Saturday, August 3, 2013

Notes on the Psalms – Psalm 66

Psalm 66 shows us how to praise God, how to offer Him the worship and love that He deserves. There are numerous ways, according to the psalmist, who is not identified in the inscription but could very well be King David. The psalmist begins by calling “all the earth” to praise God (verse 1). Worship of the one true God is not limited to the Israelites but must be extended to all the nations on earth. 

Ways to Praise

1. “Make a joyful noise to God” (verse 1). This is a loud cry, a noise that breaks out of a person's very soul, expressing the joy he or she finds in God. 

2. “...sing the glory of His Name” (verse 2). The Name of God is more than a word that people use to identify Him. His Name refers to His character, His honor, and His authority. We can praise Him by singing of Who God is in Himself, of His Name, which is glorious.

3. “...give to Him glorious praise” (verse 2). The praise we give to God should be glorious, splendid, weighty, and meaningful. We must praise from the heart.

4. Identify God's awesome deeds (verse 3). We can praise God by remembering what He has done for His people and acknowledging His power. Recalling God's past deeds and reflecting on His majesty help us to know God better and to hope for the future, trusting that God does not change and will continue to do awesome things. 

5. Acknowledge the responsibility to praise (verse 4). We can praise God by telling Him that He is worthy of the praises of the whole world. 

6. Tell the story of salvation history (verses 5-6). The psalmist recalls how God “turned the sea into dry land” and how the Israelites “passed through the river on foot.” He is remembering two separate events here, the parting of the Red Sea during the Exodus and the Israelite crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land. This shorthand version of history invites deep reflection on how God loves His people.

7. Rejoice in God's reign (verses 6-7). God is in control. He sees all. He will not let evil win.

8. Bless God (verse 8). Kneel before Him in humility and adore Him.

9. Thank God for His blessings (verse 9). God preserves our lives and keeps us on the right path if only we listen to Him. Offer Him gratitude for that.

10. Acknowledge that God sometimes gives us trials in order to test us and strengthen us (verses 10-12). Our difficulties and suffering happen for a reason. God allows them because we grow from them.

11. Be grateful that God rescues us from our trials and brings us into a “spacious place” (verse 12). After our struggles, if we remain faithful, we will receive an abundant reward.

12. Bring offerings to God (verses 13-15). For the psalmist, this meant burnt offerings of animals. For Christians, this means our whole lives. We offer to God everything we have and everything we are, all our possessions, our hopes and dreams, our emotions, our loved ones, our work and leisure, our whole lives, our whole selves, body and soul. Most of all, though, we offer the Son, Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, to His Father in the Eucharist. He is our greatest offering, for He has given Himself for us. The sacrifice of the Cross is re-presented at every Mass that we may participate in this greatest offering and apply it to our lives.

13. “I will pay You my vows...” (verse 13). When we make promises to God, we must keep them. The greatest promise we have ever made was at our baptism, when through the sacrament, we received God's indwelling presence and became members of His family. We entered into a covenant, a bond of self-giving love, with God when we took our baptismal vows (or if we were infants, when our parents took those vows for us and accepted the responsibility to raise us accordingly). We praise God when we live that covenant in every aspect of our lives.

14. Witness to God's action in your life (verses 16-19). Tell of the wonderful things He has done for you. Don't be afraid to speak up and talk to people about God.

15. Fear God (verse 16). Recognize that God is all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing, and all-beautiful, that He is so far above us that our minds can never fully understand Him. Show Him appropriate reverence.

16. Pray (verse 17). Cry out to God with any need or desire, any joy or sorrow. 

17. Do not cherish iniquity in the heart (verse 18). Don't cling to sin. Repent, confess, and let go. 

18. Be confident that God will hear and respond to prayer (verse 19). God listens to us always. He hears the deepest longings of our hearts. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He will always answer us. 

19. Remember God's “steadfast love” (verse 20). God loves you. Never, ever forget that.

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