Poulner Baptist Chapel
8th August 2010
Psalm 66 – A Life of Joy
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Tonight, we are going to look at Psalm 66, which I consider to be a prayerful song of ecstatic joy – describing a life of overwhelming joy that exists between an Almighty God and one of His followers… So please do turn to that Psalm in your bibles.
Charles Spurgeon said of this Psalm “it is a marvellous psalm just to read; but set to suitable music, it must have been one of the noblest strains ever heard by the Jewish people.”
The first impression I get from this Psalm is that there is a sense of a deep intimacy between God and the Psalmist. Part of that intimacy and that relationship was joy, true joy. Let us see together from Psalm 66, where joy fitted into the life of the Psalmist. The author was probably King David and we have no reason to doubt that. Then we will go on to discover what I think joy actually is, before discussing what is one of the greatest barriers to joy. Then finally, we will see where joy is to fit into our life.
1. The Psalmist and Joy!
a. Joy and the Earth (vs. 1-4)
1 Shout with joy to God, all the earth!
2 Sing the glory of his name;
make his praise glorious!
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power
that your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth bows down to you;
they sing praise to you,
they sing praise to your name.”
Throughout the history of Israel, the majority of scribes and leaders of Israel usually gave praise to God in silence, in meditation and solemnity. This was of course acceptable to God and proper to do so.
But here, on this occasion, first of all for the Psalmist, among a great number of people, the whole earth is encouraged to shout with exuberant joy to God. It is quite natural for great crowds of people to shout in harmony. If praise is to be widespread, it must be vocal; joyful sounds stir the soul and cause great thanksgiving spread throughout the people. Of course everybody is different and each person praises differently! Some people are naturally loud and others naturally quiet! Whatever your own style of praise, God is to be praised in all styles and with both the voice and the heart. The whole earth, everything and everyone, is encouraged to sing of the glory and power of God!
The psalmist encourages worshippers to turn their praises of joy to God alone! Turning in joy and admiration to a God who one day will cause all the earth to fear and tremble before him. For those who are enemies of God, who have never believed in him, never followed Jesus Christ, they too will be forced into submitting worship to Him before departing His presence forever. They will be forced to worship Him, due to His joyful magnificence and through forced submission, not because they choose to.
But their worship will not be like those who decided to follow Jesus Christ during their earthly life. The worship of all those who truly believe in Him, following Him intimately – their worship will be of truth, love, service and pure unadulterated joy. Their reward will be to praise God eternally.
b. Joy and the nation of Israel (vs. 5-12).
5 Come and see what God has done,
how awesome his works in man’s behalf!
6 He turned the sea into dry land,
they passed through the waters on foot-
come, let us rejoice in him.
7 He rules forever by his power,
his eyes watch the nations-
let not the rebellious rise up against him.
8 Praise our God, O peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard;
9 he has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.
10 For you, O God, tested us;
you refined us like silver.
11 You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
12 You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.
The psalmist now goes on to exhort great communal joy because of what God has done for Israel. He has done mighty works for his people. Did not God start the nation of Israel from Abraham in Genesis? Had not God led His people out of exile in Egypt by parting the Red Sea with His mighty hand so that his people could walk to freedom? Does not God rule forever by his mighty power and His outstretched hand? God watched over that nation of Israel, making covenants with Abraham and Moses, promising that He will be their God and they will be His people. The people of Israel were to be a people of joy, because they could look and see what God had done for them, and had a sure hope of what He would do for them in the future. They were His and He was theirs – a cause for great joy!
The psalmist continues to encourage the people to exhibit joyfully. God kept the feet of Israel from slipping. Even though Israel often turned their back on Him, God always kept a remnant of true believers for Himself. God sent Israel into exile under oppressive enemies, as punishment for their rebellious ways! Eventually He led them into the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey. That is why Israel could have exultant joy because of the hope they had in their God and the testimony they could give as a nation under their God!.
Indeed, in the book of Leviticus, which is little read these days in Christian circles, in 9:24 we read, “Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.” How often have you heard joy linked with the book of Leviticus? WOW!! The Psalmist would certainly have been aware of that!
c. Joy and the psalmist (vs. 13 -20)
13 I will come to your temple with burnt offerings
and fulfill my vows to you-
14 vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke
when I was in trouble.
15 I will sacrifice fat animals to you
and an offering of rams;
I will offer bulls and goats.
16 Come and listen, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
17 I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
18 If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
19 but God has surely listened
and heard my voice in prayer.
20 Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!
Thirdly, now after joy as a community, the Psalmist turns to himself and gets personal! His own joy starts with a sacrifice of vows and burnt offerings – a sacrifice, which costs him something. The psalmist has given promises to God and he wants to fulfil those promises before his God. Because of his great joy, the psalmist tells others of the source of his joy. He gives testimony to the love of God: how he confessed his sins to God, and how God had listened to him and heard his prayers. The Psalmist told the people to come and “Listen to what God has done for me.” They had all seen God’s work, but they also needed to hear that He was a gracious God! The psalmist has developed an intimate relationship with Almighty God, which is revealed in the joy of the psalmist through sacrifice, testimony and praise.
2. What is joy?