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Nothing about this world comes as a surprise to God. He knows what is in the heart of man, and He knows what His Spirit can do to the dry earth of sinful disobedience. As we look around us, let us never forget that God has the situation (our situation) well in hand. He governs all things, our century included, and He does all things well.
“Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: And unto thee shall the vow be performed. O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come . . .” (Psalm 65:1-13).
Summary of the Text
This psalm divides nicely into three sections. The first deals with how God is to be approached (vv. 1- 4). The second records how God rises up in deliverance (vv. 5-8). And the last section bursts into a glorious harvest hymn (vv. 9-13). The occasion for this psalm appears to have been a fortuitous combination of a great victory in battle and a remarkably bountiful harvest. The vow will be fulfilled in Zion, which is where praise awaits (v. 1). God is the one who hears prayer, and all flesh comes before Him (v. 2). Iniquities rise up, but God purges them away (v. 3). Blessed is every man who is elect (v. 4). God answers prayer in terrible (i.e. awe-inspiring) ways (v. 5). He hoops the mountains around with His power (v. 6). He stills the waves (v. 7), which is a type for the nations of men. The people who dwell in the outlands are afraid of His tokens (v. 8). The earth is watered because God visits it, and this is how God enriches the world (v. 9). God softens the world with His showers (v. 10). He crowns the year with goodness, and fatness is the name of His game (v. 11). He makes the pastures lush (v. 12). The pastures are covered with flocks, and the valleys with corn (v. 13), and all of it sings.
Dealing with Sin
When we approach God honestly, the first thing we must reckon with is the fact that we are sinners. There are two things that must happen here. The first is the realization that iniquities prevail against us. The second is that God purges transgressions away. The first is conviction of sin, and the second is forgiveness. To have conviction without forgiveness is to live a life of despair. To have forgiveness without conviction is to coast along in cheap grace.
Iniquities rise and transgressions are purged. When this is not happening, it is usually because we want to be little lords of the definitions. We want to define sin ourselves, which gives us (we think) control of how deeply the conviction pierces, and how much the forgiveness takes away.
Whom He Causes
There is a whole course in theology to be found in verse 4. A particular kind of man is pronounced blessed. Who is blessed? That man is blessed if God chooses him. But God never chooses a man out of a crowd just to put a little x on him, showing that he has been chosen. God’s choice is not an end in itself. No, God’s choice of sinners is always directed toward a particular end. He chose us to be holy
and blameless (Eph. 1:4). God drafts us with a purpose in mind. There is a mission involved. It is the same here. He chooses this man in such a way as to enable him to dwell in His courts, and to be satisfied with the sufficiency and goodness of dwelling there. God gives the initial attraction (He causes the man to approach Him), and He gives the ongoing attractiveness of His own courts. He makes His own courts altogether lovely. Another way of saying this is that He gives conversion and He gives perseverance. God will complete what God has begun (Phil. 1:6).
God is the one who hears our prayers. That is how He is addressed at the very beginning of the psalm. All flesh comes before Him because He is the one who hears prayer (v. 2). This is the reason we come, but when He rises up and answers those prayers (in the way He loves to do), we are then startled and fall back. We pray earnestly for something and then say yikes when we get it. Those who dwell in the uttermost part of the earth are “afraid at His tokens” (v. 8). And earlier in the psalm it says that God answers our petitions “by terrible things” (v. 5). These terrible things are not horror story terrible, but rather awe-inspiring answers, numinous answers to prayer that will make our knees go loose.
The Coming Harvest
Where do we get all the flocks and the crops? The answer given here is that these are gifts from God. Without Him giving the gift of refreshing water, the earth would be desolate and brown. When He gives, He gives abundantly.
When we are struggling (with wealth, crops, profits, etc.), our unbelieving temptation is to think that it is because we have “run out.” We see this in the language of “conservation.” Let’s husband our resources carefully, we think, because we believe that the universe is a zero-sum game—anything we use will therefore be used up. But this is simply unbelief, and not prudence at all. Everything we use (under the blessing of God) is available for continued usefulness in the future, thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold. God created a universe that can bear fruit.
And these things are a type. Why are there evangelistic droughts? God’s people often think of evangelism the same way the conservationists think about coal, or water, or soil, or you name it. We think we serve a stingy, tight-fisted God. But read through this psalm again. God brings a blessed man into His courts, and God makes our paths drip fatness. This is the same God, and He has the same style —whether we are talking about the grain harvest at the time of Pentecost or the people harvest as the result of Pentecost. Look, Jesus said. The fields are white unto harvest (John 4:35). Pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out laborers (Luke 10:2).
This means that our evangelism ought not to be ecclesiastical subsistence farming. Why does our conservative theology, with its thick fertilizer manuals and high tech equipment and state of the art barn and shops, be growing what can only be called Third World corn? Something is wrong—but it not the stated desire of God.