Series: Psalms for the Summer
God's Bounty for Us
September 03, 2023 | Peter Rowan
Passage: Psalms 65:1-13
School is upon us. That means Fall is right around the corner. The beginning of school and the beginning of fall present us with dueling thoughts and emotions. We are presented with the hope of a new year and the bounty of produce, but also the limitations of all that is demanded of us. We know that so much of our fear and our sin that comes out of that place of fear is connected to the idea of scarcity. Will we have what it takes to raise our kids well? Will we be able to be present to others? Will God provide? Psalm 65 is widely considered one of the great creation and harvest hymns. It tells us again and again of God's Bounty. And it isn't just his bounty that is held up in heaven is some heavenly safe, but it is here and for us. Psalm 65 tells us of his bounty in redemption, in creation and in preservation.
One of the great movies of my childhood was the movie Hook. We watched most of it as a family just last night. And there is a scene in that movie that demonstrates keenly some of what we have before us in this Psalm, Psalm 65.
But before we get to that scene, I want to tell you of a different scene.
Maybe you know the movie. It’s about Peter Pan, but Peter has actually grown up. He has children of his own, but he is a workaholic, largely absent father and if anything marks him it is that he is grown up and not remotely like a child. Captain Hook somehow comes from Never Never Land into our world and he steal Peter Pan’s kids, Jack and Maggie because, he wants revenge and he wants to have the battle of the century again Peter Pan. Well, Peter with the aid of Tinker gets to Neverland and there he makes his way to Hooks ship to back his children. But he is now afraid of hight and cloning to the mast and the rigging. And hook says, “See, I don’t understand. Why doesn’t he fly? It is not Peter Pan?” “It’s Peter Pan alright, Captain, He’s just been away from Neverland so long, his mind’s been junktified. He’s forgotten everything.”
Here’s something that happens to us. We grow up and we live in a world where sin and scarcity are the order of the day. We live in a world where we have been sinned against and we have been the sinners. And we live in a world where we are doing everything we can to get the grants (there are only so many awarded) and we compete for the job (because there are only so many openings) and win the bid (there is only so much work out there) and get tenure (because we could loose our job) and all of the rest. We live in this world long enough that what often marks us is not the childlike wonder of grace and goodness and possibility and wonder, but instead we have been marked so deeply by the wounds others have inflicted on us and the wounding we have done to others. And we wonder if we will ever fly again, to have freedom to really sore into this world. I mean, this is our reality. Us here who have gathered together, for many of us we wonder if we are welcome here because we have been treated and we treat ourselves as if we are used goods. We wonder if we should come into a place like this because we are treated by our spouse based on the way we have sinned against them and if they treat us that way, won’t others and the Lord? We come in here often burdened down with the weight of our week. We didn’t have it in our tank to parent well and right at the beginning of the school year when parenting is just a little more demanding. And some of us are coming in here with some really significant financial burdens. It’s hard to come and listen and sing and engage with all of the bills that keep coming and keep coming and the hours and hours you have to keep putting in at work and you just never seem to get ahead.
So a lot of us maybe just stop coming or we come to God here and there - we aren’t worthy, we are bogged down by the weight of our sin and the demands of our world. And a few things happen. Our spiritual muscles atrophy, we actually get a little weaker. We get out of the good habit of worship and we start worshipping other things. The habits of grace move into habits of consumption and greed and gossip and grudge-holding and all of the rest. And we start to atrophy back into defining ourselves by our sin and defining our existence in the world by scarcity which tends towards greed and idolatry.
And so we are called back and each week here in this place you hear, “My grace is sufficient for you.” “Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more.” “He saved us not because of works, but because of his mercy.” “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleans us from all unrighteousness.” “Though your sins we are scarlet, you are white as snow.” “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.”
There is a scene a little farther into the movie of Hook where the lost boys aren’t even recognizing Peter and the little boy comes over to Peter while Peter is on his knees and he takes off Peter’s glasses and he starts massaging his face and looking for him and as he does so he eventually says, “Oh there you are, Peter.”
We’ve been away from Eden where God’s bounty for us was just overflowing and his love for us so great that when we did the one thing he told us not to do he ran after us and called us out “Where are you?!” that we need to be called back again and again to his presence where we see his bounty for us.
Ok, Psalm 65. Psalm 65 is a beauty Psalm. I mean, many consider it there greatest harvest Psalm that there is and maybe just one of the greatest poems about the bounty of harvest that there is.
But Psalm 65 had a context and most agree that that context would have been the gathering together of God’s people around Jerusalem and in the Temple to celebrate one of the great pilgrimage feasts - The Day of Atonement - and then one of the great festal weeks, Feast of Booths. These would have happened in the fall (late September, early October) and they would have happened together, the Feast of Booths happening after the Day of Atonement. It’s the coming together of God’s people for confession of sin and assurance of their forgiveness and then feasting for a week together. This combination of God’s bounty in grace and his bounty in his Redemption and God’s bounty in his preservation.
Ok. So let’s consider these:
MP 1: God’s Bounty of Grace for Us
1 Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
and to you shall vows be performed.
(We have come together to worship you! We’ve made the pilgrimage to Zion, to Jerusalem. We’ve come to worship.)
2 O you who hear prayer,
to you shall all flesh come.
Israelite worship was never just to be nationalist worship. It was about all flesh coming.
3 When iniquities prevail against me,
you atone for our transgressions.
4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
the holiness of your temple!
Ok, here’s what’s going on. Throughout the Bible sin separates us from God. In fact, it’s always good to remember that this is just how sin works. If you sin against your friend, it’s is pretty much impossible to have a close friendship until that sin has been dealt with, until it has been confessed and forgiven, until repair has been brought to the rupture that the sin caused.
What we are made for and what our hearts want is to be close to God, to be brought near to him, to dwell with this, to be near him and in his house. That’s what verse 4 is saying. But in order for that closeness with God to happen, sin has to be dealt with. Atonement has to happen. Something needs to die. And really, again, remember that this isn’t far from our experiences. For healing to happen in our own relationships, somebody needs to be humble and to confess and in a way die to their god of self. And so the flaming swords were placed in front of Eden. You couldn’t get close unless you died. And the Day of Atonement was a day when Israel would gather together and there would be two goats. The high priest, initially Aaron, Moses’ brother, would - as the representative of Israel - place his hands upon the head of one of the goats and the goat would be freed to in a sense “take the sin of the people away from the community” out from the city into the wilderness. Aaron would place his hands upon the second goat and it would be killed and offered up as a sacrifice to the Lord again picturing how our sin is taken away, it is atoned for. And in this act of taking away the sin and of paying for the sin with the life of another, God’s people would be brought near.
Here’s what you need to hear though, God’s has always been overflowing with grace. He is always making a way for us to be close to him. Our sin is never the main thing, but his grace is. Even in the garden long ago, God wanted to be close and in the festivals of the Old Testament epoch God was always finding a way to be gracious and to bring his people close.
But I hope you are all hearing the echos of Jesus. Jesus is both goats. He’s the one who brings the sins of the people out from the community out of the city, but he is also the one who hangs there on the cross and atones for our sin. All of you sin has been placed on him. And unlike the Day of Atonement that happened year after year, Jesus said “it is finished”. He work on the cross accomplished it all perfectly.
God’s bounty of grace is for us.
God’s people had a taste of it back then, but it overflows for us in Jesus.
Friends, this means that your sin does not define you. It doesn’t. It is not what is most true of you, rather it has been removed from you and it has been paid for in Jesus.
God’s bounty of grace is for us.
MP 2: God’s Bounty of Redemption for Us
5 By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;
6 the one who by his strength established the mountains,
being girded with might;
7 who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples,
8 so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.
The second stanza here harkens back to Israel’s redemption for slavery in Egypt. After the Day of Atonement, God’s people were to celebrate the Feast of Booths. The Feast of booths was also know as “Tabernalces” or “Tents”, the Hebrew is “Sukkot”). This was a whole week long where God’s people would make tents and they would live in them. It was like a long campout. And they did this specifically to remember how God was with them in their journey out from Egypt and through the Wilderness.
What happened when God’s people were brought out of slavery is that it was evident to all people that the God of their redemption was the God of creation. He parts the red see, he makes water to flow from a rock, he gives manna to come down from heaven in the wilderness.
Now, you probably know that there was temptation towards grumbling when God’s people were in those tents in the wilderness after they were brought out of Egypt. They forgot at times who God was and their hearts desires the things of Egypt.
But when they gathered together each year for this weeklong campout they were saying, “No, our God is the true God who’s bounty for us was seen in our redemption. He parted the red see and he provided for us in our wilderness wanderings.”
Brothers and Sisters, Psalm 65 is telling us that God’s bounty of grace is for us, it’s also telling us that his bounty of Redemption is for us. It’s also telling us . . .
MP 3: God’s Bounty of Preservation for Us.
9 You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it.
10 You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
11 You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
It’s kind of wild, but the feast of booths was the time when you were not supposed to be stingy. No stinginess allowed. No, this wasn’t camping with just frees-dried foods. No, this feast happened at the end of the harvest season. Pumpkins everywhere. Pumpkin spiced lattes for everyone! Cornucopias spilling forth! Beaujolais Nouveau flowing from every glass. And for 7 days straight. It’s like our Maundy Thursday meal and our Thanksgiving meal together for 7 days in a row!
Even the tents weren’t supposed to be some sparse tent. Listen (Lev 23:40-41): 40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. 41 You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year.
Friends, we come together week in and week out and we do certain things. We hear God’s invitation to come near to him. We confess our sins and we hear his bounteous words of forgiveness. We praise him as the only true God of the world who loves us and redeems us. We hear him instruct us from his word and tells us how he has redeemed us. And we dine at his table. That dining might seem small. Small bread, little wine. But all of this tells us of the bounty of God! All of it does. The bread and the wine tell us that he gives us everything! Everything!
God’s people in the Old Testament needed to rehears this story of God’s bounty for them. We do too. We need to rehears the story of God’s Bounty for Us. It is for us, but sometimes we just live in the constant reality of out sin and a world of scarcity. That wasn’t the world God made and it isn’t the world he is remaking and it is only as you get that that you will really begin to live as you were made to live.
If you have seen Hook, you might know that the turning point in Peter Pan realizing who he is happens around a table. But at first he can’t see any of the food. The Lost Boys are laying all of these large platters on the huge table and they are reaching out and grabbing it and eating and he can’t see any of it. He’s watching them in complete disbelief. And as he watches his heart is changed. And he takes a spoon that is totally empty as he seems it, and it pulls is back and fires it and Ruffio gets splattered with red and blue and green whipped cream. All of the sudden the table is overflowing and there is feasting and laughing and joy and his life at that moment is changed.
God’s Bounty is for you. It’s for me. His grace overflows like an apple pie that has been stuffed to the brim with apples and cinnamon and sugar and placed in that hot over to boil over.
His Bounty of Redemption is for you. He’s the God who made it all and he gives to you his redemption like pumpkin patches out at Strites market where you are totally confused on which one to pick because there just so many.
His Bounty of Provision for you is perfect. He will provide. The God of heaven and earth is your father who did not spare his own son. He’ll give you all things necessary.
And as you live into this bounty, you will be changed. Grace will overflow through you. You will become generous and free. And life with spring forth more life.
Every summer Peter and an occasional guest speaker take us through the Psalms. Of the Psalms Luther said " the Psalter is a book of all the saints, and everyone, whatever his situation may be, finds psalms and words in it that fit his situation and apply to his case so exactly that it seems they were put in this way only for his sake..."