I’ve been the Pastor of a small Presbyterian church in rural Kentucky for over a year now. In my time here, I’ve developed a lot of wonderful relationships with beloved saints, preached through Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians and most of Ecclesiastes, taken part in numerous other ministries through the church and in the community, etc. In other words, by God’s grace, I’ve done a lot of what would be expected of a Pastor.
But, unbeknownst to many of my people, I’ve also been doing something else – I’ve become over time a casual ornithologist; that is to say, I’ve been considering the sparrows, or, to be more precise, the mockingbirds.
Over the past year I have noted one generation of mockingbirds move on and a new generation take its place, literally, in the holly trees on our church grounds. And, this spring, I’ve watched as the baby mockingbirds of last year who have grown to adult mockingbirds, now have babies of their own. I do not have a wife and children of my own, and so, no real point of emotional reference; but I feel what I can only imagine is a kind of paternal tenderness towards the wee birds.
They are loud. This must be distinctly understood. Whenever I am in my study, doing that which becomes one in a study (i.e., studying), the shrill cry of the baby birds for food is nigh incessant; I’ve even gone to the foot of the tree on a couple of occasions to protest, but they only cease calling while I’m present. Once they begin again, I grudgingly remind myself that babies are babies, and I could sooner stop the tide than alter baby-ness.
Speaking of stopping the tides, that brings me to my point. In Psalm 65, David instructs us to open our eyes to the might of the God of our salvation!
By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy. (Psalm 65:5-8)
Our confidence that God will hear our prayers should be bolstered by recognizing that God is the God of all creation; He will answer us in ways that are both awesome (leading to reverent awe) and in accordance with His own righteousness. He is the God Who established the mountains in His might, and Who, by a Word, can still the roaring sea. Eyes that are opened to God’s wonders in the control of His creation are eyes that look confidently to God in prayer. Whether it is stilling the roaring of the seas (Matthew 8:26; Psalm 107:28-29), or humbling the tumult of the peoples (Isaiah 17:12-14), God is in complete and mighty control of His creation. Our confidence in prayer, then, is a confidence in God’s righteous might – and, as we see here, that might is expressed often in loud tones.
But, God’s might is also expressed in softer tones. Stilling a roaring sea is like a firework; it draws everyone’s attention. But, God’s might is at work in ways that we often overlook – gentle ways that are beautifully expressed by David in the following verses:
You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy. (Psalm 65:9-13)
Most people today don’t know where their food comes from; this is a sad reality that has been written about in detail by folks like Wendell Berry and many others. But, the agrarian society of Old Testament Israel would have known precisely where their food was grown, as they would have had a hand in planting and tending the crops, etc. What we see here in vv.9-13 is a thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest. They don’t thank a weather chart or their own leathery, work-worn hands, but God Who has given the growth!
It was God Who filled the channels with life-giving water for the crops. It was God Who sent the rains. It was God Who gave the bounty of the year’s harvest! I have always been struck by v.11: You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance. It’s like God has driven His cart through the land, and everywhere He goes He leaves behind life and growth! What a beautiful image! In His wagon tracks grow the grain and the flowers and the grass and all living vegetation. Everything He touches in blessing lives and sings for joy to have been touched by Him!
In the giving of a great harvest, we don’t see a mountain being established or a wave being stopped; indeed, we see very little at all, as it takes time for things to grow from a small seedling to a tree or a stalk. But, in that gentle, quiet growth, we may see the hand of God, and rejoice that in His kindness and grace, He provides for His creatures. And, seeing His gracious provision, we may be confident to come before Him in prayer, knowing that the God Who stills the waves and makes the grain grow is the God Who provides for our every need.
Our greatest need, indeed, is atonement for our sins – and God has graciously and wondrously provided what is necessary for this as well! David writes: When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions. (Psalm 65:3). David, of course, was writing from the perspective of one who was still under the ceremonial law; that is, he recognized that God had instituted the sacrificial system of the Jews in order that atonement might be made through the blood of the sacrifice. But, all of these sacrifices were only a shadow of the Sacrifice Who was to come – Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world. (John 1:29). Through His atoning sacrifice, to which all of the sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed, God provided in a special way the atonement for the transgression of His people. Thus, we who are in Christ, who trust in Him and His redemptive work alone for our salvation, are blessed because our sins are atoned for by His blood, and we have been chosen and brought near to dwell in the courts of our God! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple! (Psalm 65:4).
We come like baby mockingbirds confidently squalling for food from their mama. And our cries, the prayers of dependent babes to their mighty Father, arise from confidence that our God is able and willing to provide what is best for His children. Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed. O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come. (Psalm 65:1-2).