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THIS is a Song of unmixed praise and thankfulness. God is first praised for his moral qualities:
(1) as Hearer of prayer (Psalms 65:2);
(2) as Pardoner of sin (Psalms 65:3);
(3) as Giver of blessings in his courts (Psalms 65:4); and
(4) as Deliverer of his people from their enemies (Psalms 65:5).
Next, God is praised for his might and majesty in nature (Psalms 65:6-8). Lastly, he is praised for his goodness and bounty in connection with the harvest (Psalms 65:9-13). Metrically, the psalm seems to consist of three strophes, the first and second of four verses each, the third of five.
The Davidical authorship, though asserted in the "title," is somewhat doubtful. The mention of the temple, and especially of the "courts" of the temple, seems to imply a later date than David's. And the psalm cannot be said to be in his manner, since it is too easy, flowing, and equable. The conjecture which places the date soon after Sennacherib's invasion (Delitzsch) is plausible, but still quite uncertain.
Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Zion; literally, there is silence praise (equivalent to "silent praise") for thee, O God, in Zion. There was, for the most part, a hushed silence in the tabernacle and temple, amid which silent prayer and praise were offered to God by the priests and Levites, and any lay persons who might be present. And unto thee shall the vow be performed. When there was any special outpouring of praise in the temple, there would almost always be a performance of vows. Both depended on some deliverance or favour having been granted.
O thou that hearest prayer. A necessary and inalienable attribute of God. Calvin rightly observes on the passage: "God can no more divest himself of his attribute of hearing prayer than of being." Unto thee shall all flesh come. "All flesh" might certainly, in a psalmist's mouth, mean no more than "all Israel" (so Ewald and Hitzig). But the context (especially in Psalms 65:5 and Psalms 65:8) shows that in this psalm the writer is universalist in his ideas, and embraces all mankind in his hopes and aspirations (comp. Psalms 22:27, Psalms 22:28; Psalms 86:9; Isaiah 66:23; Jeremiah 16:19; Joel 2:28).
Iniquities prevail against me. Not so much, perhaps, his own iniquities, as these of his nation. Compare the expression, "our transgressions," in the next clause. As for our trangressions, thou shalt purge them away; or, cover them.
Blessed is the man whom thou choosest. The "choosing" intended is certainly not that of the seed of Aaron (Le Psalms 8:1), or of the seed of Levi (Numbers 18:21-23), but that act by which God "chose" Israel out of all the nations of the earth to be "a special people unto himself" (Deuteronomy 7:6), and gave them a distinct position, and peculiar privileges. And causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts. Among the peculiar privileges, one of the greatest was that of approaching God's presence in his holy temple, and entering his "courts" and worshipping there. This all Israelites were not only permitted, but commanded to do, at least three times in the year, while the dwellers in Jerusalem, privileged above the rest, had constant opportunities of attending, and using to the full the means of grace provided for them in the sanctuary. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple. In "the goodness of God's house" the psalmist includes, not only the delights there experienced, but also all the blessings which God gives to those who devoutly worship him there—"from the forgiveness of sins to outward, temporal mercies" (Hengstenberg).
By terrible things in righteousness (i.e. "by terrible acts of righteous judgment upon our enemies") wilt thou answer us. This is a sequel to Psalms 65:2. As God hears prayer and answers it, so when his people cry to him for protection and deliverance from their foes, the result can only be righteous judgments of a fearful character upon the persecutors. O God of our salvation; i.e. God through whom we obtain salvation. Who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth (see the comment on Psalms 65:2, and comp. Psalms 65:8). And of them that are afar off upon the sea; literally, and of the sea of those afar off. The reading is, perhaps, corrupt.
God having been praised for his moral qualities, is now further eulogized in respect of his doings in nature. The mountains set forth his majesty and permanence (Psalms 65:6); the seas and waves, his power to control and subdue (Psalms 65:7); the outgoings of the morning and evening—sunrise and sunset—his gracious loving kindness (Psalms 65:8).
Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains (comp. Psalms 36:6; Psalms 95:4; Amos 4:13). The mountains are an emblem of God's strength and firmness and fixedness. They stand up in still and silent majesty; they seem as if they could never be moved. He who created them must be girded with power (camp. Psalms 93:1).
Which stllleth the noise of the seas. The power of God, as set forth in his control of the sea, is a favourite topic with the sacred writers (see Job 38:8; Proverbs 8:29; Isaiah 1:2; Isaiah 51:10; Jeremiah 5:22, etc.). Being so entirely beyond his own control, it seems to man one of the greatest of marvels that there should be any force capable of subduing and taming it, Hence the admiration excited by our Lord's miracle (Matthew 8:26, Matthew 8:27). The noise of their waves (comp. Isaiah 17:12). And the tumult of the people. This clause may seem a little out of place in a passage which treats of God's power over nature. But, after all, humanity is a constituent part of nature.
They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid of thy tokens; i.e. they see thy tokens—indications of thy mighty power—and are filled with awe. Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening (or, the portals of morn and eve—the gateways through which the sun comes forth each morning and retires each evening) to rejoice; i.e. to gladden mankind, to spread joy and gladness over the earth. The splendour of sunrise and sunset are in the poet's mind.
In conclusion, the psalmist praises God for his bountiful providence with respect to the harvest. According to some, the whole poem is essentially a harvest thanksgiving, and the poet now "comes at last to the point aimed at from the first." He traces the whole process by which the glorious termination is arrived at. First, the "early rain" descending from "the river of God," or the reservoir for rain which God guards in the heavens (Job 38:37), moistening the furrows, softening the ridges, and preparing the land for the seed-corn. Then the sowing, which, being man's work, is but just touched on (Psalms 65:9, ad fin.). After that, the "latter rain"—the gentle showers of March and April—which cause the grain to burst and the blade to spring, and the ear to form itself, and turn the dull fallow into a mass of greenery (Psalms 65:10, Psalms 65:12). At last, the full result—pastures clothed with flocks; valleys, the "long broad sweeps between parallel ranges of hills," covered over with corn; all nature laughing and shouting for joy (Psalms 65:13).
Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it (comp. Job 36:27, Job 36:28; Job 37:6; Job 38:26-28; Psa 147:1-20 :28; Jeremiah 5:24; Matthew 5:45). Thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God. There is no "with" in the original; and the two clauses are better taken separately. Translate, Thou greatly enrichest it; the river of God is full of water. By "the river of God" is to be understood God's store of water in the clouds and atmosphere, which he can at any time retain or let loose. Thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it; rather, when thou hast so prepared her (the earth). By thus preparing the earth for the sowing. God prepares for men the corn which they ultimately obtain at the harvest.
Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly; rather, the furrows (Hengstenberg, Kay, Cheyne, Revised Version). Thou settlest the furrows thereof; rather, thou smoothest down its ridges. So covering up the grain, and bringing the rough ploughed land to a comparatively smooth surface. Thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof. The whole ground being softened with warm showers, the springing of the blade begins under God's blessing.
Thou crownest the year with thy goodness. As God had begun, so he goes on to the "crowning" of the whole. And thy paths drop fatness. As he moves about, visiting the earth (Psalms 65:9), there drop from him fertility and abundance.
They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness; rather, the pastures of the wilderness drip with it; i.e. with the "fatness" which is shed from God's presence. And the little hills rejoice on every side; literally, are girded with joy.
The pastures are clothed with flocks; or, with their flocks; i.e. the flocks befitting them. The valleys also are covered over with corn. The great open sweeps between the ranges of hills are completely covered over with grain crops, wheat, barley, millet; and the result is that they seem to shout for joy, they also sing. This is better than the rendering of Ewald and Delitzsch, "Man shouts for joy; he sings." All the poets personify Nature, and make her sympathize with human kind (comp. Isaiah 14:8; Isaiah 35:1; Isaiah 55:12; Virg; ' Eclog.,' 5.62; ' Georg.,' 4.461).
The privilege and duty of prayer.
"Thou that hearest prayer" All practical religion rests on this fact—that God hears prayer. A God who could not or would not hear prayer, an almighty Creator with whom we could hold no converse, would not be God to us. We could not say, "O God, thou art my God!" There would be no impiety in the question, "What profit shall we have if we pray unto him?' The Epicureans, who taught that there are gods, but that they do not concern themselves with human affairs, were practically atheists. Prayer is the one conscious link (there are many unconscious) between the seen and the unseen worlds. A prayerless life is a godless life—shut up, imprisoned in the narrow sphere of "things seen" and temporal A prayerful life transcends these barriers, takes hold on "things unseen" and eternal; walks with God; endures as seeing him who is invisible.
I. THE GLORIOUS CERTAINTY OF THE FACT THAT GOD HEARS PRAYER. By hearing prayer is meant in Scripture taking account of our requests and answering them (1 John 5:14,1 John 5:15). This involves all that is most glorious in God's revealed attributes. His infinite knowledge, which not the most timid or rapid desire, or speechless lifting up of any heart, escapes. His wisdom to discern whether, when, how, to grant our requests. Foreknowledge—for long preparation may have been needful, though the prayer be uttered and granted in a moment. Righteousness, to grant no petition, however fervent, which it would not be right to grant. Love—to take fatherly interest in our childish ways, small needs, and often ignorant and impatient desires; and to care for our best welfare. And almighty power—to carry out all that wisdom, righteousness, and love direct, and to make "all things work together," etc. (Romans 8:28). The certainty that God hears prayer rests on his faithfulness and the promises which fill the Bible; on the commands which lay on us the duty as well as confer the privilege of prayer; on the examples, still more abundant in Scripture than these commands and promises of prayer answered (including our Saviour's own example); on the daily experience of God's Church. If any truth in the scope of human knowledge rests on a firm foundation of experience, it is this.
II. THE TRANSCENDENT PRIVILEGE AND BLESSING OF PRAYER. It would be a great thing were we permitted (as the Romish creed teaches) to invoke the aid and counsel of angels and glorified saints. But we pass through their shining ranks and come with boldness to the very throne of God (Hebrews 10:19; Hebrews 4:16). Whatever help angels can render will be given under orders from their Lord and ours (Hebrews 2:14; 1 Peter 3:22). We measure blessings often by their loss. Let us imagine this privilege of prayer withdrawn or limited. Suppose a day in each week (a sort of anti-sabbath) on which prayer was forbidden—or hut one in a month or year. Who would choose that day for any enterprise? Who would not fear to die on such a day? When its cheerless dawn broke we should say, "Would God it were evening!" and when midnight chimed we should thank God the lips of prayer were again unsealed. Or a region of earth where prayer was forbidden; if men cried to God, they were warned it would be vain. Let its valleys teem with plenty, its hills with precious ore, climate and scenery he the finest in the world,—would you care—would you dare—to dwell in that accursed spot? Or if there were one human being to whom God's voice had said, "Ask not; for thou shalt not receive I ' with what horror we should look at this outlaw from Divine mercy I how giddy would be for him heights of prosperity I how cheerless the dark days of trouble! how dreadful the hour of death—the plunge into an unknown eternity! And yet there are those (perhaps here) for whom every day is a day without prayer; from whose home no voice of prayer ascends; self-exiled from God!
III. THE CORRESPONDING DUTY. "Men ought always to pray" (Luke 18:1). "This is the will of God' (1 Thessalonians 5:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:18). Prayer is one of the great laws of God's moral government. He has ordained that we should ask in order to receive (Luke 11:9, Luke 11:10). This is the reply to all those plausible objections to prayer drawn from God's superior and infinite wisdom, the unchangeableness of his laws, the unreasonableness of thinking that our will can bend his, and so forth. Plausible; but nugatory in the face of the fact that God has commanded us to pray. He has given us his only begotten Son as our Intercessor; his Holy Spirit, to teach us how to pray; has pledged his word to hear prayer; and daily and hourly answers the prayers of his children. To regard prayer only as a duty is fatal to life, freedom, joy in prayer. It would lead to mechanical formalism. But duty is, after all, the backbone of life. You do not feel at all times in a right frame of mind for prayer. If you had no guide but feeling, you would say, "Another time will be more suitable." Or when pressed and hurried, you would say, "I must attend to urgent duties; and leave the enjoyment and refreshment of prayer to a time of leisure." But duty stands guard at the door (Matthew 6:6). And as in other cases, it brings its own reward. Perhaps at the very time when you have set yourself to pray with a cold heart, because you know you ought to pray and must, you have come from your chamber with beaming countenance, ready to say with Jacob, Genesis 28:16, Genesis 28:17. This applies to public and social, as well as private, prayer.
The lessons of harvest.
"Thou crownest the year," etc. Men see what they have eyes to see. The farmer looks on the field of golden grain, ripe for the sickle, and sees the reward of his toil and return for his capitol. The painter sees a glorious subject for a picture. The economist thinks of prices, averages, national prosperity. The devout Christian sees God's hand opening to answer the prayer for daily bread. Now, it is one leading characteristic of the Scripture writers that they see God in everything. In this light let us try to read the lessons of harvest.
I. THANKFULNESS. Literal rendering in margin, "Thou crownest the year of thy goodness," which some take to refer to some special year of remarkably bountiful harvest. Perhaps rather the thought is that God's unceasing goodness runs through the whole circle of the seasons, though the harvest is the crowning manifestation (Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:17; 2 Corinthians 9:10). Grace at meals should be no dead form, but the welling-up and outpouring of new thankfulness for fresh goodness. God's hand spreads the daily table for all creatures. As the secret spring of life is in him, so all that nourishes and maintains life is from him. Hence our Saviour makes the gift of daily bread the image of himself—"the Bread of Life" (John 6:33, John 6:35, John 6:48-51).
II. OBEDIENCE TO LAW. God works according to those unchanging laws which he has ordained—unchanging as long as the present order of the world continues (Genesis 8:22). Human labour is profitable only as it conforms to those laws. He who would reap in harvest-time must sow in seed-time. The natural is the image of the spiritual order (Galatians 6:7-9).
III. PATIENCE. (James 5:7.) Here also our Lord bids us see the spiritual order (Mark 4:26-29). Do not expect ripe ears in January. Be patient with your children, your scholars, your hearers; yea, let the Christian even be patient with himself.
IV. COOPERATION. The ploughman, sower, reaper, must join their toil; and the ploughman did not make his plough, the sower his basket, the reaper his sickle. Other hands built the garner. Who can reckon how many hands have combined their labour to place on our table a single loaf (Rein. Psalms 14:7)?
V. HOPE. Under dark wintry skies, beneath frost and snow, the grain is growing, which summer suns shall ripen. The worst harvest that was ever reaped kept Alive the germs of all the harvests that have since grown or ever will (1 Corinthians 15:58). And note, that as long as the grain is stored, it preserves life (even for centuries), but produces none. It must be flung away and buried, and, as grain, must perish, for the hidden life to burst forth. Hence our Lord makes it the image of his life-giving death (John 12:24), and St. Paul of resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:35-38).
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
The three great Jewish feasts had reference to the harvest. The Passover was kept early in the year, when the barley harvest was begun, and a sheaf of the firstfruits was offered as a thank offering (Leviticus 23:10). Fifty days later came Pentecost, when the wheat was ripe; and then two loaves of the new corn were presented (Leviticus 23:17). Last of all was the Feast of Tabernacles, when the fruits of the earth had been gathered in, and the people gave thanks and rejoiced before the Lord with "the joy of harvest" (Leviticus 23:40; Deuteronomy 16:13-17). This psalm is a song of thanksgiving to God for the harvest.
I. THE RIGHT STANDPOINT. Israel was a people near to God. They had been separated from other nations. They enjoyed special privileges and blessings. "Zion" was to them the great centre of unity. Thither the tribes went up. There the people, with their rulers, assembled to worship God. As with them, so with us. Our worship must be ruled by God's will as revealed to us. We can only come before him with acceptance when we come through Jesus Christ. Our standpoint also is "Zion" (Matthew 18:20; Ephesians 2:11-18; Hebrew Eph 2:22 -28).
II. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH WE SHOULD DRAW NEAR.
1. With unfeigned faith. "Waiting" expresses quiet confidence. It is both "praise" and "prayer."
2. With assured hope in God's mercy. Sin meets us when we come before God. It fills our hearts with shame and apprehension. But when we look to Christ we are comforted. In him we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. It is as sinners pardoned that we should praise God. All God's gifts are enhanced in value when we take them from the hands of the Crucified.
3. With adoring thanksgiving. Relieved of sin, our hearts rise in joy to God (Psalms 65:4). God in Christ is the true home of our souls. Here we reach peace. Here we are made glad in the light of our Father's face, and enriched out of the fulness of his grace and truth. Nay, more. Remembering God's "great love," and "the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards us" (Ephesians 2:7), and realizing the power of Christ, we can rejoice in hope of the blessedness of the coming time when the "God of our salvation" shall be the Confidence of all the ends of the earth, and the people of every kindred and tongue shall sing his praise.
III. THE SUBJECTS WINCH SHOULD SPECIALLY ENGAGE OUR ATTENTION. The world is not a dead world, a mere piece of mechanism, subject to cold material laws. It is God's world, and is ruled by God's laws. Looking back, we should recall the great events of the year. We may consider what is general—national, social, and religious blessings common to all. Not only mercies, but chastisements; forevery chastisement is, when rightly received, a blessing. How comforting to know that the same God who "by his strength setteth fast the mountains" is the God "who heareth prayer;" that the same God "who stilleth the noise of the seas and the tumult of the people" is the "God of our salvation"! In particular we should consider God's goodness in the harvest (Psalms 65:8-13). How vivid and beautiful is the picture! We see the various stages, from the sowing of the seed onward to the reaping time; from the sweet greenness of spring to the golden glow and manifold glories of harvest. All this is of God. "He worketh hitherto." During all the ages of the past he has blessed the labours of the husbandman, and every year we see new proofs of his faithfulness, and enjoy richer manifestations of his love and bounty. "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest …shall not cease" (Genesis 8:22), and as often as the harvest comes round God's Name will be praised.—W.F.
Defeat and victory.
I. Here is A CONFESSION DEFEAT. When we look within we find that, instead of all being right, all is wrong. This alarms us. We rouse ourselves to action. We resolve to live a new life of love and holiness. But the more we try the less we succeed. Our strength is weakness. Our purposes are broken off. Our best endeavours end in defeat. Instead of overcoming evil, we are overcome of evil. Instead of gaining purity and freedom, our case grows worse, and we groan in misery as the bond slaves of sin. Confused and confounded, our cry is, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?"
II. THANKSGIVING FOR VICTORY. Though we despair of ourselves, we must not despair of God. We know what God is, and what he has done for us, and therefore we turn to him with hope. Casting ourselves simply upon his mercy in Christ, we are able to grasp the gracious promise, "Sin shall not have dominion over you." God's love to us is a personal love. God's work in us is designed to make us pure from sin, and he will perfect it in the day of Christ. While we say, therefore, with grief and pain, "Iniquities prevail against me," let us with renewed hope proclaim, "As for our transgressions, thu shalt purge them away."—W.F.
Thanksgiving for corn.
"Thou preparest them corn."
I. BECAUSE IT IS THE SPECIAL GIFT OF GOD TO MAN. It came from God at first. It is renewed year by year. Wherever man dwells it may be cultivated in some form or other. "How it stands, that yellow corn, on its fair taper stems, its golden head bent, all rich and waving there! The mute earth at God's kind bidding has produced it once again—man's bread" (Luther).
II. BECAUSE IT IS INDISPENSABLE TO THE WELFARE OF MAN. Corn is not only valuable, but necessary. Individuals may live without it, but for man, on the broad scale, it is indispensable. The worth is known by the want. When there is a scarcity of corn, all the markets of the world are affected. Bread is the staff of life. It is because of its worth and its suitableness to human needs that corn is constituted the
symbol of the highest blessings. It stands for the Word of God. It figures the great redemption (John 12:24). It foreshadows the glory of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-58).
III. BECAUSE IT DEPENDS FOR ITS CONTINUANCE ON THE LABOUR OF MAN. Many gifts come to us irrespective of our own efforts, but corn is not one of them. Its enjoyment is conditional. It is an annual. It has not an independent existence. It does not live and propagate itself by its own seed. It requires the care of man, else it would soon die out and be lost. In order to be preserved it must be sown by man's own hand in ground which man's own hand has tilled. The land must be prepared for the corn, as well as the corn for the land. Manifold blessings result from this arrangement. Thrift is good. Labour is a healthful discipline. Providing for the wants of ourselves and others binds us more closely together as brethren. If there be famine in Canaan, there is corn in Egypt; and this leads to commerce and friendly intercourse between nations. Besides, in the fact that year after year we must sow in order to reap; that each season's supply is but a measured quantity, never much in excess of what is required for food; and that the powers of heaven must work together with the powers of earth to secure a bountiful harvest;—we are taught in the most impressive manner our dependence upon God, and our obligations to praise him for his goodness and his wonderful works.—W.F.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
Reasons for praising God.
"Can hardly doubt that this psalm was composed on the occasion of an abundant harvest, and was intended to be sung as a hymn of thanksgiving by the whole congregation gathered before God in Zion." God is praised under three aspects.
I. AS THE GOD OF THE CHURCH. (Psalms 65:1-5.) "Whom thou choosest, and causest to approach."
1. He is the Hearer of all true prayer. (Psalms 65:2.) "Unto thee doth all flesh come" in dependence and prayer.
2. He pardons iniquity and transgression. (Psalms 65:3.) Pardons those who become conscious of their sins, and are persistent.
3. Satisfies the desires of those whom he draws to himself. (Psalms 65:4.) God inspires the worship he rewards with such satisfying blessings.
4. Manifests his righteousness in the salvation of his people.
II. AS THE GOD WHO REVEALS HIMSELF IN NATURE. (Psalms 65:6-8.)
1. His work in nature manifests omnipotence. (Psalms 65:6.) "Setteth fast the mountains," etc.
2. He overrules the greatest disturbances of nature and the nations. (Psalms 65:7.)
3. Man and nature both ultimately subject to him.
3. Man is afraid, but nature sings of God in the morning and in the evening. (Psalms 65:8.) The ignorant heathen are afraid, not those who know God.
III. AS THE GOD OF THE HARVEST. (Psalms 65:9-13.)
1. God is the great Husbandman. (Psalms 65:9, Psalms 65:10.) He prepares and enriches the soil to receive the corn.
2. He makes the wilderness and the hills to rejoice with their abundance. (Psalms 65:11, Psalms 65:12.)
3. God is the great Shepherd of the earth. (Psalms 65:13.) The pastures are clothed with flocks.—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 65". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent