“7 O God, when you went out before your people,
when You marched through the wilderness,
8 the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain,
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
9 Rain in abundance, O God, You shed abroad;
You restored Your inheritance as it languished;
10 Your flock found a dwelling in it;
in Your goodness, O God, You provided for the needy.”
-Psalm 68:7-10 (ESV)
God made the world and called it “good.” He made man and called him “very good.” Contrary to popular opinion, He even made work and called it “good.” But the failure of man to live and work by God’s good design has made our work turmoil. “Cursed is the ground because of you,” He says to Adam. The work of men will no longer bring about the fruitfulness of God’s Garden. The same ground given for men to work and cultivate was the ground from which God had ordained to provide for our needs.
Failure to work in God’s design not only offends the Creator; it starves the creation.
If we can’t get the ground to produce anywhere near the abundance that God intended, then how are we to cultivate anything good and refreshing in the deeper matters of righteousness and justice? Our yield is produced with pain, and our spiritual deadness only makes matters worse by killing the crop of human kindness with the thorns and thistles of greed.
A people starving for love will not be fed by the wasteland of human effort.
Either we will seek to affirm each other’s spiritual poverty by denying the truth about sin, or we will manipulate each other’s hearts in order to meet our own need. With a “curse on the ground,” there will never be enough to go around – at least, not with each of us trying to satiate his own greed. There will never be enough love for everyone, enough nourishment for our starving souls – not as long as we each refuse to give as much as we take.
But God has not ceased to be a Creator. He can remake us. After all, this is the God “Who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17).
OUT OF NOTHING
The psalmist conveys God as the One before Whom the heavens shake and thunder and give rain again to dry places. He “went out before [His] people” in Christ, the “founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). As Jesus testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). The very design of a seed has always been that it must die and be resurrected to produce a harvest. In so doing it could produce an abundant harvest to provide for the people’s needs.
Christ was quite literally placed in the ground so that God might recreate us.
His resurrection was the decisive victory, but just the beginning.
“Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a Man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
This is how God has taken away the curse of unfruitfulness, “by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). The barren land of human brokenness, which has only ever yielded enough fruit for us to fight over, has been trumped completely by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, the True Vine.
UNTO A GOOD LAND
God has provided for us, not out of our effort, but by His goodness and out of His abundance. As the psalmist declared, “Rain in abundance, O God, You shed abroad. You restored Your inheritance as it languished. Your flock found a dwelling in it. In Your goodness, O God, You provided for the needy” (Psalm 68:9,10). Suddenly, the dead and dying fruits of human admiration and temporal pleasure are no longer worth fighting over. Suddenly, we are so fully and abundantly satisfied that our enemy, who was once competition for sustenance, is once again our brother, with whom we can gladly share.
Abiding in Christ means living in such abundance that generosity is second nature.
Reading Psalm 68 centuries later, Paul wrote of this abundance in Christ. He urged the Ephesians to speak the truth, to hold anger without wrath, to cease all thievery, to return to honest work, and to extend the forgiveness that we have so overwhelmingly received by the cross (Ephesians 4:25-32).
We no longer have to clamor and grasp for the little that we have. We have it all in Jesus.
We can live open-handedly to provide for the financially, socially, and spiritually impoverished around us and join the psalmist in praising God, saying, “In Your goodness, God, You provided for the needy” (Psalm 68:10).