Psalm 66 appears to have an anonymous author. We are not told who wrote this psalm. However, it is interesting that Psalm 66 connects well with Psalm 65. The end of Psalm 65 is a declaration that the earth, with is pastures, hills, and valleys, “shout for you, yes, they sing” (65:13; NAS95). Psalm 66 begins, “Shout joyfully to God, all the earth” (66:1; NAS95). Psalm 66 is a psalm of praise to the Lord that has three movements: a universal call of praise (1-7), a call of praise from the Israel community (8-12), and a call of praise from the individual (13-20).
Universal Call of Praise (1-7)
The first four verses is a call to the whole earth to shout, sing, and praise the glorious name of God. All of God’s creation must praise God for his awesome works. Verse 3 declares the need to shout praise to God because of God’s triumph over the enemies. Every person will bow his and her knee to God, whether willingly or unwillingly. I believe this is what is pictured for us in verse 3. Notice also in verse 4 that the earth always worships and gives praises to God. Everything about the creation praises God. Unfortunately, we do not always praise God. This is where the psalm turns in verses 5-7.
In verses 5-7 the people are called to “come and see the works of God.” We need to jump start our praise to the Lord and make it continual before him just like the earth is continually praising God. We can initiate this by “coming and seeing” the mighty works of God. Verses 5-7 offer some reminders concerning the mighty works of God. In verse 6 the psalmist reminds us, “He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot; there let us rejoice in him!” This is an obvious reference to the parting of the Red Sea as the children of Israel left Egypt.
It is interesting to me that God always expects to remember his powerful acts in the past. God does not issue another miracle to the people during this psalmist’s life to get them to obey and praise God. They are to remember what God did in the past. In the same way, God does not continue to work miracles today but are called upon to remember the past. The life and death of Jesus is fashioned the same way. We are to know and remember that Jesus came to the earth and died for all people. He is not going to appear on the earth for every generation. The parting of the Red Sea would have been more than 500 years in history if the psalmist lived during David’s day. If the psalmist lived during the captivity it would have been more than 1000 years since the parting of the Red Sea. Yet the Red Sea parting was the key act that the psalmist wanted the people of Israel to remember.
But God does simply perform one time acts. “He rules by His might forever; his eyes keep watch on the nations; let not the rebellious exalt themselves” (66:7; NAS95). God still rules and continues to watch over the nations. People should not think that God is not in charge or that God is not aware of the actions of humanity on the earth. Just because God does not work a daily miracle to keep people focused on him does not mean that God does not exist or that God is not involved in the affairs of the earth. We are simply told to remember and it is unfortunate that we have become so bad at remembering historical, important events. Proof of this is our treatment of remembrance of 9/11 and our corresponding remembrance of Pearl Harbor. We simply do not care about things that do not happen today, and a lack of remembrance will be our downfall.
Community of Praise (8-12)
In verse 8 the psalmist returns to calling upon the worshippers to praise God. In this section of text, the psalmist is explaining why the people ought to “sound his praise abroad.” The reason is found in verse 9: “He has preserved our lives” (NIV). Specifically, the psalmist refers to the fact that our lives have been preserved in the face of great trials. This is seen in the rest of verse 9, “And does not allow our feet to slip” (NAS95). Verses 10-12 describe the nature of the trials the people have felt. Notice the language: “you have refined us as silver,” “brought us into the net,” “laid an oppressive burden upon our loins,” “made men ride over our heads,” and “went through fire and through water.” The psalmist is simply describing a tremendous burden on the shoulders’ of the people.
The question must be: “why should we praise God when we are going through all of this turmoil?” Verse 9 was one answer: God has preserved our lives through all that we have to endure. The second reason is in verse 12: “Yet You have brought us out into a place of abundance.” The words “a place of” are added by the translator to help, but really detract from the message. “Yet You have brought us out into abundance.” Despite all that we must endure and suffer, we are always brought out into the abundance and blessings of God. God keeps us in life and goes with us through the fire into abundance and blessing. There is the other side that we come out from that we cannot see when in the midst of the storm of life. We have no comprehension how any thing good could happen or even how our lives would work out in the trial. As we walk through fire and water, our faith is being refined and God is with us.
Going “through fire and water” has a foundation in Isaiah’s prophecy. In speaking about the restoration of Israel, God said, “I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you” (Isaiah 43:2). God can bring us through to abundance. Therefore we praise God for his goodness.
Individual Praise (13-20)
In the final movement of this psalm, the psalmist speaks about the praise he will give as an individual. He begins by describing how he comes into the house of God with offerings and payment of vows. In the midst of his distress, the psalmist praises God and pays homage through obedience and worship. The psalmist continues to offer thanksgiving to God through the difficult times and through the blessed times.
Verses 16-20 describe the personal responsibility the psalmist feels to tell others about the blessings of God. All who fear God are invited to hear about God’s gracious acts in his life. He wants to share his praise to God with others so they can know what God has done. But notice the careful teaching of the psalmist that begins in verse 18. “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (66:18, ESV). This is another good verse to remember when wondering if the wicked are heard by God. The conclusion is very obvious: absolutely not. If we cherish or regard wickedness in our hearts, then God is not going to listen to us. We should not be surprised to see our prayers unanswered if we do not care to remove iniquity from our hearts.
But God does hear his people. He will not turn away our prayers and he will not turn away his steadfast love from us. These are great promises in which we can put our confidence. God does not send away the prayers of his people. God will not turn back the prayers of the righteous. Further, God does not remove his love from us. These are important reminders during our trials. These are the two things that we often feel like have left us when we are going through the fire and submerge under the waters of life. God is still listening to us and God continues to extend his steadfast love toward us.
The ending of Psalm 66 connects well with the message of Psalm 67. Psalm 67 is a call to the people to praise God because God blesses us and is gracious to us (67:1,7).
Lessons For Life
- Glorify God by looking to His awesome deeds.
- Glorify God because he preserve us and brings into abundance in trials.
- Glorify God because he answers prayers and his steadfast love remains through trials.