GOD’S BLESSINGS AND BOUNTY

“The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it”.

Ps 65:9 NIV

The whole of humanity depends on nature. And in particular we are all dependent on rain. In some parts of the world rain is a nuisance and people complain that it stops some of their many activities. But farmers know that they need it. And a fertile farming district is nothing unless the rains come in the right quantity and at the right time. Sometimes they do. But not always.

Israel is a hot country bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The sun is so strong that it soon withers the crops if the rains don’t come. So the psalmist was keenly aware of the society in which he lived – and its need of water. His faith told him that the streams and rivers of Israel were all provided by God. He knew that the life-giving wa- ter also was a gift of God’s loving provision for his people. The psalm breathes an atmosphere of faith and gratitude for fertility, water and an abundant harvest. But its focus is on the God who is behind it all. It glories in the rich harvest, rejoices in the healthy grain which provided the flour with which the people were fed, and exulted in the God whose overarching providence brought life, health and wealth.

It is a lesson and model for Christians today. Whilst we caution ourselves not to get too carried away because of the widespread poverty, hunger and destitution we still need to keep our consciousness tuned to the God whose goodness overflows to us every day. And we need also to make every effort to eradicate the poverty and hunger which is all around us.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, share your bounty with all your children.

CARING FOR THE LAND

“You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly”.

Ps 65:9 NIV

In the present day it is common cause that humankind is taking nature for granted and is wasting the earth’s resources. There are frequent reports of industrial processes that pollute rivers, lands and the air. Public opinion is often marshalled to protest about new mining ventures and other dangers that could devastate the countryside and damage human activity. Some of these movements are scare stories. Some are valid concerns. Few people seem to be aware of the renewing properties of nature itself. But the psalmist, two and a half thousand years ago, knew that God himself cared for his creation and watered it. This watering process not only provoked natural growth. It tended to cleanse the earth and the atmosphere from some of the dangerous pollutants.

The message of the Bible in this regard is important. Despite the doubtful actions of some human processes and the exploitative greed of others, God is still the Lord of creation. He is still the great provider of food, water, plants and animals that nurture and sustain human life and human flourishing. People ignore this because they disregard God altogether. They think that only human activities run the planet and that is nonsense. Beyond and behind it all is the quiet, unseen, but supremely creative work of the one who made it in the first place.

Christian disciples should rejoice in God’s creation and bend every effort to work with God in caring for the land, watering it and enriching it. The abundance comes from him. We should enjoy it, do all we can to enhance that abundance, preserve it with wisdom and restraint, and regard it all as a wonderful gift from God.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, prompt us all to care for and enrich the earth.

WHERE MORNING DAWNS

“Where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy”.

Ps 65:8 NIV

Every day of our lives we witness a miracle that all the scientists in the world have not yet been able to reverse or replicate. Each day the sun (as we wrongly describe it) rises in the east and sets in the west. Of course it doesn’t. The earth revolves on its axis and we come into the light the sun gives for a few hours. When you stop and think, the whole of humanity gears its life and work to fit in with this strange rotation – as constant, dependable and reliable as anything in the world can ever be. And it never stops! It never slows down! It never speeds up either. It never turns round and goes the other way! How ridiculous even to mention such a possibility.

And somehow, somewhere at the heart of it all there beats the pulsating love of a God who thought of it all, set it all in motion and keeps it all going – in order to sustain human life and “make it all work”. And for a moment or two in our grubby little lives we pause to sing songs of joy, to adore the hand that holds on to it all, and to think of the God whose mighty actions result in it all – in the words of the song, “And I say to myself, ‘What a wonderful world’”. Maybe what we should be saying when morning dawns and evening fades is “How wonderful human life is and what a privilege to live on this planet and to sing praise to this God and his Son Jesus Christ. What a wonderful God!”.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord thank you for this amazing world and my little place in it.

AWE

“The whole world stands in awe of the great things you have done”.

Ps 65:8 GNB

The wonders of nature are truly spectacular. In Israel, rising high above the general view there towers Mount Lebanon in the north. Over 9000ft high, it catches your eye. Its shape is symmetrical and for large parts of the year its summit is capped with snow. It used to be called “the grey-haired mountain”. Its snows sparkle in the sun. From its slopes waters flow down to form rivers, eventually becoming the River Jordan, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. It is a major source of the natural phenomena that sustain life in Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Since the formation of the state of Israel modern engineering has canalised its waters in order to irrigate large parts of Israel. Its presence is so dominating that it “commands” the whole of northern Israel and Lebanon. It was regarded as one of the great works of God in creation. No doubt the psalmist was thinking of Mount Hermon when he spoke of “the whole world standing in awe of the great things God had done”. That mountain alone is enough to evoke awe in anyone. There were, of course other features that had a similar effect.

God is still understood and worshipped as the one who created the sun, moon and stars, mountains, rivers and the whole of nature. People still stand in awe of the many created phenomena and of how they all seem to work together in intricate ways to sustain human life. And Jesus related to nature and spoke of its different features, indicating his own role in transforming human life within the Kingdom of God.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help me to hold your creation in awe.

ORDER

“(You) stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations”.

Ps 65:7 NIV

It is never easy to analyse accurately and interpret what is going on in the world. At one time there appears to be progress, peace and a certain measure of prosperity. Then, within a short space of time terrorists are attacking in numerous places, war is either breaking out or looks like doing and the whole world appears to be in a shambles. Economically things change from the good to the better and then to an utter mess in no time. And the rich get richer whilst many of the poor get poorer although some who are poor do get richer too.

It is instructive to notice how the Bible pictures the world. Before creation happened “the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Gen 1:2 NIV). This is usually summed up in the one word “Chaos”. Into the chaos God brought order and for ever after these are the two alternatives – chaos or order. They vie with one another and much of the Bible is about the conflict between chaos and order. The story of Jesus stilling the storm on Galilee sets God and order versus chaos. The psalmist depicts God stilling the roaring of the seas and calming the waves. Always water, storms and the sea are a threat to order. In rejoicing in God one of the actions the psalmist attributes to God is that of doing “awesome and righteous deeds”. Imposing order is one of those deeds. And Christ brings order and peace into human lives. Is there order and peace in yours?

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, bring order into my disorder, I pray.

CREATION

“(You) formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength”.

Ps 65:6 NIV

Creation is one of the great themes of the Bible. Creation is more than a story about how it all began. It is an assertion about the primacy of God. God was and is before all. In this day and age of human invention and ingenuity, of staggering achievements and marvellous advances, it is salutary to pause and consider the primacy of God. This God is dominant over nature and is prior to nature.

It is a moving experience to visit the great Aswan Dam in Egypt. This wall holds back the Nile River, one of the longest rivers in the world. The dam wall is a kilometre wide (not long) at its base. It is 3.8 kilometres long at the top. The lake it holds back is 500 kilometres long. That’s an amazing man-made structure. But the water in that huge lake is a natural phenomenon – part of God’s creation. It’s a marvellous example of man harnessing the powers of nature.

Underlying all of human existence and development is the planet and wider world that God created. And the Book of Revelation envisages, at the end of time, “a new heaven and a new earth” – God’s final act of creation. In the Bible the idea of re-creation goes along with that of creation. It sees creation as an ongoing act of God – for man’s use and benefit. It also sees creation as a component part of the glory of God – in creation he manifests his glory. We do well to respect God’s creation, thank him constantly for it and to preserve it for coming generations.

PRAYER THOUGHT
I thank you Lord for the wonder and glory of your creation.

UNIVERSAL GOD

“God our Saviour, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas”.

Ps 65:5 NIV

The God who blessed, guided and saved the people of the Bible was a force who was active in creation, in history and will be active at the end of time. The life he planned for his people was one that meant salvation. Salvation was – knowing God. The experience of being banished into exile in Babylon in 586 B.C., humiliating as it was, had a very beneficial effect on the Israelites’ understanding of God. They found that he was still active even in that far away country! This was a remarkable discovery. God, their God, was not confined to their native territory. In fact, he was the God of all the earth, so other people as well as themselves could hope in him also. This had a profound long-term effect. God was not local and domestic, he was universal.

When Jesus came he lived, taught, healed and related to people in Israel only. But when he had ascended the Holy Spirit made him an “Everywhere God”. The apostles could go out and declare Jesus to be the light of the world, not of Israel only. It was a new gospel for all humanity, a new way of life and salvation for the whole world. Which meant to offer hope for the future and the love of God for the present to people everywhere.

The task of getting that message to the whole world is ongoing. It challenges every generation anew. It is being re-thought and re-interpreted with every new age. The task is never-ending as every new generation of people experience God anew. And we never know when it will end.

PRAYER THOUGHT
Lord, help us to re-tell the gospel in our day and age.

ACTION GOD

“You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds”.

Ps 65:5 NIV

Some years ago now a new hero was inaugurated in this world that hungered for drama and for wonders. He was “Superman” and had more abilities than any human being could ever have had. Later on he was followed by “Action Man”, and when we want to indicate a person who “gets things done” we refer to him as “Action Man” (or “Action Girl”).

Once the children of Israel were rescued from slavery in Egypt God then took on the form of an “Action God”. The Israelites knew that the stone, wood and metal images of the gods of the surrounding nations were anything but “action gods”. They were “stone dead” and could never DO anything. So, the supreme characteristic that distinguished Israel’s God from all others was that he was alive and got things done. The psalmist described this God as doing “awesome and righteous deeds”.

When Jesus came he too did “awesome and righteous deeds”. He was “Action God” who became “Action Man” as well. He healed the sick, turned water into wine, fed the multitudes, stilled the storm, raised the dead and spoke like he knew the “Action God” intimately.

God is never a “principle”. He is always a living person, alive, active, busy, moving mountains, imposing order on the world of chaos, disorder and trouble. He is calling his people to serve him, to join him in his work of restoring law and order. He “rests not day nor night”. When he decides that time has run its course he will come in person and establish peace, justice, love and wholeness. Till then he will work through his human agents, sometimes dramatically bursting on the human scene, sometimes unobtrusively doing it.

PRAYER THOUGHT
Lord, thank you for all your deeds and actions.

FILLED WITH GOOD THINGS

“We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple”.

Ps 65:4 NIV

Many people wonder what benefits are likely to come their way. If they give their lives to Christ what will he do for them? Some have a ready answer, “You will be successful” getting on in the world. Others have an even more interesting answer: “You will become prosperous – in fact the more money you give the more God will bless you with increasing wealth”. But many have discovered that the latter “blessing” does not always materialise and they question the truth of the claim. Some suspicious disciples see a hidden motive on the part of ministers who teach that prosperity comes to those who give generously – they suspect the minister is looking for an increase in his pay-cheque!

The psalmist had a different kind of hunger. In the temple in Jerusalem there were sacrificial meals in which some parts of the animal were given to the members of the congregation, turning it into a feast for all who attended. No doubt these sacrifices were very popular for, in addition to giving them food, the experience of eating together brought them closer to one another. It fostered fellowship and increased the feeling of unity in the community. In the New Testament the communion services were similarly more like proper meals and represented experiences of eating together. They were cherished by the community also for the sense of unity they fostered.

Most teachers today would say that seeking God is his own reward and not any material blessing that might accrue. Deepen your faith in Jesus not for what you might get out of it, but for the closer walk with Christ that will ensue.

PRAYER THOUGHT
Lord, thank you for all the good things that have come my way.

HIS CHOICE

“Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts”.

Ps 65:4 NIV

One of our common problems in relation to our faith is the tendency to which we all succumb to think that faith is something we do, an experience we get, an option we choose when we could, if we preferred, choose some other way of life. This was very evident in the heyday of the charismatic renewal when people were wanting to know, “Have you got the Holy Spirit yet?” In fact, nobody ever “got” the Holy Spirit at all. It was the opposite way round – the Holy Spirit “got” them. In all our dealings with God he is the one who initiates in the relationship. We only respond to him and his approach.

Here the psalmist envisages the original call by God to Abraham when, out of all the nations of the earth God chose the Israelites to be his special people and they responded positively. But he called them as a people, not as individuals, and they responded as a people, corporately. We think of it all as individuals – as if God chooses those individuals who believe. The picture in the New Testament is much more an individual idea – as Jesus came to this one and that one on their own and blessed them, called them to serve him, and used them. You became a believer or a disciple on the basis of your faith, not because you belonged to this nation or that.

Know, then, that you respond to God. You don’t commandeer him, nor his grace. He comes to you. He calls you. He appoints you your place in his kingdom and selects you to serve him in whatever way he chooses. Will you respond to him?

PRAYER THOUGHT
Lord, prompt me to respond to your call.