Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Psalm 65

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, our church congregation was treated to an inverted treatment of the text of Psalm 65. Verses 9-13 contain Thanksgiving imageries of rare beauty. After commenting on the Thanksgiving verses, the pastor worked backward through the Psalm, highlighting its exultation of the natural beauty of the waves of the ocean, the roaring of the sea, and the establishment of earth’s mountains. Eventually the focus returned to the God to whom we offer praise for the atonement of our transgressions, the goodness of God’s house, the holiness of God’s temple, and the righteousness of the God of our salvation.

We may only glimpse a portion of the glory of psalmist David’s worship vision as he penned this magnificent psalm. It is interesting that David’s worship sequence culminated in a touching passage of thanksgiving for God’s gifts of water, plant growth, abundant pastures, and meadows “clothed” with flocks feeding on plentiful grain.

Let’s quote Psalm 65:9-13 in its entirety from the ESV:

You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it.

You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.

You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.

The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy,

The meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

C. H. Spurgeon’s The Treasury of David is a two-volume, four-inch thick set of commentaries on all 150 Psalms. It was written in Spurgeon’s lifetime (1834-1892). Spurgeon quotes many “pertinent extracts” from other authors, but most of the Treasury is his own. Following are three such commentaries, each one dealing with a past, present, or future outlook on some aspect of this psalm:

Hugh Macmillan recalls the historic utterance of Genesis 1, stating “I (God) have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth.” That is, all the cereal plants—such as corn, wheat, barley, rice, maize, etc., whose particular characteristic it is to produce seed…..

Barton Bouchier produced an eloquent contemporary account of the planting to harvest sequence: “In the brief compass of five verses we have the whole scene vividly sketched, from the first preparation of the earth or soil; the provision of the corn-seed for the sower; the rain in its season, the former and the latter rain, watering the ridges, settling the furrows, and causing the seed to swell and to spring forth, and bud and blossom; then the crowning of the whole year in the appointed weeks of harvest, and men’s hearts rejoicing before God according to the joy in harvest, the very foot-paths dropping with fatness, and the valleys shouting and singing for joy.”

John Calvin refers to the phrase “they sing” in verse 13. Calvin claims the verb sing “admits of being taken in the future tense, they shall sing; and this denotes a continuation of joy, that they would rejoice, not only one year, but through the endless succession of the seasons.” Calvin claims “that in Hebrew the order of expression is frequently inverted in this way.”

We are gifted with opportunities to discover the rich meaning of scripture. Thanksgiving, according to our pastor in his seasonal message, is not merely a personal feeling of being subjectively happy. This feeling is explained at the beginning of the chapter in verse 1: Praise is due to God. Our subjective experience needs an object of our thankfulness. Foremost in verses 1-8 is verse 5, which humbly praises the GOD OF OUR SALVATION.