Psalm 66:1-20 Praising God’s Work In My Life
Most commentators believe that Psalm 66 was penned by Hezekiah, king of Judah, after the Lord delivered the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the attack of the Assyrian army. Although the city was surrounded by 185,000 Assyrians, Isaiah had prophesied that not a single arrow from an Assyrian bow would make its way into Jerusalem (37:33). Indeed, that night, an angel of the Lord came and slaughtered the entire army (2 Kings). It seems Hezekiah wrote this psalm in celebration of this event.1
In this psalm, we have a reminder that we need to praise God. Some commentators divide this psalm into two parts, others divide it into three. One can make a case for three psalms within a psalm: a hymn (66:1–4), a community psalm of thanksgiving (66:5–12), and an individual psalm of thanksgiving (66:13–20).2 This psalm is divided into two parts. The first half, verses 1 through 12, would be sung by a choir. The second half, verses 13 through 20, would be sung by a soloist, perhaps by Hezekiah himself.3
FOUR DIFFERENT WAYS WE CAN PRAISE GOD’S WORKS AS A COMMUNITY4
The psalm lists four different ways one can praise God’s works. The list may seem self-explanatory. However, it is amazing that I can praise God in these four different ways. These four different ways seem to lead back to each other in praise. I can shout, sing, say, and see.
1. Shout (Psalm 66:1)
“Shout joyfully to God, all the earth!” (Psalm 66:1, HCSB)
As part of God’s creation, we are called to shout out to God. The fact that God has created you and me should make us happy. We should be happy that we are created by God. When we recognize that God has created us, that we have purpose, and that He wants to be with us, it should make us shout out to Him.
As a community, this church has reasons to shout to God, “Thank You.” For one, we have an activity center that has been paid off. For another, we can thank God that He has provided people for us to share the Gospel and whom we can disciple.
2. Sing (Psalm 66:2, 4)
“Sing about the glory of His name; make His praise glorious.” (Psalm 66:2, HCSB)
“All the earth will worship You and sing praise to You. They will sing praise to Your name.” Selah” (Psalm 66:4, HCSB)
A second way that we can praise God is through song. When we want to praise God, we can sing to Him. We can sing about how glorious God is. We can sing about how important His name is in my life. Eventually, our choir of praise will end in a heavenly chorus. People from all over the world and time and space will join us in singing praises to God (Psalm 66:4).
3. Say (Psalm 66:3)
“Say to God, “How awe-inspiring are Your works! Your enemies will cringe before You because of Your great strength.” (Psalm 66:3, HCSB)
We can speak in praise about God. We can talk about what God has done for us. We can tell stories about how God has shown His strength against our enemies, whether these enemies are people or challenges we have encountered. God has been faithful and strong against our enemies of debt, of depression, of difficulties.
We can tell others about the wonders of God in my own lives (Psalm 66:5).
“Come and see the wonders of God; His acts for humanity are awe-inspiring.” (Psalm 66:5, HCSB)
Our corporate testimony can lead to others praising God as well. How do they start to praise God?
4. See (Psalm 66:5-12)
People start to praise God when they see and experience His wonders and works personally. We see His awe-inspiring acts. We see God do all kinds of miracles. Whether it is turning the sea into dry land or some other miraculous work, We start to see how great God is in life.
Sometimes, however, the works of God will seem like a test.
GOD’S TESTING IS WORTH MY PRAISE
“For You, God, tested us; You refined us as silver is refined.” (Psalm 66:10, HCSB)
As a church, we will go through trials that will test us. God is doing this to refine His people, His church. Sometimes, these experiences are difficult and hard to accept:
“You lured us into a trap; You placed burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but You brought us out to abundance.” (Psalm 66:11–12, HCSB)
But the purpose of this corporate refining is for the good of the church. Jesus compares this experience to pruning.
“Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.” (John 15:2, HCSB)
This whole passage (vv. 10–12) may presuppose the Exodus. In Egypt Israel was tested and “refined.” She was netted in captivity. She had “affliction” laid upon her. However, she was delivered to “rich fulfillment,” to a land flowing with milk and honey.
Throughout the Bible God’s people are tested and tried. Paul tells us that such testing produces character (Romans 5:1–5). Out of the trial, glory shines. Likewise, out of death Jesus experienced resurrection, and out of our death to self we too may have a new beginning.5
When we see God’s works, we can begin to shout, sing, and say about what God is doing in the life of the church. But then we also need to share how God works personally. The psalm shifts from the “we” to “me.” Our testimony has to shift from “we” to “me.”
PRAISING GOD PERSONALLY FOR HIS WORKS IN MY LIFE
When I praise God personally for His works in my life, it should motivate me to do three things:
1. I am motivated to separate my PROFITS (Psalm 66:13-15)
“I will enter Your house with burnt offerings; I will pay You my vows that my lips promised and my mouth spoke during my distress. I will offer You fattened sheep as burnt offerings, with the fragrant smoke of rams; I will sacrifice oxen with goats. Selah” (Psalm 66:13–15, HCSB)
I show that I praise God when I give him money which He has allowed me to make. In this passage, Davis is saying that when he enters the worship house, He will pay to God. He will pay offerings and vows. The vow is a promise to pay something when he was in difficult times and He promised God to give to Him. The vow is your word to God that you owe Him for helping you.
While marriage vows and religious vows are different, the former made between spouses before God and the latter made directly to God the gravity of both is essentially the same—they are to be kept, for ultimately God is the one we are accountable to.6
The offering is voluntary. In this case, David is giving to God because David is happy for God’s goodness in his life. So in this case, we have two different motivations which cause a person to give money to God. The first motivation is based on a promise for God’s work in the past. The second motivation is based on my willingness to see God’s goodness toward me.
2. I am motivated to share my PROFESSION OF FAITH (Psalm 66:16-17)“Come and listen, all who fear God, and I will tell what He has done for me. I cried out to Him with my mouth, and praise was on my tongue.” (Psalm 66:16–17, HCSB)
Goldingay observes that in the Old Testament, calling on God when one is in trouble is a form of praise.7 That is, the parallel lines in verse 17 bring together the experiences of petition and praise.8
In other words, I am professing my faith when I praise God while in the midst of trouble. My personal testimony is important in showing other people how to praise God. Here, it is my experience that leads to my praise. This is where my worship leads to missions. I show other people my God by the way I praise Him. I tell them how God has been powerful in my life, even when things seem impossible to me. I share how God leads my life. This testimony leads other people to investigate: to come and see.
“Come and see the wonders of God; His acts for humanity are awe-inspiring.” (Psalm 66:5, HCSB)
My testimony is also a call out to other people. I tell others to join me in praise.
“Praise our God, you peoples; let the sound of His praise be heard.” (Psalm 66:8, HCSB)
I remind others about how God keeps me alive through my profession of faith so that I can continually shout, sing, say, and see Him today, tomorrow, and for eternity.9
3. I am motived to speak my PRAYERS (Psalm 66:18-20)
“If I had been aware of malice in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. However, God has listened; He has paid attention to the sound of my prayer. May God be praised! He has not turned away my prayer or turned His faithful love from me.” (Psalm 66:18–20, HCSB)
In Psalm 66, David reminds himself that there is a time when prayer is a presumptuous, arrogant, detestable, and obnoxious deed perpetrated upon the Almighty. This psalm opens with seventeen verses of joy and praise to God for His mighty deeds. Then, suddenly, there appears in verse 18 the grim reminder of how the entire story could have been drastically different. We are alerted to the importance of properly approaching God in prayer. If there is anything worse than not praying, it is praying in an unworthy manner10
The author of Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan, wrote: “In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart.”11
When the cordless phone has been off the hook for too long, it no longer works. The signal has lost its power and its influence. That phone must be rested back onto the base in order for it to become rejuvenated.
One of the reasons Christians are not transformed the way God wants us to be is that we’ve been away too long. We’ve been disconnected too long. Like a cell phone that cuts off because there is a bad spot on the freeway, Christians lose contact with God.12
The best way to continue to have contact is to praise God for the works He has done in life. Praise keeps the connection active. Like a cordless cell phone, we can show people we are still actively connected to God through our praise to Him.
1 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume Two: Psalms-Malachi (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 79.
2 C. Hassell Bullock, Psalms 1–72, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, vol. 1, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015), 499.
3 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume Two: Psalms-Malachi (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 79.
4 Jim Erwin, “4 Ways to Praise God’s Works,” Psalm 66:1-9, 1 July 2016, Lectionary Reflections (2015-2016) Year C, Logos Bible Software Notes, Internet, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2016/07/01/4-ways-praise-gods-works/, accessed on 6 October 2016.
5 Donald Williams and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Psalms 1–72, vol. 13, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1986), 478.
6 C. Hassell Bullock, Psalms 1–72, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, vol. 1, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015), 505.
7 Goldingay, Psalms, 2:295.
8 C. Hassell Bullock, Psalms 1–72, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, vol. 1, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015), 502.
9 Jim Erwin, “4 Ways to Praise God’s Works,” Psalm 66:1-9, 1 July 2016, Lectionary Reflections (2015-2016) Year C, Logos Bible Software Notes, Internet, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2016/07/01/4-ways-praise-gods-works/, accessed on 6 October 2016.
10 R. C. Sproul, Does Prayer Change Things?, vol. 3, The Crucial Questions Series (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2009), 68.
11 Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Satisfied, “Be” Commentary Series (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 65.
12 Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 306–307.