Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
Last week focused on a specific yet magnificent place called Zion. But importantly, we noted that today, we should be the magnificent place that God indwells. The psalmist associated God’s presence with the location of mount Zion. The psalmist also proclaimed Zion as the place where God dwelled and described God as her fortress or refuge. So we as individual Christians are the temple in which God dwells today.
We also focused attention on Psalm 48:13-14 where the psalmist told us to walk about Zion, observe all of Zion’s greatness, “that you may tell of them to the next generation”. The point of focusing here was to acknowledge if God has done something for you, you ought to tell somebody. And even more so you ought to tell the next generation. The lesson closed with a reminder from the psalmist that “This God is our God”. This God is the God who enabled building the great Zion. The point for Christians today is to remember that this God is the God who lives, loves, and inhabits each of us.
Last week’s lesson was the first in a series of love songs. This second love song week keeps us in the Old Testament book of Psalms. We remain in the second book of Psalms at Psalm 66. The focus in this week’s love song is praise for God’s mighty works in our lives. God’s work leads to praise and praise reinforces our love. Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary title this week’s lesson “Praising Gods Mighty Works”. Standard Commentary titles it “Our Mighty God”. The Scripture text comes from Psalm 66:1-9, 16-20.
There are 150 Psalms. This collection of 150 Psalms is further divided into five books. The first book includes Psalms 1-41, book two includes 42-72, book three is comprised of Psalms 73-89, the fourth book has 90-106 and book 5 is composed of 107-150. “Seventy-three are associated with David; twelve with the Asaphites, eleven with the Ko’rahites, three with Jeduthun, two with Solomon, two with Ezrahites, and one with Moses” (New Interpreters Study Bible). The Psalms include a broad range of prayers, praises, songs of love, poems, thanksgivings and devotions. “Some are prayers and praises that soar to the heights of spiritual devotion, while others arise from deep pain and distress displaying the depths of human misery, anger, and frustration” (New Interpreter’s Study Bible (NISB). Psalm 66 is included in the second book (Psalms 42 – 72). Most of the Psalms in this second book are written by David and Korah. There is no indication of who the author is. Its superscription simply says “Praise for God’s Goodness to Israel. To the leader. A Song. A Psalm”. Nelson’s Bible Handbook describes Psalm 66 as an individual thanksgiving Psalm. The writer “publicly acknowledges God’s activity on their behalf. It thanks God for something God has already done or expresses confidence in what God will yet do”. Townsend commentary describes it as an “all-purpose psalm and probably not composed for any particular special occasion”. That’s significant because we don’t need special occasions or significant events in our life to give thanks to God.
What takes place in this passage:
Verse one begins with a familiar refrain – “Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands:” The New Revised Standard Version says, “Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;” This Psalm begins with great praise. The psalmist is excited and enthusiastic not simply about praise, but about praise of God. In its very beginning the psalmist is not only excited but tells us how we ought to praise. The psalmist is saying we ought to shout for joy! I especially like part b of the second verse – “make God’s praise glorious”. The psalmist is telling us our praise ought to be magnificent, celebratory, and wonderful. We are commended, encouraged, exhorted, to make God’s praise glorious. The adulation and exaltation continues in verses three and four.
Verse five begins a section where the psalmist transitions to remembering what God has done for the nation of Israel. We are reminded how God turned the sea into dry land and the people passed through the waters on foot. Verse seven gives us another reason to praise God. God’s power is unmatched. Although there may be rebellious factions in every generation, and rebellious times in our life, we should know that there is none greater than our God. Verses eight and nine return to adulation, exaltation, and praise with a reminder that God preserved the Israelites lives.
Verses 16 through 20 close the lesson with praise for God’s deliverance. But this is a personal reflection. The psalmist is writing about his own experience with a God who delivers, a God who hears, and a God who understands. Verse 16 says “let me tell you what God has done for me”. This is powerful. Telling your own testimony is authentic. Genuineness, authenticity, and being true are characteristics that have great impact on others. The psalmist testifies in verse 18 that “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened”. This should remind us that faithfulness to God is what God desires from us.
This is a psalm about praise and thanksgiving. Perhaps you have heard the song “Glorious (Make The Praise)” by Karen Clark Sheard. If you have time before or during class consider playing it. As you think of making God’s praise glorious remember the words of this song – “I was created to make God’s praise glorious”. That’s an individual response. A collective response could be with a choir. A response from nature could be the beauty of a clear blue sky or the majesty of a mountain reaching into the sky. Whether individually, collectively or through nature, we are all God’s creation and as such God deserves our thanksgiving and praise. We don’t need a special occasion to praise God. We sometimes take mundane things for granted. For example, we may rush through saying grace before a meal and then hurriedly eat and move on. Yet, there are those who have food to eat but have no appetite. God deserves our praise and thanksgiving when we are delivered from great peril and in the mundane things of life we sometimes take for granted. Perfect praise is contingent upon a pure heart, a heart that does not cherish sin. Even if our present circumstances are not perfect or joyous, we can remember what God has done in the past and praise God for that.
Key Characters in the text: None mentioned
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
Psalm – A hymn, sacred song, or poem. The book of Psalms (the Psalter) is composed of 150 religious poems of prayer and praise of ancient Israel, arranged in five books.
Praise – (from Lat. Pretium, “worth”) Honor and adoration given to God as a celebration of God’s being and worth. It is a constant biblical ascription and injunction that creatures should praise God as the Lord.
Thanksgiving – An expression of gratitude. A type of prayer in which, both publicly and privately, believers offer their gratitude to God for all blessings and goodness received.
Gratitude – The response to God and God’s blessings that is an expression of praise and devotion. In the Christian context, believers respond in gratitude for the “indescribable gift” (II Cor. 9:15) of Jesus Christ, who is the supreme expression of God’s grace.
Themes / Topics in this Lesson:
- Created to praise God.
- Let everything praise God
- Perfect praise
1. God is the creator of the earth and all that dwells therein. How does the earth praise God?
2. Name something worthy of praise for what God has done, for what God is doing and for what God will do in your life.
3. Since this is also Black History Month, despite America’s horrible history of enslavement, Jim Crow laws, mass incarceration and other immoral actions what or how should Black Americans thank God for as Americans?
Although they are very similar, there is a difference between praise and thanksgiving. Praise requires concentration on a thing, person, or deity that is being praised whereas thanksgiving is focused on what a person has received (Townsend). We should be grateful for what God has done, is doing and shall do. With our steadfast faith in God we give thanks and praise. For all of these lived experiences, good and bad, and for all of the possibilities of what is yet to come we are grateful and give thanks.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson: Next week’s lesson is the third in a series of love songs in Psalms. We remain in the second book of Psalms at Psalm 91. Here the psalmist looks to God for protection as life delivers trials, tribulations and hardship. We will be reminded that God has delivered in the past so we can trust that God will deliver in the future.