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THE EARTH AS EVIDENCE OF GOD'S LOVE FOR MAN
MAN DOES NOT LIVE ALONE
SUPERSCRIPTION: FOR THE CHIEF MUSICIAN.
A PSALM. A SONG OF DAVID.
The title which we have assigned to this psalm is inspired by a little book entitled, "Man Does not Live Alone," by A. Cresy Morrison (Fleming H. Revell Company), in which he enumerated many of the almost innumerable features of the earth itself which make it suitable for the home of God's human creation, many of which features appear to defy the very laws of nature, the entire result of which speaks eloquently of the providence of God.
One of those God-arranged features of our planet, without which life, as we know it, would be impossible is the expansion of water when it freezes, that quality being unique among all liquids. Others are the exact distance of the moon from our planet, the exact angle of the earth's tilted inclination upon its axis, etc. All such marvelous providential arrangements of the earth are dramatically stated in this psalm, "Thou hast so prepared the earth" (Psalms 65:9).
The assignment of the psalm to David in the superscription is denied by many scholars who admit at the same time that they have no idea who wrote it; and we continue to remain unimpressed with that kind of `information.'
The grounds upon which the Davidic authorship is denied include:
(a) the mention of the temple and its courts (Psalms 65:4). However, we have repeatedly noted that this terminology is scripturally applied to the "tabernacle" as well as to the temple. Besides that, as Leupold observed, "Spiritual fellowship is intended here rather than physical presence in some public sanctuary."
(b) Another ground of denying David as the author is in the allegation that "the style" here is not that of David, to which the reply should be made that there are no "experts" on the alleged "style" of David's writings, whose testimony is any more dependable than the affirmations of the superscription.
(c) A third basis of denying Davidic authorship was stated by Delitzsch. "It is uncritical to assign to David all the Psalms ascribed to him in the superscriptions." This statement is nothing more than an admission that it is very popular among critics to deny Davidic authorship of psalms ascribed to him, whenever it is possible to do so. This also, in our opinion, constitutes no valid grounds whatever for such denials.
In this light, "We are content to let the heading stand as it is." No, of course, we cannot prove it, but what difference does that make? "On the basis of material in the Psalm itself, David's authorship can be neither proved nor disproved."
There are three natural divisions of the psalm. (1) God is praised for his moral qualities (Psalms 65:1-5). (2) God is praised for his preparation of the earth as a dwelling place for mankind (Psalms 65:6-9). (3) God is praised for an abundant harvest (Psalms 65:10-13).
PRAISING GOD FOR WHAT HE DOES FOR HIS PEOPLE
"Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Zion;
And unto thee shall the vow be performed.
O thou that hearest prayer,
Unto thee shall all flesh come.
Iniquities prevail against me:
As for our transgressions, thou wilt forgive them.
Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causeth to approach unto thee,
That he may dwell in thy courts:
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house,
Thy holy temple.
By terrible things wilt thou answer us in righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
Thou that art the confidence of the ends of the earth,
And of them that are afar off upon the sea."
God is here praised:
(a) because He hears prayers (Psalms 65:2)
(b) because He forgives sins (Psalms 65:3)
(c) because He provides fellowship with Himself for His people "in His courts," that is, in His presence in heaven, (Psalms 65:4), and
(d), because He delivers His people from their enemies (Psalms 65:5).
"Praise waiteth for God ... vows shall be performed" (Psalms 65:1). It may seem strange that "praise" and "vows" should thus be mentioned together, but McCaw's explanation is excellent.
"The vows of Old Testament religion were not techniques of putting pressure on God or driving a bargain with him. They were a recognition that prayer for God's blessing must go hand in hand with consecration, and that thanksgiving can never be merely verbal, but must receive concrete expression in lives and goods. Thus, both `praise' and `vows' are abundantly due to a bountiful God."
"O thou that hearest prayer" (Psalms 65:2). There is nothing more wonderful that can be known about God than this very fact that he answers our prayers. The Scriptures strongly emphasize the Christian's duty to pray. "Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you": "Men ought always to pray and not to faint"; "Whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he will give you"; "Ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full"; "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." All of these commandments are the precious words of the New Testament.
"Unto thee shall all flesh come" (Psalms 65:2). Some would restrict this mention of "all flesh" to mean "all Israel," but it appears to us that, coupled with, "the ends of the earth" (Psalms 65:5) and the "uttermost parts" (Psalms 65:8), there is an echo here of the promise to Abraham that "all the families of the earth" were to be blessed in the Seed Singular of that patriarch, even in Jesus Christ.
Leupold cited these words, "As an obvious protest against an unwholesome exclusivism into which Israel of old might have been in danger of falling." Indeed it was such an exclusivism that led to the Jewish hatred of Paul and his mission to the Gentiles, and which was also the key element in their violent rejection of Christianity.
"Iniquities ... thou wilt forgive them" (Psalms 65:3). These words also are a prophecy of a time yet future when the psalmist wrote; because the forgiveness of sins was given by Jeremiah as one of the distinctive elements of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-35).
"Iniquities prevail against me ... our transgressions" (Psalms 65:3). Note the "me" and "our" pronouns here, also that forgiveness was not given to the psalmist until it was simultaneously bestowed upon him and the nation. The truth behind this is that the actual expiation for sins did not occur in the Old Testament at all but at the Cross of Jesus Christ. Whatever "forgiveness" was available to God's saints under the Old Covenant, it was tentative and not final. "There was a remembrance made of sins year by year" (Hebrews 10:3). All sins, both those of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, were removed by the Atonement of Christ on Calvary, where he died, "for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).
It was in the spirit of prophecy alone that the psalmist could have written these words.
"Blessed is the man whom thou choosest" (Psalms 65:4). The psalmist here was probably thinking of the choice of Israel to be the Chosen People and to bring in the Messiah for the salvation all men, but the words are unlimited in their application. "Not only, `blessed is the nation' (Psalms 33:12), but `blessed is the man,' the particular man, how mean soever, whom God chooses, and causes him to approach God. Such a man is the happiest of mortals; he shall dwell in the courts of God, for he has been assured of divine favor and has received the pledge and the earnest of everlasting bliss."
"By terrible things in righteousness" (Psalms 65:5). This verse is a sequel to Psalms 65:2; and what is referred to is, "The terrible acts of God's righteous judgments upon the enemies of Israel." In God's dealings with Israel, there were many occasions which fit this description. The destruction of Pharaoh's army in the Red Sea and the death of Sennacherib's army of 185,000 men in a single night are two examples.
"Thou that art the confidence of all the ends of the earth" (Psalms 65:5). There is no way to avoid the application of these words to the entire human race. The God of Israel is indeed the God of all men, the only hope of salvation that our poor world has ever had, or ever shall have.
The inspired author of these words might have been trying in such words as these to awaken Israel to their God-given mission of enlightening all the world with the knowledge of the One God, a mission which, it seems, was never any big concern of the Chosen People, who stubbornly held to the conceit that they alone were the object of God's love and concern.
The words of Psalms 65:5 here flatly declare that the only hope and confidence of the remotest man on earth is only in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
GOD'S PREPARATION OF THE EARTH AS MAN'S DWELLING
"Who by his strength settest forth the mountains,
Being girded about with might;
Who stilleth the roaring of the seas,
The roaring of their waves,
And the tumult of the peoples.
They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid of thy tokens:
Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice.
Thou visitest the earth and waterest it,
Thou greatly enrichest it;
The river of God is full of water:
Thou providest them grain, when thou hast so prepared the earth."
The theme of these verses is God's marvelous preparation of the earth to be a suitable dwelling place for his human creation. Some writers include Psalms 65:9 with the following verses, which are usually understood to speak of an abundant harvest; but the statements that God enriches the earth, and that he has prepared it fit more properly into the far greater picture of God's special creation of the planet Earth as man's residence.
"His strength settest forth the mountains" (Psalms 65:6). Nothing provides any more evidence of the intelligence and love of God than his arrangement of the great mountain systems upon the five continents. These mountains actually are God's instruments for controlling the rainfall of all lands and the drainage system of the earth in its rivers.
"Stilling of the seas and the roaring of the waves" (Psalms 65:7). God's control of the seas is the sole factor that makes life on the earth possible. For example, if the moon were a hundred thousand miles closer to the earth, the tides would roar over all lands hundreds of feet deep twice a day!
Furthermore, if it were not for the great polar ice-caps, it is altogether possible that all habitable lands would be submerged.
God indeed controls the seas. Jesus rebuked the winds and the waves, and they heeded his voice.
Although only the mountains and oceans are mentioned here, they are merely metaphors standing for "all things" whatsoever.
If the percentage of oxygen in earth's atmosphere, for example, were significantly increased, a single match could produce devastating fires; and if it were significantly decreased, man would have to have a set of lungs the size of a bale of cotton! God prepared the earth for men to live upon it.
"And the tumult of the peoples" (Psalms 65:7). It is not a mistake that "the peoples" are here mentioned along with the seas and the mountains which God controls. God also controls all the peoples of the world. There is a sense in which the human population is a part of nature. He appoints the boundaries of their dwelling place, determines their seasons, giving ascendancy now to one group then to another. Paul mentions this in Acts 17:26. Moreover, this is no haphazard control; God has a purpose in his control of nations; and what is it? "That they should seek God" (Acts 17:27).
"Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice" (Psalms 65:8). The word "thou" stands at the head of this verse, as it does in ten other lines of this psalm. The great theme throughout is God's power, glory and all-sufficiency.
The exact meaning of this statement is not certainly known, but we agree with Rawlinson's comment that, "The splendor of sunrise and sunset seem to be in the poet's mind." This writer walked seven miles to school each day, which necessitated being on the way before sunrise; and truly, there is nothing on earth that speaks any more eloquently of the majesty and glory of the Creator than the magnificent wonders of the sunrise, the great pity being that so few see it every day.
Alexander Maclaren tells the story of an atheist who traveled in the desert with an Arab. One morning, the atheist said, "Arab, a camel circled our tent last night"! The Arab asked, "How do you know?" The atheist said, "Why, I can see its tracks, of course."
Then the Arab, who devoutly believed in God, pointed to the flaming glory of the sunrise in the eastern skies and said, "What a shame that you cannot also see the tracks of the Almighty God"! This shows how sinful men can find tracks of animals in the dirt but cannot see the footprints of the Eternal in his marvelous natural creation.
PRAISING GOD FOR AN ABUNDANT HARVEST
"Thou waterest its furrows abundantly;
Thou settest the ridges thereof:
Thou makest it soft with showers;
Thou blessest the springing thereof.
Thou crownest the year with thy goodness;
And thy paths drop fatness.
They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness;
And the hills are girded with joy.
The pastures are clothed with flocks;
The valleys also are covered over with grain;
They shout for joy, they also sing."
The theme here is not so much, "Thank God for a bountiful harvest," as it is, "Thank God for making this planet so that it would feed God's human creation." The fertile fields, the sun, the rain, grain itself (a gift of God) -all these are due solely to the built-in, created characteristics of the earth. God has arranged this planet so that it will give man bread.
Back of the loaf is the flour,
And back of the flour the mill;
And back of the mill is the wheat
That waveth on yonder hill;
And back of the hill is the sun
And the shower and the Father's will.
Leupold mentioned half a dozen so-called "interpretations" of this psalm: "(1) that it was written for some great festival, (2) or after a drought had been averted, (3) or as a liturgical piece for the congregation, (4) or as a reference to a sickness from which the writer had recovered." He then added that, "All such approaches stand upon too insecure a footing and should not dominate the trend of interpretation."
Perhaps the most glaring example of false interpretations is that favored by some of the radical critics who try to associate this psalm with the pagan annual festival of "The Enthronement of Yahweh." This interpretation is loaded with the superstition and magic of Babylonian mythology; and we do not believe that the religion of the Old Covenant was tainted with any such nonsense.
"The wilderness ... the hills ... the pastures ... the valleys" (Psalms 65:12,13). Yes, the crops are mentioned here also; but these words speak of the earth itself as being the provider for man's needs, being designed so to do by the loving Father in heaven. We think the emphasis on "that bountiful harvest" usually mentioned in discussion of these verses is simply misplaced. Of course, there was a bountiful harvest; but that is not the point here. The point is, "Where did they get it?" It came from God's providential arrangement of the mountains, the seas, the wilderness, the hills, the pastures, the valleys, the sun and the rains, as well as giving men the seeds that produced the grain.
"They shout, they also sing" (Psalms 65:13). Hills, valleys, and pastures do not literally shout and sing for joy. These are metaphors of what men should do. "All this rejoicing is because of the goodness of God"
Delitzsch pointed out that, "These closing words lock themselves as it were with the beginning of the psalm, speaking of the joyous shouting and singing that continue even to the present time." This also indicates that the "bountiful harvest" evident in the last paragraph should be understood, not as the `big thing' celebrated here, except in the sense that it is the "end result" of God's providential arrangement of the entire planet.
We consider the following lines from Leupold as a fitting conclusion of this wonderful psalm. "We venture the claim that Psalms 65:13 is the most eloquent and beautiful description of the blessings that God bestows upon fields and meadows to be found anywhere in such brief compass."
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 65". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter