Praise Awaits You | Psalm 65

Dear Friends of Jesus Christ,

Psalm 65 is a communal song of praise. It invites us out of ourselves and calls us to give thanks to the one from whom all blessings flow.

Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion. To you our vows will be fulfilled. To you all people will come. To you. To you. To you.

This psalm is about God. And I’m thinking that for us, this thanksgiving holiday is also about God.   

Of course, in our culture, thanksgiving means many things. Its a celebration of the harvest. A time to get together with family and friends. These things are good.

But we who believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, we look beyond the things of this world. The harvest, family… all these things come not to us by chance, but from God’s Fatherly hand.

Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion.

Psalm 65 gives us three reasons why God is to be praised. But before going into those reasons, a word about what it means to praise.

Praise grows out of a thankful heart. Its an expression of gratitude. You praise the chef, because you are thankful for the meal. You give your mom and big hug and celebrate her, because you are thankful for her presence in your life 

Praise is our gut reaction to things that delight us and are valuable to us.

The other day, I made an apple crisp. And when Brittney told our children that we were having apple crisp for desert, my children went crazy. They jumped up and down. They yelled: “Thank you, thank you thank you thank you. Apple crisp, apple crisp, apple crisp.

To praise is to let what you are experiencing on the inside to come out. Sometimes we clap. Sometimes we jump up and down. Sometimes we sing. We are trying to give voice, in a fitting way, to the thankfulness and joy we feel inside.

And its pleasurable to give voice to that thankfulness. You feel alive when you let it out. It feels wrong to be a keep it within. I mean, try not clapping after a soloist nails her part. Its hard not to clap. It feels good and right to let it out.

Its pleasurable to praise, and its also healthy.

One of my friends deals with chronic pain. Its something that she will probably have to for the rest of her life. She’s been in pain for so many years that the pain has impacted her brain. Now she feels pain, even if there isn’t actually any painful thing happening in her body. Somehow, the pathways in her brain have formed to play that mean little trick.

She went to the pain clinic not long ago, and part of her therapy involves trying to reform those pathways in her brain. The only way to do that is to practice gratitude. To express thankfulness. Its healthy to praise.

And it fits our design. The 2nd century theologian, Irenaeus, once said: “The glory of God is the human fully alive.” By this he meant that we are never more alive, never more fully human, then when we are expressing thanks and praise to God. 

And that’s because he is the being of ultimate value. He alone is the worthy of our thanks and praise. We were made to delight in him and to express gratitude.

Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion. 

Why praise God? Psalm 65 gives us three reasons. 

Firstly, God is be praised, because he forgives and fills our lives with good things in this  presence.

When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple. Psalm 65:3-4

You may not know this about Brittney, but Brittney’s favourite day of the week is garbage and compost day. She is overjoyed when the garbage and compost trucks unloads our bins, and she gets very upset if I forget to bring the bins out. Don’t mess with garbage day.

I don’t share Brittney’s obsession with this, but I do get it. I mean, there’s a two week supply of dirty diapers in that garbage bin. And a two week supply of rotting food in that green bin. There are going to get messy and smelly, if we have to wait two weeks more weeks.

Well, it strikes me that sin is a little bit like garbage and compost in our life. It builds up and it begins to stink. You try to keep in contained, but the pile gets bigger. You try to hide the smell from visitors, but eventually it gets out.

Imagine if we lived in a world where sin stuck around, and there was no way to empty the bin. 

God is to be praised, the Psalmist says, because he forgives.

Kippur is the Hebrew world being used verse 3. It means to cover over, or to make atonement for. Perhaps you’ve heard of Yom Kappir—the day of atonement.

In many ways, the day of atonement was the apex of the Jewish Calendar.

The highlight of the day took place in the temple court. A priest would come out with a goat. And then, laying hands on the goat, the priest would pray a communal prayer of confession. The idea was that the sin of the people was being transferred to the goat.

And then, once the prayer was done, the priest would chase the goat out of the temple, and then someone else would chase the goat deep out of the city and into the wilderness.

The whole event was meant to convey the reality that God had dealt with the sins of the people. That “As far as the east is from the west, so far have has he removed our transgressions.” (Psalm 103)

Its such a deep human need, eh? Forgiveness. Thanks be to God that he does not leave us with our trash.

God used the blood of a goat in the Old Testament. But the sacrifice was never final. It was simply a shadow of things to come. But when the time was right, Christ entered the world. John the Baptist summarized Jesus identity and ministry: “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus was driven out of the city. And there in the wilderness, he was nailed to the cross. The one for the many. Atonement. The forgiveness of sins.

Not only did God take out the trash, in Christ, but he has also filled us with good things in his presence.

I mean, those who make their home in Christ, no longer live in a trashy house. Through the Spirit, God has formed a new house. A Holy House. You get new clothing in this house. New brothers and sisters. A set-aside seat at the Father’s table. Good things!

Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion.

So God is to be praised for his work in Spiritual renewal. But he’s also to be praised because he is sovereign. This is what’s being communicated in verses 5 through 8.

God revealed his sovereignty when he delivered his people from Egypt. He displayed his power over Pharaoh and nature with the 10 plagues and the parting of the Red Sea.

And at creation, God displayed his authority by overcoming the forces of chaos and creating habitable order through his word.

You know, scientists have often said that its amazing that we exist at all. A lot of things had to line up just so in order for life to flourish. Get too much closer to the sun, and we’d all burn. Get too much further away and we’d all freeze.

Who do we have to thank for all this? Our lucky stars? Mother Nature?

Not a chance, says the Psalmist. The Lord be praised.

And if we need more proof that the Lord is the ruler of all nations and the earth we need only look to the empty tomb. The Resurrection. That sign has brought praise to the lips of people from every tribe and tongue. People who were far apart, at war with each other, have made peace through the cross and resurrection of Jesus.

Praise awaits you, Our God, in Zion.

And the final reason to praise God according to Psalm 65, is because God is more than a cosmic orderer, he’s also a gardener.

You care for the land and water it… The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain… You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing. Psalm 65:10-15

Food. It doesn’t magically appear on you plate, you know. You can’t 3D print a turkey. Someone had to prepare it. Someone had to cook it. Someone had to purchase it. The grocer purchased the turkey from the butcher and the butcher purchased it from the Farmer. That Turkey hatched from an egg and the farmer fed it grain. That grain grew in a field that had been planted by a farmer. The seeds needed for that crop came from the previous harvest. There was no guarantee that they would grow. But they did.

Who deserves to be thanked for the Turkey you find on your plate?

Mom and dad probably deserve a little credit. The Farmer should probably be thanked too.

But our thanks, as Christians, can and should go much deeper. Who makes the sun to shine? Who makes things grow? Why is there such a thing called a Turkey?

We can manipulate and influence the things of this world, but at the end of the day, God is Lord of the harvest.

Every spring, I am totally anxious. I plant seeds. But for a few weeks, nothing grows. “It’s not going to work” I tell myself.

But then, by August, I am inundated with vegetables, and overwhelmed with gratitude.

Here is a picture of Joseph and my stash of butternut squash. I picked about 40 squashes in all. I only planted 6 seeds.

He crowns the year with bounty. My minivan over-floweth.

Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion.

All is good in Psalm 65. The world is as it should be. Salvation, creation, the harvest. Blessed be his name.

For some of you here today, 2018 has been a good year. Maybe you got promoted at work. Maybe you moved to a new and improved house. Maybe your primary relationships are thriving and you feel such joy. Its easy to sing the doxology when the world is as it should be.

But it can be hard to praise during years of drought. Maybe the harvest wasn’t good for you this year. Maybe the year was marked by suffering. There are more lament Psalms in the psalter than there are Psalms of Praise. So you’re in good company today, if you’re struggling to praise.

I don’t know what this year has been like for you, but I do know that we were created to praise. And that one day soon, we will praise the Lord God with a joyful heart and weep no more.

The praise in this passage is future. Praise awaits you, our God. When we get the temple, we’re going to praise like we’ve never praised before. And when we get to the new Jerusalem, we are going to praise like we’ve never praised before. May that day come soon, O God in Zion. May that day come soon.

Amen.

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About engagingthestory

I am a Husband of one wife, a Father of two children and a Pastor of one Church. Life is good. Currently I live in Victoria, British Columbia--a great place to live if you, like me, enjoy hiking and sipping high quality beer.
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