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NATURAL BLESSINGS
by Philip Owen

            The structure of Psalm 65 may strike us as inverted because it moves from the eternal plane to the temporal plane, from the immeasurably important spiritual realm to the relatively insignificant natural realm.  David begins the psalm by praising God for hearing prayer (v. 2).  He acknowledges that his “iniquities prevail against” him, but although his transgressions are many, God forgives them (v. 3), and graciously brings forgiven sinners into His temple to fellowship with Him (v. 4).  This seeming inversion, if you will, is underlined by the fact that the first part of the psalm (that which deals with the more important spiritual theme) comprises five verses whereas David devotes eight verses to praising God for His providence in the natural world.  The eleventh offers a representative example of this second section of the psalm:  “You have crowned the year with Your bounty, and Your paths drip with fatness.”

            “You have crowned the year with Your bounty,” David exalts.  The bountiful harvest that enables us to enjoy such luxury of choice and wealth of volume comes from the hand of a great and generous God.  God does not strictly ration our food; we are not as the homeless, scrounging in dumpsters, trash cans, and ditches for something to eat.  Far from being on a starvation diet, God’s people find their lives “crowned” (a term suggesting the wealth and privilege of royalty) with bounty (a term that emphasizes the abundance suggested by the verb crowned).  In a less grandiose vein, David had similarly observed:  “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread” (Psa. 37:25).

            “Your paths drip fatness.”  As Israel passed through the wilderness under God’s chastening hand following the path made by the cloud of God’s presence leading them, in His wake He left “fatness.”  Food they had for the taking, as much as they wanted of both manna and quail.  Not only did their clothes and shoes never wear out, they expanded as the children grew to adulthood.  And as they entered a land filled with cities they had not built, vineyards they had not pruned, and gardens they had not planted, all the manifestation of the Lord’s “fatness” dripping on them, even now God’s children often enjoy an embarrassment of riches.  And although it is certainly true that believers experience times of trials and testings, the Lord is gracious in providing for His own.

            Why this emphasis on merely natural things in this chapter?  The answer is speculative because God does not disclose the reason in this psalm, but the volume of Book suggests several possibilities.  First, God’s promises to Israel were emphatically (though certainly not exclusively) natural.  This psalm of David takes note of the fact that God has been faithful to the covenant He made with His people.  Second, it reminds believers by way of example that God is abundantly gracious, and that He wants us to recognize His goodness to us in every realm.  While God may call us to do without from time to time, when He does pour out His abundance on us, we are to thank Him and to remember that there is no correlation between poverty and spirituality.  He delights to give His children good gifts.  Third, the copiousness of the natural blessings we receive serves as palpable proof that the invisible spiritual and eternal blessings He has promised He surely will provide, too.

            In the last verse of the psalm, David paints a word picture of the natural creation, by virtue of its God-given abundance, praising God:  “The meadows are clothed with flocks and the valleys are covered with grain; they shout for joy, yes, they sing” (v. 13).  Despite the corruption that came from Adam’s fall, the beauty and abundance that God has manifested through His natural creation proclaim the praise of God.  Are we careful to recognize all that God has done and is doing for us?  Just as it is a sin to lust after the things of this world, so it is unholy to fail to acknowledge and appreciate the good natural gifts that the Lord pours out so generously on us.  And the fact that we should be focused on eternity does not suggest that we should ignore God’s grace however He chooses to manifest it in our lives.  We should “shout for joy, yes,” and “sing.”    

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