Psalm 66 is a psalm of praise and it offers significant contributions to our understanding of the value of biblical worship. Over the course of the psalm the anonymous writer of this psalm offers up descriptive praise. This kind of praise is given to God for whom He is and what He has done. The other kind of praise we see is declarative praise which is praise for God due to specific answers to prayer. There are two hymns in this psalm, verses 1-12 and 13-20. At the close of the previous psalm we see that the psalmist has invited all of creation to praise the Lord. This psalm exhorts all men to do the same. All of creation is invited to celebrate God’s greatness. It appears from verses 8-12 that Israel had undergone some significant trials and God has brought them through those trials. This psalm may be tied to Isaiah 36-37 and the person speaking in verses 13-20 may have well been king Hezekiah. The exhortation to praise the Lord is broken down into three parts; the praise of the gentle nations, the praise of Israel, and the praise of the individual.
First we look at the invitation to the gentile nations to praise the Lord for what He had done for Israel. Why do this if you are a gentile? Because eventually God brought salvation through Israel to all the world. John 4:22 tells us that salvation comes through the Jews. Not only is this a psalm of praise but some look at it as a missionary psalm. It shows the importance of taking the good news of God into the world. That was Israel’s call. But it is a reminder to us to take Jesus Christ into the world. God’s purpose is that all people should praise Him. But if they do not know Him it will be hard to offer up praise. They also need to trust Him. So we see the glory of God’s name and that represents the perfection of God’s character. Honoring His name is the same as honoring God Himself. There is a sense of awe here and when the psalmist says enemies will cringe before God’s name it means to submit. The act of worship here means to kneel or bow down.
After verse 4 there is an interlude and the psalmist then continues on telling what the Lord has already done. The story of the Exodus and parting of the Red Sea brings responses of astonishment at what God has done. This leads people to worship the Lord. God works miracles for people in order to redeem them for Himself. When we think about the Exodus, this was really the birthday of the Jewish nation. And it has always been Israel’s main exhibition of the glorious power of God. So, what the resurrection of Jesus Christ is to believers today, the exodus was to Israel. The Jews remember the exodus at Passover and the church remembers the death and resurrection of Jesus at the Lord’s Supper. Andrew Maclaren said this about the Lord.”God’s work is never antiquated. It is all a revelation of eternal activities. What He had been, He is. What He did, He does. Therefore faith may feed on all the records of old time and expect the repetition of all that they contain.” God’s power brings redemption.
Next comes Israel’s call to praise the Lord. The orderly lives of the redeemed reflect the order in God’s world. The Lord protects them and purifies them. To bless God is to identify Him as the source of our blessings. And God’s preservation of His people is one of many reasons to bless Him. If any nation has reason to bless and praise the Lord, it is Israel. He rescued them from slavery, guided them through the wilderness, provided manna and quail to eat in the wilderness, took them into the promised land, enabled them to defeat their enemies, and claim their inheritance. God gave Israel His law, His sanctuary, His priests and prophets, and His presence. God provided Israel with everything they needed. When they disobeyed Him, He disciplined them. Sometimes they found themselves in the refiners fire as God worked to remove the impurities from them. And, when they turned to Him, miraculous things happened. God transformed them, turned their sufferings into blessings and grew both them and their territory. Our lives are like this as well. Sometimes we find ourselves in the refiners fire as God works to remove the impurities from our lives. Sometimes we know suffering and when we turn to God He transforms us. The psalmist acknowledges that our lives are in God’s hands. God guides His people into wisdom and away from folly…if we will only listen. Verses 10-12 speak of the times when Israel has found herself enslaved to other people, only to discover there is always a time when God brings His people to places of great abundance.
Finally, we come to the individual or personal offerings of praise to the Lord. Some translations say that the psalmist will go to ‘Your house’, meaning the temple of God. This is where God dwelt among His people. It appears that during periods of distress in his life, the psalmist had made vows to the Lord that when God brought him through his troubles, he would publicly acknowledge God’s deliverance. And each of the sacrifices offered would be accompanied by the heart attitude of the true worshiper. The psalmist speaks very personally of his intent to bring abundant sacrifices in his worship of the Lord. Vows quite often included sacrifices if thanksgiving, including burnt offerings.
There is a change here from we/our to I/my and it is significant. Corporate worship is the ministry of many individuals and God sees each heart. Individual worship is between the person and the Lord. Today we are living sacrifices, (Romans 12:1-2). But we should be no different than the psalmist. When the Lord does something wonderful for us, we too should bring the offerings of thanks and praise for the Lord…and do so in front of other believers. Perhaps even those who aren’t. All of scripture is full of God’s grace for His people. Keep in mind, prayer and praise go hand in hand. Those who fear God here refer to those who respond to the Lord in awe and wonder. But the psalmist also reminds us that when we sin we need to go to the Lord right away and confess. God will listen and forgive. Confessing right away allows us to continue moving forward in what the Lord has for us to do. If we continue to fuss and stew because of something that has happened, not only will we be miserable but so will those around us. Confession leads to restoration. The concluding words of this psalm are an affirmation of the psalmists blessing of the Lord based upon the realization of God’s continuing goodness in his life. It is always good to give God thanks and praise.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W