Psalm 66 continues naturally on from Psalm 65. Where Psalm 65 ends with the pastures of the wilderness overflowing, the hills girding themselves with joy, the meadows clothing themselves with flocks, the valleys shouting and singing together with joy — Psalm 66 opens with all the earth shouting for joy to God, singing the glory of His name, giving to Him glorious praise, saying to God how awesome His deeds are, declaring the greatness of His power, worshipping, praising His name.
As I have observed with Psalm 65, such adoration is rare amongst those bearing God’s image; and yet, the material earth does not even hesitate to praise Him. This sheds light on Jesus’ curse of the fig tree (c.f. Matthew 21; Mark 11), as it is not only a parable of the fruitless Israel, but also that all creation ought literally praise His name.
But of course, just as Psalm 65 ends with creation praising His name, Psalm 66’s opening is meant to serve as a platform to the central focus of the Psalm – that by observing the praise of creation, we are to also observe His awesome deeds toward the children of man. Here, the psalmist recounts the story of the exodus from Egypt, a theme that recurs throughout this second book of the Psalms. The rebellious exalt themselves just as in the times of the tower of Babylon, but He has never stopped being the Watcher for us (vv5-7).
So the opening verses of creation’s praise immediately applies to the Israelites at vv8-12, they who have been tested through thick and thin, through fire and water, through crushing burdens. Are these not the same trials that creation goes through, in its seasonal changes, that creation must die to give birth to new life? That creation undergoes torrents, storms, fiery abuse but also emerges as a strengthened and hardened beauty, like that of a refined diamond shining in the night?
But, unlike creation, our praise is not a simple song or an expression of verbal delight. Our praise comes with an additional requirement – that of a burnt offering (vv13-15), because we as arbiters of God’s creation have fallen; where the First Man fell, the Second Man rose again; the burnt offering is thus not a mere act of repentance, but an act of praise and celebration. We can praise Him because we are not shackled by our sin; we can delight in Him because we are not burdened with unrighteousness; we can sing songs to Him because we look to the true eternal burnt offering found in the Lamb who saves us from our sins (c.f. John 1:29).
That’s why the psalmist doesn’t mere sing about what God has done for Israel during the grand exodus. That’s why the psalmist doesn’t just stop at the burnt offering. That’s why the psalmist moves on to v16 — “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what He has done for my soul“. What has He done? He has utterly renewed it, transformed it, by the power of the Holy Spirit! Here is a man who has aligned himself to God’s image, to Christ, so that he too (like creation) praises without abandon! A man of such praise cannot cherish iniquity in his heart, because iniquity is far from his desires — his desire is pure and he only wants Jesus alone!
Brothers and sisters, let us too spend time in Selah and ponder how we approach His throne without reproach; how we approach His throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). Our confidence lies not in ourselves – no, such rebellion, even an inkling of it, would mean that the Lord would not even listen to our cries. The Lord, however, is not to be impressed by he who worships the loudest; He looks favourably on he who recognises that he has the weakest and most pitiful voice – the one who is poor in spirit – and he is the one who shall be exalted by the eternal burnt offering.