PSALM 67 TALK: A PRAYER FOR GOD’S GRACE AND BLESSING FOR US AND OUR WORLD

PSALM 67 TALK: A PRAYER FOR GOD’S GRACE AND BLESSING FOR US AND OUR WORLD

 (A Psalm that explores how we can look to God for blessing in our lives both to be saved from our sins and receive from God all kinds of good things for us to live this life in service to him and the wider world we live in.)

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INTRODUCTION

In my study of this Psalm I came across a very helpful explanation of the Psalm by a man named Rolf Jacobson who tells the story of over hearing a conversation when leaving a baseball stadium of a young man who said to he friends, “What has God ever done for me”. Jacobson comments, “the implication seemed to be both that God hadn’t done anything and that everything the young man had in life was a result of his own work”. Like Jacobson I believe that the bible presents the idea that we all rely on God’s continued blessings and that anything good in this life comes ultimately from God.

We live in a age of what I call, “the self made man or the man made world” and even the creation of this world is explained away by self centered Godless people as a process where life decided to change itself as it adapted to its changing environment. I am not saying evolution does not show how different species of this world have come and gone and even changed over time but rather I am saying that evolution and the will of man are not the force and power of creation and we do not control the world in which we live. John 1: 1 – 5 gives us the bibles explanation of who and what is the power and designing force of creation:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”.

Jacobson rightly pinpoints the main theme of Psalm 67 as being, “blessing” and I have added, “grace”. In fact the Psalm presents the idea that God blesses us only because of his grace and the original writer of the Psalm knew this because he prays in the opening words of the Psalm:

“May God be gracious to us and bless us”

Jacobson like many other commentators points out that Psalm 67 is both a prayer and a worship song. We have seen many times in the book of Psalms that the poems and songs found in it became the ancient Hebrews book of prayers and worship songs. The heading of the Psalm reads:

“For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song”

Interestingly this is a very similar Hebrew heading for Psalm 4, which adds the words, “A psalm of David”. Even though this Psalm has many David like characteristics we cannot say if he actually wrote it also we cannot say what led the writer to write it. It does seem to have been written with a national deliverance in mind and some commentators speculate that it could have been the nations deliverance from the Assyrian invasion by Sennacherib, which is the background to the previous Psalm 66. It also speaks of the blessing of God on the harvest the theme of Psalm 65, which we know was written by David probably after his deliverance from his son Absalom who led a rebellion against him. However all this is just speculation as both the Hebrew heading and the Psalm give no clear hint to the Psalms background.

The major unique feature of this Psalm is the use of what Kidner calls “the Aaronic blessing” from Numbers 6: 24 – 27 which reads,

“‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

This priestly blessing often used by the Ancient Hebrews at the end of their temple worship services commences this Psalm in a modified form in verse 1,

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us”

Kidner argues that the Aaronic blessing is a extension of what he calls “The Abrahamic hope” which is expressed clearly in Genesis 12: 2- 3,

I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”.

Moses is given by God another important concept of why the nation of Israel was by God’s grace called and blessed by him in Exodus 19: 5 – 6,

“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

So we will see in this Psalm talk that God promises to bless us by his grace in two ways:

  1. To know and experience his saving grace which takes us from death to life through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross”
  2. To be guided and led by God in our daily lives and given his bountiful gifts that exceed far beyond what we deserve or need so that we can take his message of love to the world.

These two blessing promises run through the entire bible and as we will see in this Psalm that God’s grace and blessing has one particular purpose which some commentators call, “Mission” or as the last verse of this Psalm reads,

“God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him”

With all this in mind my breakdown for this Psalm is:

  1. A CALL FOR GOD’S GRACE AND BLESSING FOR US (1 – 3)
  2. ALL CALL FOR GOD’S GRACE AND BLESSING FOR THE WORLD (4 – 5)
  3. A STATEMENT OF GOD’S GRACE AND BLESSING FOR HIS PEOPLE – THE CHURCH (6 – 7)

 

  1. A CALL FOR GOD’S GRACE AND BLESSING FOR US (1 – 3)

I have broken this first section into three sections:

  1. The call for grace and blessing (vs. 1)
  2. Mission is the reason for God’s blessings on us (vs.2)
  3. God’s peoples response of praise (vs. 3)
  4. The call for grace and blessing (vs.1)

So as I have already pointed out this first verse is a reworked wording of the Aaron priestly blessing the Lord gave to Moses in Numbers 6: 24 – 26. Which reads,

“‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’

The opening verse of the Psalm reads,

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us”

Why the writer chose to re-work Aarons priestly blessing is not really known but it certainly would have struck a chord in the ears and hearts of the people of his day who would have been very familiar with these words. It seems the writer is utilising something well known to make a point right at the beginning of his song.

I would like to break down the 3 key phrases of this verse and try to explain what they might mean to a bible believing Hebrew of the time of the writing of this verse and also apply this to us as Christian believers today. The three key phrases are:

  1. “Be gracious to us
  2. “Bless us”
  3. “Make his face shine upon us”
  1. “Be gracious to us”

David Guzik says that the Hebrew word here for gracious could also be translated “Mercy” and he makes this insightful comment,

“The Psalmist first knew his need for mercy. This sets our hearts in the right frame of mind; sinners who need the mercy of God. One may need more mercy than another, but we all need mercy”.

God called Abraham to be blessed not because he deserved it but because the God of the bible acted with mercy or grace, God brought Israel out of Egypt not because they deserved to be saved but because of his mercy or grace. All that we have in Christ is only ours because God chose to give it to us out of his mercy or grace.

This was the constant central message of Paul in his preaching and teaching as we read in Ephesians 1: 6 – 10,

“To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ”.

So if we want anything from God in prayer we must go to, as the writer to the Hebrews puts in “The throne of grace” as we read in Hebrews 4: 16,

“ Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

So the writer of Psalm 67 wants God to bless him and his people so he starts with the words of the Aaronic priestly blessing which asks God to bless him and his people by of the underserved love of God. This is what the words, “May God be gracious to us” would have meant to his Hebrew hearers.

  1. “Bless us”

The writer wants God through his grace or undeserved love to bless him and his people, the people of Israel. The first words of the book of Psalms way back in Psalm 1: 1 read,

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked”

We have seen that many Psalms speak of how we can be blessed by God like Psalm 40: 4,

“Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false God’s”

Also the link between God’s grace or love was made by David in his Psalm 32 verse 1 and 2,

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and whose spirit is no deceit”.

But what does this word “Blessed” mean and what is David and the writer of this Psalm asking for when they want God to bless them?

I like the answer to this question by the writers of “Gotquestions?org” which I would like to quote:

“Blessing is a statement of good will and happiness that is said about another, as well as the condition that fulfils those good words. God’s original design in creation was for His creatures, including mankind, to experience prosperity, peace, and fulfilment, but that design was ruined when sin entered the world.

Statements of blessing are a wish for God to restore His favour on others or a declaration of His inherent goodness”.

In my Psalm 1 talk I spoke of how being blessed in God was knowing real for filling happiness that we can only know through the forgiveness of God by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This act of grace deals with the sin that separates us from God and restores us to a close relationship with God where he gives us peace, prosperity, fulfilment and eternal life with him.

So we see again the strong link with the idea of being blessed by God and the grace of God. David and other writers of the Psalms knew that forgiveness and all other blessings of God only were given by God because he was a God of love. A God who loves us even though we do not deserve that love as Paul states in Ephesians 2: 6 – 9,

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”.

  1. “Make his face shine upon us”

To understand the meaning of the concept of God’s face shinning on us I think we need to go right back a the beginning of the bible’s story of what happened between God and man. Man’s sin caused God to turn his face from us. This is clearly seen in the final words of Genesis 3: 23 – 24 which speaks of God turning away from Adam and Eve and banishing them from both the close relationship with him and the special place he made for them, these verses speak of this in these words,

“So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life”.

So to be banished from the garden and from the special relationship with God man had with him is a great word picture of the state of man in rebellion to God. Mankind does not know God and we live in an often hostile and dangerous world.

David on a number of occasions asks for the face of God to shine on him and the first time does this is when he is on the run from Absalom and is out in the desert facing a hostile environment and a hostile enemy seeking his life and the life of his family and close friends in Psalm 4: 6 which reads,

“Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord”.

David again asks for the same kind of thing when on the run from King Saul in Psalm 31: 16, which reads,

“Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love”

So here the writer, who could have been David, we do not know, refers to this concept of God’s face shinning on him and Israel which first appeared in the bible in the book of numbers in what I have already called, “The Aaronic blessing”.

In all these uses of this term, “make your face shine upon us”, God is saying to his people through Aaron and the priests who follow him about the restoration of the relationship between God and man. God’s covenant with Israel given through Moses is the basis of a new relationship with God’s special people, Israel and because it is God initiated and Israel did not deserve it, grace or the undeserved love of God is the basis of it.

We call the new covenant founded on the work and person of Jesus Christ as “The Covenant of Grace” as it for fills all the requirements of God’s covenant in that Israel failed to keep God’s law and sinned and only the death of a perfect sacrifice could atone for this.

Jesus of course was that perfect sacrifice when he died on the cross and through his death and resurrection anyone who accepts God’s gift of grace by faith can come back into the original close relationship with God, which is expressed beautifully by the phrase we have been looking at,

“Make his (God’s) face shine upon us”

I complete my explanation of this phrase with a quote from David Guzik,

“To have the glorious happy face of God shinning upon man is the greatest gift one could have. To know that as God looks upon you He is well pleased – not because of who you are, or what you have done, but because you are in Jesus Christ – there is no greater source of peace and power in life”.

  1. Mission is the reason for God’s blessings on us (vs.2)

I failed to mention that this first prayer for God’s grace and blessing is for God’s special nation Israel as the writer of Psalm 67 uses the expression, “to us”.

Of course we know through the New Testament that God’s special people are now people from every nation, tongue and race which Paul refers to as the circumcised and uncircumcised and he then calls them “The Israel of God” in Galatians 6: 14 – 16,

 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God”.

Therefore as followers of Christ we are also the “to us” spoken of in verse 1 and we are then the real world -wide church that all Christians belong to.

Verse 2 reads like this,

“That your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations”

The reason the writer of Psalm 67 gives for us receiving God’s grace and blessings is so that the whole world can be reached with the saving message of God which states who he is and what he has done for us.

As I said in the introduction God created Israel and gave them a special job or role in the world which we see in God’s word to Moses in Exodus 19: 5 – 6,

“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

So it seems for many Israelites or Jews throughout history the first part of this verse was picked up namely, “then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession” as Israel and the Jews often failed to look out to the wider world and instead became elitist and self righteousness. Let me say many Christians have acted the same way as well.

However the second part of Israel’s calling is, “you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. Israel was chosen then to take the message of the true God of heaven and earth to the world.

It seems this great message was bound up in the news to the world that there is only one God and he has blessed a special people who now are the people who have turned to God through Christ. That famous verse in Johns Gospel John 3: 16 says,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

So as blessed followers of the God of the bible we have a special role or function and that is to help make known to the people of this world “God’s salvation”. This salvation is bound up in the message of the Christian Gospel and so what we untimely want to give to this world is the saving message of the Gospel.

Of course missionary activity both today and in he past has offered human aid and medical help but the reason behind doing this is to also have the opportunity of not only physically helping people but helping them spiritually so that they to can have the gift of forgiveness and eternal life as well.

For many years I have had the opportunity of being involved in short term mission work to Myanmar / Burma and I have had the privilege of teaching God’s word to hundreds of Bible and Theological students there who now take that teaching to their people. I can only do this because God has blessed me with his grace and blessings and that grace and blessing makes it possible for me to bring God’s grace and blessing to others.

  1. God’s peoples response of praise (vs. 3)

We come now to the Chorus or refrain of this Psalm, which appears here in verse 3 and verse 5. Some have suggested that the general congregation could have sung this part of the song. The Hebrew poetic structure of parallelism which I have explained in my introduction to the Psalms is rhyming thought rather than rhyming sound lends itself to reciting the Psalms with a person or group speaking one verse or one part of the verse and the people responding with the other part.

In verse 3 the people’s response is:

“May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you”.

David Guzik makes this comment on this verse,

If it wasn’t big enough to pray, “Let the peoples praise you”, the Psalmist takes it a step deeper: “let all the peoples praise you”, we don’t only want the earth to know God’s way; we don’t even want it to stop with the nations knowing His salvation. We want the all the peoples to praise Him! There is something wonderful about a lot of people praising God, and our walk with God is incomplete until we are praising Him”.

I have mentioned in other Psalm talks that when Jesus returns the New Testament says that all the people of the earth will acknowledge Jesus as Lord and therefore all the peoples of the earth will praise him. As Paul says in Philippians 2: 9 – 11,

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

Sadly many of the people on that day will be bowing and acknowledging Jesus without having had faith in him and therefore it wont be a joyful occasion for them. This is another reason why the message needs to go out now to the world so that all people will have the opportunity to praise him with faith and therefore with the joy of God’s grace and blessing in their lives.

  1. ALL CALL FOR GOD’S GRACE AND BLESSING FOR THE WORLD (4 – 5)

The prayer now broadens from the special people of God seeking God’s grace and blessing in their lives to a request for praise and blessing for all the peoples of the world, which verse 4 calls, “The Nations” and “The peoples”.

I have divided this section into two parts:

  1. The God who rules and guides the people of the world with justice and love (vs. 4)
  2. The people of the world’s response of praise (vs. 5)
  1. The God who rules and guides the people of the world with justice and love (vs.4)

Even in ancient times, non Jewish people heard of the God of Israel just as God intended Israel to declare as we saw in the last section and this caused them to turn to the God of Israel and they acknowledged him as the one true supreme God that they must obey and serve.

A classic example of what is sometimes called “Jewish proselytizing” is found in the book of Jonah. Jonah was called by God to go to the Gentile city of Nineveh Capital of Israel’s enemy Assyria.

Jonah has to be almost forcibly driven to what Jonah would have believed was a hostile barren mission field for preaching about the God of Israel. Yet after being thrown over board a boat heading away from Nineveh and being virtually raise from death in the belly of some kind of great sea creature he preaches a message of God’s Judgment on Nineveh and to Jonah’s great surprise and disgust the people of Nineveh head the message and repent and believe in the God of Israel.

Even the King of Nineveh of that time repents and turns to the God of Israel and issues this decree recorded in Jonah 3: 6 – 9,

“When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

 “By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

 God sees this mass turning to him in repentance and faith and we read in the verse 10,

“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened”.

Jonah’s response to God’s grace in saving the people of Nineveh is both surprising and disturbing. He goes outside the city and sits under some kind of temporary shade and sulks and even becomes angry that God saved the pagan people of Nineveh. It seems clear from Jonah’s words that he half suspected God would do this and his Jewish pride and exclusive attitude led him to both try and escape God’s call and once God had saved Nineveh led to a great dummy spit.

Jonah prays these words in Jonah 4: 2 – 3,

“He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God; slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

God replies simply with, verse 4,

“But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

 God then speaks to Jonah through a practical illustration of providing a vine for shade for Jonah and then he took it away from him and then Jonah becomes angry again with God for what he had done to him. God then makes the application of the illustration of the vine with these amazing words,

“But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

 So we see again that even though Israel’s attitude was exclusive with no real love and thought for non Israelite people God cared and loved people outside of the Jewish nation and wanted them to know his guiding hand of justice and love.

Verse 4 of our Psalm reads,

“May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth”.

 It is the prophet Isaiah who particularly predicted the coming of a special servant of the Lord who would be a light to the Gentiles (non Jews) and bring to them both light and salvation as we read in Isaiah 49: 5 – 7,

And now the Lord says— he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honoured in the eyes of the Lord and my God has been my strength—he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” This is what the Lord says— the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel—to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers:
“Kings will see you and stand up, princes will see and bow down, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

We, as bible believing Christians recognise Jesus as this promised servant of God who through his coming to this world and particularly through his death and resurrection brought light to both Jew and Gentile alike. This salvation message is what we as true believers must one way or another take to the world.

I had another thought on the story of Jonah in my reflections on verse 4 of this Psalm. We might think pretty bad of poor old Jonah and his attitude to the conversion of the people of Nineveh but imagine this scenario. What if God called you or I to go to present day Iraq to preach the gospel to I.S. fighters there and what if we resisted as we would and God led us to go there by some kind of miraculous event in our lives like we survived a plane crash over Iraq and were picked up by some I.S. fighters. Then when we preached the Gospel to them they surprisingly turned in repentance and faith to follow Christ.

How would you feel when you knew these people had killed and tortured many Christian’s yet now they were saved and where part of the church of Jesus Christ and would one day go to heaven just like every other believer.

Would you do what the Psalm says you should do, namely, “be glad and sing for joy”?

I leave some of my last comments on this verse to Charles Spurgeon who writes,

“Nations never will be glad till they follow the leadership of the great Shepherd; they may shift their modes of government from monarchies to republics, and from republics to communes, but they will retain their wretchedness till they bow before the Lord of all”.

God not only rules his people the church but he also rules the world. All people from every nation of this world need to know this so that they too can know and understand God’s grace and blessing in their lives.

  1. The people of the world’s response of praise (vs. 5)

We come again to the chorus and refrain we read in verse 3. I mentioned before that this could have been designed as the general congregations response to the words of verse 4.

Maybe not only, the people of Israel responding with praise are in mind here in this version of the refrain or chorus but “the people” are all the people of this world. Of course they will not do this literally in one place but as people all around the world gather in the name of Jesus and give praise to who he is and what he has done them they are joining in response to this call for general universal praise.

When I have had the privilege of ministering the word of God in another country I have been able to join what I like to call, “the fellowship of praise”. This, to me is one of the greatest blessings I have experienced from God and I acknowledge that it has only come about because of God’s grace to me.

Our message to the people of this world is turn to the Lord Jesus Christ who loves you so much he gave his life for you and in response to that I say,

“May the peoples praise you God; may all the peoples praise you”

  1. A STATEMENT OF GOD’S GRACE AND BLESSING FOR HIS PEOPLE – THE    CHURCH (6 – 7)

   The Psalmist now changes from prayer to God to a statement about God that seems to naturally flow out of his previous prayer. I have broken this last part of the Psalm into two sections:

  1. God’s promise of physical blessings (vs. 6)
  2. God’s promise of spiritual blessings (vs. 7)

 

  1. God’s promise of physical blessings (vs. 6)

The Psalmist now states that he knows God will bless his people or the people of God when they function as God wants them to namely to be the witness to the world of who he is, what he has done for us and how he wants us live.

I mentioned throughout this Psalm that the prayer for God’s grace and blessing is based on God’s promise of blessing to the Nation starting with Abraham who will be the father of a great nation through whom God’s blessing will flow through them to the whole world and then to Moses and Aaron.

In Moses time God’s special nation has been established and the role of being God’s priests or ministers to the world is established when God gave them the law in Exodus 19 and particularly verses 5 and 6.

Then this promise of blessing is made even clearer from Aarons special God given priestly prayer which is partly used as the opening words of this Psalm and which reads like this in Numbers 6: 24 – 27,

“‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

Note the final words of this blessing in verse 27,

“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

In Old Testament terms God’s blessing involved practical and real physical blessing, which is spoken about in verse 6,

“Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us”.

The land of Israel was basically a dry barren land except when good rains fell from mainly storm systems that developed over the Mediterranean Sea to the east then it was both rich and fertile. This meant the nation of Israel relied on God to send them this bountiful rain and it seems that he had done this just before this Psalm was written.

When Israel failed as a nation, turning away from being that witness to the world they experienced drought and difficulty. After the dedication of the Temple God warns his people about drought and its remedy through what he says to Solomon at that time in 2 Chronicles 7: 12 – 16,

“The Lord appeared to him at night and said:

“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.  I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there”.

 So drought in Israel came when the people had turned away from God and had stopped being God’s faithful witness to the world. We see from all the prophets that drought or lack of rain was one of the ways God punished his people when they were unfaithful to him.

Here in Psalm 67 the physical blessing of a good harvest is assured because the people were a faithful witness of God’s message of Salvation to the world.

Jesus promises to bless us with all that we need if we choose to put him first in our lives and seek first his kingdom here on earth. Jesus speaks of this in Matthew 6: 28 – 34,

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow, is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘what shall we wear?  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

  1. God’s promise of spiritual blessings (vs. 7)

Even though the emphasis of Old Testament blessing is physical it also had a very real spiritual element to it as the final verse of this Psalm, verse 7 says,

“God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him”.

The spiritual nature of the results of God’s blessing namely,

“And all the ends of the earth will fear him”.

Suggests that this second statement of God’s blessing is more than physical prosperity. I believe God only blesses Christians with physical wealth and well being so that they can be used by God to bless others with the saving message of Jesus Christ. As Jesus points out clearly in Luke 12: 48b

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked”.

I have avoided as much as I can in this talk of any hint of what I call “The prosperity Gospel Message”. David W Jones explains this false Gospel teaching that is sweeping many parts of the world today particularly the content of Africa he writes,

“No matter what name is used, the essence of this message is the same. Simply put, this “prosperity gospel” teaches that God wants believers to be physically healthy, materially wealthy, and personally happy. Listen to the words of Robert Tilton, one of its best-known spokesmen: “I believe that it is the will of God for all to prosper because I see it in the Word, not because it has worked mightily for someone else. I do not put my eyes on men, but on God who gives me the power to get wealth.” Teachers of the prosperity gospel encourage their followers to pray for and even demand material flourishing from God”.

No, the Gospel message is not that if we turn to Jesus and what he has done for us on the cross we will be wealthy, happy and healthy. The message is if we turn to Christ and what he has done for us on the cross our sins will be forgiven and God will give us the gift of eternal life. This new life commences from the day we believe and for some God might for a time in this life bless them with material wealth but whatever he blesses us with it is not for us to simple use in sinful pleasures but as this verse says, so that,

“The ends of the earth will fear him”

Let me put it another way the great commission of Jesus to all Christians in Matthew 28: 19 -20 doe not say, Go and make money or even go and be blessed with lots of money and prosperity. Rather it simply says,

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.

We need to use whatever God has blessed us with to help others come to know and serve him and this is the central idea of this Psalm expressed so well in its chorus or refrain that reads,

“May the peoples praise you, O God, may all the peoples praise you”

How can they praise God when they do not know who he is and what he has done for them and how can they know that unless someone tells them. As Paul put it in Romans 10: 14 – 15,

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

David Guzik sums up the teaching of this last verse this way,

“When we share God’s heart and vision for the world, we will be blessed. We must be blessed. So we see a glorious cycle. We are blessed; we use that blessing to pray for and reach a hurting world, and as that aligns us with the heart of God, we are blessed even more, so we use that blessing for all the earth, and it just goes on and on”.

I have funded all my overseas mission trips from God’s blessing in my life with time and money and as I have done this God has blessed me further to do even more.

All mission agencies rely on God blessing Christians with money to help support those who are working for him in this hurting world. Besides money those missionaries need our prayers because even if they had lots of financial support without God’s spiritual blessing on their ministries for him their work is useless.

We all need God’s grace and blessing in our lives so that we can take his saving message to the world through missionary endeavour. We need God’s blessing for the funds and prayer that make that endeavour successful in reaching others for Christ and building them up as Disciples of Christ.

I close with Jesus word on being blessed by God in Matthew 5: 2 – 12,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”.

As I usually do I would like to conclude this Psalm talk with a poem (which is the words of a new song) and a prayer.

A CALL FOR GOD’S GRACE AND BLESSING

(Based on Psalm 67)

 May God bless me with his grace

May his face shine on me

So that his ways might be known on earth

And all people might know his love so free.

 

Chorus:

Praise the Lord all people

Who call on him today.

Praise the Lord he’s saved you

Take his love to the world each day.

 

May the nations of the world praise you Lord

May all people of this world praise your name.

For you rule and guide this world with love

To the world your word we must proclaim.

 

Chorus:

Praise the Lord all people

Who call on him today

Praise the Lord he’s saved you

Take his love to the world each day.

 

If we take God’s message

To this hurting world today

God’s grace will bless us even more

So that our world will turn and pray.

 

Chorus:

Praise the Lord all people

Who call on him today.

Praise the Lord he’s saved you

Take his love to the world each day.

 

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven we thank you that you have blessed us with your grace seen in the giving of your Son on the cross which has won for us our forgiveness that has brought us back into a close relationship with you. Help us through the many blessings you have given us to take the message of your love to this hurting world so that all the world can praise you as you deserve. In Jesus name we pray Amen.