thee is silence praise”, a kind of compound phrase, not meaning, “silent praise”, but referring to a condition where everything is ready, where the preparation has ceased, and all is in readiness as if waiting for that for which the arrangements had been carried forward”.

So the people assemble in David’s time in the Sanctuary on Mount Zion and in Solomon’s time and beyond on Mount Moriah and wait silently to join together in grateful praise to a mighty, powerful and loving God who deserves our praise continually.

The second part of the verse emphasizes the point of the first part that God must be praised because he deserves it. It reads,

“To you our vows will be fulfilled”.

David would have made many vows and prayers to God as he faced seemingly impossible situations like his flight from Jerusalem to the wilds of the wilderness of northern Judah in the days of the Absalom revolt. Times of drought or attacks from foreign enemies would also have led the people to making vows and prayers to God. However David knew that the God of Israel listened to his people and answered their prayers. Now David says praise awaits the God who answers his and his people’s prayers.

David calls the people to praise the God who answers prayers and for fills their vows. Barnes says,

“Those vows they were now ready to carry out in expressions of praise”.

Paul called the Church in Rome and now us to the same kind of worship based on the grace and mercy of God in what Christ has done fro us, Romans 12: 1,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship”.

  1. Why God must be praised? (2 – 4)

The rest of this Psalm actually is an answer to this question. So the first verse of this Psalm answers the question, how we should respond to what God has done for us?

Which is to give him our praise and worship. The rest of the Psalm then answers the question:

Why we should praise God or what God has done for us to deserve our praise and worship?

As I said in the introduction in the past 8 Psalms (excluding Psalm 58) David spoke of how God delivered him and protected him from his enemies and then he said we must respond to this in worship and praise.

In this Psalm he starts with the call to worship God who he says awaits or deserves our praise and worship and then sets down a number of reasons why God deserves this praise and worship.

In verses 2 – 4 David picks up three reasons why God deserves our praise and worship and they are:

  1. God answers prayer (vs.2)
  2. God forgives sins (vs. 3)
  3. God forgives the sins of those he has chosen (vs.4)
  1. God answers prayer (vs. 2)

David, in his call to worship has already indicated that the God of the bible answers our prayers in the words,

“To you our vows will be fulfilled”

Now, in verse 2 he makes it even clearer why the God of the bible deserves our praise for he says,

“O you who hear prayer to you all men come”.

This Psalm, which we believe is in the context of a Harvest type festival time of worship probably, has in mind the prayers of the people for a good harvest. Also because this Psalm follows the eight previous deliverance and refuge Psalms (except for Psalm 58) David probably has in mind the prayers he and his faithful followers had for his deliverance and protection from his many enemies.

However this verse applies to any prayers uttered by any man to the God of the bible. We know it is the prayers of any man because the verse speaks of a God that all men come to.

However do all men come to the God of the bible?

In David’s time the answer to this question would be, no, only the people of Israel had the direct revelation of God that became the bible. However even throughout the bible’s story of the people of Israel not all Israelites prayed to the one true God of the bible. Our church is presently going through the book of Jeremiah which speaks of terrible and extensive idolatry and that the majority of the people of Israel of that time had turned away from the God of the bible to the worship of the idols of Baal. A good example of this is Jeremiah 3: 12 – 13,

‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer,
for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever. 

Only acknowledge your guilt— you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favours to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,’” declares the Lord”.

Both the Old and New Testaments make it clear that God does not hear the prayers of those who do not believe in him. For example Isaiah 59: 2,

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear”.

And Peter quotes Psalm 34: 12 – 15 and in 1 Peter 3: 12 he writes,

“Foe the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil”.

This then sets up what David will say in the next verse about what makes it possible for God to hear our prayers.

  1. God forgives sins (vs. 3)

So I pointed out that even people in Israel had serious problems with sin that separates us from God making it impossible for God being able to hear our prayers. So now David says in verse 3,

“When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions”.

So the second reason why God deserves praise is that he makes it possible for us to pray prayers that he will always hear because he forgives our sins and transgressions.

David will tell us in the next verse why God does this but before we get to that I would like to reflect on this important truth about the God of the Bible.

The God of the bible is a just and righteous God as we will see in verse 5 of this Psalm but because of this he is a holy God. This is what Isaiah is speaking about in the previous reference I made in Isaiah 59: 2,

But your iniquities have separated you from your God”

Isaiah 43: 15 says,

“I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King.”

Israel’s problem is the problem we all have and that is we have turned all away from God which is called rebellion for we have given up on doing what God wants and have gone our own way chasing after something or someone else other than God himself. This is made clear by New Testament passages like Romans 3: 10 – 18,

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good, not even one. “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. “The poison of vipers is on their lips. “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. 

“Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know “There is no fear of God before their eyes”.

So all through the bible this message of the sinfulness of man and what it does to him, the world he lives in and his relationship with the one true God is made clear.

I saw recently a DVD that dealt with some of the terrible wars of the middle- ages in England and France and one woman who was a nun witnessed some of the horror of those wars and said, “because of what I have seen I no longer believe in God”. The reality that women was seeing was not the absence of God but the sin of man who has rebelled against God and what she was seeing was how depraved and Godless man can become once he turns from God and goes his own way.

However the God of the bible is not just a just, righteous holy God he is also a loving God. In the Jeremiah reference I gave earlier we read this in Jeremiah 3: 12 -13

‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer,
for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt— you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,’”
declares the Lord”.

Note that even that terrible faithless Israel of Jeremiah’s time could turn back to the God of the bible and he will, as the text reads, “frown on you no longer” which is another way of saying he will forgive them and not punish them because of their many sins.

This is only possible because Jeremiah says, “for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord”, which is another way of saying that the God of the bible is a loving God. David has presented this aspect of God in many of the Psalms he has written so far in the first and second book of Psalms and a good example of this is Psalm 44: 26,

“Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love”.

David knew that he and in fact anyone did not deserve this love of God expressed in forgiving our sins and he often combines God’s love with God’s mercy like Psalm 25: 6,

“Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from old”.

This idea of merciful love is called “grace” in the New Testament and a classical example of this is Ephesians 1: 6 – 8,

“To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us”.

So in Psalm 65 David gives the second reason for giving God praise and that is because he gives us the forgiveness of our sins and transgressions when we deserved them to overwhelm us.

  1. God forgives the sins of those he has chosen (vs.4)

The forgiveness of our sins and the grace of God to forgive them continue as a underlining thought in the first phase of next verse, verse 4, which reads,

“Blessed are those you choose and bring near”.

The verse commences with the Hebrew word we translate, “Blessedness” right back at the start of my Psalm Talks studies of the Psalms I sought to explain this same Hebrew word which is the first word we read in the book of Psalms in Psalm 1 verse 1. I offer my explanation of the real meaning of this word by quoting from my Psalm 1 Talk,

“Being Blessed by God or being truly happy is what all people really want but true happiness seems to be such a fickle thing. Many people buy lottery tickets to win large cash jackpots and think that if only they could win millions of dollars, then they would really be happy. The reality is that many who win big lotteries often find very little happiness at all. Relatives, friends and con men trying to get a piece of the prize hound them. They buy houses, boats and go on expensive holidays but still, in side themselves they aren’t happy.

Others go deeply religious and do all kinds of religious activities. Martin Luther before he found Christ and the great liberating truth of Justification by faith, crawled up the steps of St Peters in Rome, praying as he crawled and when he got o the top he said, he felt more of a sinner after doing the crawl than before he started it.

Yes the bible makes it clear, to be truly blessed by God you need to find his forgiveness first, Psalm 32 verses 1 and 2 says:

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit”.

But now David says,

“Blessed are those you choose and bring near”.

In my interpretation of this verse I will endeavor to stick to what the bible says and not wonder off into some kind of theological philosophy about free will etc. Albert Barnes explains it this way,

“The word chooses refers to the fact that true piety regards all such blessings as the result of the divine favor; the fruit of his electing grace and love”.

Barnes offers Ephesians 1: 3 – 4 as a collaborating passage of scripture of this kind of interpretation,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—“

Earlier when I was speaking about God’s grace I quoted the next 3 verses which complete Paul’s understanding of God’s act of grace in saving us,

“To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us”.

This teaching in Psalm 65 is right throughout the bible and is both controversial and I think extremely important so I offer another commentators explanation of it to help explain it further, C.H Spurgeon writes,

“Since we cannot and will not come to God of ourselves, he (God) works graciously in us, and attracts us powerfully; he subdues our unwieldiness, and removes our inability by the almighty workings of his transforming grace”.

Some argue that this kind of teaching negates or detracts from presenting the Gospel to everyone but this completely fails to appreciate the bible teaching that it is through the message of the Gospel that God works out his amazing transforming act of grace. As Paul presents clearly in Romans 10: 14 – 17,

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?  Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ”.

So David is saying in verse 5 that not all of the people in Israel have had there sins forgiven because not all of them have tuned back to God in repentance and faith and those who have only did so because they were chosen by God to do so.

This teaching to me is both mind blowing and liberating it is mind blowing because it something we cannot totally fathom or understand but it is liberating because he takes the pressure off me to be the one who convinces others to believe and helps me see that all we need to do is be faithful in teaching and living the Christian Gospel and God will do his work of saving grace in the lives of others.

This teaching also means prayer is very important because without God’s Holy Spirits help opening the hearts and minds of non believers our preaching is useless.

In David’s mind in verse 4 God’s choosing of people led them to come close to God, which in his day meant,

“Living in your (or God’s) courts! “

This is Old Testament language for worshipping God together with others, who think and believe the same things as do as Barnes explains,

“The word ‘courts’ refers properly to the area around the tabernacle or the temple, and not to the tabernacle or temple itself. The worship of the people was offered in those courts, and not in the tabernacle”.

In the New Testament this idea of drawing near to God and worshipping him with others is put in another way like Hebrews 10: 22 – 25,

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

 The last phase of verse 4 speaks again in Old Testament terms,

“Filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple”

David has spoken about being in the temple or God’s house before and in Psalm 27: 4 David says,

“”One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and seek him in his temple.”

I gave a good explanation of what David is asking for in this verse and similarly in verse 4 of this verse in my Psalm talk on Psalm 27 and I quote myself from that talk,

“What then is David asking for when he seeks dwelling in the house of the Lord, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and hiding in the shelter of God’s tabernacle?

In Luke 10 verse 39, we read of what Mary chose to do when Jesus came to visit her and her sister at their house, she, “sat at the Lord’s feet”. Martha of course chose to run around the house to madly prepare food etc. for Jesus. Martha was upset with her sister Mary who chose to stop and be with Jesus listening to him. Jesus says to Martha, Mary chose what is better.

I believe David is asking for in Old Testament terms what Mary got. He wants to be close to God, he wants to sit at the feet of his Savior and lord and fellowship with him. We saw in Psalm 23 verse 6 that David longed to, “dwell in the house of the Lord forever”. It is interesting that the Temple, which was the physical house of the Lord on earth, had not yet been built and in fact God instructed David not to build it himself but rather it was to be built by his son Solomon.

Did God therefore tell David that the answer to his prayer to be with God in his house forever, as we see in Psalm 23 and verses 4 to 6 is a big no?

Of course not because David is not asking to be in some earthly building forever but to be in what that earthly building would become to represent, “God’s dwelling place with us”. David wanted to “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord”, he wanted to be in God’s presence forever”.

So here in Psalm 65 verse 4 David is speaking of how the God in heaven is blessing his people with his bountiful gifts from heaven. This makes sense if you understand that the Temple only symbolized God in heaven dwelling with his people on earth.

So lets read verse 4 of this Psalm again with this interpretation in mind,

“We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple”.

The best “good thing” God has in heaven is of course himself and through his only Son he gave himself to us when Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us as John 1: 14 says.

When we see Jesus we see God and when we know Jesus by faith in him we know God and all the good things he has for us are ours in Christ and our response to that should be praise and worship.

I close this first section with the words of Hebrews 2: 9 – 10,

“But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered”.

  1. PRAISE THE LORD WHO IS POWERFUL AND MIGHTY (5 – 8)

The rest of his Psalm is rich in beautiful poetic images that present five more reasons why we should praise and worship our Lord the God who made and sustains our world.

Form a God of Love David moves to a God of power and might but I think the grace of God remains behind the rest of the Psalm just as we saw in the first section.

I have broken this second section into three parts:

  1. God’s grace and might in how he answers our prayers (vs. 5)
  2. God’s power and might in his acts of creation and salvation (6 – 7)
  3. God’s wonders and might which is seen by all (vs.8)
  1. God’s grace and might in how he answers our prayers (vs. 5)

So in the first verse David calls the people to Zion, where the sanctuary was to praise and worship God and he then answers the question why God deserves this praise and worship and in doing so gives the people content to their praise and worship.

In the first part of verse 5 David moves the readers or worshippers on from the forgiveness of sin to acknowledge again how God answers prayers for deliverance with great grace and might. He writes,

“You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior”.

These words again make me think of the past eight Psalms (excluding Psalm 58), which focused on the twin themes of Deliverance and refuge often set in the context of the danger and troubles of the Absalom revolt.

Then David saw God’s righteousness produce awesome deeds of deliverance in the face of impossible human odds.

These awesome deeds of deliverance or salvation could also equally apply to the Israelites escape from Egypt that seem to be behind a lot of the poetic images of this second section of this Psalm.

Why are God’s awesome deeds of deliverance or salvation for his people spoken of here in terms of God’s righteousness?

H.C, Leupold answers this question with these words,

“It will always be ‘in righteousness’ which leads him to deliver his own whom he has promised help, it is, therefore, right for him to do so”.

Did David deserve deliverance from his rebellious son Absalom or did Israel deserve deliverance or salvation from Egypt?

The answer is no but because their God is a God of love and grace, which is wrapped up in his quality of righteousness he saved them both.

Do we deserve the Salvation Jesus won for us on the cross?

The answer is no, but because of the love or grace of God he chooses to save us from our sins and give us eternal life. As Paul says at the beginning of his letter to the Romans in Romans 1: 16 – 17,

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith”.

David goes on to say that this mighty or awesome God is,

“Our Savior”

The idea that the God of the bible is a Saving God is another great theme that runs through the whole bible. From Noah through to Israel out of Egypt to the return of the Jews from captivity in Babylon God is saving or recurring his people out of his righteous love for them.

So it is in the New Testament where God is seen through Jesus as a Savior for everyone both Jew and Gentile. That famous verse, John 3: 16 says it all,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

Or

1 Timothy 1: 15 – 16,

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.  

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life”.

Even David knew that his awesome saving God was not just for the Jews only because in the second part of verse 5 he writes,

“The hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas”.

This is a poetic picture of the universal nature of the Salvation God offers. In other words God is not just a Savoir of the Jews but of the entire world. The Israelites were never designed by God to be an exclusive people or rather keep the message of God as Savoir to themselves even though as time went along they acted this way.

In Exodus 19: 3 – 6 we read this,

“Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

Note two things here:

  1. Israel is going to be God’s treasured nation or most blessed nation

But

  1. Their role is to be a kingdom of priests.

What this means is best described in Isaiah 42: 6 and 7,

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness”.

Israel was called to mission a Kingdom of priest’s, a light to the Gentiles bringing the message of God’s Salvation for the world.

Of course many might argue in one sense the Jews failed to do this, as they became an exclusive race of people who looked down on everyone else as God’s only people. But as Israel failed God did not for out of Israel came his very own Son who for filled this high calling of God.

Interestingly Isaiah a few chapters on will prophesizes that God would send what he calls, “My Servant” to for fill Israel’s high calling in Isaiah 49: 6 – 7,

“He says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

This is what the LORD says– the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel– to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: “Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

 So David must have had in mind this concept of Israel being a kingdom of priests or a light to the Nations when he wrote his words in Psalm 65: 5a,

“The hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas”.

The message he knew his people had about the great and mighty God of Salvation was for the whole world represented poetically by the terms, “ends of the earth” and “the farthest seas”.

This comes to us as both a word of inspiration and warning for we too are called to be a Kingdom of priests and a light to the world. As Peter declares in 1 Peter 2: 9,

 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”.

And Mark 16: 15 – 16,

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”.

Sometimes we as Christians fall into the same trap of exclusiveness that the Jews fell into and fail to live up to our high calling of a Kingdom or a church of priests who take the message of hope and salvation to the world.

So David in Psalm 65 wants his people to praise and worship the Lord their God with the message of his awesome Salvation proclaimed to the world.

  1. God’s power and might in his acts of creation and salvation (6 – 7)

In the next two verses David recalls, poetically two great powerful and mighty acts of God to be part of both the reason to praise God and the content of that praise. The two great powerful and mighty acts of God are:

  1. His creation of the world (vs. 6)
  2. His salvation of his people out of Egypt (vs. 7)
  1. His creation of the world (vs. 6)

David at the end of verse 5 mentioned the seas and now in verse 6 he speaks of God’s creation of the mountains,

“Who formed the mountains by you power having armed yourself with strength”.

Barnes explains the meaning of these words with this,

“This is an exhibition of vast strength or power on the part of God, as if he fixed them (the mountains) so firm that they could not be moved- as if he handled with ease vast masses of matter, with all their rocks and forests – and caused them to repose steadily and calmly on their foundations”.

God created the world and the universe something many people simply say is a myth or legend. The alternative is that it (the universe) just came about by accident that happened over a very long period of time. Evolution seems to give length of time power of creation, the mistakes of creation the design mechanism and the accidents of creation the building blocks of the stars, planets and geology of the earth.

However as some see chaos in the universe others see order and design and the bible points to the powerful hand or word of God as the real designing force. As we read at the start of John 1: 1 – 3,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made”.

We know of course from verse 14 of this same chapter that this one called the word was non other than the pre-existed Christ in heaven because that verse says,

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

So when I go out of my home in the Blue Mountains just outside Sydney and walk to the local lookout I can see and witness the power and might of the creator God I encounter in the bible. Standing up so high I can see evidence of the God who formed the mountains and of course I can praise him as David encourages me to here in Psalm 65.

  1. His salvation of his people out of Egypt (vs. 7)

Some might say that verse 7 is simply a continuation of verse 6 concept of God’s power and might in creation. This is true but I think by the way David frames this verse he has more than the power and might of God in creation in mind.

The verse reads,

“Who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations”.

Yes God created the seas just as he created the mountains by his great power and might. But I want you to note how David refers to the seas. He says,

“Who stilled the roaring of the seas”.

This I think is a poetic image of the Israelites crossing of the red sea when God stilled the roaring sea and opened it up for Israel to cross safely and then close it in on the Egyptian army that pursued them.

In Exodus 15 Moses sings a great new song that celebrates this and I like the section of the song that speaks of God’s power and might over the seas to save Israel on that day, Exodus 15: 6 – 10,

Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, Lord,
shattered the enemy. “In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.  By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up. The surging waters stood up like a wall;
the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy boasted,  ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them.
I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.’  But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters”.

David gives us another clue that he not only has creation in mind here but Israel’s Salvation when God led them through the waters of the red sea with the second expression of this verse, which says,

“And the turmoil of the nations”.

Moses in verses 13 – 16 says this about God’s special nation Israel and the others nations of the world,

In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall on them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone— until your people pass by, Lord, until the people you bough pass by”.

The idea that the nations hearing the news of Israel’s great salvation by their mighty and powerful comes up in the next verse as well when David writes,

“Those living far away fear your wonders”

Something I will comment on in more detail in the next part of this second section of this Psalm.

I like the closing words of the little letter called Jude that capture the power and might of God to save us and bring us over the turmoil of the waters of death to eternal life with God in heaven, Jude 24 – 25,

“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savoir be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen”. 

  1. God’s wonders and might which is seen by all (vs.8)

As I pointed out at the end of the last part of this second section of Psalm 65 David, I think, alludes to the reaction of the Nations of the time of the Exodus who when hearing about how God saved the people of Israel they were afraid.

This is the first thought of verse 8 which presents the idea that God’s wonders and might is seen and known by all or can be seen and known by all. David writes in verse 8,

“Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy”.

 In the last Psalm talk on Psalm 64 verse 9 I had this to say about the news of Israel’s salvation out of Egypt by their great God of power and might,

 “Returning to the story of Rahab and the spies in Joshua chapter 2 the verse before the one I quoted, verse 10 says this,

“We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed”.

Rahab’s words seems be representative of her fellow Canaanite chatter about the news of what Israel’s God had done for them and would be easily seen as an a example of:

“They will proclaim the works of God and ponder what he has done”. (Psalm 64: 9)

All of God’s great intervention of Judgment and Salvation has been recorded for us in the bible and any time someone reads that or has it read to them then the works of God are proclaimed and what he has done is pondered.”

So here again David alludes to the same idea that when non believers hear of how God has worked in history and in the lives of his people and even today when we present a real testimony to what God has done in our lives those who do not know the God of the bible we trust in can fear his wonders and maybe become interested in the message we proclaim namely the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord.

I refer to my Psalm Talk on Psalm 34 entitled, “The power of a God centred Testimony” which is an excellent exposition of this Psalm and the idea of how we can use what God is doing in our lives to help interest others in the message of the Gospel.

Peter advises us to do this sort of testimony in 1 Peter 3: 15 – 16,

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander”.

The final phrase of verse 8 reads like this,

“Where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy”.

Barnes explains this phrase this way,

“The allusion is to the east and the west. The sun in his rising and his setting seems to rejoice, that is, he appears, bright, cheerful. The margin is to sing – a poetic expression indicating exultation and joy”.

This is the same idea David presented in Psalm 19: 1 – 4,

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. 

It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.  It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;  nothing is deprived of its warmth”.

In my Psalm talk on Psalm 19 I had this to say about the sun and how David is using it in Psalm 19 and also Psalm 65: 8b,

David like any ancient person saw the sun moving across the sky from east to west. Of course we know the earth moves and the sun is fixed but this does not take away from what David is saying. He describes the sun as a young, strong and lusty bridegroom going out to meet his bride or a young finely tuned athlete warming up for a gig race.

David uses the Sun and these images of them to say that as wonderful and glorious as the sun might be it is only it is just a mere creature of God to tell us how wonderful and glorious God is. I like the words at the end of verse 6, “nothing is hidden from its heat”.

The sun has an influence over everything and of course without, I read this about the sun on the Internet, “The sun provides nearly all the heat and light and other forms of energy necessary for life on our planet In fact, the sun provider virtually all the energy of the solar system. Its gravitational attraction governs the motions (or kinetic energy) of the planets and other bodies”. The idea of the suns heat not been hidden, I think is used to say that, the God who made the sun to produce that heat is not hidden and speaks to us through it.

Again this does not seem to add up to all people’s beliefs and ideas. Like Paul John tells us that this is because of sin. We read this in John 3: 19 – 21,

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God”.

The light of God and the light that comes into the world are speaking spiritually and is of course the coming of Jesus Christ.

 So David has now used God’s answers to our prayers, forgiveness of our sins, his awesome deeds of salvation, the power and might of his creating abilities, the might and wonder of his saving Israel out of Egypt and the fact that all the world fears the news of his wonders and deeds as both the reason for praising God and the substance of that praise as well.

  1. PRAISE THE LORD OF THE HARVEST (9 – 13)

We come then to the final section that deals directly with the praise for the Lord of the harvest. Not that the previous sections do mot relate to this. The previous two sections lay the foundations for Gods bountiful harvest to come. As I hinted at in my introduction in the rural setting of ancient Israel the importance of a good harvest was crucial for the well-being and blessing of the nation.

The temptation for Israel to turn to fertility God’s or religions was great and Israel gave in to this temptation many times throughout its history. As I also pointed out in my introduction by the time of Jeremiah foreign fertility worship had almost taken over and for this God’s judgment fell heavily on the nations of Israel and Judah.

What the first two sections presents is not a God of fertility but a mighty God of Righteousness and love and mercy. It is God alone who chooses who he will bless and it is God alone whose awesome deeds of salvation should have been the people’s inspiration for praise and devotion.

So now David specifically speaks of the Lord of the harvest who more than deserves the peoples praise and worship. I have broken this section into two parts:

  1. The Lord of the Harvest (9 – 10)
  2. The Lord’s bountiful harvest blessings (11 – 13)
  1. The Lord of the Harvest (9 – 10)

 David now speaks of both who the Lord of the harvest is and how he is involved in the entire growing process. Verse 9 reads like this,

“You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it”.

 This verse seems to present a God of the harvest who is totally in charge of crop growing and not only that he is personally involved in it. It is as though he is a gardener with his sleeves rolled up watering every plant with one aim to produce a harvest for his people. Spurgeon puts it this way,

“He is represented here as going round the earth, as a gardener surveys his garden, and as giving water to every plant that requires it, and that not in small quantities, but until the earth is drenched and soaked with a rich supply of refreshment”.

The poetic image of the streams of God would have been a very striking one for people living in the very dry climate of the Middle East where rainfall can be very sparse. Calvin sites here Deuteronomy 11: 10 – 11 which speaks of how Israel will water their crops differently in the Promised Land than they did in Egypt,

“The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven”.

In Israel some rivers and streams never ran with water unless there was rainfall and this is the same in my own country Australia as well. This image of the streams of God is probably then an image of God’s life giving rain he sends from the heavens.

This all happens because God as the verse reads,

“Ordained it”.

Many people today say they believe in God but they do not believe God is intimately still involved in his creation. It is as though he made a clock and wound it up and it is ticking but he has left the clock ticking and is now quite removed from it.

However the God of the bible is not like this as this verse reveals he is intimately still very much involved in this world and the lives of men even down to the produce of the harvest of crops that feed us.

Many people reject this idea and ask if it is true then why is the world in such a mess?

Jesus is God’s ultimate personal involvement in this world and he went as far as dying for our sins on the cross to both show he is willing to deal with the mess our sin has produced in this world and not only that his death gives us a way out of the mess our many sins have created. Jesus said this about the provision of our daily needs like food in Matthew 6: 25 – 27,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life”.

Jesus completes this word about not worrying about our daily needs like food with a challenge and a promise in Matthew 6: 33 – 34,

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

David continues his description of this Lord of the harvest in the next verse, verse 10,

“You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops”.

Leopold continues the intimate involvement of God in the growing process interpretation with these words,

“The poet obviously attempts to ascribe each successive step in the process to direct divine action”.

God is seen as drenching the plowed furrowed ground, softening the ground with his rain and blessing the crops with a rich and plentiful harvest, as we will see in the final verse of this Psalm.

The harvest of the New Testament is the harvest of God’s church which Jesus referred to in Matthew 9: 37 – 38,

 “Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Jesus is speaking of the harvest of lost souls because in the previous verse we read,

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”.

Note that even for the harvest of souls won for heaven God is the Lord of the harvest and we are powerless without his help in building his church today.

  1. The Lord’s bountiful harvest blessings (11 – 13)

 David continues to poetically speak of God’s great harvest now giving his readers a description of its bountiful supply. Verse 11 and 12 speak of the bountiful overflow of God’s Harvest blessings.

In verse 11 we have the poetic image of the overflowing crop transport cart,

“You crown the year with your bounty. And your carts overflow with abundance”.

 The crown of the year is probably its time of supreme fullness when the harvest is at its peak. Some commentators think the expression of “you crown the year with your bounty” is referring to a special year of bountiful harvest like Ellicot translates and comments,

“All “the circle of the golden year” had been attended by Divine goodness. The meaning seems to be that God had made a year, which was naturally prosperous, still more abundant”.

Whatever it is the harvest here is spoken of as being plentiful because,

“Your carts overflow with abundance”.

God when he decides to bless us with a year of a great harvest makes it a year of overflowing blessing. I like the old Sunday school chorus that says,

Count your blessings name them one by one

Count your blessings see what God has done

Count your blessings name them one by one

Count you’re many blessings see what God has done.

I wonder if you know the verses that Johnson Oatman wrote in 1897,

 

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings; name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?

Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?

Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,

And you will be singing as the days go by.

 

When you look at others with their lands and gold,

Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;

Count your many blessings, money cannot buy

Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

 

So, amid the conflict, whether great or small,

Do not be discouraged, God is over all;

Count your many blessings, angels will attend,

Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

 I suppose it is easier for a farmer to count his many blessings in a year when there is a bountiful harvest but what about the years effected by drought?

The Christian is called to trust God and give thanks to God in all circumstances like Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5: 18

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

Note how Oatman’s “Count Your Blessings” hymn verses are set in times of difficulty and trail. In the first verse he speaks of the tempest and the times of discouragement. In the second verse it is burdens and carrying your cross, while the third verse speaks of seeing the seeming blessings of God on others. The final verse speaks of times of conflict and discouragement but every verse has only one word of advice to give in all this, “Count your many blessings” and I really like the conclusion of the first verse that says, “and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done”.

As I said in my introduction when the produce of the harvest festival at St Luke’s Liverpool was poor then this led to prayer for our land and farmers but even then we still celebrated with praise and worship the Lord of the harvest.

The final verse completes this harvest praise for the Lord of the harvest,

“The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing”.

Again the blessings of a bountiful harvest from God are being spoken of poetically.

I like Leopolds final comments on these words and cannot improve on them so I quote them here,

“We venture the claim that this is the most eloquent and beautiful description of the blessings that God bestows on field and meadow to be found anywhere in such brief compass”.

The picture is of fields covered with flocks and grain and they are singing praises of joy obviously to the Lord of the harvest and God and King. This description reminds me of a trip I had through some of the North Island of New Zealand where I saw magnificent green hills filled with thousands of sheep and other times when I saw fields of golden wheat waiting to be harvested. God certainly had blessed this countryside and I wondered if the local people here recognised this or not.

Sadly most people today take the blessings of God for granted and he is not even acknowledged but when drought or some other forms of problem strikes their land they are quick to criticize God and say where is this God you say is active in this world?

As I said before the real person of faith gives thanks to God in all circumstances, as Paul put it in 1 Thessalonians 5: 18. Note also what Paul adds to this great command,

“For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

 The tests of our faith will come as Peter predicts in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

 I refer again to Johnson Oatman hymn just quoting the first verse and chorus,

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings; name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings name them one by one

Count your blessings see what God has done

Count your blessings name them one by one

Count you’re many blessings see what God has done.

May we give the God of the bible and particularly his Son Jesus Christ the praise and worship he deserves for the many blessings of his great harvest gifts he so freely and lovingly gives to us.

I close as usual with my own poem inspired by this Psalm and a prayer.

 THE HARVEST OF SAVING GRACE

(Based on Psalm 65)

 Chorus:

 

Praise the Lord who gives us so much

Praise the Lord whose blessings flow.

Those who trust he brings a harvest

Of saving grace and peace to know.

 

God wants us to praise Him

For he answers prayers for us

He forgave our sins

When he bore them on the cross.

 

Blessed are the chosen

For they have heard God’s call

God is now with them

To help them when they fall.

 

Chorus:

 

God’s saving love is awesome

It is seen in his Son who died

It’s the hope of the world

For it stills sins roaring tide.

 

The entire world has seen

God’s great creating power

But many fail to see

He upholds us every hour.

 

Chorus

 

God gives to the world its rain

That nourishes the ground

Helps the crops to rise

So a harvest can be found.

 

So praise the Lord of the harvest

Food for body and soul

For this world is so beautiful

And it’s God who makes it so.

 

Chorus:

 

Praise the Lord who gives us so much

Praise the Lord whose blessings flow

Those who trust he brings a harvest

Of saving grace and peace to know.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

A HARVEST FESTIVAL PRAYER:

Father in heaven we thank you for your many blessings you so freely give to us. We do not deserve a harvest but we know out of your grace for us you give us many abundant harvests. Help us to use what you give us to help others and in doing so reveal the love you have for them and particularly the love you showed in sending Jesus to die for our sins on the cross. In Jesus Name we pray Amen.

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