What Do You See?
(8) Bless our God, O people. Let the sound of his praise be heard (9) who has kept our soul among the living and not allowed our feet to slip, (10) for you, God, have tested us. You have refined us as silver is refined. (11) You brought us into the net. You laid a crushing burden on our backs. (12) You caused men to ride over our heads. We went through fire and water. You brought us into (a place of) abundance. (13) I will come into your house with burnt offerings. I will pay you my vows (14) which my lips uttered and my mouth spoke when I was in distress. (15) Whole burnt offerings of fattened animals I will offer to you with the smoke (of the sacrifice) of rams. I will offer bulls with goats. (Selah)
Two repetitions help us determine the message of this segment. “Refined” appears twice along with the synonym “tested” (vs. 10). The expression, “burnt offerings,” is also found twice (vss. 13 & 15) along with a list of the fattened animals which the grateful psalmist intended to offer in praise to God: rams, bulls, and goats.
I. Summoning all to praise God (8 & 9)
II. Seeing that testing is God’s way of refining us (10-12)
III. Sacrificing offerings of praise in grateful worship (13-15)
When we view testings as God’s way of refining our spiritual lives, we will readily offer him grateful sacrifices of praises.
Martin Buxbaum, director of public relations for the Marriott Corporation for many years, was famous for his quotes and articles published in Table Talk, Marriott’s monthly house organ. Here is one example: “Some people, no matter how old they get, never lose their beauty – they merely move it from their faces into their hearts.” Here is another that is relevant to this portion of Psalm 66: “Two men looked out from prison bars...one saw mud, the other stars.” The issue here is, of course, perspective. What we actually see is determined by the way we look at something. And what we see will motivate us in what we do. If we look down to the earth, the ugliness of mud will fill our vision. If we look up, we will gaze upon the loveliness of the night sky.
While enduring difficulties, problems, opposition, and conflicts, our natural tendency is to focus on our muddy circumstances and to feel overwhelmed and discontent. However, if we can look beyond our immediate life situations to gain insight into what God is accomplishing, that is, refining our faith through what we are enduring, then we will be far better equipped to cope with the difficulties and discouragements that surround us.
In the case of Psalm 66, the psalmist readily turned to praise and adoration when he could see God’s hand in all that was happening in his life. And so can we if we take to heart the words of the Epistle of James: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of our faith develops perseverance. Perseverence must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (Jas. 1:2-4).