Psalm 65 – At the Temple, In the Earth
The title of this psalm is To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. A Song. Charles Spurgeon observed this about the uncommon pairing of Psalm and Song for this composition: “The Hebrew calls it a Shur and Mizmor, a combination of psalm and song, which may be best described by the term, ‘A Lyrical Poem.’ In this case the psalm may be said or sung, and be equally suitable.”
We don’t know the occasion of this psalm, but because of its thankfulness and praise connected to flocks and grain, many think it was composed for a harvest festival, perhaps the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall season.
A. God in His temple.
1. (1-3) Why praise waits for God in Jerusalem.
Praise is awaiting You, O God, in Zion;
And to You the vow shall be performed.
O You who hear prayer,
To You all flesh will come.
Iniquities prevail against me;
As for our transgressions,
You will provide atonement for them.
a. Praise is awaiting You, O God, in Zion: The psalmist David described a wonderful picture, the idea that praise was waiting to be given unto God in Jerusalem. The sense is that when God came to meet His people, He would be received in an atmosphere of praise.
i. “The word translated ‘waiteth’ [awaiting] comes from a root meaning to be silent…. This does not mean that there is no praise, but on the contrary that praise is so complete that at first it can find no utterance.” (Morgan)
ii. “Literally, ‘Praise is silence for thee’…. It may sometimes be the height of worship, in other words, to fall silent before God in awe at His presence and in submission to His will.” (Kidner)
iii. “Certainly, when the soul is most filled with adoring awe, she is least content with her own expressions, and feels most deeply how inadequate are all mortal songs to proclaim the divine goodness.” (Spurgeon)
b. To You the vow shall be performed: God’s people would gather together in Jerusalem to thank God for answering their prayers and to give sacrifices and praise in fulfillment of vows made.
i. Believers should take seriously their vows before God. In addition to vows and promises made to God, our baptism is itself a vow to God. Our association with God’s people is a vow. These should be regarded with a solemn and serious dependence upon God.
ii. “A vow unkept will burn the conscience like a hot iron. Vows of service, of donation, of praise, or whatever they may be, are no trifles; and in the day of grateful praise they should, without fail, be fulfilled to the utmost of our power.” (Spurgeon)
iii. At Mount Zion the Son of David fulfilled the greatest vow, coming to completely do the will of God (Psalm 40:6-8) and giving His life as a sacrifice and atonement for the sins of the world.
c. O You who hear prayer, to You all flesh will come: Praise awaits and vows are performed because God hears and answers prayer. This goodness of God draws not only Israel, but also all flesh. This starts a thought that will be developed later in the psalm.
d. Iniquities prevail against me; as for our transgressions, You will provide atonement for them: This shows a proper understanding of the sacrificial system in God’s greater plan. David understood his personal struggle against sin, and how he sometimes failed in that struggle. He also understood that God’s answer for transgressions is an atoning sacrifice that God provides.
i. David was humble enough to say, iniquities prevail against me. “No man was ever rejected by God for his confessed badness, as sundry have been for their supposed goodness.” (Trapp)
ii. Iniquities prevail against me: “Our sins would, but for grace, prevail against us in the court of divine justice, in the court of conscience, and in the battle of life.” (Spurgeon)
iii. David believed in the system of animal sacrifice established by the Law of Moses, but he also looked beyond that system to a perfect sacrifice that God Himself would provide. In this David looked to the Messiah and His perfect, atoning work on the cross fulfilling the promise, You will provide atonement for them.
2. (4) The goodness of God’s house.
Blessed is the man You choose,
And cause to approach You,
That he may dwell in Your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
Of Your holy temple.
a. Blessed is the man You choose, and cause to approach You: In the connection between God and man, David knew that God was the cause of the connection. The connection begins when God chooses and then causes a man or a woman to come to Him, that he may dwell in Your courts.
i. Some think that the chosen man in David’s mind is the priest. Yet he mentions the part of the house of God where all were welcome, the courts. “He mentioneth courts, because the people were permitted to go no further into God’s house.” (Poole)
ii. If there is a priest in view, then prophetically we can apply this in an ultimate sense to Jesus, our Great High Priest. “Blessed, above all blessing and praise, is the man Christ Jesus, elect, precious, chosen of God to be a high priest for ever.” (Horne)
b. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house: Once established and enjoyed, the connection between God and man brings satisfaction to men. They experienced God’s house as a place of goodness received.
i. The goodness of Your house gives the image of God as a host for His people. “It happily dwells a guest in the house and is supplied with that which satisfies all desires. The guest’s security in the house of his host, his right to protection, help, and food, are, as usual, implied in the imagery.” (Maclaren)
B. God in His creation.
1. (5-8) The far-reaching greatness of God.
By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us,
O God of our salvation,
You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth,
And of the far-off seas;
Who established the mountains by His strength,
Being clothed with power;
You who still the noise of the seas,
The noise of their waves,
And the tumult of the peoples.
They also who dwell in the farthest parts are afraid of Your signs;
You make the outgoings of the morning and evening rejoice.
a. By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation: This was an ongoing confidence in the continuation of God’s goodness. God had answered prayer and provided atonement; David expected such awesome deeds in the future also.
b. You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth: David again lifted his vision from beyond Israel to the ends of the earth, to the far-off seas. He understood that though Israel belonged to God in a special sense, He was and is the God of the whole earth.
c. You who still the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the peoples: God’s might is shown in His ability to quiet not only the oceans but also the noise of the peoples of the world. His authority extended far beyond Israel, to the farthest parts of the earth.
i. Stormy and noisy seas put forth enormous energy. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an average hurricane releases energy equivalent to 6×1014 watts of electricity. This is 200 times world-wide electrical generating capacity. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) says that in its lifetime an average hurricane can release as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs. Yet God can and does still the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves.
ii. Knowing this great power of God should build our faith when we see the tumult of the peoples and are concerned for God’s salvation to reach the ends of the earth. We can think of those at the ends of the earth as those who are farthest off, least known, least thought of, most afflicted, and the hardest to reach.
iii. “The child of God in seasons of trouble should fly at once to him who stills the seas: nothing is too hard for him.” (Spurgeon)
iv. “In pagan mythology the ‘sea’ connoted chaotic and life-threatening powers. However, Israel knew that the Lord created everything and established his rule over the ‘roaring’ seas and their waves.” (VanGemeren)
v. Established the mountains by His strength: “Philosophers of the forget-God school are too much engrossed with their laws of upheaval to think of the Upheaver. Their theories of volcanic action and glacier action, etc., are frequently used as bolts and bars to shut the Lord out of his own world. Our poet is of another mind, and sees God’s hand settling Alps and Andes on their bases, and therefore he sings in his praise.” (Spurgeon)
d. You make the outgoings of the morning and evening rejoice: The exercise of God’s authority over the earth does not bring it fear and oppression; it brings rejoicing to the day.
i. Outgoings of the morning and evening: “What is pictured, then, may be either the glory of day and night (cf. Psalm 19:1f.; Job 38:7, 19f.), or the whole expanse of earth from east to west, praising the Creator.” (Kidner)
2. (9-13) The blessed and grateful earth.
You visit the earth and water it,
You greatly enrich it;
The river of God is full of water;
You provide their grain,
For so You have prepared it.
You water its ridges abundantly,
You settle its furrows;
You make it soft with showers,
You bless its growth.
You crown the year with Your goodness,
And Your paths drip with abundance.
They drop on the pastures of the wilderness,
And the little hills rejoice on every side.
The pastures are clothed with flocks;
The valleys also are covered with grain;
They shout for joy, they also sing.
a. You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it: God cares for the earth and makes sure it has what it needs. He provides rivers of water, and grain for the earth.
i. “For people in that place and day, the coming of abundant rains to water the crops was literally the blessing of life rather than death. It is hard for most of us today to fully appreciate that.” (Boice)
ii. “Thou art the right Master-cultivator, who cultivates the land much more and much better than the farmer does. He does nothing more to it than break up the ground, and plough, and sow, and then lets it lie. But God must be always attending to it with rain and heat, and must do everything to make it grow and prosper while the farmer lies at home and sleeps.” (Luther, cited in Spurgeon)
iii. The idea is clear: the earth is barren until God acts upon it. God is faithful to send the rain and what is necessary for the cultivation of the earth, bringing forth a wonderful harvest. So, God’s people should pray and expect God to move upon both His Church and the world, knowing that they will be barren unless God acts upon them.
iv. Isaiah 55:10-11 speaks of this analogy between the fruitfulness of the earth and the effectiveness of God’s work, especially through His Word: For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
b. You bless its growth: The earth is full of living, growing things all established and blessed by God. This is another aspect of His power and care for the earth.
i. “How easy were it with God to starve us all!” (Trapp)
ii. David was only concerned for God’s work in bringing forth grain. David wasn’t a fool; he knew that man had his work to do. Yet, “This is beautiful as a description of God’s part therein. Man’s toil is not described. It is taken for granted, and is his prayer.” (Morgan)
iii. You crown the year with Your goodness: “A full and plentiful harvest is the crown of the year; and this springs from the unmerited goodness of God. This is the diadem of the earth.” (Clarke)
iv. The little hills rejoice: “Literally, The hills gird themselves with exultation. The metaphor appears to be taken from the frisking of lambs, bounding of kids, and dancing of shepherds and shepherdesses, in the joy-inspiring summer season.” (Clarke)
c. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered with grain: David looked out over the land and saw hills covered with livestock and valleys full of grain. It seemed that creation itself shouted for joy and sang to God.
i. “It would be hard to surpass this evocative description of the fertile earth, observed with loving exactness at one moment and poetic freedom at the next, culminating in the fantasy of hills and fields putting on their finest clothes and making merry together.” (Kidner)
ii. “The voice of nature is articulate to God; it is not only a shout, but a song.” (Spurgeon)
iii. The hills and valleys are happy and joyful before God because of His great power and care for them. David understood that the people of God have those same reasons to praise God, in addition to the even greater reasons of atonement and connection with God described earlier in the psalms.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org