Theme: Reasons to Praise God
From this week’s lessons we see that Psalm 66 tells us to praise the Lord and gives us an example of one who is doing just that.
Scripture: Psalm 66:1-20
This brings us to the second major section of the psalm in which the specific nation of Israel is invited to praise God (vv. 8-12). The world should “shout with joy to God” and “sing to the glory of his name.” But it usually does not, simply because it is not aware of the many great blessings for which it should be thankful. Even an official Thanksgiving holiday does not make it thankful. It is different for the people of God, since they have come to know God and are aware of the way he has kept them and blessed them even in the most difficult times.
When the author was calling to the Gentile nations he invited them to see how God had intervened in nature to deliver and preserve his people. But they were invited only to look on from the outside, as it were. Israel is on the inside; therefore, the people are invited to praise God for what he has done for them personally. Here the first person plural pronouns are used: “Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance” (vv. 8-12, emphasis added). The nations of the world can praise God in a general way for his mighty acts in nature and can be awed by his power in delivering his people. But the people of God can praise him as other people cannot.
For what do they praise him? In the second stanza, where the nations are invited to praise God, the references seem to be to the specific acts of God in delivering the Jews from Egypt and bringing them into the Promised Land. Obviously, that is because these were dynamic interventions the pagan nations could see. In stanza three, where the Jewish people are told to praise God, the references are not specific but are rather poetic expressions that embrace a variety of salvation experiences.1 The psalmist says that God “preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping,” he “refined us like silver,” “brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs,” and “let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance” (vv. 9-12).
The reason for this choice of words seems to be that the deliverances of the people of God are too many and too personal to be adequately listed in a single psalm, though later psalms will in fact review the nation’s many deliverances in detail. This stanza simply means that God has preserved them at all times and in every situation. The final image, “through fire and water,” embraces every extreme, like saying, “come hell or high water” or “from the mountains to the valleys to the oceans white with foam.” That is, whatever the time or circumstances, the people of God can say, “God has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping” (v. 9).
1A number of commentators have argued that the deliverance in verses 8-12 seems to be a present experience of the people and suggest that it is probably the deliverance from the Assyrians in the days of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18-19; Isaiah 36-37). But this is only a guess; it could be anything or, as I suggest, nearly everything, that is, many national and even personal deliverances.
How can the nations of the world praise God?
How can his people praise him?
Application: What things do you have to be thankful for, recognizing that God is the source of all of them? Make a list of these things, and spend time praying through your list, thanking God for them, and praising him for his goodness.