Psalm 66 – How Everyone Can Praise God
This psalm is titled To the Chief Musician. A Song. A Psalm. As with Psalm 65, it is described as both a Song and a Psalm. This is the first psalm since Psalm 50 to not be attributed to David.
“This Psalm is said to be recited on Easter day, by the Greek church: it is described in the Greek Bible as A Psalm of the Resurrection, and may be understood to refer, in a prophetic sense, to the regeneration of the world, through the conversion of the Gentiles.” (Daniel Cresswell, cited in Spurgeon)
A. Praising the God of all the earth.
1. (1-2) Singing to the honor of His name.
Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
Sing out the honor of His name;
Make His praise glorious.
a. Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth: As in the previous and the next psalm, Psalm 66 has not only Israel in view but all the earth. The psalmist understood that God was not only God over Israel, but the whole world. It was good and appropriate for him to call everyone to joyfully praise God.
i. “Composers of tunes for the congregation should see to it that their airs are cheerful; we need not so much noise, as joyful noise.” (Spurgeon)
b. Make His praise glorious: Song is not the only way to praise God, but it is one of the chief ways. The psalmist encouraged all to sing out the honor of His name, and to do it in a way that made God’s praise glorious.
i. “Praise requires concentration on the thing, person, or deity being praised. Thanks tend to be focused on what the speaker has received, and thus may become rather narrow and perfunctory. In the expression of thanksgiving, the self may become the primary subject, but this is much less likely to happen in praise.” (Tate, cited in Boice)
2. (3-4) How to praise God.
Say to God,
“How awesome are Your works!
Through the greatness of Your power
Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.
All the earth shall worship You
And sing praises to You;
They shall sing praises to Your name.” Selah
a. Say to God: The psalmist gives practical guidance for the those who want to praise God, telling them specifically what to say. He doesn’t mean this in a mechanical or unfeeling way, but as help to the hearts that truly want to praise God but needs some instruction as to how. It begins with what we say to God, words that we actually speak. There is a place for unspoken praise (Psalm 65:1) but spoken praise must not be neglected.
i. Say to God: “There was more required than to think of God. Consideration, meditation, speculation, contemplation upon God and divine objects, have their place and their season; but this is more than that, and more than admiration.” (John Donne, cited in Spurgeon)
b. How awesome are Your works: One may begin to praise God by thinking upon the greatness of His work in creation, salvation, and restoration. Then, by telling God how awesome His works are.
c. Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You: Praise may continue in the recognition of the great power of God, which brought forth the awesome works. This awesome and powerful God has enemies, but through His great power they will be conquered and brought to submit themselves to God. This praises God for the triumph of His power over all His enemies.
i. Several commentators note that the sense of shall submit themselves to You has the feel of an insincere, unwilling submission to God. “The Hebrew clearly intimates, it will be a forced and false submission. Power brings a man to his knee, but love alone wins his heart. Pharaoh said he would let Israel go, but he lied unto God; he submitted in word but not in deed. 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 keeps them subjects of his boundless dominion.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “True, he discerns that submission will not always be genuine; for he uses the same word to express it as occurs in Psalm 18:44, which represents ‘feigned homage.’” (Maclaren)
iii. Philippians 2:10-11 has something of this sense: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
d. All the earth shall worship You: God may be praised in the recognition of His ultimate triumph over all the earth and in His worthiness to receive the worship and praises they rightly bring to Him.
e. They shall sing praises to Your name: In the thinking of the ancient Jews, the name was more than a word; it was a true identifier, an indication of character. This speaks of something greater than the grudging submission of the previous lines; this is praise that knows something of the nature and character of God.
i. “Acceptable worship not only praises God as the mysterious Lord, but it is rendered fragrant by some measure of knowledge of his name or character. God would not be worshipped as an unknown God, nor have it said of his people, ‘Ye worship ye know not what.’” (Spurgeon)
ii. Selah: “A little pause, for holy expectation is well inserted after so great a prophecy, and the uplifting of the heart is also a seasonable direction. No meditation can be more joyous than that excited by the prospect of a world reconciled to its Creator.” (Spurgeon)
B. Praising the God of Israel.
1. (5-7) Seeing the works of God that make Him worthy of praise.
Come and see the works of God;
He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men.
He turned the sea into dry land;
They went through the river on foot.
There we will rejoice in Him.
He rules by His power forever;
His eyes observe the nations;
Do not let the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah
a. Come and see the works of God: The psalmist felt that perhaps others might be slow to think of God’s awesome works (Psalm 66:3). He would help, describing how He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men.
i. Come and see: “He taketh good people by the hand, as it were, leading them to the sight of God’s stupendous proceedings.” (Trapp)
b. He turned the sea into dry land; they went through the river on foot: The psalmist turned to the holy history of the Scriptures and remembered how God showed His power in bringing Israel through the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21) and through the Jordan River (Joshua 3:14-16).
i. The psalmist could have picked anything to describe the works of God, but chose two events that showed how God participates in human affairs. The God of all power is not a passive observer, but an active participant.
c. There we will rejoice in Him: In saying we, the psalmist identifies himself with Israel hundreds of years before his time, as if he were there. It was as if the psalmist stood beside the Jordan River, pointed to a spot and said, “There. That is where this happened. It wasn’t a legend or a myth, but there is a there where it happened. Therefore we will rejoice in Him.”
i. “God’s work is never antiquated. It is all a revelation of eternal activities. What He has been, He is. What He did, He does. Therefore faith may feed on all the records of old time, and expect the repetition of all that they contain.” (Maclaren)
ii. Rejoice in Him: “It is to be remarked that Israel’s joy was in her God, and there let ours be. It is not so much what he has done, as what he is, that should excite in us a sacred rejoicing.” (Spurgeon)
d. His eyes observe the nations: The psalmist called all the earth to observe the great works of God and give Him praise. It was also worth remembering that He observes the nations; they should look up to the One who looks at them.
e. Do not let the rebellious exalt themselves: In light of God’s power, His participation in human affairs, and His eye upon the world, to be rebellious against Him is foolish. To exalt yourself against Him is madness.
2. (8-12) More reasons to praise God.
Oh, bless our God, you peoples!
And make the voice of His praise to be heard,
Who keeps our soul among the living,
And does not allow our feet to be moved.
For You, O God, have tested us;
You have refined us as silver is refined.
You brought us into the net;
You laid affliction on our backs.
You have caused men to ride over our heads;
We went through fire and through water;
But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.
a. Oh, bless our God, you peoples: The psalmist repeated his exhortation to all the earth, telling them to praise the God of Israel. He will give many more reasons to do so.
i. “Verse 8 reveals the conviction that Israel’s fortunes embrace the world, as Abram was promised that they should.” (Kidner)
ii. “We must not only publish God’s praises, but provoke others also so to do.” (Trapp)
b. Who keeps our soul among the living: God preserves His people, giving them life and secure position (does not allow our feet to be moved).
i. “Try us, O God; but enable us to stand the trial!” (Horne)
ii. “If God has enabled us not only to keep our life, but our position, we are bound to give him double praise. Living and standing is the saint’s condition through divine grace. Immortal and immovable are those whom God preserves.” (Spurgeon)
c. For You, O God, have tested us: God blesses His people, but sometimes the blessing is in a difficult testing. The psalmist praised God for life and secure position, but also recognized the hardships of life. He expressed the hardships and testing with many word pictures.
· You have refined us as silver is refined: We feel the heat rising until we have no strength and stability but are melted. The impure dross rises to the top and God, the Refiner expertly scrapes it away, knowing that the silver was pure enough when He can see His own reflection in our melted metal.
· You have brought us into the net: We felt the freedom of being able to swim wherever we pleased, and life was full of options and choices. Suddenly, that freedom seemed gone and our choices became few.
· You laid affliction on our backs: We used to walk easy and carefree, as if we did not have a single burden. Now our backs are loaded with affliction, and we find the weight difficult to bear.
· You have caused men to ride over our heads: We used to stand in battle and fight on equal footing with our enemies, if not better footing. Then we were cast down and felt them riding in triumph over us. Where once we seemed to only know victory, now we feel the sting of defeat.
· We went through fire and through water: We feel that we have been through it all, and it seems that no adversity has been kept from us.
i. “The word translated affliction is unknown elsewhere, and its meaning uncertain; but it may derive from a root meaning ‘to press,’ an idea familiar with us in our modern metaphorical use of the word ‘pressure.’” (Kidner)
ii. “To ride over our heads; to ride upon our shoulders. By thy permission they have used us like slaves, yea, like beasts, to carry their persons or burdens.Compare Isaiah 51:23.” (Poole)
d. But You brought us out to rich fulfillment: The psalmist said to God that he understood, that in some ultimate sense, their affliction was “from You” – it was allowed by God Himself. As they continued to trust in God, He vindicated Himself and their trust, not only delivering them from difficulty, but bringing them out to rich fulfillment. This rich fulfillment would never have come apart from the many difficulties.
i. “The main end of our life is not to do, but to become. For this we are being moulded and disciplined each hour.” (Meyer)
ii. We remind ourselves that this is in a list giving all the earth reasons why God should be praised. We would think that such difficulties should be avoided if we want others to praise God, but the psalmist described life lived for God as it really is – and knew that understanding God as He really is will draw men and women to praise.
C. Praising the God of the individual believer.
1. (13-15) Praising God with sacrifices and the paying of vows.
I will go into Your house with burnt offerings;
I will pay You my vows,
Which my lips have uttered
And my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble.
I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals,
With the sweet aroma of rams;
I will offer bulls with goats. Selah
a. I will go into Your house with burnt offerings: The psalmist determined to praise God by obeying His command regarding sacrifices, bringing them to the altar of God.
i. “By its very nature a burnt offering was more serious, signifying something like the complete dedication or consecration of himself to God by the worshipper.” (Boice)
b. I will pay You my vows: The psalmist had promised God certain sacrifices or gifts in gratitude for God’s work when he was in trouble. He would not sin by failing to bring these.
i. My vows: “Only let us never forget that when made, they must be fulfilled. The reason is not in God, but in us. To fail to keep faith with God is to suffer deterioration of character.” (Morgan)
c. Burnt sacrifices of fat animals, with sweet aroma of rams; I will offer bulls with goats: The psalmist would fulfill his vows to God with generous, expensive sacrifices, offering multiple animals. What he brought to God was of the best; they were fat animals.
i. “The qualifying animals the psalmist makes mention of are rams, bulls, and goats. The largess of the vow is unusual.” (VanGemeren)
2. (16-19) Praising God with words.
Come and hear, all you who fear God,
And I will declare what He has done for my soul.
I cried to Him with my mouth,
And He was extolled with my tongue.
If I regard iniquity in my heart,
The Lord will not hear.
But certainly God has heard me;
He has attended to the voice of my prayer.
a. Come and hear, all you who fear God: The vow of the psalmist was not fulfilled through sacrifice alone. He also had an obligation to proclaim God’s goodness, to declare what He has done for my soul. His actions spoke, but did not take away the need for his mouth to also speak.
i. “We may picture the scene of public worship, perhaps at Passover or at a victory celebration, in which the corporate praise gives way to the voice of this single worshipper, who stands with his gifts before the altar, and speaks of the God whose care is not only world- and nation-wide, but personal: I will tell what he has done for me.” (Kidner)
b. I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue: As the psalmist spoke to others about God’s goodness, he described how he spoke to God. He offered both the sacrifice of animals and the sacrifice of praise.
c. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear: No one should think that God could be persuaded merely through sacrifices or vows. It was important to make clear that the psalmist did not only sacrifice but also gave God the better: obedience. He did not hold on to iniquity in his heart.
i. “Iniquity; any sin whatsoever, and especially idolatry, which is oft expressed by this word, to which the Israelites were very prone, and to which they had most powerful temptations.” (Poole)
ii. “The prayer which is ‘heard,’ is the prayer of the penitent, heartily grieved and wearied with sin, hating and longing to be delivered from it.” (Horne)
d. Certainly God has heard me: When he cried out to God, God heard. He answered, giving more reasons to praise Him.
3. (20) The conclusion of praise.
Blessed be God,
Who has not turned away my prayer,
Nor His mercy from me!
a. Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer: We often take the privilege of prayer for granted. The psalmist understood how wonderful it was that God received his prayer, and how it made God more to be praised.
b. Nor His mercy from me: This was a final and wonderful reminder that the answer to prayer did not come from what the psalmist deserved, but as a gift from the great love and mercy [hesed] of God.
i. “The final word of gratitude is not for the answered request alone, but for what it signifies: an unbroken relationship with God.” (Kidner)
ii. Thomas Fuller (cited by Spurgeon) composed a syllogism from Psalm 66:19-20. It works something like this:
· If I regard iniquity in my heart, God will not hear my prayer.
· God has heard my prayer.
We would expect the next line to be, Therefore, there is no iniquity in my heart. Yet the psalmist completed the syllogism in an unexpected way, praising the mercy of God. “I looked that he should have clapped the crown on his own, and he puts it on God’s head. I will learn this excellent logic.” (Fuller)
iii. “This is the conclusion of David’s syllogism, in this and the two former verses; and herein his logic is better than Aristotle’s.” (Trapp)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org