Criticism or Gratitude? Why is it easier to express words of criticism compared to expressing thanks and gratitude? Maybe it is part of being human. Maybe it is because we are too focused on ourselves? I am not sure, but I know that I need to practice gratitude more frequently. I need to take time to express works of thanks and gratitude to others. When I do express thanks and gratitude it makes others feel appreciated and valued and it helps me.
The lack of thanksgiving and gratitude is not limited in our relationship with others, but can also carry over to giving thanks to God. Maybe because we take God’s goodness and grace for granted? Maybe we are just too busy to take time to thank God for God’s forgiveness, deliverance of sin, and his daily provisions?
In Psalm 65, the Psalmist reminds us of the importance of giving thanks and being grateful to a God who is our redeemer, creator, and provider. It is a helpful reminder in a world filled with self-absorption and self-gratification that thanksgiving and gratitude to God is an important part of being human.
This Psalm was probably used as a celebration of the harvest, or the first fruits at Passover, or for deliverance from famine. It would have been used to express gratitude and praise to God for his deliverance and provisions. In congregations today this Psalm is often used in services of harvest-time or during the America’s celebration of Thanksgiving.
The Psalm is the congregation’s song of joyful praise of God’s work and its benefits in three areas: It praises God as God of the temple (vv. 1-4); God of the world (vv. 5-8), and God of the earth (vv. 9-13).
First, Praise God of the Temple (vv.1-4): The opening verses suggest worshippers at the Temple celebrating God’s mercy and answer to prayer. Praise is given to the God of the temple because God is the one who answers prayers (v. 2) and forgives the sins of the guilty (v. 3). God’s holy temple is in Zion on which the congregation places their dependence and needs to God. God is present with them and is merciful to them. Happy are those whose dwelling in the temple courts in the midst of their worship (v. 4). It is through the sacrifices made by the priests that food was made available to the poor and needy.
The Psalmist reminds us that as we gather for worship to express thanks and gratitude to God for answered prayers, forgiveness of sins, and daily provisions of creation. In doing this it directs our attention away from ourselves and places the subject of our worship to God. It reminds us that we come to worship placing our dependency on God instead of ourselves. It gives focus and meaning to why we worship, and to whom we are worshipping.
Second, Praise God of the World (vv. 5-8). By the awesome deeds of God as the people’s salvation it provides hope to all the world (the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, v. 5). The Psalmist is illustrating that God is the ruler over the cosmos, ie. the mountains and the sea (v. 6-7), and that all of humanity are awed by his creative power (v. 8). God is to be praised because he provides hope to everyone. The emphasis on farthest bounds (v. 8) places praise in a universal context and breaks down any suggestion of nationalism. The worshippers are bound together with all peoples of the earth who rejoice at the world’s beauty.
The Psalmist reminds us that through God’s deliverance all people has hope and all peoples who worship God are awed by the beauty of the world.
Third, Praise God of the Earth (vv. 9-13). The worshippers express praise and gratitude to God as the cosmic farmer who provides provisions from the earth. This includes water that represents fertility (v. 9) that depends on rain. It is from rain that grain grows, pastures flourish, and meadows are filled with livestock (v. 12-13). God has power over fertility. This imagery may reflect the description of the Canaanite God of fertility, Baal. The Psalmist is reminding the worshippers that Yahweh is in control of all of the cosmos, including fertility. The Psalmist also uses imagery illustrating that God has made all of creation become as it was intended, which provides a glimpse of the final coming of God—the renewal of all of creation. It as if the earth is singing and giving praise to God, they shout and sing together for joy (v. 13). The psalm reminds us of our dependency on the good earth and to recognize that all of creation is in part of God’s creative work in the world. This imagery is a reminder to Christians today of the importance of God’s creation and why we should be good steward of creation.
Do we need to express more gratitude and thanksgiving to God? Yes, says the Psalmist! This joyful songs of thanksgiving is a reminds us that we should never cease to be give thanks to God because God answers prayers and forgives us of sin, is the cosmic ruler of the world, and reminds takes care of the earth. Thanks be to God!