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Psalm 66 (pt. 1) -
“Shout with Joy to God, All the Earth”
For the director of music.
A song. A psalm.
1Shout with joy to God, all the earth!
2Sing the glory of His name;
make His praise glorious!
3Say to God,
“How awesome are Your deeds!
So great is Your power
that Your enemies cringe before You.
4All the earth bows down to You;
they sing praise to You,
they sing praise to Your name.” Selah
5Come and see what God has done,
how awesome His works in man’s behalf!
6He turned the sea into dry land,
they passed through the waters on foot—
Come, let us rejoice in Him.
7He rules forever by His power,
His eyes watch the nations—
Let not the rebellious rise up against Him. Selah
8Praise our God, O peoples,
let the sound of His praise be heard;
9He has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.
10For You, O God, tested us;
You refined us like silver.
11You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
12You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but You brought us to a place of abundance.
13I will come to Your temple with burnt offerings
and fulfill my vows to You—
14Vows my lips promised
and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble.
15I will sacrifice fat animals to You
and an offering of rams;
I will offer bulls and goats. Selah
16Come and listen, all You who fear God;
let me tell You what he has done for me.
17I cried out to Him with my mouth;
His praise was on my tongue.
18If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
19But God has surely listened
and heard my voice in prayer.
20Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld His love from me!
This is a psalm of praise to God. The Psalmist, in the course of the psalm, goes from the macro to the micro: he first speaks of praise due God from all the earth (vss. 1–7); then he speaks of praise due God from the Church, God’s people (vss. 8–12); and finally, he speaks of praise due God by the Psalmist himself (vss. 13-20). Indeed, praise is due God universally: from all levels of society; from all aggregations of peoples; from all nations and cultures; from the meek to the powerful; from the rich to the poor.
As the Psalmist begins: “Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious!” (vss. 1–2). Praise is required by all. It is, one could say, an implicit law arising from the Creation. Since God created the Universe, all its inhabitants should praise Him. “This speaks the glory of God, that He is worthy to be praised by all, for He is good to all and furnishes every nation with matter for praise” [Henry].
Note that our praise to God should be vocal, even loud. We are directed to “Shout with joy to God.” “If praise is to be widespread, it must be vocal; exulting sounds stir the soul and cause a sacred contagion of thanksgiving” [Spurgeon]. Those who think the praise of God must be carried out in whispered tones, in solemn, quiet buildings must find this and many others psalms strange.
Note also that our praise to God should not be a chore, but should be entered into gladly. We should “Shout with joy to God.” “Holy joy is that devout affection which should animate all our praises” [Henry].
The goal of our praise should be to glorify God. Thus, we should “Sing the glory of His name.” Our goal should be to “make His praise glorious.”
The psalmist suggests some words of praise due God from the nations of the earth: “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your deeds! So great in Your power that Your enemies cringe before You. All the earth bows down to You; they sing praise to You, they sing praise to Your name’” (vss. 3–4). This is somewhat of a prophetic passage by the Psalmist. He is looking forward to the time when the whole world, all nations, will be awed by the power of God, and sing their praises to Him. The Psalmist began the psalm by exhorting “all the earth” to praise God (see vs. 1). In verse 4, he looks forward to the fulfillment of that exhortation. “All men must even now prostrate themselves before Thee, but a time will come when they shall do this cheerfully; to the worship of fear shall be added the singing of love. What a change shall have taken place when singing shall displace sighing, and music shall thrust out misery” [Spurgeon].
Reasons to praise God are manifest and obvious throughout Creation. Thus, the Psalmist exhorts: “Come and see what God has done, how awesome His works in man’s behalf!” (vs. 5). “The reason why we do not praise him more and better is because we do not duly and attentively observe what God has done” [Henry]. Specifically, the Psalmist cites the miraculous intervention God made on His people’s behalf at the parting of the Red Sea: “He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot—Come, let us rejoice in Him” (vs. 6). “Whatsoever the Lord hath done for His people in any time bypassed, He is able and ready to do the like for His people in any time to come, and for this cause His former acts are perpetual evidences and pledges of like acts to be done hereafter, as need is” [Dickson, 388].
As God was in complete control in times past, so He will always be in complete control: “He rules forever by His power, His eyes watch the nations—Let not the rebellious rise up against Him” (vs. 7). God is intimately concerned with what goes on in the world. “His eyes watch the nations”, and so, all world leaders should look to God for guidance, and strive to lead their nations in the way of godliness.
Having exhorted the nations of the world to praise God, the Psalmist now turns specifically to the people of God, and exhorts them to praise God: “Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of His praise be heard” (vs. 8). The Psalmist gives a reason for God’s people to praise Him: “He has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping” (vs. 9). We live because God chooses to “preserve our lives”: every breath of air, every heartbeat is under His control.
The Psalmist also points out that God “kept our feet from slipping” (vs. 9). This is significant, because God’s people have endured much hardship over the years. But yet, the hardships themselves have come from God’s hand: “For You, O God, tested us; You refined us like silver” (vs. 10). Just as silver is brought through the refiner’s fire in order to remove impurities, so also we are brought through trials to test and purify us. The presence of affliction and hardship in one’s life is not a sign of being forsaken by God. On the contrary, it is a sign that you are one of God’s children. “Endure hardship as discipline, God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (Heb. 12:7). “All the saints must go to the proving house; God had one Son without sin, but He never had a son without trial. Why ought we to complain if we are subjected to the rule which is common to all the family, and from which so much benefit has flowed to them?” [Spurgeon]. “When visited with affliction it is of great importance that we should consider it as coming from God, and as expressly intended for our good” [Barnes]. “The whole of life is a test, a trial of what is in us, so arranged by God Himself, and it is of great importance that we so regard it” [Plumer, 654].
The Psalmist speaks specifically of the hardships the people of God had endured: “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” (vss. 11–12). Note, even when speaking of the afflictions, the Psalmist says, “You brought us…” “We are never in the net but God brings us into it, never under affliction but God lays it upon us” [Henry]. Ironically, this should give us comfort that it is our loving God who brings us into affliction. It reinforces that God is in control, even during hard times. And since our God is a loving God, we know that the ultimate result of the affliction will be for our good. As we are going through afflictions, it is difficult for us to see the good that will result from them. But when our hardships have passed, we can look back and see the good that have come from them, just as the Psalmist can look back at the slavery of God’s people in Egypt, and see the good that resulted: “We went through fire and water, but You brought us to a place of abundance” (vs. 12). The people of God entered Egypt a rag-tag, quarreling set of brothers. They left Egypt as the united children of God. The suffering they experienced forged a bond between them that continues to exist today. Then, the ultimate result was that they were “brought to place of abundance”: they entered the promised land. We will all experience a similar trial, as we pass from this life into the next. That transition, the death of our bodies, does not take place without pain. For some, this trial will come in the form of a protracted illness. For others, it will come at the hand of an enemy in the defense of one’s country. Some will experience an unexpected and (they would say) untimely death. Others will almost welcome death, as they grow weary of this world. But for all of us, for all the children of God, our death will occur with God’s sanction, with Him at our side, and at His timing. And then, after death, we will truly be “brought to a place of abundance”, as we enter into an eternity in His presence, where Jesus “will lead us to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes” (see Rev. 7:17).