A Christian might turn to the Psalms for several reasons. First, we think of the Psalms as a means of private devotion. These poems, as they are collected in the Bible, were the hymn book of the Second Temple and thus originally used in formal, corporate worship. But today they are often read by individual Christians in connection with private prayer as we face the challenges of life on this earth. Thus, in the Psalms, we may find comfort; we may find emotions that we identify with – frustration, disappointment, grief, happiness, joy.
But the Psalms may not be the first book of the Bible we think of when we think of theology.
But in today’s lesson, in this little, thirteen-verse Psalm about midway through the book, we might find plenty.
At first glance, this Psalm may seem rather generic. It begins, like many other Psalms, with an expression of praise. The Psalmist goes on to praise God for His many gifts to mankind and ends the Psalm with a poetic, almost romantic, description of the land and God’s role in bringing forth its bounty.
But on closer examination we find a remarkable thing. This Psalm, written perhaps a thousand years before the birth of Jesus Christ, is chock full of the Gospel.
I. Like in the Gospel, this Psalm makes clear that God’s revelation of himself is not limited to Israel, but extends to and is aimed at the entire world.
First of all, this Psalm makes clear that God is not merely the God of Israel; he is God over all the Earth, over all of creation. Moreover, Israel does not have the experience of God all to itself: “To you all flesh shall come.” (verse 3) The God of Israel is “the hope of all the ends of the Earth.” (verse 5) And those who dwell at the ends of the earth (the nations, the gentiles) have some intimation, intuition or knowledge or anticipation of Him as they are “in awe of [His] signs.” (verse 8)
We see much of the same thought in Paul’s writing:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him . . .
Romans 1: 18-21
II. Just as in the Gospel, this Psalm makes clear that salvation is of God.
Paul writes to the Ephesians:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2: 8-9)
We know this verse to have been the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation some 1400 years after Paul wrote it. But did we know that a Psalmist, writing a thousand years before Paul, had said much the same thing.
In Psalm 65 we hear that
You [God] atone for our transgressions. (verse 3)
The Hebrew word that is here translated “atone” is the word “kaphar.” A form of that word is used in Deuteronomy 32: 43 “ . . . he [God] will make atonement for his land and people”
Although the verb “kaphar” is translated as “forgiveness” in some translations, the idea in the original may connote something more active than forgiveness. As the notes in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance say of the verb:
It is conceived that God in His sovereignty may himself provide an atonement or covering for men and their sins which could not be provided by men.
If that is not a statement of the Gospel, I don’t know what is.
More on this Psalm as it is developed in class . . .