These notes are based on the NASB text.
What is the background of Psalm 66?
The writer of the psalm is not mentioned. Some believe that David probably wrote this psalm. Psalm 66 is a beautiful psalm of praise.
66:1 Shout joyfully to God, all the earth;
66:2 Sing the glory of His name;
Make His praise glorious.
66:3 Say to God, “How awesome are Thy works!
Because of the greatness of Thy power
Thine enemies will give feigned obedience to Thee.
66:4 All the earth will worship Thee,
And will sing praises to Thee;
They will sing praises to Thy name.” [Selah]
This Psalm, like Psalm 100, begins with a call for all the earth to praise God. The psalmist’s joy is more than he can contain. He thus calls upon the whole earth to rejoice and praise the Lord with him. Notice the number of imperatives in the opening verses of this psalm: “Shout,” “Sing,” “Make,” and “Say.” Our shouts of praise and singing should be offered as an expression of gratitude rather than out of a sense of duty. The psalmist called upon the people to praise God for His awesome works and strength. Even God’s enemies must acknowledge and submit to His strength and power.
Practical Consideration: Praise is a privilege and a pleasure to those who love God.
The psalmist’s shouts of praise and singing flowed from a heart filled with gratitude. He did not praise God out of a cold sense of duty or obligation. Praise for him was both a privilege and a pleasure. He delighted in praising God.
66:5 Come and see the works of God,
Who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men.
66:6 He turned the sea into dry land;
They passed through the river on foot;
There let us rejoice in Him!
66:7 He rules by His might forever;
His eyes keep watch on the nations;
Let not the rebellious exalt themselves. [Selah]
The psalmist called upon his readers to “Come and see the works of God,” for they are ever present. He also recalled God’s deliverance through the Exodus (see Exodus 14:10-31), certainly one of the “awesome” works of God mentioned in verse 3. The background of verse 6a, “He turned the sea into dry land,” is found in Exodus 14:21. The background of verse 6b, “They passed through the [Jordan] river on foot,” is found in Joshua 3:16. The psalmist also declared that God is watching the activities of nations and warned the rebellious to not exalt themselves. The fact that “His eyes keep watch on the nations” should serve as an incentive to nations to keep evil in check.
Practical Consideration: God’s works should have an impact on men and nations.
God’s works should have an impact on both men and nations. God’s works had an influence on the life of the psalmist. They excited awe and inspired him to have confidence in God. God’s works should have an impact upon nations. The fact that He is watching the activities of nations should serve to keep rebellion against Him in check.
66:8 Bless our God, O peoples,
And sound His praise abroad,
66:9 Who keeps us in life,
And does not allow our feet to slip.
66:10 For Thou hast tried us, O God;
Thou hast refined us as silver is refined.
66:11 Thou didst bring us into the net;
Thou didst lay an oppressive burden upon our loins.
66:12 Thou didst make men ride over our heads;
We went through fire and through water;
Yet Thou didst bring us out into a place of abundance.
These verses recall the trials of the nation in some period of affliction and how God refined them through that experience (see also Job 23:10 regarding how God used trials in Job’s life). God permitted (notice the use of “Thou”) and used the experience to refine His people and then brought them out “into a place of abundance.”
Practical Consideration: God uses affliction to refine us.
The psalmist testified that God refined His people in the furnace of affliction. Someone noted, “Affliction is the great discoverer that unmasks us.” And indeed affliction shows what we are made of. Affliction either makes us bitter or better.
66:13 I shall come into Thy house with burnt offerings;
I shall pay Thee my vows,
66:14 Which my lips uttered
And my mouth spoke when I was in distress.
66:15 I shall offer to Thee burnt offerings of fat beasts,
With the smoke of rams;
I shall make an offering of bulls with male goats. [Selah]
Beginning in verse 13, the psalm takes on a more personal nature (notice the use of personal pronouns). Many people eagerly make vows to God in times of distress and then forget to fulfill them when the crisis is gone and calm returns. The psalmist however, looked forward to the day when he would be able to pay the vows he made while in distress. He determined to express his gratitude through many offerings: “fat beasts,” “rams,” “bulls,” and “male goats.” The psalmist went beyond the scope of the prescribed offerings and offered more as an expression of his enthusiastic and grateful devotion. He offered the very best to God.
Practical Consideration: We should pay what we vow.
Many people make vows to God in foxholes and in the heat of trouble. Many of those, however, forget to pay their vows when the crisis is over and all is well. Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 warns, “When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it, for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.”
66:16 Come and hear, all who fear God,
And I will tell of what He has done for my soul.
66:17 I cried to Him with my mouth,
And He was extolled with my tongue.
66:18 If I regard wickedness in my heart,
The Lord will not hear;
66:19 But certainly God has heard;
He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.
66:20 Blessed be God,
Who has not turned away my prayer,
Nor His lovingkindness from me.
These verses express the gratitude of the psalmist for God’s goodness. He invited the congregation to “Come and hear” his testimony regarding the goodness of God. Verse 18 defines the major reason for unanswered prayer. The psalmist acknowledged that if he had regarded wickedness in his heart, the Lord would not have heard his prayer. Such was not the case, however, for the Lord had indeed heard his prayer. But, “If I regard wickedness in my heart,” hearing is just one of the things that God will not do. One could also say, for example, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not bless me.”
Practical Consideration: We should testify of God’s goodness.
The psalmist invited others to “Come and see” (verse 5) and “Come and hear” (verse 16). He was anxious for others to see and hear about the greatness of God and the wonderful things He had done on behalf of the nation and himself. We too, should invite others to see and hear about the greatness of our God and the things He does on our behalf.