Sadly, most of the people that lived in the late 1930s and 1940s are passing away in great numbers. Where history books and other documents can describe what happened in those decades, the personal memories and emotions are being lost.
For most today, December 7, 1941, is simply a date when the Japanese navy bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. But for the people that lived through that event, it became a watershed event in their lives. For the first time since the war of 1812, a military power had attacked the United States! The emotions of the nation were a combination of shock, horror, fear, anger, and a desire for vengeance.
From that date through the first part of 1945, the nation mobilized and slowly pushed back the evil menace of Germany, Italy, and Japan. On September 2, 1945, the final Axis nation, Japan, surrendered. As people hear the news, the outburst of joy and enthusiasm was beyond imagination. The war was over! The nation had been saved!
Psalm 66 describes a similar sense of joy over the rescue from some deadly enemy. The psalmist wrote in verses 1-4, “Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious. Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works! Because of the greatness of Your power Your enemies will give feigned obedience to You. All the earth will worship You, and will sing praises to You; they will sing praises to Your name.’ Selah.”
There is no clear indication of what event was being celebrating, but many commentators believe that it was a song of joy over the deliverance of Judah from the Assyrian army of Sennacherib as described in 2 Kings 19. The city of Jerusalem was surrounded by the most successful and brutal army of that time. The northern kingdom of Israel had already fallen, and it looked like it would soon be Jerusalem’s turn. But then, through the power of God, the Assyrian Army was destroyed by the Angel of the Lord and they were saved! One can only imagine the joy and celebration of the people. At that moment, many saw and believed in the power of God.
In verses 5-6, the writer also looked back on two other great events in the history of the Israelites, “Come and see the works of God, who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men. He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot; there let us rejoice in Him!” The parting of the Red Sea and the crossing of the Jordan River on dry land were two significant events. For the writer, what had happened for him and the people was equally significant.
If any statement should both reassure and warn it is verse 7, “He rules by His might forever; His eyes keep watch on the nations; let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah.” The Psalmist may have been pointing to the defeat of Judah’s enemy, but history has shown that any nation or empire that opposes God will suffer the consequences of their folly.
Greece, Rome, the invading hordes from Central Asia, the Axis powers of World War II, the atheistic might of the Soviet Union, and so many others are gone. But nations today can suffer the same fate if they turn from God. Today, many people are fearful of the rise of radical Islam; but God keeps His eyes on ALL people and ALL nations, and the rebellious will be judged.
But for those that love and serve the Lord, the Psalmist wrote: “Who keeps us in life and does not allow our feet to slip.” Individuals can avoid so much suffering, anguish, and trouble simply by following God’s directions in His written word. The teaching in the New Testament gives the Good News for the future, but that teaching is the blue print for living a good, meaning life. To know joy, inner peace, a reason for life is a treasure that many search for and never find, because they refuse to study and apply the principles found in God’s Word.
In verses 13-20, the Psalm turns to the personal thoughts and actions of the writer. He had shared in the joyous celebration of the people, and his writing reflected the victory that God had given them, but now his thoughts were more reflective. “I shall come into Your house with burnt offerings; I shall pay You my vows, which my lips uttered and my mouth spoke when I was in distress……. Come and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell of what He has done for my soul.”
Yes, the people had been saved. Yes, there was celebration. Yes, the people were grateful… for the moment, but it would soon change. But, for the writer, and other faithful, the events and gratitude was much deeper. God’s actions were not a reassurance that God was there, as an affirmation of God’s power and love.
Today, Christians should not be looking for “signs” to prop up their faith. That is no faith at all. Instead, Christians should rejoice because the victory has already happened! Death has been defeated! God is in control, and through His Son, Jesus Christ, the hope and opportunity to be joined to the Living God is there. As the Psalmist declared, “But certainly God has heard; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer nor His loving kindness from me.