************ Sermon on Psalm 65:1 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This Thanksgiving Day sermon was preached on November 28, 2013
"Praise Awaits You, O God"
Thanksgiving Day 2013
Nineteen years ago on November 8, 1994, Scott and Janet Willis and six of their children were traveling on Interstate 94 just outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In an instant their lives were forever changed as a piece of metal debris on the road punctured their gas tank and their minivan erupted in flames. The couple barely escaped with their lives as the inferno blazed throughout the van. Five of the children, still buckled in their seats, were instantly killed. The sixth child later died at the hospital with third degree burns over 90% of his body.
Do you know what Scott and Janet said to each other by the ball of fire that consumed their minivan? Scott, his face badly burned, said "It was very quick. And they're with the Lord now." Janet's response, "Psalm 34." In fact, Janet, her hands badly burned and surrounded by emergency responders, kept praying out the words of Psalm 34: "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth" (Ps 34:1).
It was a time of pain and torment. Yet they found reasons to praise the Lord.
Psalm 65 is written from this perspective: "Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled" (Ps 65:1). Praise awaits God. The psalmist doesn't check first whether there is rain or drought, fruitful or lean years, food or famine, health or sickness, prosperity or poverty. Praise "awaits" God regardless of the circumstances. Why? Because there always is something for which to praise God. Today, and every day, God's goodness gives us ample material for praise.
I God's Material Provision
A Where does food come from? Because we live in such a modernized society, most people in our culture think food comes from the grocery store. Show them a picture of a cow or a field of asparagus and they go "Huh? What's that?" Even those who think beyond the supermarket give the credit to the men and women who milk, plow, plant, and harvest. As for the money used to buy groceries, most people think that is the product of their own labor. In other words, they forget God. They don't include God in the picture. They forget how dependent we are upon God to give us our daily bread.
As I was writing this message I read an article in Monday's edition of the Visalia Times Delta. The Executive Editor of the newspaper wrote a piece entitled "There is so much to be thankful for." So far so good. She wrote,
I try to practice gratitude almost every day, to be cognizant of the fact that in a world of seven billion people, I am truly fortunate to have not just my basic needs met, but so much more. I never have to fear where my next meal is coming from, whether my home will keep me safe from the elements, or if I can get good medical care if I or a loved one is sick. My life is cushy compared to most of the people alive today.Maybe she uses "fortunate" and "fortune" simply as figures of speech. But she crosses the line when she attributes this good fortune to the "universe." As if the universe has a mind and will of it own. As if the universe can act on its own.
For that I am grateful. And for so much more. And so, today, I'd like to not just silently thank the universe for all my good fortune, but let everyone know how good I have it.
The Christian knows better. Who gets the credit for what we call "blessings"? It isn't fortune. It isn't good luck. It isn't the alignment of the stars. It isn't good DNA and exercise and a healthy diet. It isn't the government. It isn't science and technology. It isn't even me and all my hard work and intelligence. It is God Who is the source of every good and perfect gift.
B "Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled" (Ps 65:1). During the 2013 growing season God has once again provided the harvest. He created the plants and animals. He created the soil that gives proper nutrients for growth. He gives the sunshine and warmth and rain and irrigation water. The psalmist recognizes this provision:
(Ps 65:9-10) You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. (10) You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops.Do you hear what the psalmist emphasizes in these verses? He emphasizes God's provision of rain.
In one of his books, John Piper has a conversation with himself about rain. Let me present that conversation with a few changes.
Picture yourself as a farmer in the Middle East, far from any lake or stream. A few wells keep the family and animals supplied with water. But if the crops are to grow and the family is to be fed from month to month, water has to come on the fields from another source.
What other source? That source is the sky. The sky? Water has to come out of the clear blue sky? Well, not exactly. Water will have to be carried in the sky from the Mediterranean Sea, over several hundred miles and then poured onto the fields.
Carried? How much does it weigh? Well, if one inch of rain falls on one square mile of farmland, that comes to 1,650,501,280 pounds of water. That's heavy.
So how does it get up in the sky and stay up there if it's so heavy? Well, it get up there by evaporation. Really? That's a nice word. What does it mean? It means that the water sort of stops being water for a while so it can go up.
I see. Then how does it get down? Well, condensation happens. What's that? The water starts becoming water again by gathering around little particles of dust.
What about the salt? Salt? Yes, the Mediterranean Sea is salt water. That would kill the crops. What about the salt? Well, the salt has to be taken out. Oh. So the sky picks up a billion pounds of water from the sea and takes out the salt and then carries it 300 miles and then dumps it on the farm?
Well, it doesn't dump it. If it dumped a billion pounds of water on the farm, the wheat would be crushed. So the sky dribbles the billion pounds of water down in little drops. And they have to be big enough to fall for one mile or so without evaporating, and small enough to keep from crushing the stalks of wheat.
How do all those microscopic specks of water get heavy enough to fall? That's called coalescence. What's that? It means the specks of water start bumping into each other and join up and get bigger.
How come the specks of water don't bounce off each other instead of joining up? That has to do with a positive and negative electric field. What? Just take my word for it.
"Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled" (Ps 65:1). When we take a careful look at a simple thing like rain, we have to admit that rain is one of the great, unsearchable wonders done by God (cf Job 5:8-10).
God's material provision is summed up so wonderfully in verse 11:
(Ps 65:11) You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.Meaning what? Meaning God adorns the whole year with His goodness.
Where does our food come from? The psalmist lived in a time when people were more closely connected to the land. The result was that people recognized God's hand in the harvest. Though unbelief speaks of the universe or Mother Nature, the psalmist knows better. "Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled."
What about you? Do you recognize God's hand in food and rain?
II God's Spiritual Provision
A Of course, if our thanksgiving does not go beyond praise for physical blessings, we are missing the main reason for giving thanks to God.
We need to realize that the Old Testament saints saw God's physical provision as a sign of spiritual provision. So, for instance, when God gave the children of Israel physical manna in the wilderness, He was pointing ahead to Jesus the bread of life. Similarly, the land of Canaan pointed the way to the new heaven and new earth.
With this in mind, I want to point out that the three greatest feasts of Israel were tied in some way to the harvest. The Passover Feast was connected to the barley harvest (cf Lev 23:10-12). The highlight of the Passover is the sacrifice of the lamb which points to Jesus, the Lamb of God. The Feast of Weeks, also called the Feast of Pentecost, was connected to the wheat harvest (cf Ex 34:22). This feast points to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And, the Feast of Tabernacles was held after the gathering of the grain and wine (cf Deut 16:13). This Feast points to the day when God's tabernacle will be with men in the new heaven and new earth.
Harvest time pointed God's Old Testament saints to the reality of God's spiritual blessings. In the same way, Thanksgiving Day should point us to the spiritual blessings God showers upon us. "Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled" (Ps 65:1). Why? Praise awaits You for physical and spiritual blessings.
B What are some of the spiritual blessings for which we give thanks?
In the first place, our God is a God Who hears prayer. The psalmist can say,
(Ps 65:2) O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come.It belongs to the nature of God to hear and answer the prayers of all those who call upon Him in faith.
(Ps 145:18-19) The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (19) He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.What a wonderful thing is prayer. For this we give thanks.
C We also thank God for being a forgiving God. About this the psalmist says,
(Ps 65:3) When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.Our sins are so great and so numerous. When we look at them we are overwhelmed. We know we cannot stand before God. But God is gracious and forgiving. He washes away our sins and gives us the righteousness of Christ. Are we thankful for this?
D God also brings us into fellowship with Himself. Again, we turn to the psalmist:
(Ps 65:4) Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple.A life with God is the glorious fruit of God's electing love. God calls us to Himself and gives us the privilege of coming into His courts where we are abundantly satisfied. Are we thankful for the privilege of being able to be in God's courts twice each Sunday?
"Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled" (Ps 65:1). Literally, the psalmist says, "There will be silence before You, and praise in Zion, O God, and to You the vow will be performed."
The silence is the silence of readiness. Everything has been made ready to praise God. All the noise of preparation has ceased. The people are assembled with hearts eager to praise. Everyone is filled with a sense of the great majesty and goodness of God.
That is the way it should be with us. Our hearts should be quiet as we meditate upon the goodness of God. And, this in turn, makes us ready to break out in praise to the God Who always provides.
Those who have such a readiness to praise God will pay their vows. To fulfill a vow is to offer to God what has been promised. What we have promised is a life of praise and thanksgiving and service.
Are you quiet before the Lord? Are you thankful for His goodness? Then join with His people everywhere in praising God. "Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled" (Ps 65:1).
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page