Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise!
Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
All the earth worships you
and sings praises to you;
they sing praises to your name.’
–Psalm 66:1-4 (ESV)
Psalm 66 fits a variety of occasions. It’s clearly a song of praise, as seen in v. 4. It’s also a psalm of thanksgiving (vv. 13-15). And at the same time, it contains elements of history and lamentation. In summary, the reason the psalmist exhorts all the earth to “shout for joy to God” is his preservation and deliverance of his saints through many troubles.
Another fascinating characteristic of Psalm 66 is the overlap between God’s mighty deeds for the entire nation of Israel (vv. 8-12) and his acts for the individual soul (vv. 16-20). This psalm wonderfully illustrates the individual believer’s membership in the Church, the collective body of Christ. The Lord’s deliverance of his people as a whole profoundly impacts each Christian, and the individual, like the psalmist, can call on the church to praise God with him for specific blessings.
Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
I cried to him with my mouth,
and high praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
But truly God has listened;
he has attended to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God,
because he has not rejected my prayer
or removed his steadfast love from me!
The blue Psalter Hymnal includes three praiseworthy settings of Psalm 66.
118, “All Lands, to God in Joyful Sounds”
Slightly archaic but textually accurate, “All Lands, to God in Joyful Sounds” is a fine psalm setting. It treats only verses 1-7; the versification is continued with number 119. The only potential drawback for number 118 is its challenging tune, MILES’ LANE, sometimes used with the words of “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” Even the tune is probably salvageable if the key is dropped to A-flat or A (to avoid the high F in the last line), but an alternate such as AZMON (#383) or CORONATION (#488) could easily be used.
119, “O All Ye Peoples, Bless Our God”
While number 119 is not entirely literal, some of its poetry is simply glorious. This is one of my favorite metrical psalm texts because of its emphasis on the grateful reaction of the redeemed soul—“Here in Thy house I give to Thee/The life that Thou dost bless.” The repetition of the first four lines at the end of the final verse also imparts an excellent sense of continuity and conclusion:
O let the Lord, our gracious God,
Forever blessed be,
Who has not turned my prayer from Him,
Nor yet His grace from me.
O all ye peoples, bless our God,
Aloud proclaim His praise,
Who safely holds our soul in life,
And stedfast makes our ways.
As if a solid text weren’t enough, “O All Ye Peoples, Bless Our God” also possesses a unique and beautiful tune, ANCYRA. Simply put, it fits the words like a glove. Even a small congregation should be able to pick up this tune with ease!
120, “Come, All Ye People, Bless Our God”
Psalter Hymnal number 120 rides the line between versification and paraphrase, as evidenced by the fact that the URCNA Songbook Committee placed it in the proposed hymn section of the new Psalter Hymnal back in 2010. (More recent reports seem to indicate that if this song is included, it will be moved back to the psalm section.) Although it only treats vv. 8-10 and 13-20, I believe it is a worthwhile and valuable selection for its emphasis on the Lord who, “though our faith He oft has proved,/Upholds us in the strife.” Charles Gabriel’s tune ADOWA might come across as a little bland; astute musicians may be interested in the re-harmonization given in the gray 1987 CRC Psalter Hymnal, number 242.
As we read, pray, and sing Psalm 66, may we be reminded of what a blessing it is to share in the Lord’s salvation, and to have a place among his people!
Come, hear, all ye that fear the Lord,
While I with grateful heart record
What God has done for me;
I cried to Him in deep distress,
And now His wondrous grace I bless,
For He has set me free.