A Bible Lesson on Psalm 66

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

This is a lesson on a passage not in the current ISSL lesson schedule, Psalm 66.  Kidner titles this psalm “God of All—of Many—of One.”  One way to look at the psalm is how it moves from universal praise of God to praise from a redeemed people to praise from one redeemed person.  Another way to look at it is as working back and forth from praise either given or called for and invitations to see what God has done.  It begins with a call for universal praise.

Psa 66:1  To the choirmaster. A Song. A Psalm. Shout for joy to God, all the earth;

Psa 100:1  Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!

With the exception of the name of God used here in Psalm 66 and the “I AM” used in Psalm 100, the Hebrew is apparently the same.  The call in both is for all-that-is to shout aloud to its Creator.  It is like the shout of acclaim that a human people gives to a beloved, wise, and benevolent king.

2 sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!

Sing!  Believing people are singing people.  They are people whose voices are raised to the glory of His name.  The object/content of their singing is the glory of His name, it is the excellencies of His person, His wonderful nature revealed to human beings.  They sing out in “glorious praise.”  The nature of their singing is to be fitting in light of His nature.  Kidner says, “It’s not to be trivial nor pretentious.”

3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.

The praise of believing people concerns His nature/person/who He is.  It also recounts His deeds, what He has done.  Those are “awesome.”  This an overused and devalued word in our day.  It means inspiring awe by authority, the sacred, or the sublime.  This is the inspiring of an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder–producing an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful.  These acts of God cut His enemies (the doers of evil) down to size.  They come cringing.  Salvation/joy and judgment/cringing are two reactions to the same set of genuinely awesome facts about God.

4 All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Selah

The obvious fact that the command in verse 1 is not obeyed by all humans doesn’t void the realities that psalmist can see the physical earth taking part here, that there are people across the whole world who do shout aloud with joy to God, that those who do know him shout to the rest of the people of the earth in hope that they will join it, and that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess His excellencies.

Verses 1-4 concern the whole world.  Verses 5-12 concern the people of God.  This section begins with an invitation to see the works of God.  What He’s done ought to inspire awe/reverence.

5 Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.

God’s goodness to His children ought to cause them to wonder at/fear/reverence Him.  He’s not just some domesticated tame ineffectual being.  He’s the Holy One, He’s the powerful One, and He’s acted in breathtaking ways on behalf of those who are His.  In Old Testament pictures of salvation in Christ, He made a way for His people through the Red Sea in the Exodus and He brought them safely over the Jordan river at flood stage into the promised land.  And at those acts, His people rejoiced and do rejoice.

6 He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There did we rejoice in him,

7 who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations– let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah

Look, human beings! Look at the acts of the One who saved His people and judges evil.  Come and see what God has done, and recognize His acts for the genuinely awesome, wonderful, and humbling things that they are.  God is ever the same.  He rules by His might forever.  His Kingdom is as wide as and His eye as watchful as ever.  Therefore, let not the rebellious exalt themselves.

And upon seeing the wondrous acts of God on behalf of His people, other peoples are invited to speak praise of Him.

8 Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard,

Bless “our God” O peoples.  From the beginning, God’s blessing of Abraham was to bring blessing and salvation to all peoples.  The deliverance of the Jews at the Red Sea and the crossing over Jordan on dry land were not just for them, they were ultimately for the good of all people.  Their deliverance was our deliverance.

9 who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip.

God’s people have both life and security from Him.  They have it as a gifts from their God, the only true and living God.  The praise of God is the partner of thanksgiving.  Praise of God comes from a thankful heart that is aware of and grateful for His care and provision.

God delivered, God made them secure, and beginning in verse 10, God tested.  God is God in both the happy times and the hard times.

10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.

11 You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs;

12 you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

You, O God.  You, You, You, You … God is responsible.  He knows exactly what He is doing in joy and in sorrow.  Biblical people see the hand of God in all things.  As in verse 9 they see God’s hand in their very lives and His protection.  And God’s hand is in the testing, the crushing burdens, the fire and water.  Songwriter George Young got it right in his refrain.

Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

On the other side of the fire and water, there is a spacious place, a place of abundance, spacious liberty.  That was the corporate experience of God’s people, the Jews.  That is the experience of individual ones of God’s people in all times.  And the last part of the psalm moves to one person’s praise for and devotion to God.  The psalm began on the biggest scale but now comes down to a very personal level.  First the psalmist  speaks to God on His own behalf.

13 I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will perform my vows to you,

 14 that which my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.

 15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fattened animals, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah

The psalmist testifies that all the sacrifices one might come up with, the whole gamut of sacrificial animals totally burnt up and consumed, are really but a fraction of what is properly due Him in gratitude for His gracious care of us.  The psalmist says that God heard him and answered in a time of severe personal trouble.  And he invites believing people to come and hear the details of God’s mercy toward him.

16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.

Come and hear.  This is spoken by an individual to the godly and is parallel to the “come and see” of verse 5 spoken by God’s people corporately to the world.  Kidner says, “On the large scale, the church bears witness primarily to the once-for-all acts of God and calls men to His kingdom; while at a personal level the individual adds a testimony to His continuing and intimate care.  Salvation past and present, corporate and personal, is displayed in proper balance by this double witness.”

17 I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue.

Petition and praise were simultaneously on the psalmist’s tongue, and verse 19 testifies that truly God has listened.  Commentators point out a really neat little surprise and turning upside down what might be conventional logic: verses 18 and 19 say “If A then B, not B …”  The logical human conclusion would be “not A,”  That is “I must have had a clean heart.”

18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

19 But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

But what the psalmist says is

20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!

He offers thanks to God for His mercy.  He doesn’t try to take credit, but rightly gives credit to God.  To God alone be glory.  And his fundamental concern is not simply that God has answered his prayer, but that God has shown him continuing mercy and grace.  He has granted the psalmist His steadfast love, His unchanging good will toward those He loves.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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