We are studying Psalm 66 for Sunday, February 17: an ancient Hebrew praise song, focused on God’s mighty acts of power and God’s acceptance of repentance. [Study notes on Psalm 66.] Here are a few questions we might want to consider before or in class:
The psalm begins with a call to “make a joyful noise to God” (v1). Does “making a joyful noise” describe our worship of God? How well? Why do we say that?
What are the Psalmist’s reasons for worshipping God? (Consider especially vv3, 5-6, 9, 12, 19-20.) How similar are these to our own reasons for worshipping God? If we made a list of our reasons for worshipping God, would these be on it? Why or why not? Would different reasons be on it? Which ones? Why?
Verse 3 mentions God’s enemies. Who are God’s enemies? (Consider especially vv7, 11-12, 14, 17-18.)
The Psalmist thinks of God (and of people) as having enemies. Do we ever think of God as having enemies? That is – how easy or difficult for us is it to share the Psalmist’s outlook here? What makes it easy for us? What makes it difficult for us?
What would have to change in our own thinking to share the Psalmist’s outlook, do we think? What would that change help us see, that we don’t see now? What do we see now that the change would make it harder to see? Overall, do we see more advantages or disadvantages from the change of perspective?
Could we be among God’s enemies? Why, or why not?
How would we describe God as depicted in this psalm? (E.g., powerful; object of lavish praise; awesome/fearsome; miracle-worker …)
(Suggestion: it might be a good idea for each of us to make a list of the descriptions we see in the psalm, and then compare our lists.)
Is the Psalmist’s picture of God like our own? In what way, or ways? Is the Psalmist’s picture different from our own? In what way, or ways?
If we thought of God the way the Psalmist does, what would change in our relationship to God? What would we like better or more about it? What would we like less? Why? Would it be easier, or more difficult, for us to worship God? Obey God? Love God? Why?
This psalm highlights the Psalmist’s act of repentance in vv13-19. The Psalmist describes a ritual of repentance that was common in the ancient world, animal sacrifice, that is mostly absent from our world. The sacrifices the Psalmist mentions (bulls and goats) might have been made by national leaders: priests, and kings.
Can we think of any rituals of repentance that do for us what the Psalmist’s rituals did for the Psalmist and the Psalmist’s nation?
What do we ourselves do when we feel the call or need to repent? What makes us aware that our repentance has been accepted?
How important are rituals of repentance, and forgiveness, do we think? Why is that? What happens when we do not have them? Why is that? Are some rituals of repentance and forgiveness preferable to others? Which ones? Why do we think that?
Overall, it might make a lot of sense to focus on the interplay between the ritual going on in the Psalm (including praise, recollection of God’s mighty acts, sacrifice, repentance, and acceptance) and the various relationships between people and God the psalm points to (including rescue, restoration, reconciliation, enmity, rebellion, penitence). At any point, we might identify more closely with a different position in this psalm – so we may want to reflect on where we personally are today, and why.