2020-8-09 A Cry of Praise

A Cry of Praise
Psalm 66
August 09, 2020

Prayer of Illumination:

Lord, who caused the Holy Scriptures to be written so that we might know you and the redemption found only in you: Enable us to hear your word. May we not just hear sounds but understand your word. May your apply it to our hearts and minds. This we ask in Christ Jesus, amen.

1 Shout for joy to God, all the earth;

sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!

Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.

All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Selah

Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.

He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There did we rejoice in him,

who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations—

let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah

Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard,

who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip.

10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.

11 You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs;

12 you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

13 I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will perform my vows to you,

14 that which my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.

15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fattened animals, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah

16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.

17 I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue.

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

19 But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me! [1]

This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

One of the most famous statements on the Christian life is first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. It’s such a simple statement but it conveys so much. It conveys that our purpose in life to praise God and to enjoy knowing him for who he is and what he has done. Our chief end is to glory God, praise him, and to enjoy him for who he is and what he has done. Such a simple and beautiful statement.

This morning we conclude our series on the Psalms. We’ve been studying the Psalms so that we can learn how to express our emotions in a godly way. We have learned how to express our lament and confess our sins by studying Psalms 6 and 51. We have learned to express our trust that God will execute justice by studying Psalm 7. We have learned to cry out for salvation by studying Psalm 22. We have learned how to express our trust that even in the midst of life’s ups and downs God is guiding us by studying Psalm 23.

Today we are studying Psalm 66. Psalm 66 is a psalm calling all nations and peoples to praise God for saving his covenant people. This morning we will see that all people are to praise God, that we are to praise God for how he has saved his covenant people, and that we are to praise God for how he has how worked in our lives.

All Are to Praise God

1 Shout for joy to God, all the earth;

sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!

Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.

All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.”

The psalmist calls the entire earth to shout for joy to God. Each and every person is to praise God. The Lord God is the lord not just over Christians; he is the lord over the entire earth.

Various pagan religions had gods who reigned over a certain area but not over all of existence. For example, in the Greco-Roman religion Neptune was the god of the sea. They believed that he was sovereign over the sea and only the sea. He had no authority over the rivers or the land or the sky.

But the true God, the God of the Bible is sovereign over all creation. The opening pages of the Bible depict God creating the universe. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:1-2). God is the sovereign lord over the entire universe and over all the peoples who live on the earth.

The great Dutch theologian and politician, Abraham Kuyper said “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”.[2] The Lord our God is sovereign over all creation. He is the king over all peoples. And as such everyone is called to praise God.

That is why we support missions, both local and foreign. God is Lord over all. And we are to tell the whole world of the good news in Christ Jesus. We are to tell everyone that they have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; that each and every one deserves hell. But the good news is that God has redeemed all who believe. We are to tell of this gospel to those across the street and those across the ocean. That’s why this past weekend we had our annual Trash and Treasure sale. The proceeds from that go towards mission.

All the earth is praise God and when we come into worship we are to sing the glory of his name. The word “sing” really just means to make music. It is often used in connection with someone playing the harp. We are to make music to the Lord. That’s why each and every week we sing psalms, hymns, and other spiritual songs that are about God, that are to God, and that are for God. That is why we have a piano accompanist; Jennifer helps us sing by playing the piano, giving us the melody to sing. This is our chief end to glorify God and to enjoy him.

In my time here as pastor, I have tended to have us sing more verses than less. If you’re wondering why, this is the reason. We are commanded to make music to the Lord our God. And it is appropriate for us to sing and to sing joyfully to our God.

Now given the current worldwide pandemic, the Session of Murphy Presbyterian Church has deemed it in the best interest for us not to sing. We are doing that simply as a preventative measure so that we lessen the spread of COVID-19. Hopefully soon we will feel comfortable resuming our normal worship where we sing psalms, hymns, and other spiritual songs for the glory of God.

When we come into praise God, we are to say, “How awesome are your deeds!” We often use “awesome” in a positive sense. We often say, “Did you see the game? It was awesome!” I don’t think that’s how we should understand “awesome” here. The word “awesome” could be translated as “terrible”.

Terrible? How could God’s deeds be terrible? They’re terrible in the sense that they are mighty and induce fear. God wields thunder and lightening in his hands. God is sovereign over earthquakes and tornadoes. Seeing tornadoes touchdown does induce a sense of fear. A week ago, I was sitting out on my front porch enjoying an evening cup of coffee when a thunderstorm rolled in. I could see these brilliant bolts of lightening and hear these deafening cracks of thunder. While I wasn’t scared, I recognized that God was the one ordaining and permitting the storm. He is mighty over all creation.

And that realization often brings people to fear. Charles Spurgeon, that great 19th century Baptist preacher, said, “The mind is usually first arrested by those attributes which cause fear and trembling; and even when the heart has come to love God, and rest in him, there is an increase of worship when the soul is awed by an extraordinary display of the divine characteristics. Till we see God in Christ, the terrible predominates in all our apprehensions of hm.”[3]

Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight”. Recognizing that God is mighty, that he wields the thunder and the lightening in his hand, that he speaks and creation comes into existence should produce a holy fear in us. And that in turn should cause us to sing and praise God because he is sovereign over all creation.

Eventually every person who has ever lived or ever will live will recognize God as the sovereign lord over all creation. Some won’t say it with joy in their mouths. They will admit it as defeated rebels.

Spurgeon says so beautifully, “The Hebrew clearly intimates, it will be a forced and false submission. Power brings people to their knees, but love alone wins the heart. Tens of thousands, both in earth and hell, are rendering this constrained homage to the Almighty; they only submit because they cannot do otherwise; it is not their loyalty, but his power, which keep them subjects of his boundless dominion.”[4] The Lord our God is sovereign over all the earth. And everyone is to praise him. Some will do it out of love and loyalty; others out of forced submission. But in the end, all will acknowledge the Lord is King and praise his name.

How God Has Saved His People

As Christians, we have willingly and lovingly submitted to the sovereign rule of God and so we worship him for being the sovereign king. But we also worship him because he has saved his people.

Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.

He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There did we rejoice in him,

who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations—

let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah

Come and see what God has done. We are inviting people to come and to see how God has acted; to see for themselves his mighty power and his loving redemption. Matthew tells us in his gospel account that when the women reach the tomb an angel invites them to come and see that the tomb really is empty, that Jesus truly has been raised from the dead.

Faith, biblically speaking, rests on God’s saving acts in history. Some people think faith is a blind “leap of faith”, just hoping and praying something or someone is there. Many today think that faith is a blind leap; that you can’t truly know if there is a god out there or not. That’s not what the Bible says. The Bible says that God is real, that you can really know him, and that faith is trusting in his saving acts. That is why the Bible regularly calls people to see what the Lord has done.

The psalmist then calls the people to remember the events of the Exodus. On the night that God redeemed his people out of bondage in Egypt, he led them to the Red Sea. There Pharaoh’s army caught up with them. And in an awesome deed, God caused the water of the Red Sea to become like two walls and dry ground to appear in the middle so that the Israelites could pass through on foot. God would later cause the Jordan River to wall up so that the Israelites could enter the Promised Land.

The psalmist’s point is not merely that God once did so great a redeeming work, but that the exodus is characteristic of God’s saving work to save his people at all times. The exodus was a typical instance that shows how God normally saves. By reflecting on this testimony, God’s people should rejoice in their Savior and the nations should humble themselves before so mighty and vengeful a God.”[5]

The same is true for us. We were in bondage but not to a political entity, like Egypt. Humanity is in bondage to sin and death. But God the Father in his infinite love and mercy sent God the Son to redeem his chosen people from their bondage. Like the event that led to the exodus out of Egypt, Jesus was the Lamb who died so that those covered in his blood could be free from bondage. God saves his people. God has always been the one to save his chosen people. And he does so with these incredibly awesome deeds.

That should lead us to praise him. Seeing that God has redeemed his people in such an awesome way should lead us to sing of his glorious name. We ought to be so moved by the saving work of Christ on the cross that we constantly praise God for this awesome redemption.

The psalmist continues:

Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard,

who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip.

10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.

11 You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs;

12 you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

Here the psalmist speaks that even though God has saved his people, he tests them. “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried”. Silver was tested in fire. It was put in immense heat to purify it from impurities. That’s how they would test silver and other precious metals so that they might be refined.

God has indeed tested his people as a way to refine their faith. I know that is not the most popular thing to say. But it is biblical. God speaking through the prophet Isaiah says, “For my name’s sake I defer my anger; for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. 10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. ” (Isaiah 48:9-10).

You’ll see throughout the Bible that God uses affliction to refine his people. The Book of Judges shows just this. God would allow Israel to overrun by the Philistines, the Moabites, the Canaanites, and other peoples so that they would repent of their idolatry. He used affliction to refine their faith. About two centuries after Isaiah, God allowed the southern kingdom of Judah to be taken by Babylonia. He used the affliction of the captivity to refine their faith.

The same is true for us. And at times we might wonder, “If God has saved us, why does he allow us to endure suffering? If he loves us, why does he allow us to go through the fire?” God allows us to endure suffering so that our faith can be refined. He ordains our trials so that we are purified in faith by learning to depend on him for everything.

The Apostle Paul writes in his Epistle to the Romans, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28, NIV). Notice, he doesn’t say that all things are good for those who believe. He says that God works all things for the good of those who love him. He uses affliction to refine our faith. He allows us to endure suffering so that we will know that salvation comes through him.

God ordains and permits afflictions and trials to enter our lives in order to purify our faith. He allows us to endure difficult times so that we know salvation is his awesome deed.

How God Has Worked in Our Lives

The psalmist has spent the majority of psalm calling people to praise God and see how God has redeemed his people in history. Now he speaks of how God has worked in his life. He ends with these words:

I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will perform my vows to you,

14 that which my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.

15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fattened animals, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah

16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.

17 I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue.

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

19 But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!

He says that he will come into the temple and offer a burnt offering. There were several types of offerings in old covenant. Burnt offerings were the most costly. They involved offering a bull, a ram, or a goat without defect that was burned completely. And it was also for when someone sinned and needed to make atonement for their sin. The psalmist’s worship bears the testimony of God’s saving and atoning work. Likewise, our worship should bear testimony to the saving work of God found at the cross.

Our service is designed to testify to the salvation found in Christ at the cross. Each and every week we confess our sin and are reminded of the good news that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection has accomplished salvation for his people.

The psalmist also says that he will tell of what God has done in his life. Throughout the ages, Christian worship has always had a place for testimony; there has always been a place in our worship to praise God for how he has applied redemption to a particular individual. Our worship should always proclaim the saving work of God in Christ. But there is also a place to proclaim has God has worked in our lives.

When someone joins the church they do that. That person is first taught what it means to be a Christian and the basics of our faith. Then he or she gives their testimony before the elders. Testimonies are about how God has applied Christ’s atoning in someone’s life. They are firmly Christo-centric. And finally they make a public profession of faith before the entire congregation saying that they trust in the saving work of Christ on the cross. And when someone joins after having made a profession at a previous church, they reaffirm their profession.

Let me ask you, is your testimony thoroughly Christo-centric focused on how he saved you from your sin or is it about you just becoming a better person? A biblical testimony is one that focuses on Christ’s redeeming work and how he has saved us from our sin and damnation.

We tell how God has worked salvation in our lives not to have people praise us but to praise God. But God is often pleased to use our individual testimonies to help others know the salvation found in Christ.

When my dad was about five years old, a tornado hit their house. The next morning my grandparents were worried about my dad and uncle. They eventually found them on a mattress in the field, unharmed. Years later when my dad was an adult, he was in his hometown worshipping in the church he grew up in. During that service, my grandfather shared how that awesome event helped him realize the sovereignty of God. Finding his sons alive and safe helped him see that God acts in history to save his people. And experiencing the work of God in his life led him to praise God.

The Lord our God is sovereign. He is lord over all of creation. And because he is lord over all creation, all people are to praise him. In particular we are to praise for his saving work at the cross and how he has applied to our hearts.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 66:1–20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Abraham Kuyper, Sphere Sovereignty (Michigan; Eerdmans, 1998), 488.

[3] Charles Spurgeon, Psalms Vol. 1 (Illinois; Crossway, 1993), 266.

[4] Ibid, 266.

[5] Richard Phillips, Psalms 42-72 (New Jersey; P&R Publishing, 2019), 251.