Psalm 67 has often been overlooked; Martin Luther wrote 5 volumes of exposition for the Psalms and skipped this one entirely. Though it is seemingly simple and short, the purpose of this Psalm is to see things God’s way while singing God’s praise. The first verse is not only a plea for and acknowledgement of His mercy but goes boldly past that rightful beginning and asks for blessing. Such a blessing or blessings would have the purpose not only of benefiting the blessed, but to demonstrate the saving power of God to His faithful people and the perishing multitudes around them.
The heart of this Psalm is a strong desire and proclamation: “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! … Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” It has almost the feel of a chorus to be repeated in between other lines. It ends with a simple reminder that it is God and God alone who blesses, rescues, multiplies, increases, and protects.
I am late posting this Psalm, and for the simple reason that I had such a hard time figuring out which angle to take with it. A lot of Psalms are more pointed and direct in what the author wishes to communicate: the need for protection, the venting of anger or frustration, praise in hardship, and so on. Not so here. It is a song of praise. Writing a blog post about it made me feel like I was back in school, analyzing some verse or another from something on the radio.
It dawned on me that, as is often forgotten, there would have been melody, harmonies, and choruses that accompany many of these songs. We read them as words on a page, but this Psalm is a reminder that a great portion of this book calls for strings and the choirmaster to help out! There must have been times when, in the heat of day or cool of night, musicians of ancient Israel would sit about and figure out a suitable chord progression here or meter there, all with the aim of memorizing the praises of God. A Psalm such as this and many others were committed to memory with the help of chorus and verse and melody; it is far, far easier to memorize song than written word; melody acts as a set of tracks upon which to place and store things of importance.
These Psalms (lyrics?) served both to them then and to us now a crucial reminder that God is good; He is faithful; He is kind; He is Father. To commit them to memory with song is to recognize the tendency of humankind to forget God, to forget to preach His word to our own hearts and install something else as master over our lives.
I’m willing to bet that most of us have been to some sort of Christian camp or VBS or day out as kids where we had to memorize a verse or two of the Bible. We’ve made it a part of our Sunday School programming to do just that. How many of us go out of our way to memorize Bible verses as adults? I certainly haven’t made much of an effort. After all, it seemed to me like something I did as a kid – as I grew up, people stopped asking me to memorize Bible verses, so I did just that.
To my great surprise, I actually need to memorize way more of the Bible now that I’m a grown-up and dealing with real life things than I ever did as a kid! You are in the exact same boat, too. To memorize scripture is to arm ourselves with God’s word; that is how we put on the armor of God! The more we familiarize ourselves with Scripture, the more we store up God’s word in our heart, the more able we are to be directed by the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. When we make the effort to meditate on His precepts and dwell on His commandments (Psalm 119), the more we can keep our hearts, minds, and lives in line with His will. If our goal in life is to know God and make Him known, what better way to both hear His voice and be ready at all times to act in a way that pleases Him than committing to heart the things He has said? By doing so, we begin to rewire our hearts after God’s word; we are more susceptible to being moved by the Holy Spirit’s prompts; we are more capable to withstanding temptation and respond with holiness and integrity when we’re caught in a difficult situation.
To memorize the words of God is to prioritize Him in a unique way and is essential for each Christian and their walk in obedience. James 1:22-25 says it best: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
This is also a very useful and tangible form of study and meditation. If you’re like me and your memory is garbage, this is exactly the kind of (challenging) exercise we need! It is easy and simple to set goals here – even one or two verses a week is an amazing start! I write this all from the perspective of Psalm 67, who took inspired words and added to them melody and chorus, so that they may treasure the word of God in new and creative and wonderful ways. “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!”
Lord God, help us not only read your word but ponder it. Help us to commit your written word to heart and so make ourselves more sensitive to your Living Word, Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Create in us a new heart, O God, and renew an upright spirit within us. May we be eager to meditate on your commands and store up treasure in Heaven, so that we may always be ready to answer those who ask for the reason for our hope within. Amen!
Here's a great example of a Psalm turned into song once more -
Psalm 23 (Shane & Shane)
Text: Psalm 66
Verses 1-4: The psalmist calls on the congregation to heap praise on God for his awesome deeds.
Verses 5-7: An invitation to come and see as a call to remembrance of God’s past acts of rescue.
Verses 8-12: While the previous verses celebrated God’s great acts from the distant past, the psalmist now praises God for saving them in the recent past.
Verses 13-15: The psalmist offers praise and thanks for their answered prayers.
Verses 16-20: As the spokesperson for the community, the psalmist gives testimony to God’s positive response to his request for rescue and offers praise to God.
INTERPRET: Many scholars divide Psalm 66 into a hymn (v. 1-12) celebrating God’s past redemptive acts, and an individual thanksgiving poem (v. 13-20) where the psalmist thanks God for answering a recent request. While this breakdown is very possible it may not be the most compelling. While the psalm does open by praising God for his awesome deeds in the distant past (the crossing of the Red Sea and the Jordan River), verses 8-12 probably should be understood to refer to a recent rescue of the community. Although the psalmist gives individual thanks in the final verses, he likely should be understood as a representative leader speaking on behalf of the whole community.
APPLICATION: The psalmist, on behalf of the people praises God for his “awesome deeds” of deliverance, and thanks God for saving him and his community from a present threat. These past redemptive deeds include not only the recent unspecified rescue, but also the earlier redemption at the Red Sea and the crossing over the Jordan River into the Promised Land.
Christian readers of this psalm today can join in this celebration with enthusiasm. Not only can we celebrate the past redemptive acts of God but we are blessed of an even greater deed of salvation, the cross of Christ. As we also celebrate God’s response to our own individual prayers for help we should also be looking at how God is consistently protecting his church.
Next time we look to God for help let us “come and see” all of God’s awesome deeds, from the Red Sea all the way to the cross. This will help provide us with an incredible amount of confidence today that Christ is with us and his church. Let us live faith filled lives that clearly demonstrate confidence that our amazing Lord has rescued us, is rescuing us and will continue to rescue us.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I praise you for your awesome deeds, especially for what you have accomplished on the cross. I praise you for all you are doing in my life and the life of my church community. Help me to live a life of faith that gives you glory for all that you have done. AMEN.
SONG: Who is Awesome in his deeds
June 1st – Les Kovacs Psalm 65
Observe: Psalm 65 is a joyous song of praise to God from David. You can just hear the adoration in his voice.
David starts by praising God for all the good things He does for us. He answers our prayers. He forgives our sins. He chooses to be with us and bless us with every good thing we need in life.
He then praises God for the hope He brings to all creation because of His mighty deeds. He created the mountains, calms the stormy seas, and brings peace to the nations. He brings forth the dawn and the evening and we can rejoice in their rhythm.
And finally, David praises God for His care of the land and of His people. He waters the land and blesses the crops which yield the abundant harvests for His people. Because of His tender care, the grasslands and the hills are covered with life. The meadows are filled with sheep and the valleys with grain, and all creation resounds with joy.
Interpret: David’s reign in Jerusalem was a tumultuous one. As king, he experienced times of peace and times of war. He enjoyed the thrill of victory in battle, and the joys of following in the paths of the Lord. But he also knew the sting of defeat and of bitter betrayal .
Through it all, however, he knew that his world revolved around the Lord. Whether in joy or in sorrow, as a man after God’s own heart, David always turned, or returned, to the Lord. He remembered that it was by God’s grace that he triumphed over the challenges he faced, and that it was by God’s mercy that he received forgiveness when he stumbled. It was always from God alone that David knew his hope came. And so, David praised the Lord for His unfailing goodness as witnessed in the lives of His people or in the wider creation. David reminds us that God deserves to be praised for His wondrous and mighty deeds as well as for His everyday mercies.
The psalm is full of David’s thankfulness and praise to a God who loves beyond all understanding.
Application: David was undoubtedly a flawed human being. Yet God was able to use David to lead His chosen people as one of the greatest human kings the Israelites ever knew because of his deep faith in God and his desire to follow His will. Growing up in an agricultural setting, and tending his father’s sheep from an early age, David saw firsthand the beautiful and wonderous works of God in nature. He therefore naturally draws on the imagery of creation in his praises, supplications, and expressions of hope and thanksgiving. He is in tune with all the subtle and majestic ways the Lord moved in his life.
I often think how far removed we are from feeling that divine connection in our own lives when we too-easily forget that we are beloved children of the Almighty. Like David, we too are daily confronted with challenges and failures. We too are daily blessed with victories small and large. We too are daily faced with myriad choices and decisions, perhaps not nation-shaking, but certainly effecting our own lives and the lives of those around us, perhaps with eternal consequences. Yet how often do we stop what we’re doing to remember that God is there with us in the mist of our busy hustlings. How often do we drop everything just to say, “Thanks be to God!”, even when we are in the dark of the night? How easy to is to praise Him when we are celebrating, but how about when we are suffering? How often do we press “pause” just so we can hear Him, who is the still small voice?
Whatever we do, wherever we are, God is right there with us. As followers of Christ, we are never alone. He created us. He has a plan for us. He has a deep desire to be on intimate terms with us. But in order to do our part, we need to have a heart for God, as David did.
When our hearts are aligned with God’s, then we can clearly see His handiwork in us, in our lives, and all around us. And we can joyfully praise Him for hearing our prayers; for forgiving our sins; for walking with us through the valleys and the hills. We can praise Him for the sound of a child’s laughter as well as the rumble of the thunder. We can praise Him for the warmth of the sun as well as the cool of the night. We can praise Him for being able to stand in a freshening breeze as well as in the howling gale.
Our God is worthy of praise whether we feel like it or not, whether we’re laughing or crying, whether we’re praying or singing, whether we’re celebrating or suffering because He is our great and loving God. Praise be to Him, forever!
Prayer: Father God, we raise our voices in praise to you alone. You answer our prayers, you forgive our sin, you heal our pain, and you call us to you. You created the earth and tend it and bring forth life and provide for all our needs. You the God of abundance. You are the hope of all the nations of the earth. Open our lips, Lord, and our mouths will declare your praise. This we pray in the merciful name of Jesus, Amen.
Song: How Great is Our God – Chris Tomlin
Bible Blog 2022
This year the blogs are focused on the Psalms and are posted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.