Monday, December 30, 2013

Psalm 65 - "He Has Crowned the Year with His Bounty"

As this year draws to a close, it is right that we should pause to give thanks to our Father in heaven for   the fact that “He has crowned the year with His bounty ….”  (v.11)

The Psalm before this one (Psalm 64) reveals David’s complaint to God   concerning the plots of his enemies against himself. Psalms 65,66,67,68  by contrast are Psalms of profoundest praise and thanksgiving , whilst in Psalm 69 we find David  back in the pits, saying “Save me Oh God for the waters have come up to my neck” (Ps. 69:1) .
That is the way we experience life, and if we do not have the complete perspective of Scripture in our minds, our lives would indeed be an up and down. The  wonderful truth  is that above all  the   “ups and downs“ of  the Psalmists , and our own   experience, we have  a   faithful,   stable rock  -  the  God  who has made us to praise Him!  God has made us to praise Him, whether we are  in physical  need or whether  we have  plenty  (Phil 4:11-13),  whether we feel spiritually dry  or  whether we are on a spiritual high  ;  whether we are emotionally drained  or  whether we  are happy. This God remains our God, not so much because we because hold on to Him, but because in Christ He holds on to us with His covenantal love[1] !  At the end of our pain, grief and sorrow, or at the end of our joy, happiness    and blessings, there is the same faithful God!
Psalm 65 is most likely written as a song of praise after a successful harvest (see vv. 9 -13).

Outline of Psalm 65
1.        Verses 1- 4         The forgiving God
2.        Verses 5 – 8       The  sovereign God
3.        Verses 9 – 13     The  providing God

1.       Verses 1- 4         The forgiving God
“Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,    and to you shall vows be performed. O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come. When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions. Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!”  This Psalm of  thanksgiving and praise at the end of the year  begins with a reminder of  the greatness of  our sins, followed  by a wonderful reminder  of  God’s rich forgiveness and also  of  His electing love  for His people.
Let us constantly  remember  that there can be no   proper approach to God  without  an  awareness  and  confession  of  who we are  and who He is !  We are redeemed sinners and He is the eternal, infinity holy God. We are able to come into his presence only because of atonement (v.3).  In the OT it was unthinkable to come into God’s presence (manifested on earth in the holiness of the temple v.4)    without a sin offering or a guilt offering.  All this was obviously done in anticipation of the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, but the basic fact remains. He is a holy God, and we may only enter into His holy presence by the One who has taken away our sin. The awesome holiness of God remains   a reality to this very day, and from this perspective nothing has changed!  It is a grievous thing to appear in the presence of God in our worship thoughtless and unprepared for such a meeting. I have a friend who once had been a staff member of our Namibian embassy in Sweden. He told me that he shook the hands of the King Gustaf of Sweden (twice!). What qualified him to do that? Well, he stood in the service of our country and in the name of our President. He would not have been able to do that as an ordinary Namibian citizen in his own right.
So too Christ our Head alone can facilitate our meeting with our holy God and eternal King.  He alone can bring us near to God:   “Blessed is the one you choose and bring near to dwell in your courts!” (v. 4a)
Today, the church (ekklesia – lit.  Called out ones) are brought to live in the courts of God. We must never forget that the church   is the chosen gathering place of God for God’s people.  And it is in the context of His church that we are amply provided with “the good things of your house“. (v.4b)
As we reflect on God’s grace  and mercy this year, let us remember  where we have come from; let us own the fact that we are what we are , and we do what we do  by the mercy  of God,  who owns the ministry of this church.  He has crowned our year with His bounty by continuing to   help us to keep the Word of God central to all we do at Eastside.  He has provided materially for our spiritual home. We have been able to share with others.  He has continued to supply his spiritual gifts in the form of men and women that serve Him. He has given men to lead us.  
The first four verses remind us that God is the heart of our praise. He is the focus of our prayer; He is the hope of our forgiveness from sin and guilt; He draws us near to Himself and into His church and He blesses us there.

2.        Verses 5 – 8    :   The  sovereign God
“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.”  In vv.  5 – 8 we take note of some further attributes of   God which will move us to praise and worship. His deeds are awesomely righteous.  He is the God of our salvation.  He is the hope of all those in the world who trust in Him (v.5).  His creation is awesome. He created the majestic Himalayas. (v.6)  He made the mighty Pacific and Atlantic oceans.  He causes the great waves - and He stills them (v.7). He stills the turmoil of the peoples (nations) (v.7b).  His wonders and works are seen and acknowledged around the world, both in the   East (where morning dawns) and the West (where evening fades) (v.8).  Truly, says David, God has not left Himself without a witness in this world. But more significant is the fact that the gospel has been forcefully advancing in the whole world. The Word of the Lord has spanned the globe from east to west.  On every continent there is a gospel witness. His witness is even found in the hostile Muslim nations. We  rejoice to know that in the most populous nation of the world, China  there may be  more  than  100  million (50  times the population of Namibia) believers  that are  praising His Name, singing songs of joy ! He is the only hope of all the ends of the earth (v.5a)
Truly, God has crowned this year with His bounty by continuing to let His glory shine in all that is created in the heavens above and on the earth below. His gospel continues to be proclaimed in the world, plundering hell’s captives and daily adding many sons and daughters to His family of worshippers.  This year more souls have been added to   the number of   the saints in glory.  At the end of this year the coming of Christ will be nearer!

3. Verses 9 – 13:  The providing God
“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, and they shout and sing together for joy.”
Having said all this, God’s nearness is mainly felt in His personal providence for us.  David looks back over the year and rejoices in the rains which God has given. This rain has provided the food for the nation. The people have grain; the flocks have food – all because He has ordained it. When we pray for rain, and give thanks for the harvest, we are doing a biblical and God-honouring thing.  We recognize that rain and harvest are not simply a product of arbitrary weather patterns, or of luck, or of the “El Nino” effect.  Weather and harvest are ordained of God. Note the repeated use of the word “You“in this section:
You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly; you drench its furrows; you soften it with showers.  YOU CROWN THE YEAR WITH YOUR BOUNTY!

We have come to the end of the year and we too want to say to the Lord: “Lord, you crown the year with your bounty”. 
We are thankful for another year in which our God has preserved our country from war and civil strife. How quickly the moods of politicians can change. How quickly the land can become ravaged with war, sickness and famine. And though our country  is ravaged with  lingering illnesses  like  AIDS  and cancer , yet we must also thank  God for this  kind affliction.  Not only is God teaching us to  fear Him and to live a life  of reverence, but we thank Him that  so many men and women have gone to heaven, having repented of their sins, and have  trusted in Christ  when  they realized that they had cancer  or HIV . They took stock of their lives, and fled to Jesus, and they are now with Him in heaven, where there is no more sickness, weeping and sorrow and pain. Though they had to leave their mortal bodies behind (as we all shall do sooner or later) yet their spirits are now soaring and singing with the assembled multitude in glory. What a blessing!  He has crowned this year with His bounty!
We are thankful that we are a country that has freedom of worship. Although much of  what goes  for worship  in this country  does not honour God,   because it is man –centered  and  even blasphemous, yet for the sake of  His chosen people God has not  handed us over to ruthless men who  would destroy our freedom of worship . He has crowned this year with His bounty!
We are thankful that we have a free economy and opportunity to work to make a living for ourselves. To all who want to work, there are opportunities. People do not have to starve in this country. He has crowned this year with His bounty.
We also give thanks for our homes. We are thankful for our families and our dear friends that encourage us so much. We give thanks for our spouses. We thank God for our children, even though some of them do not yet believe. And because of that we thank God for the gift and reward  of believing prayer. Surely we have the promise that if we pray and believe, then we shall also receive  whatever is in God’s will (1 John 5: 14). He has crowned this year with His bounty
We are thankful for our church. We thank God that His word may rule here. We pray that it may do so more and more. We thank God that He has drawn our attention to the curse of man-centredness , and that He is helping us to focus on the Lord Jesus ,  the One who truly frees us from  every form of enslavement . He has crowned this year with His bounty
But above all we give thanks to God for His love and mercy that has brought us near to live in His courts through the Lord Jesus Christ, who has covered our sin and who has removed our transgressions as far as the East is from the West. If it wasn’t for the fact that He had brought us near to live in His presence, we would never have known what it means to be truly thankful.  Because he lives and because  we live through Him, we know that “He has crowned the year with His bounty “!

We realize of course that not everybody in Namibia has reason to say that.
The atheists of our country cannot say that, for they do not believe that there is a God.  There is no one to thank for the beauty of His creation. How do you thank impersonal evolution? How do you praise chance? The last thing they want to say is: “He has crowned this year with His bounty”.
The disobedient in our city cannot truly say that, for how can they expect God to bless disobedience? Disobedience is the death of thankfulness.  The disobedient want to run from God and hide from His presence. The last thing they want to say is: “You have crowned this year with your bounty …”
The religious hypocrites cannot say that. A hypocrite may speak the truth, but they do not walk in the truth. They are not driven by the love of God; Hypocrites are not bound to a personal relationship with God; they are obsessed with externalities. Therefore they cannot have a thankful heart. They cannot say “Oh Lord, you have crowned my year with your bounty

But, you dear people can do it!
Say it!  “Oh Lord, you have crowned this year with your bounty!”  AMEN!

[1] 2 Tim  2:13

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