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Friday, 24 October 2014

Psalm 65 - Thanking God for the Harvest

The third section of the psalm (verses 9-13) indicates that it was composed in thanksgiving for the annual harvest. Yet the thanksgiving section is preceded by two other sections: the first describes worship at the temple (verses 1-4) and the second describes God’s control of the elements (verses 5-8) . The psalmist, by this arrangement, is telling us that the harvest is dependant on the God who answers prayer and is in control of the world.

We can picture the worshippers gathering at the temple with their thoughts focussed on God. They are conscious that they have come together to pay their vows to him (they probably had promised the Lord that if he gave them a good harvest they would thank him publicly at the place of worship). They knew that he had answered that prayer, and receiving such an answer gave them confidence that he would answer other prayers, specifically prayer for the ingathering of the Gentiles (all flesh). So the psalmist describes God as the one who answers past and future prayers.

Yet as they gather for worship, their thoughts seem to be on the purity of God. This can be deduced from the real possibility that they are silent (the first line can be translated, ‘To you belongs silence and praise’). The reason why they are silent is stated in verse 3 – their sinfulness. Perhaps they are waiting for the sacrifices to be offered that would signify that atonement had been made for them. The silence adds to the solemnity of the gathering. David here reminds us that there is a place in God’s worship for silent contemplation of our sinfulness.

Nevertheless, although they are sinful, they also know that they are welcome into God’s presence. He is the one who has initiated the process by choosing them (election) and bringing them near (reconciliation). Now they can remain in his presence and enjoy his goodness (perhaps a reference to the grain offerings which some may have offered out of gratitude for the harvest or maybe a reference to the peace offerings which were eaten within the temple and symbolised that they were at peace with God). All this made them realise that the temple was holy – the idea of holiness is elevation above the mundane (of course, the glory of God makes everything else mundane), and there is nothing so high as the God of grace meeting with his people. The one who is holy meets with the unclean who have been pardoned by him.

In the second section (verses 5-8), the psalmist considers the power of God. His power is seen in the ways in which he answers prayer, particularly in how he provided salvation for Israel, probably from Egypt (v. 5). David’s spiritual logic is interesting – he deduces from Israel’s deliverances that God’s blessing will yet extend to all peoples. Probably he worked out that since God had kept his promise to Abraham about the deliverance of his descendants from Egypt, so he would keep his other promise to Abraham that through his Seed all the nations would be blessed.

In addition to being the Redeemer, God is also the Creator who planted the mountains by his power, who calms the oceans by his power, and controls the nations by his power. Even those who are ignorant of what he did for Israel are aware that there is a supreme being who is in daily control of the world (vv. 6-8), and who every day provides them with items that bring joy and happiness.

The third section (verses 9-13) is concerned with the provision of God for his people. David acknowledges that the Lord had granted a bountiful harvest and thanks him for sending the rain that ensured there would be ample crops. He likens God’s actions to a King in a royal chariot who, wherever it went, provided a rich harvest (v. 11) – a picture of how God delights to give in great abundance from his throne. Such is the supply that even the creation itself – animals and fields – seems to be singing in harmony.

It is always good to think of God’s purity, power and provision whenever we gather to worship him.

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