Now I come to your Temple with burnt offerings to fulfill the vows I made to you—yes, the sacred vows you heard me make when I was in deep trouble. — Psalm 66:13-14
It is commonly understood that there are no atheists in foxholes. Men who exhibit little interest in spirituality and eternity are suddenly moved to pray when under fire. Others have been known to experience dramatic conversions under threat of hanging. This phenomenon is similar to the one described by Samuel Johnson, in his famous observation: “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” In many instances, the promises to God made in the foxhole have been fulfilled when the guns have fallen silent—but not always. And when death sentences have been commuted, some relieved offenders have sadly forgotten the commitments made to God under duress.
The psalm writer, recounting the dire circumstances through which his nation had passed, observed, “We went through fire and flood. But you brought us to a place of great abundance” (Psalm 66:12). This situation offered the chance for the people to express great gratitude in genuine worship, obedience, trust, and service. It also provided the opportunity for shallow promises to be exposed by thoughtless, thankless actions.
The Lord had warned his people of such a possibility when Moses gave them their final instructions shortly before they entered the Promised Land. He told them that their arrival in the “place of great abundance” was “the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and laws” (Deuteronomy 8:11).
The psalm writer was able to testify, “Now I come... to fulfill the vows I made to you—yes, the sacred vows you heard me make when I was in deep trouble” (Psalm 66:13-14). No foxhole faith is in evidence here, only a deep appreciation for mercy extended and grace received. He was deeply aware that the Lord “did not withdraw his unfailing love from [him]” (66:20). The psalmist showed his appreciation first of all in the quality of his response. There is nothing grudging, halfhearted, or coldly formal here. He brought “the best of [his] rams” (66:15), unlike some of his compatriots who were known to “offer animals that [were] crippled and diseased” (Malachi 1:8). His appreciation was shown repeatedly to be real through his desire to share his experience of God’s goodness with others—“Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me” (Psalm 66:16).
What better response can a man have to the Lord’s unfailing love than to show unfailing gratitude to the One who has not failed him! Fires, floods, foxholes, and the actions that follow will show the caliber of a man’s faith.
For further study: Psalm 66
Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.