August 10, 2010 David Balzer

Psalm 66: My God is so BIG!!

Most of us probably have stories about famous people we’ve come across.

I remember a few years ago I walked past Heather Turland at Alex’s school fair. She won a Commonwealth Games gold medal in the womens’ marathon in Kuala Lumpur in 1998. She’s got four kids, and I think one of them went to PLC at the time.

She also used to do the ads for Nutella on TV.

I recognised her because I’d raced in the Sydney Half Marathon with her a few years previous. Mind you, I only saw her at the starting line, then from behind as she disappeared into the distance, and then calmly doing interviews at the finishing line when I finished about half an hour behind her.

That’s Heather Turland. Mother of four. Advertisements for Nutella. Sydney Half Marathon winner. Commonwealth Games gold medallist.

A pretty impressive lady!

That’s a list of her achievements. And I think the ORDER is significant. Most of us would probably list them the same way. (Mother of four. Advertisements for Nutella. Sydney Half Marathon winner. Commonwealth Games gold medallist.)

Moving from the LEAST exceptional to the MOST exceptional. Gloss over the more average bits, and build to the CLIMAX of the extraordinary bits. After all, there’s plenty of mums with four kids, quite a few who’ve done TV ads. But not too many who’ve won a Commonwealth Games gold medal!

But is that what Heather HERSELF would say? I remember an interview I heard her give. Someone asked her what her greatest achievement was. What was she most proud of?

And what do you think she said? Her proudest achievement was raising four beautiful, healthy, well-adjusted kids.

It was the relationship stuff she was most proud of. The day-in-day-out slog of raising children. Of instilling values and love and knowledge into them. Seeing them grow to independence. Seeing them respond with love.

That was her greatest achievement!

Heather Turland. Commonwealth Games gold medallist. (Yeah, yeah big deal! It’s only a lump of gold-coated metal!) Sydney Half marathon winner. (Ho- hum!) Advertiser of Nutella. (yeah, it’s bad for you anyway) MOTHER OF FOUR GREAT KIDS! (WOW!)

And it’s the same sort of back-to-front order in Psalm 66. A list of God’s impressive deeds. And a call for us to praise him. But the order builds from His care for the WHOLE WORLD right UP to his care for INDIVIDUALS.

(Q: Find the four sections – All the earth, all the nations, his people, me)

Verses 1-6 talk about God being King over ALL CREATION. Boss of everything. No limit to his power, or his influence.

Then verse 7 talks about him being King over the NATIONS. He’s not just tied up with keeping NATURE going. He’s interested in HUMAN affairs. The ones who are made in his image. Governments and kings are under his thumb.

But more than that. Zoom in A BIT CLOSER. Verses 8-12 talk about him being God over HIS PEOPLE. (Yeah, he’s in charge of ALL mankind). But he’s got a SPECIAL INTEREST in the group of people he’s chosen all for himself. Imagine that?! Being chosen by the God of the whole Universe?

But even more amazing than THAT. Zoom the microscope right in. Use the high power magnification. Verses 13-20 describe the God whose King over YOU. Who’s king over ME!

The truly amazing thing about God isn’t his power, or his wisdom, or his sovereignty. It’s that a God who’s infinitely powerful, wise, knowing and sovereign/ is interested in INDIVIDUALS. Interested enough in insignificant people like you and me to actually HEAR OUR PRAYERS!

And if we could interview God, and ask him “Which of these achievements are you most proud of?” I wonder whether he wouldn’t answer.

“Yeah, yeah. I love it when the oceans part at my word. And I love it when rebellious nations bow down. And I love it when I bring a group of my people out to safety. But I REALLY love it when one of my children. Someone Jesus died for. Someone who loves me, and trusts me. When they cry out in prayer to me. And I love answering their prayer. And I love hearing their praise.

That’s what God’s like. And that’s a great reason for us to praise him.

So let’s PRAISE him. Thank him. Honour him. Bless him. LOVE him. SERVE him. That’s the message from this Psalm.

My God is So Big, so strong and so mighty. MY God. There’s nothing MY God cannot do!

1. God- King over Creation (1-6)

Let’s look at the first section together. Verses 1 – 6. God is king OVER CREATION.

The message of v1 is that because God’s SO GREAT, nothing less than UNANIMOUS praise measures up. God deserves THE WHOLE EARTH to join in. Verses 1 and 2.

(Psa 66:1-2 NIV)  Shout with joy to God, all the earth! {2} Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!

It would be like a wonderful singer, or a fantastic orchestra/ performing their greatest work. Finishing the final note. Then looking out into the audience to find three people, 2 ushers, and a dog politely clapping.

They deserve much better. And it’s the same with God. Nothing less than THE WHOLE EARTH praising him is WORTHY of him.

*Sing up (1)

And if everyone IS joining in/ you better sing up LOUD to make yourself heard. SHOUT WITH JOY to God verse 1 says.

No polite, controlled, lukewarm response. Don’t worry about being embarrassed. Or ashamed. Let rip. Give God all you’ve got! Shout with joy.

The writer of the Psalm gives us a number of commands. And this is the first one. here in v1. SING UP!

*Measure up (2-3)

And the second one’s in the next verse. MEASURE UP.

Let me explain. Verse 2 says we’re to sing the GLORY OF HIS NAME. That means we’re to sing about how GLORIOUS God’s NAME, or his CHARACTER is.

Verse 3 talks about how awesome his DEEDS are. How they fill us with AWE. It’s what the word AWFUL used to mean. God’s deeds are awful.

Our praise is to focus on God’s CHARACTER, and his ACTIONS. How exceptional, special, magnificent, wonderful he is. And the PSALMS are an excellent RESOURCE to use. And an excellent EXAMPLE for us to follow.

If that’s how glorious GOD is, then our praise needs to be glorious as well. It needs to MEASURE UP. And so the second part of v2 says “Make his praise GLORIOUS”. Make the praise that you give God/ glorious as well. Glorious like HE is.

Make a good job of it. Make it SPECIAL. Make it EXCELLENT. Make it SKILLED. And MUSICAL. And HEART-FELT. And Joyous.

Don’t make it TRIVIAL, or HUMDRUM. Or Boring. Never make it PRETENTIOUS. Where people look more at YOU than at the God you’re praising. To do THAT is to short-change people. You’re not giving them their money’s worth is their focus is on YOU, rather than God. He’s MUCH more glorious, and deserves our praise much more than your musical brilliance.

It’s not enough for one person to praise him. Or one congregation. Or one NATION in one LANGUAGE. The measure of God’s glory will only be happen when the WHOLE EARTH sings his praise. See it there in v4?

(Psa 66:4 NIV)  All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name.”

So make your glorious praise/ MEASURE UP to how glorious God is. He DESERVES it.

Just a quick comment about that word at the end of verse 4. Selah. No one really knows what it means. But we think it’s a musical term meaning “pause”. It’s when the singers stop, and muso’s play for a while. It’s meant to get us to stop and think about what we’ve just sung. I think that’s a great idea.

Look at how it works here. One day all the earth’s going to bow down to You. Imagine THAT? Imagine how AWESOME that will be? What a day!

*Look back (5-6)

And then the words start again. Another command. Verse 5. “Come and see”. The writer calling us to LOOK BACK. Cast your mind back to what God’s done in THE PAST. Verse 5-6

(Psa 66:5-6 NIV)  Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf! {6} He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot– come, let us rejoice in him.

Our praise LOOKS BACK to the faithfulness and power of God. Back to the Exodus from Egypt. And crossing the Red Sea.

And notice the encouragement to SHARE in the rejoicing? “Come on, let’s REJOICE in him”. It’s much better to SHARE your joy. Whenever we get good news, we just want to SHARE IT, don’t we?

“Oh, you’ll never guess what happened to me today!”

Let me show you what I bought

You should have seen the sunset yesterday – it was gorgeous.

A birthday by yourself, or watching the State of Origin by yourself, isn’t even HALF as much fun as doing it with friends.

And how much more true is that of praising God. “Come on, rejoice in God with me! Isn’t he great!?”

What are you BUSTING to tell your brothers and sisters HERE about? What great things have you been learning about God that you CAN’T WAIT to share?

Sharing the praise makes it TWICE as joyful. And that’s why I love coming to church.

2. God – King over the nations (7)

But it’s not just IN CREATION that’s God’s in control. Verse 7 zooms in A BIT CLOSER. It points to his sovereignty OVER THE NATIONS. That’s the second section. Look at Verse 7.

(Psa 66:7 NIV)  He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations– let not the rebellious rise up against him. Selah

*Look around (7)

We tend to assume that it’s diplomats, and governments, and presidents, and dictators, and prime ministers who control things. But God’s eyes are watching the nations.

And so the Psalmist calls us to LOOK AROUND. Rest secure in the knowledge that things AREN’T out of control. That we’re NOT on a long slippery slope towards godless anarchy. God’s eyes are watching the nations.

So watch out.

Watch out greedy dictators who feather their own nests at the expense of their people. Watch out affluent first world countries.

Watch out that your pride doesn’t shut your eyes to the needs of refugees. Or the rights of others with different beliefs to you.

Our God is ALL POWERFUL. INfintiely PATIENT. And perfectly JUST. So WATCH OUT.

And the verse finishes with a SELAH. Pause and consider! Let not the rebellious rise up against him.

3. God – King over His people (8-12)

The third section is verses 8-12. God’s not just king over CREATION. He’s king over humanity. And he’s not just king over nations. He’s king over his OWN CHOSEN PEOPLE. Verse 8.

(Psa 66:8 NIV)  Praise OUR God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard;

Who’s he talking to? Anyone who follows his God. Praise OUR God. He’s King of the world. He’s ruler of nations. But he’s OUR God. He acts ON OUR BEHALF. He’s IN OUR CORNER. On OUR SIDE. Or perhaps more accurately we’re on HIS side.

And then in verse 9-12 we get reasons WHY we should praise him. We get to see HOW we’re on his side.

(Psa 66:9-12 NIV)  he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. {10} For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. {11} You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. {12} You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.

*Tested and delivered (10-12)

What’s God done? He’s tested us, and he’s delivered us. We went INTO the valley of the shadow of death. And we came out the other side.

These people are singing because they’ve been through TOUGH TIMES. But they’re not pointless, without a purpose. If there was no reason for tough times, it would be enough to BREAK you.

But tough times are in God’s control too. He’s king over tough times.

He’s using them to TEST his people. To REFINE them. To DISCIPLINE. It’s only a LOVING Father who disciplines his children. A BAD Father IGNORES his children. But God would never do that!

Prov 3:11-12 says

NIV)  My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, {12} because the LORD disciplines those he LOVES, as a father – the son he DELIGHTS in.

He shows he is King over tough times. Because tough times always finish up exactly where God was aiming. He brings about his plans DESPITE painful things happening to his people. Romans 8:28 gives us the wonderful promise –

(Rom 8:28 NIV)  And we know that in ALL things (good, bad, rich, poor, friends, lonely, pleasure or pain, sickness or health) GOD WORKS FOR THE GOOD of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

And that’s why we can say to each other “Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard”

4. God – King over me (13-20)

Let’s move onto the fourth point in this Psalm. The pinnacle of all the things that God is King over/ is that God is King over ME.

Most people with big responsibilities don’t take time for little people. Send a letter to the Queen, or the Prime Minister, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a standard reply from an Assistant Under-secretary.

But here’s what makes God so glorious – he’s interested in individuals. That’s what makes us THANKFUL.

Personally, I’m not thankful to the Queen. She hasn’t really done anything for ME. But if I was on death row, and she was able to give me a royal pardon, THEN I’d be thankful.

And it’s the same with God. It’s not his awesome majesty that makes us thankful. It’s the fact that he works his mighty power ON OUR BEHALF.

And so we offer him our thanks.

And what we offer him – even as individuals – is important to him. Look at v13. It’s one person talking.

(Psa 66:13-15 NIV)  I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to you– {14} vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble. {15} I will sacrifice fat animals to you and an offering of rams; I will offer bulls and goats. Selah

This one person is giving back to God because he’s been in trouble. And God’s brought him out.

This one person isn’t too small for God. His concerns and problems aren’t beneath God. And so this one person is grateful.

*Offer up! (15)

And look at how he responds. Verse 15

(Psa 66:15 NIV)  I will sacrifice FAT animals to you and an offering of RAMS; (AND) I will offer bulls AND goats. Selah

This is no token, second-best, “What’s the LEAST I can give back to God?” sort of sacrifice! It’s HEAPS. Maximum.

Three types of animals. Rams, bulls and goats. And fat ones too. The cream of the crop.

Selah. Pause and reflect. Is that the sort of offering we’re giving God!

Rom 12 talks about offering your BODIES as living sacrifices. Give Him Everything. Your words, your hands, your thoughts, your brain, your feet, your marriage, your sport, your friendships, your wallet, your eyes, your holidays, your career. Your ambitions, your dreams.

All the time. Wherever. Whenever. The cream of the crop. No second-best.

That’s why the writer’s telling us about his vow. To encourage us to follow his example. “Offer up!” he says.

*Listen up!

Now we’re building up to the finish. The climax. Why is this guy so keen to offer God everything? Verse 16.

(Psa 66:16 NIV)  Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.

Listen up he says.

I cried out. I was in trouble. And I turned to the only one who could do anything about it. But I didn’t just plead. I praised as well. The great God who controls the oceans, who keeps his eye on the nations, or disciplines his people. Show me your mercy. Deliver me.

And here’s the amazing thing. The thing no one else would have expected. God has surely listened. He’s heard MY voice! Who am I that God should listen to me? What have I done to deserve that?

And he tells us so that we’ll follow his example. Ask him. Praise him. Plead with him. He listens. And acts. And answers.

The person can hardly believe it! He finishes with one last praise. Verse 20.

(Psa 66:20 NIV)  Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!

Let’s use this Psalm as a blueprint for our praise of God. Let’s remind each other of who God is King over. Let’s shout it with joy. Let’s thank him for how glorious he is, and how glorious his deeds are. Let’s look back to the past. Let’s look forward to heaven. Let’s accept his discipline with joy. Let’s offer our whole lives. Let’s listen to other’s praise him, and let’s praise him ourselves.

My God is So Big, so strong and so mighty. There’s nothing my God cannot do!

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