Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled. You who answered prayer, to you all people will come. When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgive our transgressions. Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple.
You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sees, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations. The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.
You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.
This devotional is published the week after Canadian Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving celebrations often involve a feast. In our family, everyone contributes some portion to the table. This year, my mom did the turkey; our family did the scalloped potatoes and Brussel sprouts; my brother did appetizers and dessert. My 8-year-old son played outside with his neighborhood friends all day. When he finally came home at 4:30 to sit down at the feast, he looked at the spread and exclaimed, “Whoa, where did all this food come from?!”
From his limited perspective, the food just appeared and he got to choose which portion to eat first. He didn't see any of the many hours of working behind the scenes that went into preparing for that moment of joy.
Psalm 65 is a Thanksgiving Psalm to a God who is visibly at work in the world. And yet, whether it is because of our limited perspective or because we are so easily overwhelmed with the many ordinary struggles of life, we often don't have the eyes of faith to see God at work in the world. Something we might easily take for granted. Even the things we think belong to our agency are, in fact, God at work in us and through us. From the great powerful displays of raging storms in the rainy season (vs. 9-10) to roaring seas and the formation of majestic mountains (vs. 6-7), “The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders...” (vs. 8) The seeming mundanity of meteorological activity is actually the majesty of God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, on display for all to see: “You crown the year with your bounty...” (vs. 11) – even if humanity have closed our eyes to this truth (Rom. 1:20-22).
For those whose eyes and hearts are opened to this truth, the same reality of God at work is present: we are forgiven when we don’t deserve it (vs. 3), God answers the prayers we raise up (vs. 2), and we give him praise in our worship (vs. 1) – even when it looks outwardly like we choose God, the greater truth behind the veil is that he choose us and he brings us near to live with him and he fills us with his Spirit to live as his temple (vs. 4; John 6:44; 15:16; 1 Cor. 6:19). The words of the 19th English hymn by poet Jean Ingelow come to my mind: “I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew / He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me; / it was not I that found, O Savior true; / no, I was found of Thee.”
Even when we think it is our initiative, the truth is, God was working first, drawing us to himself. Without the singular act of God no one would come to him – that God so acts is all the reason we need to give him praise and to offer our thanksgiving. And yet, even though that’s the only reason we need to praise God – that’s not the only reason he gives us! “You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior…” (vs. 5) God answer s the prayers of his people! “You care for the land and water it…” (vs. 9a) God cares for his creation – and not just with a minimal sustenance, but “you enrich it abundantly.” (vs. 9b)
I love to cook and I love to eat good food. God could have just given us lentils – a super rich in nutrients legume, but bland in taste; but he also gave us curry spices. God could have just given us soybeans and we could have learned to process that into tofu – soy is a very high-quality protein that is proven to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease, stroke, coronary heart disease, even some cancers, and improves bone health. But he has also given us salmon and eggs to make hollandaise sauce for on top. Wheat and grains are good for breads; beer and whiskey are meant for friends (in moderation, in the right company, and always with wisdom ). I think that food and feasting with friends is an example of the super-abundant grace of God – more than simply sustenance, God gives for our joy and pleasure; which is only added to when we give him the glory for all the good gifts of enjoying and worshiping God (cf. Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A 1).
Whether at a thanksgiving feast, an ordinary daily feast, or the feast of the Lord’s Table, let us have the eyes to see that God is at work for our joy. And remember, a feast isn’t determined by the quantity (or even quality – though that helps) of the food, a feast is determined by the hearts of those around the table. As part of our Thanksgiving Liturgy at Langley Immanuel this past Sunday we declared together:
Leader: Take joy, little flock. Take joy, thankful people. Let the battle be joined!
People: Let the battle be joined! We give thanks in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! Amen.
Seeing God a little more clearly this week, let’s join the battle joyfully and with thanksgiving!
Dearest Lord Jesus, we give you thanks for who you are and what you have done for us. Father God, we praise your name for your rich blessings to us. Holy Spirit, you’ve invited us to the feast, carry now in the presence of our God together in worship and with joy! In Jesus’ name, Amen!