By Rev Charles Seet
Preached at Life BPC 8am & 1045am Svc, 2014-01-05
In everything we do, it always pays tobegin well. As the well-known saying goes,“A good beginning is half the battle won.”And what better way to begin anything than to begin with God! By beginning eachdaywith our daily quiet time with God, we find the strength we need to face the day’s challenges. By beginning eachweekin God’s house, we are enriched by His Word which sustains us through the rest of the week. And likewise, by beginning eachyearwith God, we gain the right directions and priorities to see us successfully through the whole year.
As today is the first Sunday of 2014, we want to consider what it means to begin this year with God. What does God want us to do now as we begin the new year? What insights can we find in His Word which can help us to begin well? We shall find out, as we study Psalm 65. An important clue to the theme of this psalm is verse 11 which says,“Thoucrownestthe year with Thygoodness.”This reveals that the psalm 65 is a song of harvest blessing which King David composed in order to praise God for His goodness toward His people for the whole year. The word ‘crownest’ here means toencircle, just as a crown encircles the head. As there is no break in a circle, there is no break in the goodness of God toward His people for the whole year. His goodness towards us continues to be manifested every month of the year, every day and every hour. And therefore we enjoy living under His goodness at all times. Moses expressed a similar idea when he spoke about the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 11:12. He said that it is“A land which the LORD thy Godcareth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God arealwaysupon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.”
The point is this: If God cares so much for the Promised Land through each year without end, how much more will He care for us, the people He has purchased with His own life-blood! You may not be aware that you are living under God’s goodness even right now at this very moment, because the Bible says that“inHimwe live and move and have our being.”(Acts 17:28) The fact that you are able to sit there listening to this sermon being preached should make you realise that you are living under God’s goodness, because there are many people who wish they could do what you are doing now. The fact that your home is still intact and has not been damaged by typhoons or by bombshells is also a testimony of God’s goodness toward you. The fact that you are still alive right now is another evidence of God’s goodness toward you. These are only a sampling of the countless manifold blessings that God bestows upon you every moment of your life. The truth is: You benefit much more from God’s goodness than you think.
Those who have truly experienced His goodness is will exclaim, like King David,“O taste and see that the LORD is good.”(Psalm 34:8) So let us make it our fervent prayer this year that every one of us will learn to delight in the LORD’s goodness and be able to testify sincerely,“O taste and see that the LORD is good!”And to remind ourselves of this, we have made this our churchthemefor this year. The sermons you will receive throughout the first quarter will explore various aspects of God’s goodness.
Out of the many different aspects of God’s goodness, I would like to highlight two that are found in Psalm 65: God’sprovisionsfor us, and God’spresencewith us. And this will help you to see that in order to begin the year with God, you need to do two things. First, you need to…
I. Trust in His Abundant Provisions to Sustain Your Life (vv.9-13)
The provisions that God makes are described in verses 9-13. Here King David meditates on how God blesses the land with abundant harvests and with teeming flocks of sheep. These blessings are literally poured out in the form of rain that falls regularly and abundantly on the land.
We have been getting quite a lot of rain in recent weeks due to the northeast-monsoon. It is reported that this is one of the wettest monsoon seasons in recent years. This may be bad news to some of us, as we worry about flash-floods and about how the wet weather will affect our travel plans and spoil our outdoor activities. People complain about traffic jams caused by rain and about having to carry umbrellas just in case it starts to pour. But abundant rainfall actually brings a lot more pluses than minuses. It keeps our reservoirs full and our gardens green. It cleans the air we breathe and it cools our hot environment. There are really many benefits in every downpour.
But the most important one of all, is that the rains providewaterwhich is essential for life to exist. Imagine what would happen if there is no rain at all in Singapore and in all the countries around us: There would be no water to drink, no food to eat and no clothes to wear. Do you know how much water it takes to produce 1 kilo of rice? 2,500 liters (enough to fill 25 bath tubs)! The production of 1 kg of meat needs 16,000 liters of water, and 1 kg of cotton requires 10,000 liters. From such figures, it can be calculated that each person in Singapore needs about 2,000 tons of water a year in order to live in reasonable comfort, (This is called our ‘water footprint’. This is equal to the weight of 6 fully loaded MRT trains). Multiply this by the number of people living in Singapore, and you get 9 billion tons.That’s the amount needed to sustain our entire population every year – enough water to cover the entire surface area of Singapore 12 meters deep!
This means that to crown the year with His goodness just for our city-state alone, God has to provide 9 billion tons of clean water per year. How does He do that? Let us read v.9 of our psalm again –“Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water.”You may be wondering, “What is thisriver of Godwhich is full of water?” It is a river that flows not on land, but high up there in the sky. This river takes the form of clouds.Drawn up from the sea by solar energy, clouds are blown inland by strong winds. And although they appear to be fluffy and lighter than air, they carry huge amounts of water. An average rain cloud holds about 4,000 tons of water. When it rains, all that water falls to the ground within 30 minutes. This has the same effect as leaving 6,000 household taps running full blast for half an hour.
Let me ask you: Can anyone ever devise a more powerful and ingenious freshwater delivery system than this ‘river of God’? No. What makes this system even more amazing is the precise timing of delivery. David wrote this psalm in Israel where there are two rainy seasons a year, known as the former rain and the latter rain. The former rain comes in autumn just after the land has been ploughed and sown with seed. This is mentioned in v.10:“Thou waterest theridgesthereof abundantly: thou settlest thefurrowsthereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof.”The ridges and furrows mentioned here is the land after it has been ploughed for farming. After it is watered by the rain,the seeds that are sown in it spring to life and grow into little plants.
For the next five months they need sunlight rather than rain to develop into healthy plants. But when they start to produce grain, they need lots of water to fatten and ripen the grains before the harvest. And this abundant water comes from the latter rain which falls in spring time. But the latter rain cannot go on for too long, otherwise the soil will be waterlogged, destroying the crops and there will be no harvest. Hence, a good harvest can only result from the right timing and right duration of the latter rain. In verse 11 King David ascribes this timely provision to God’s goodness. He says,“Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness; and thy pathsdrop fatness.”
The imagery used here when he said,“Thy paths drop fatness”is that of God riding through the sky upon the clouds which are His chariots, and wherever He goes He leaves behind a trail of rain to fatten the grain in the farmlands. And what we see in the next verse is that this rain falls not only on the farmlands, but also on the wilderness and on the little hills. The wilderness needs rain to keep its sparse vegetation alive for the wild animals and birds to feed on, while the little hills need rain to provide green pastures for the flocks of sheep to graze on. God’s goodness sustains all His creatures. All animals, birds, plants and trees benefit from it. And the psalm ends in v.13 with the sound of joyful praise breaking forth from the flocks of sheep on the hills, and also from the fields of ripened grain in the valleys. If you want to hear the same sound of joyful praise, take a walk through the woods or nature reserve and listen to the singing of birds, the melodious strains of the cicadas and the rustling of leaves as the wind blows through the trees.
Who do they praise? Certainly not ‘mother nature’ or ‘mother earth’. Nature is not an entity in itself as some environmentalists like to think. Nature is merely the outcome of God’s unseen work in creation. God is the One who should receive all the praise for these bountiful provisions. He had promised Noah and all mankind that,“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”(Genesis 8:22).All these are the provisions God makes continually and actively to sustain life on this earth. In fact, we can see what anactiverole God plays in verses 9-11. Here David mentions what God does, no less than nine times:“Thou visitest… Thou greatly enrichest… Thou preparest… Thou hast so provided… Thou waterest… Thou settlest… Thou makest… Thou blessest… and Thou crownest.”Whatimpactshould this have on us now as we begin the New Year?
Well, if God shows such abundant goodness to His creatures as to provide for their needs throughout the year, then surely He will show thesame goodnessto us who are His dear children throughout this year. This means that we should put our trust in God’s provisions for all our physical needs. Our Lord Jesus said the very same thing in His sermon on the Mount. He said,“Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.Are ye not much better than they?...if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven,shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”(Matthew 6:26,30)
Perhaps some of you are worried about your health, or your finances, or your job situation, or your ability to survive all the stresses and strains that this year will bring. If such anxieties are troubling you now, please replace them at once with full trust in your heavenly Father who loves you and takes good care of you at all times. But what if things do not turn out the way you expect, and you have to suffer pain and loss? There is no need to worry or fear if these come because they are also part of God’s provision and are designed to bless you and not to break you. God’s goodness to His people is often revealed so much more in times of distress than in times of comfort. That is why Paul was able to say, “When I am weak then am I strong.”
Your life is meant for better things than just striving to exist comfortably in this present world. God has made you for Himself, and so your life is meant to be used for His glory and to enjoy His presence. This brings us now to the second thing you need to do to begin this year with God:
II. Dwell in His Awesome Presence to Satisfy Your Heart (vv.3-4)
A while ago we saw that God’s provision is enjoyed by all living things including the sheep on the hills and the crops in the valleys. But not all living things are able to enjoy God’spresence. This aspect of God’s goodness can only be enjoyed by creatures that bear the image of God. We human beings alone areableto have this privilege. However not everyone who has the image of God actually has this privilege. Why? Because it is exclusively reserved forthose whose sins are forgiven. This is stated in vv.3,4 of our psalm –“Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions,thou shalt purge them away.Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.”
God cannot allow any sin in His holy presence. The words ‘iniquities’ and ‘transgressions’ in v.3 both refer to sin. We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And the worst thing of all is that we are unable to withstand the power of sin in our lives. Sin has enslaved us. Iniquitiesprevailagainst us, and that’s why we are called sinners. King David, who wrote this psalm, knew how sin had prevailed in his own life. He yielded to temptation and committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then he tried to cover it up by using deception and murder. But the guilt of his sins was so great that he had no rest and no peace. He described his awful state in Psalm 32,“When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.”(Psalm 32:3,4) He was ‘spiritually dry.’ The sweet fellowship that David used to enjoy with God was gone! It was only after heconfessedhis sins to God and wasforgivenby God that peace was restored, and then he could be refreshed with God’s presence once again.
Dearly beloved, are there any sins in your life that you have not dealt with? Are there sins of commission like pride, lust or hypocrisy? Or sins of omission such as lack of love for God and for others? Are there sins that prevail against you and prevent you from really enjoying God’s presence? If there are, I urge you to deal with them right now. Why should you allow these sins to deprive you of all the blessings that God has in store for you this year? Confess them now with full repentance, and He will forgive you as He promised. David says in v.3 that God willpurgeour transgressions away. The word ‘purge’ here literally means‘provide atonement for.’No one but God can provide an atonement for our sins, and this He did by sending His beloved Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross. Will you come now to the Cross of Christ to have your sins purged away?
This call is especially meant for those who are not saved yet. If you have not known the blessedness of sins forgiven and of being reconciled to God, then you must come to Christ for salvation without any more delay. How long will you persist in your rebellion against God? He has been good enough to give you ample time to repent and be saved from sin and eternal death. But you have repeatedly resisted His calls to repent and to believe in Christ for salvation. God could easily have entered into judgment with you and sealed your condemnation by now. But out of the goodness of His heart, He has not done this yet to give you time to repent. Let this goodness of God lead you now to turn to Jesus Christ for salvation.
Now in John 6:37 Jesus says,“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”This means that your coming to Christ for salvation is itself a manifestation of God’s goodness to you. It shows that God has chosen you and is drawing you to Himself irresistibly so that you may dwell with Him and enjoy His presence forever. This is mentioned by David in v.4 of Psalm 65 –“Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts.”This goodness of God in choosing us and causing us to approach Him is absolutely necessary because sin had affected us severely. We were dead in sin! Without this goodness of God we would never come to Him of our own free will. And so if you have come to Christ for salvation, please thank God for His goodness to you.
And let us also thank God for the privilege that we now have as forgiven sinners to dwell in His courts and to besatisfiedwith the goodness of His house, as the rest of v.4 says. In Psalm 16:11 King David testified that in God’s presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand there are pleasures for evermore. This ought to be the experience of each and every child of God, since the Christian life not just a religion but a relationship – a lifelong relationship with the living God which begins at the moment we are saved.
And nothing can ever satisfy our hearts better than the fullness of joy that comes from having this close relationship with God. Have you been trying to find satisfaction in pursuing the world’s pleasures? Are you attracted by the many travel packages to exotic places? Are you fascinated by the many forms of fun and entertainment, fine dining and luxury items? These things are often advertised with the enticing slogan, ‘Satisfaction guaranteed.’ Is that really so? Don’t be fooled by this empty promise. Any satisfaction you can get out of them is superficial and transient. Nothing can really satisfy the human heart except God. It was Augustine who said,“Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and ourheartsarerestlessuntil they find their rest in Thee.”
This satisfying joy is also much better than being blessed with God’s abundant provisions which we saw earlier. God’s provision of food, water, health, clothes and shelter is good, but it merely sustains us, and it is needed only for our present life on earth. But the joy we have in God’s presence not only sustains us but satisfies us now and for all eternity! And the refreshment our souls gain from it is so much better and fuller than all the rain that God sends to refresh the earth each day. Besides that, God’s provisions bring life, but God’s presence bringsabundantlife! As Jesus said in John 10:10,“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”Let us therefore seek God’s presence more than God’s provisions.
This morning you have learned that to begin the year with God you need to trust in His abundant provisions to sustain your life. And more importantly you need to dwell in His awesome presence to satisfy your heart. So please begin the New Year by resolving to make the enjoyment of God’s presence your greatest priority. Look forward to the satisfaction you will receive each day as you read and meditate on God’s Word and pray, especially when you have your daily quiet time with God. Make full use of the divine privilege you have as a child of God to dwell in His courts and to be satisfied with His presence.
And when you have experienced the fullness of joy that comes from this, please don’t keep it all to yourself. Go and tell others about it. Share the goodness of God that you have experienced with your loved ones and friends. There is more than enough of it for everyone! Tell them how you discovered it by being reconciled to God through faith in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t let them miss the wonderful delights that you have found. Tell them right from the bottom of your heart,“You must taste and see that the LORD is really good! I have found it so.”
May the LORD help us to apply what we have just heard so that we may begin this year well with Him.