Dancing in the River: a Meditation on Psalm 65

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Oh, visit the earth,
ask her to join the dance!
Deck her out in spring showers,
fill the God-River with living water.
Paint the wheat fields golden.
Creation was made for this!
Drench the plowed fields,
soak the dirt clods
With rainfall as harrow and rake
bring her to blossom and fruit.
Snow-crown the peaks with splendor,
scatter rose petals down your paths,
All through the wild meadows, rose petals.
Set the hills to dancing,
Dress the canyon walls with live sheep,
a drape of flax across the valleys.
Let them shout, and shout, and shout!
Oh, oh, let them sing! (Psalm 65:9-13 MSG)

Jody dance5

Photo by Heidi Weller

I love The Message translation of this psalm. When I read Psalm 65 in other translations, I am tempted to pass over it as antiquated words celebrating a harvest long-past. While the harvest was especially important for the ancient people of Israel, I suppose the modern-day fast-food “connoisseur” in me is not as moved by this hymn of praise. Yet this translation beckons me to slow down and to experience it in a whole new light.

The photo above was taken by my friend Heidi. She had asked me to meet her at our local state park to take some photos that would allow her to play with light, movement and color. Dressed in my dance attire I stepped out of my car, just slightly self-conscience of my appearance. I mean, who wears white, flowy dresses to hike the trails? But soon we got started, and I danced away my embarrassment as we began this creative experiment immersed in the beauty of God’s creation. After taking many photos near the chapel there, I suggested we move our shoot to the river.

I stepped gingerly into the cold water—with sandals on so as not to hurt my feet on the sharp rocks below the surface. I “danced” the best I could, trying to avoid splashing the water up on my dress. I kept to the edge—not wanting to wander out too deep—all the while playing it safe.

Later I visited Heidi at her studio and was amazed by the images I saw. I was captivated by the way the light created orbs and rays over head. I know that low light is normally a photographer’s best friend, but in this case, the opposite was found true. The light created a transcendence to the images that we both found mesmerizing.

Psalm 65 is labeled by the Hebrew writer as a shiyr and mizmor, a combination of psalm and song, or according to Charles Spurgeon, “A Lyrical Poem,” which meant it could be read or sung. In the original language, God is pictured as surveyor, overseer and care-taker of the land. However, in Eugene Peterson’s translation He is pictured instead as the ultimate Renaissance artist—creator, painter, decorator and dancer, all in one!

The early church theologian Origen believed that in the verses above the psalmist was foretelling “the gracious outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the conversion of the nations of the earth to Christ.” God’s Spirit being poured out lavishly upon the earth and covering the land! The God-river is filled with Living Water!

Yet there I am, in the picture above and in my life, playing it safe, afraid to venture too far in for fear of being swept away. And I know I am not alone in this fainthearted hesitancy. God’s river teaming with Life, and we dance cautiously at the edge afraid to get wet.  His light shines over us as we look down below the surface for fear of sharp, rocky places. God is inviting us to join in the dance! To shout, and shout, and shout! To sing! Yet we keep quiet, still, motionless, with our songs lodged in our throats.

The Prophet Ezekiel was shown a beautiful vision of a River of Healing flowing from the Temple in Jerusalem. Ezekiel lived and prophesied during the exile of the Israelite nation, so he was prophesying about a future river that would flow from a restored Temple in the New Jerusalem when their enemy Babylon no longer held them captive. The river starts as a trickle—ankle-deep—but it soon rises to waist-deep, then deep enough to swim in—over the head!! The Apostle John also writes of the River of Life flowing from the Throne of God in a future New Jerusalem when the Lamb of God is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven. These Rivers, which represent the Spirit of God, bring life, healing, fruit and restoration wherever they flow.

Psalm 46:4 says: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.” Let us dance in that river, O Lord! The River of Life that flows from the throne of God! That is where we want to be—to dance, to shout, to sing! Banish our fears! Help us to wade deeper in—ankle-deep, waist-deep, over our heads!  Even more, to dive in and under, into the rush of your Living Waters. Yes, deeper, Lord, deeper!

Jody dance4

We will dance, sing and shout of Your glory, O Great God!

_____________________________________

Jody Thomae is the author of God’s Creative Gift–Unleashing the Artist in You: Bible Studies to Nurture the Creative Spirit WithinFor more Bible studies like this, you can purchase a copy of her book at: Wipf & Stock PublishersAmazon and Barnes &Noble. It is also available in Kindle Format.

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14 thoughts on “Dancing in the River: a Meditation on Psalm 65

  1. JOY Newswanger

    THANK YOU for this delicious gourmet feast of His Word. I am a dancer, artist, writer (creative communicator of God’s love) who loves water so this was like His love letter right to me 🙂 I think you would like the Passion Translation also. Keep broadcasting His love 🙂 PSALM 68:11 “The Lord gives the word (of power); the WOMEN who bear and publish (the news) are a great host.” Amp. Love, JOY

  2. A friend shared the story of Ezekiel’s river as he encouraged me to pursue the arts – it is powerful imagery that sustains me through many a day, the dream of sending God’s “healing waters” out into the people of the earth through the arts. Beautiful photos and your thoughts will spin in my head for awhile. THank you so much!

  3. I love that picture above, it is so beautiful! I love the thought of the God river that is filled with living water! Oh he is like my much needed coffee in the morning!

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