Thou Crownest the Year With Thy goodness

By Ps Jeff O’Neil

"Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness" (Psalm 65:11).

The first part of this psalm eulogises the grace of God in His sovereign choice, and the blessedness of the forgiveness of sin, and the entire satisfaction in and to the church; whilst the second part magnifies the Providence of God, particularly in His ordering of the seasons and of nature itself. Nature is not an entity in itself as some environmentalist groups aver when they speak in terms of mother earth. Nature, is rather, the consequence of God’s decree in creation. The regulating of a continual pattern in the life cycle of things is an outworking of His word through His power and providence. God swore to Noah, "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease" (Gen 8:22).

And those people who are persuaded of this, and have close connections to the land, or even an environmental interest, or perhaps enjoy gardening, can, at the end of the autumn, and of the year, join with the psalmist and confess, "Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness." Indeed, this is probably the reason for the harvest services that are still a feature in many British churches, but even more so in days gone by when Britain was a more pastoral and agricultural society.

I well remember, as a boy, marching in procession around the Anglican church to which I belonged, singing:

All is safely gathered in

e’er the Winter storms begin

God our Maker doth provide,

for our wants to be supplied.

Come to God’s own temple, come,

Raise the song of, Harvest home.

Now whilst this text has reference in our psalm to an agricultural scene, I would broaden it to include the first part of the psalm. Indeed, it is applicable to the whole life of the Christian experiencing God’s grace and providence, and particularly remembering it at the end of the year. Naturally, the seasons and the chronology of the year differed with the Jews then from us now, but the principle holds true. The puritans had a practice that on their birthdays they would retire privately and spend the day in fasting and prayer in order to examine their lives over that past twelve months. This was in order to mark their sins, and to recall God’s mercies and blessings.

Now, I would suggest that at the conclusion of this year, the Christian ought to spend some time in quietly contemplating all the blessings that God’s goodness has graced our lives with. So letting the mind range over the many instances and proofs of His goodness that visited each of our lives. This word "crownest" means to compass, to encircle, just as a crown encircles and compasses the head! There is no break in the circle, and similarly from one end of the year to the other, His goodness compasses every month, week, day, hour and moment. "For in him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). And therefore, we live constantly and continually under His goodness, though most of the time we are selfishly unconscious of it, and attribute our various comforts to our own endeavours and industry.

Remember Moses speaking of the promised land to his people? "A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year" (Dt 11:12). And that is certainly true of our lives, for says the psalmist: "The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous" (Ps 34:15). Now the Jews marked and observed the beginning of the year, as historically the churches in Scotland held, and still hold special services on New Year’s day. But I think, whilst that may be a good practice, that the Lord’s people should above all reflect on God’s goodness in the passing year, knowing that He has circled the beginning to the end, for He is Alpha and Omega.

We should note His goodness 
personally

Moses was placed in the cleft of the rock, and beheld the goodness of God passing before him. If we but look over the past year from the cleft of our Rock, which is Christ, then we cannot fail to see the same goodness passing before the eye of memory. We cannot see any of His goodness unless we are in Christ. Moses petitioned God, "Show me Thy glory" (Ex 33:18). And God graciously replied, "I will make all my goodness to pass before thee" (v. 19a). God had given many instances of His goodness to Moses, but now He would make all His goodness known. He would demonstrate His essential goodness. It was not the glory of His majesty that He would show, but the majesty of His goodness. His glory is His goodness!

And the glory of His goodness is the sovereignty of it: "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious" (v. 19b). We trace His goodness to His sovereignty in election and predestination. This is highlighted in v. 3 of our psalm, "Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest." God exercises His grace and mercy to whom He wills, and this springs from His being, "Abundant in goodness" (Ex 34:6). And thereafter, it covers all His dealings in our lives, so that we personally experience, day by day, the continual stream of His sovereign goodness flowing into our lives. John Owen puts it this way: "All divine operations in the communication of God Himself, are from His goodness, by the intervention of a free act of His will."

Would you not be moved to remember that you are in the cleft of the Rock, because of the operation of His grace toward you? In singular mercy and out of the infinite springs of His abundant goodness and eternal love, He has called you to Himself, and washed and cleansed you from your sin, and adopted you, so that now you are a child of God. He has separated you from untold millions, and caused you to know and experience His salvation through Jesus Christ. And as Toplady puts it: "The work which His goodness began, the arm of His strength will complete."

Consider again, then, the past year, and behold how He has maintained your spiritual life! How could you have coped with the world, the flesh and the devil or, fought against principalities and powers, —except that in His goodness, He supplied grace for grace, and sent strength into your soul, and upheld you with the power of His might?

See how He preserved you, notwithstanding your daily ingratitude in not being aware or alive to His protection, preservation and supply. But when we have sinned against man and God, and grieved the Holy Ghost, and done despite to the spirit of grace, instead of His judgment, we are brought by His goodness to realize our sins, and to confess them. Yes, His goodness does this, for "the riches of His goodness leadeth to repentance" (Rom 2:4). And in the words of John Calvin, "If we use not His goodness to that end, we abuse it." Think again on His goodness as you hear the words of Psalm103:4,—"Who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies." Day by day, for 365 days, His blessings have fallen as manna around your tent.

Have you noticed His tender mercies; the exhibitions of His love; the demonstrations of His long-suffering; the multiplying of uncalled for benevolences in what we would think of as the common happenings in life? Do you recognize the maintenance of your physical health and life; His kindness in your temporal affairs; the comforts you enjoy in the bosom of your family; the keeping of your children from the arms and harms of the world? How many providences have you reason to bless God for; how many dangers has He prevented in your life, and those of your loved ones; what journeys He has encircled to keep you safe; what difficulties He has solved by His counsel and wisdom; what worries He has lifted from your hearts, as Samson lifted the posts of the city gates and carried them away on his shoulders? And what of those sadnesses that have invaded your life, and descended on your soul, and suddenly "A light surprises," and your mourning was turned into joy. Think again of those days when you awoke and experienced that "New every morning are His mercies, and His compassions fail not" (Lam 3:22).

Oh friends, we are often unmindful and unnoticing of all the manifold blessings that continually bedew our lives. Listen to the prophet Hosea: "O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away" (Hos 6:4). Our goodness is transient and fleeting as the mist, but the goodness of God to each one of us personally is stated thus: "The goodness of God endureth continually" (Ps. 52:1).

We should note His goodness 
to us as a church

As a church, can you not testify that, in His goodness, He has kept you together, and provided for your spiritual needs. He has opened up "The wells of salvation," to drink from, and kept pure the means of grace whereby you have increased in knowledge of Him, and I trust, in grace! He has manifested Himself in and through your Head and King, Jesus Christ, whose voice has been heard in His word Sabbath by Sabbath. So that with thanksgiving, you can sing with the psalmist in v. 4,—"That you dwell in His courts, and that you shall be satisfied with the goodness of His house." He has given to you fellowship and communion with brethren, so strengthening one another; assisting in mutual regard, and helping in word and doctrine,—iron sharpening iron (Prov 27:17). By His spirit and truth, He has kept you from dissension, and causing you to pray for each other without ceasing. His goodness has preserved the truth in your midst, and given you appetites for more of Christ and the savour of His grace. Can you not raise up a stone of witness, and write on it: "Ebenezer, hitherto hath the Lord helped us" (1 Sam 7:12).

These are not light things to overlook, or underestimate in these days of declension and the love of many waxing cold. But you can identify with Solomon’s subjects, when it is said of all the people that they "went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the LORD had done for David his servant, and for Israel his people" (1 Kgs 8:66).

It is a singular act of His goodness that He has kept here and in other places, "a remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom11:5), whilst we see everywhere a great falling away, and the rapid rise of ungodliness, immorality, atheism and the inroads of false religions with their prefabricated gods. Remember friends, that it is not flesh and blood that we are contending with, but "principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world" (Eph. 6:12). Pray and pray hard that He will continue to display His goodness in defending His Church from these evil forces, so that we can experience what Zechariah taught: "And the LORD their God shall save them in that day as the flock of his people: for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land. For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty!" (Zec 9:16-17a)

We should note also His goodness 
in adversity

Perhaps the year has not been a good one in some respects for someone; yet you may look on the providences that have crossed your desires, and altered your plans, and by faith say: "His thoughts are not my thoughts, and His ways not my ways" (cf. Isa 55:8), "and therefore, what has happened to me was best for me: God was in it, and I knew it not."

Are you not able to say with Job: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15)? His goodness has preserved me, and sustained me, notwithstanding all the disappointments and inexplicable frustrations I have received, yet He knows the way I take. And though I have sinned in grumbling, and not understanding the providences, yet I can pray, "Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD" (Ps 25:7).

It is difficult to see His goodness when we only see darkness. John Mason puts it well: "Providences are sometimes dark texts that want an expositor." There are also arid times in one’s experience, when your soul has been famished for one favour from Him, one drink at the fountain or one kiss of His lips, and then He drew near and satisfied "the longing soul, and [filled] the hungry soul with goodness" (Psalm 107:9), and you "[tasted and saw] that the LORD is good" (Ps.34:8a). So you rise up refreshed and renewed, and go on in the strength of the Lord, with the new song again rising to your lips. "It is a true rule in divinity that God never takes away any blessing from us, but that He gives us better; when Elijah was taken from Elisha into Heaven, God doubles His spirit upon Elisha; the disciples parted with Christ’s bodily presence, but He sent them the Holy Ghost" (Richard Sibbes). Though His goodness seems hidden from your eyes, it nevertheless encircles your life, and will be doubly enjoyed when it becomes apparent.

Oh friend, the future is as bright as His promises. And so it was with the psalmist after experiencing God’s dealing in providence, that he said: "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes" (Ps. 119:71). Though it was hard for thee, yet it was good for thee! His goodness was at work all the time!

Application & Conclusion

Such is the grandeur of this attribute of God, and the experience of it, that eight Levites in Nehemiah stood before the people and rehearsed their history. How that God took them into the Promised Land, and gave them everything, houses, wells already dug, vineyards, olive yards, fruit trees in abundance: "And they… delighted themselves in thy great goodness" (Neh 9:25). Ah, my friends, it is the proper response at the end of the year, to delight in His past and present goodness. That word, ‘delight’ means to delight self. Each one of us, then, ought to delight personally in the great goodness of our God, as we join with David in singing the refrain: "Thou art good, and doest good" (Ps119:68).

We ought, privately, and as a church, to recap over the year, and try and count the many blessings, noting especially significant happenings and dealings of our gracious God. And then confess with David, "surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life" (Ps.23:6). That is to say, that in every condition you have entered into, every circumstance that has occurred, every exigency that has happened, goodness has followed you there, and even extricated you when needed! Think of Ps.23 as the shepherd psalm, and goodness and mercy as two sheepdogs sent to follow and gather the flock. Think then of goodness as the mother of mercy, and they work together as a pair. Goodness is quick to spot, and mercy quick to act! Isn’t it a glorious thought that they have followed us all our lives, and shall do until we are brought into the eternal fold, "Oh, give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good" (Ps.107:1)!

But we are also to remember that having union with Christ, we are, "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet.1:4). Therefore, if we confess that the Lord is good (and that is His nature, which is expressed also in so many acts of goodness to us), then we should likewise abound in goodness to others. John Mason puts it aptly: "We are never wellinformed of truth, until we are conformed to it." So goodness should beget goodness, for as Mason adds: "To render good for evil, is godlike; to render good for good, is manlike; to render evil for evil, is beastlike; to render evil for good, is devil-like."

Finally, if you do not know the blessedness of sins forgiven, and of pardon and peace with God, then you have, even if you are unconscious of it, experienced His goodness over the past year. In that, you have repeatedly resisted His calls to repent, and to believe, and yet He has not entered into judgment with you. His forbearance is a commentary on His goodness to you. But do not presume upon His goodness, but take heed to the admonishment of the apostle Paul: "Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Rom 2:4) W