Theme: A Harvest Hymn
In this week’s lessons we focus on the gracious power of God seen in the wonders of creation and in the bounty of his provision.
Scripture: Psalm 65:1-13
Psalm 65 is an extraordinary, exquisite poem about nature. But it is also predominantly about the God of nature, who is gracious to man, powerful in his acts and the source of all nature’s bounty—which is what we would expect of a song written by David, the great poet of Israel.
In his brilliant little study of the Psalms, the English professor and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis has a section on the Jews’ appreciation of nature, pointing out that, not having many large cities, hardly any of the ancients, Jew or Gentile, loved or thought of “the country” as we do, that is, as a peaceful place to get away to, in contrast to the hectic life of the town. Pastoral lyrics are written by city people, not farmers. However, being close to nature as they were, the Jews, who were largely farmers, knew nature and delighted in it a great deal more than we do. Citing Psalm 65 specifically, he writes, “The psalmists, who are writing neither lyrics nor romances, naturally give us little landscape. What they do give us, far more sensuously and delightedly than anything I have seen in Greek, is the very feel of weather—weather seen with a real countryman’s eyes, enjoyed almost as a vegetable might be supposed to enjoy it.”1 Then Lewis quotes selected verses from Psalm 65:9-13 to illustrate his point.
Another way of speaking about Psalm 65 is as a harvest hymn, that is, a song to be sung after the crops were gathered in or when the crops were being gathered in. We have our harvest hymns too, of course, hymns like “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” and “We Plough the Fields and Scatter.” We had more when people in the West lived closer to the soil. But none of our harvest hymns has the freshness and abounding delight in God’s bounty in nature that this ancient composition has.
Derek Kidner says rightly, I think, “The climax of this psalm, a stanza as fresh and irrepressible as the fertility it describes, puts every harvest hymn to shame as plodding and contrived. Here we almost feel the splash of showers, and sense the springing growth about us. Yet the whole song has this directness, whether it is speaking of God in his temple courts (1-4) or in his vast dominion (5-8) or among the hills and valleys which his very passing wakens into life (9-13).”2
Another writer, H.C. Leupold, says, “We venture the claim that this is the most eloquent and beautiful description of the blessings that God bestows on field and meadow to be found anywhere in such brief compass.”3
1C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1958), p. 77.
2Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), p. 229.
3H.C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), p. 447.
Describe the image of God which is discussed in today’s study.
What is a harvest hymn?
Why might our psalm be a harvest hymn?
What is the climax of the psalm?
Application: Read the psalm again, and then take time to observe the wonders of God’s creation around you. Praise the Lord for how he reveals himself through what he has made.