December 14, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Psalm 65:5-8
By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,
O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas.
By your strength you established the mountains;
you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples.
Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs;
you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.
Psalm 65 proclaims that God is “the hope of all the ends of the earth.” Even “the farthest seas” hope in God. God’s power and goodness, revealed through the natural world God created, inspire us to hope. In this season of Advent, we look forward to joining with all creation in celebrating the fact that our Lord has come and will come again.
Today’s devotion is part of the series: Advent in the Psalms.
Psalm 65 begins with what appears to be truth reserved for the chosen people of Israel. Verse 1 reads, “Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion.” True worship happens in the holy city with its holy temple filled with holy people. Their worship is a response to God’s gracious actions: “When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions. Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts” (Psalm 65:3-4).
Given the way this psalm begins, we might expect the psalm writer to add something like, “You are the hope of Israel, your chosen people.” But that’s not what the writer says. Rather, in verse 5 we read, “By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.” Did you catch that? God is not the hope of Israel only. Rather, God is the hope of “all the ends of the earth.” Nothing on earth – no person, no city, no nation – is excluded from hoping in God.
What gives the psalmist such a broad and inclusive vision of hope? We find an answer in the verses that come after verse 5: “By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might. You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples. Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs; you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy” (Psalm 65:6-8). God is the hope of the whole earth and everything in it because God created the whole earth and everything in it. Creation reveals God’s unmatched power and exceptional goodness.
Of course, when the psalm writer says “you are the hope of all the ends of the earth” he does not mean that every being on earth actually hopes in God. Many people choose not to acknowledge God or to put their hope in God. In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul explains that many have chosen not to honor God even though God’s nature can be seen in creation: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). Similarly, the point of Psalm 65 is not that all people in fact hope in God, but rather that they should do so and can do so if they reflect on the glory of creation.
In Psalm 65, the natural world inspires the world to hope. In Psalm 98, the natural world celebrates the coming of the Lord: “Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy in the presence of the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity” (98:7-9).
With this stirring picture of creation extolling the coming of the Lord, Psalm 98 belongs to our Advent worship. Yet this psalm has for centuries inspired Christmas worship as well. Early in the eighteenth century, the English hymn writer Isaac Watts wrote the lyrics of a hymn based on Psalm 98. Watts wrote with the awareness that the Lord had already come among us in Jesus. So he penned these beloved words:
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let Earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n, and nature sing.
In this season of Advent, may we join the natural world as we hope for the coming of the Lord. And when Christmas dawns, may we join with heaven and nature as we celebrate the fact that the Lord has come and will one day come again.
When you think of the natural world giving praise to God, what comes to mind? What images? What places? What expressions?
How might your experience of the natural world help you to hope in God?
Use your Spirit-inspired imagination to picture all creation giving praise to the Lord as he comes among us once again.
Gracious God, as I reflect upon the wonder of your creation, I am reminded of your power, your goodness, and your grace. Thank you for creating me with the capacity to delight in the natural world and the ability to praise you for the glory of your creation.
As I reflect upon the world you have made in this season of Advent, may my hope be ignited once again.
And as I celebrate the coming of the Lord at Christmas, may I join with all creation in singing, “Joy to the world! the Lord is come . . . And heav’n and nature sing!” Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Hillsides Blossom with Joy.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.