"Pure Praise" Bible Study on Psalm 66:8-20
May 14, 2020, 12:40 PM

Dear Members & Friends:

I invite you to read the following passage from Psalm 66:1-2, 8-20 (Common English Bible translation).

1 Shout joyfully to God, all the earth! 

2 Sing praises to the glory of God's name! Make glorious his praise!

8 All you nations, bless our God! Let the sound of his praise be heard! 

9 God preserved us among the living; he didn't let our feet slip a bit. 

10 But you, God, have tested us— you've refined us like silver, 

11 trapped us in a net, laid burdens on our backs,

12 let other people run right over our heads— we've been through fire and water. But you brought us out to freedom! 

13 So I'll enter your house with entirely burned offerings. I'll keep the promises I made to you, 

14the ones my lips uttered, the ones my mouth spoke when I was in deep trouble. 

15 I will offer the best burned offerings to you along with the smoke of sacrificed rams. I will offer both bulls and goats. Selah 

16 Come close and listen, all you who honor God; I will tell you what God has done for me: 

17 My mouth cried out to him with praise on my tongue. 

18 If I had cherished evil in my heart, my Lord would not have listened. 

19But God definitely listened. He heard the sound of my prayer. 

20 Bless God! He didn't reject my prayer; he didn't withhold his faithful love from me.

Psalm 66 begins with a great shout of praise.  The psalmist calls on "all the earth" to join in the hymn that lauds God's name because of God's good deeds.  Our assigned lection for this Sunday begins at verse 8, but I don't think it's easy to make sense out of our passage without noting how this psalm begins.  That's why I've included verses 1 and 2 in this week's appointed Psalm Reading.  The opening note of praise is the rationale throughout the remainder of the psalm.

God is praised because God has been good to Israel, delivering them from the Red Sea (Psalm 66:6).  The psalmist moves from recollection of Israel's rescue to testimonial of individual salvation (verses 13-20).  When it's read during the Easter season, we especially note that God is praised for keeping us "among the living" (verse 9).  God's work is not only resurrecting at the end of life but is constantly life-giving and sustaining, arising out of the nature of God.  Here Exodus and Easter are connected.  Verses 13-15 contain the psalmist's vow to bring burnt offerings "into your house" (the Temple in Jerusalem), a promise that's repeated twice in those verses.  The offerings are concrete, material gifts of praise.  The psalmist individually cried out to God, and God heeded the prayer of the afflicted (verse 19), and so now there is praise.

In this time of pandemic isolation, it may seem really difficult for all the earth to "shout joyfully to God."  And yet, God is with and is inviting us to remember that God is preserving us through this time of testing.  Through this blog right now and through our broadcast Worship Services, God is calling us to come close and listen (all who honor God) to all that God has done to sustain us.

Thus, it is worth noting that Psalm 66 is distinguished for being both a psalm that is a communal hymn and an individual song of praise.  The community and the individual are connected by the psalmist's invitation, "come" -- then see and hear what God has been up to in our nation and in my (and your) life (verses 5, 16).  Wow!!!  Pretty awesome thought, right?

The psalmist invites us to "bless" God (verses 8, 20).  By blessing God for God's good deeds done to Israel, the psalmist also calls upon all "peoples" (verse 8) to bless God.  The praise begins with the community, then focuses upon the individual, and then expands to the whole world. God not only elects Israel, but, in God's expansive, providential love, goes out to all peoples.  At this point Psalm 66 reminds us of when Peter preached after the resurrection at Pentecost in Jerusalem.  His hearers marveled that Peter's praise of God had gone out and had reached beyond barriers of language: "Cretans and Arabs -- in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power" (Acts 2:11, NRSV).  Praise tends to be, by its nature, public, extroverted, sounding out into the whole world.  Currently, our praise is sounding out over the internet.

Psalms 40:6; 50:12-15, 23; 69:30-31; 141:2 seem to question temple sacrifices as tending toward public displays of ritual piety rather than true, heartfelt devotion.  However, Psalm 66 extols communal, public, ritual offering as concrete, material testimonial of gratitude for deliverance.  Thus the psalm is a reminder of the significance of our public, communal acts of thanksgiving and praise, even though we cannot gather publicly for worship during this time of pandemic.

Some preachers and theologians interpret Psalm 66 to express the value of gratitude as expressed by our financial stewardship and responsibility, that is, we joyfully give because much has been given to us.  While that may be true, I interpret this psalm as an example of the glory of praise to a praiseworthy God.  Because God is a God who protects, redeems, and gives to us, at the heart of the Christian life is praise, pure praise.

Holy God, you alone are worthy of our praise.  May our lives become a living song of praise, lifted up to give glory to you alone as did your Son, Jesus Christ our Sovereign and Savior.  Amen.


Pastor Greg Rupright


05-16-2020 at 9:49 PM
Pat May
👍👏 Blessings, Greg.
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