Do me a favor and please read Psalm 65.
This is a beautiful celebration psalm of joy. The thinking is that this may have been an annual song sung as a song of thanks for that first harvesting of crops (either at the beginning of the barley harvest or general harvest). What’s important to also understand is that the Israelites gave so much thanks for the harvest because they believed that a bountiful harvest was in direct response to their faithfulness in following God’s commands. That is, God blessed the harvest when they were good. It simply was God’s poured out blessings upon his people – and that’s the feeling we feel as we read this text.
For me, I write this as we are coming near to the first Sunday of Advent – a time of thankfulness, praise, and hope for the blessings of God are celebrated and proclaimed that Jesus Christ left his throne on high and entered into humanity as an infant child. That humanity, so “overwhelmed by sins” would be worthy enough for the Son of God to come and eventually “atone for our transgressions” is simply unimaginable. This whole psalm is drenching with the love of God and the work of Christ in our lives. I’ve already mentioned some within the first 3 verses but here are a few more:
- “Answering us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior” (vs 5)
- “…the hope of all the ends of the earth and the farthest seas” (vs 5)
- “who formed the mountains by your power” (vs 6)
- “who stilled the roaring seas (waves and turmoil of the nations) (vs 7)
- “calling forth songs of joy” (vs 8)
…and these are just the blatant ones that stick out!
And yet…AND YET…this whole text is simply about giving thanks for ALL things. For the land, the waters that flow and the waves that move as well as the rains that drench and the earth that soaks it all up. With all that said this simply becomes an “all-encompassing” psalm of joy. Joy that is found in the givings of God upon the earth (that directly gives blessings to the people) but also the joy found in the fact that blessings come upon the people because God forgives. For us, as Christians – we immediately see this as Christ because he is our all-encompassing joy for the love, grace, hope and peace that solely found in his name.
What’s really interesting (for me at least) is that when you look at this psalm and you look at additional texts (the New Testament ones) that speak of the theme here nearly all of them are NOT Advent themed but Lenten. Which means that I may or may not be influenced by the time of the season that is upon us. HOWEVER…we cannot have Lent without Advent – nor can we have Advent without Lent. And right there is where I am challenged.
The “hope” and “joy” of Christ must be fully realized as both in life and death.
And I think that there is my challenge as I come into this Advent season because I do not want to overwhelm the joy of birth with the pain and thankfulness of death. So where is that balance? I honestly do not know because all the feelings I have in the hope and joy of the birth of Christ are also present in the death of Christ – which is odd and yet completely understandable. Again, one has to occur for the other to occur as well. Both are needed, both are imperative, an both invoke many of the same feelings and yet those feelings have completely different feelings too.
I find that interesting and challenging. How can “joy” be joyful and yet also sad? How can hope be both an elation and conviction? How can peace be peaceful in times of happiness and thankfulness and yet humility and sorrow also find its place in our peace? I honestly don’t know but those are just a few of the emotions that overcome us – and not only during those two seasons but also all seasons of OUR lives.
This psalm of praise and hope from David is one that elicits an emotion that simply befalls us every day of our lives. And just as we praise God in the birth of his Son as our Savior we also praise God in the death of that very same Son as our Savior as well. And that thankfulness and joy and hope and pain is messy – as is the rest of the emotions in our lives. And I think that’s OK because there have been times when sadness was with me during Advent due to the death of a family member…and I know that sadness will wash upon me again as others come in and out of our lives. And that’s natural, that’s expected, and it’s definitely OK because God’s love doesn’t simply come for 2 “seasons” of our lives – but it’s a love that wraps us up before we were born and well after we die and enter into new life.