Sunday, February 07, 2021

"May All the Peoples Praise You" Psalm 67 [Matt's Messages]

“May All the Peoples Praise You”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
February 7, 2021 :: Psalm 67

Psalm 67 is a radiantly-beautiful, carefully-constructed prayer song that passionately asks God to bless His people so that all of the peoples of the earth will come to praise Him.

Do you ever worry that it might be wrong to ask God to bless you?

I talk to people regularly who do not want to ask God for things for themselves in their prayer times. They want to focus on other people. “Other people have it so bad. I feel bad asking God for myself. Much less to ask Him to ‘bless me.’"

And you know there’s something good about that. Because too often many of us only ask things for ourselves. We can pray selfishly. No doubt.

But Psalm 67 shows us that it is good and right and godly to ask God to bless us.

But when we do, we are to do it so that others receive the blessing through us, as well. In fact, we are to pray that God blesses us so that all of the peoples of the earth will blessed, too.

Let me show you what I mean in Psalm 67. I said that Psalm 67 is radiantly-beautiful and carefully-constructed. You can tell from the word choice and the symmetry of the psalm. 

In just 7 verses there is all kinds of structure and repetition and symmetry. It starts out with a big prayer request, builds to a central declaration with matching praise phrases on either side of it, and then bookends with a repeat of some of the opening themes.

We don’t know who wrote it, but we know they wrote it good!

Let me read the whole thing for you. And listen for these words and how they land:

“Bless,” “nations,” “peoples,” “praise,” and “all.” A-L-L. Ready? Here we go.

Does the prayer of verse 1 sound really familiar to you? I hope it does.

The psalmist sticks a “selah” at the end of verse 1 even before he completes his opening thought.

I think he put a note to pause and ponder there to make sure that we all recognize the hypertext reference to Numbers chapter 6, verse 24 through 26.

When the LORD established the Levitical priesthood first led by Moses’ brother Aaron the high priest, he gave Aaron a blessing to pray over the people of Israel.

I use it several times a week when praying for my boys at night.

Numbers chapter 6 says, “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: ‘The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you [shalom] peace.’ So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.’”

Sound familiar? Well, the writer of Psalm 67 was clearly thinking about that Aaronic blessing when he wrote this song for the director of temple music to put to stringed instruments and then have everyone sing together in worship.

But here in verse 1 it’s not the priest saying it over the people.

It is the people praying it up to God. Verse 1.

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

Just think about that. Pause and ponder. Selah.

Not only is it good and right, but it is authorized and godly to ask God to bless you.

Israel is asking God to pour out His blessings on them.

Perhaps this was sung at harvest time. Verse 6 will lend some evidence in that direction.

Perhaps the psalmist just heard the priest pronounce that blessing over him after he had brought an offering to the temple, and he’s adding his voice in supplication for that blessing. We don’t know.

But we do know that the song is asking God for His blessing on His people.

Not that they deserve it!

“May God be gracious to us.” That means to give us what we don’t deserve and to not give us what we do deserve! “Be gracious.”

And bless us. Be good to us. Give us blessings.

“And make his face shine upon us.” That’s the greatest blessing there is! The radiance of God’s personal presence. His face! These are words of intimacy and personal relationship. For true personal knowledge of God through His shining favor.

These words are so good, it is hard to find other words to capture and restate them  with!

This is a good thing for us to pray.

So have you prayed like this recently? Have you asked God to bless you?

To be gracious to you, to bless you, to make His face shine upon you?

Don’t be afraid to! 

Be afraid not to–because this should be our guide.

Ask God to bless you, to bless your family, to bless your church, to bless your community, to bless your workplace, to bless your nation.

Not that we deserve it! Sometimes we pray, “God bless America,” and it comes out sounding like we’re saying, “We’re so good, God’s gotta be good to us. God bless America.”

But the song “America the Beautiful” pleads, “God shed His GRACE on thee.” Because we are not good, so we need Him to be good to us in spite of us.

But we ask for it. Verse 1. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, Selah”

Yes, do that! 

But catch this. Follow the train of thought.

We ask for this blessing on us, but it’s not just blessing for us. Verse 2.

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

That’s the purpose in verse 2 of the prayer of verse 1.

Israel was to sing and pray for God to bless them so that God’s ways would be known beyond borders of Israel, so that God’s salvation would be known among ALL nations.

So there’s obviously another hypertext here in the mind of the psalmist.

He isn’t just thinking about Numbers chapter 6. He’s also thinking about Genesis chapter 12.

Do you remember when we studied Genesis together and we learned about a little thing often called the “Abrahamic Covenant?” A set of promises that God made to Father Abraham? 

Summarized in three words: Offspring, Land, and...Blessing?

In Genesis chapter 12, God promised to bless Abraham and to make him a blessing for all the peoples on earth. He said (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.”

Remember that? The songwriter of Psalm 67 sure does.

His song asks God to bless them so that every other people group on earth is blessed along the way.

In many ways, this is an Old Testament song about missions.

Did you know that missions is in the Old Testament?

Most of the time when the word “nations” occurs in the Psalms, it’s a negative reference. Because the “nations” are often the enemies of Israel. We saw that back at Christmastime when we studied Psalm 2 and the nations were unsuccessfully conspiring against the LORD and against His Anointed One. 

But here the nations are receiving salvation.

And we saw in Psalm 2 that they were invited to that salvation, to take refuge in Israel’s promised Messiah.

But here the people are praying for God’s blessing so that the nations will know His saving power.

Do you see how this works?

Israel was to pray that they would be blessed so that they would become a blessing.

This raises the question, “What do you do with your blessings?”

When you are blessed, what happens next?

Because in God’s economy, in God’s system, we are blessed to be a blessing.

We are not supposed to be “cul-de-sacs” of God’s blessings. We are supposed to be conduits of God’s blessings. Channels of God’s blessings.

Sometimes we get to thinking that we are supposed to be the “roach motels” of God’s blessings. They come in to us, but they don’t go out. 

Often we act like a dead-end street. “Thank you, Lord, for blessing me.” And that’s it.

But when the Lord blesses us, we are supposed to be passing that blessing along.

Because there is plenty of God’s blessing to go around.

What do you do with your blessings?

We are supposed to pray for them to come in, but we should not stop there.

Ask God to bless you to bless the nations.
Ask God to bless your family to bless the nations.
Ask God to bless your church to bless the nations.
Ask God to bless your community to bless the nations.
Ask God to bless your workplace to bless the nations.
Ask God to bless your nation to bless the nations.

I’m so glad that Israel sang this song and prayed this prayer.

They didn’t do it perfectly. In fact, they didn’t do it enough in the Old Testament.

Old crankypants Jonah didn’t pray this prayer and was miffed when God was fixing to bless the city of Nineveh through his preaching!

But the faithful remnant always sang this song and prayed this prayer. And many individuals from the surrounding nations came to faith in the God of Israel in the Old Testament.

And then in the New Testament, it gets ramped up 1,000%!

And the Lord Jesus sends out His blessed people with the blessed message of the blessed gospel to bless all of the nations, fulfilling this psalm!

And answering this prayer.

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

They weren’t just praying blessing for themselves but blessing on themselves that attracted the nations, taught the nations God’s ways (God’s laws, God’s paths), and even made His salvation known among all peoples.

Verse 3 shows that the end goal of this prayer request is joyful praise among all peoples. Verse 3.

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

Not just Israel. But all the peoples.

That’s really important. It shows the missionary heart of God and what should be the missionary heart of our prayers.

Is this your prayer? That all of the peoples would praise the Lord?

This week, I want to point to another wall of pictures in our church building and that’s this wall of pictures of our missionary families.

The precious servants who have answered the call to go to the nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We partner with them. We send them. And we pray for them.

Are you praying for these folks? Are you praying for the peoples they are trying to reach with the gospel?

“May all the peoples praise you!”

You can see that there is a couple of blank spots here.

For the last several months, our Missions Ministry Team has been working closely with ReachGlobal, the missions arm of our association of churches to discover who our next set of missionaries to partner with will be.

We are getting close to having names and stories and countries to tell you about. We’re excited. Please pray!

We pray that “all the peoples” would praise the Lord.

All. I love it that the EFCA actually has a ministry called “The All People’s Initiative.” We have a dedicated team of people to help us minister to, and understand, and partner with people who are very different from us, Ethnically, racially, culturally.

This is Black History Month in the United States, and that’s a great opportunity each year for us in the church to learn some of the history of Black people in the United States including some of the terrible ways that they have been treated by professing Christians. Professing Christians who did not pass on their blessings to the nations but hoarded them for themselves. And on the flipside to learn about the contributions to the church by Black Christians. 

This Black History Month, I’m listening to the audiobook of David Blight’s excellent biography of Frederick Douglass who had been enslaved and was our brother in Christ. What a life! What a contribution he made to our nation!

“All the peoples.”

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

And think about this. This really hit me when I was preparing this message. Think  about this: We are an answer to this prayer request!

Because from the perspective of Psalm 67, we are the peoples! We are the nations!

None of us here are Hebrew, right?
None of us here are Israeli, right?
None of us here are ethnically Jewish, right?

So they were praying for us!

When they prayed Psalm 67 in faith, they were praying for the peoples including the Gentiles that live today in Central Pennsylvania! V.4

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

We fulfill that song every time we gather to worship and rejoice that we know this God!

And what we know about Him is amazing. We already said that He’s gracious. Here we find out that He is just and righteous.

He rules the peoples–or that might actually be a prophecy for the future that he will rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth.

He will set all to right.
He make all things right.
He rules righteously.

And don’t we all long for justice to come and for it come perfectly?

That’s what kind of a God we know!

So verse 5 is the exact same words as verse 3.

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

It’s repeated because it’s so important!

Is this your prayer? Do you repeat this prayer to the Lord regularly?

I remember one time a few years ago playing basketball with a group of guys and then at half-time we had a little Bible study and devotion and somebody raised a prayer request for the people in another country that were experiencing internal troubles.

And one of the young men I was with said to me, “Those people don’t deserve our prayers or our help. I say we help the people around here and don’t worry about them. They don’t deserve it.”

And I couldn’t believe my ears. And I’ve learned since then that that’s a popular notion even among professing Christians.

I’m so thankful for missionary Christians who brought the gospel to these shores. Who brought the gospel to these ears. That they didn’t keep the blessings to themselves.

I want to pray like this. I fail at it all of the time.

But I want this to be my model of a prayerful heart for the nations.

To love ALL people. 

And to want ALL people know the love of God in Christ Jesus.

I want to pray for the fulfillment of the vision of Revelation chapter 7 when John say before him “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

That’s an fulfillment of Psalm 67, verse 5. “May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.”

And you know what happens when we pray like that? The Lord blesses us some more. V.6

“Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him.”

Israel saw that their fruitful crops were physical blessings and signs of God’s grace.

We know that the blessings of God go much deeper than the soil. They get all the way down to the salvation of our souls.

Because the grace of this God and the justice of this God met and kissed at the Cross of Jesus Christ.

So that His righteous wrath was satisfied and He poured out His love on His people  and on all of the nations so that all of the ends of the earth will fear him even in Clearfield County Pennsylvania!

Because the ultimate fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, the ultimate offspring of Abraham was named Jesus Christ, and He is the ultimate blessing for all the peoples on the earth, as well.

Psalm 67 turns our gaze upward and outward. We learn to pray missionary prayers that the nations would be glad and sing for joy.

Psalm 67 is a radiantly-beautiful, carefully-constructed prayer song that passionately asks God to bless His people so that all of the peoples of the earth will come to praise Him.

May we sing this song and pray this prayer and may His kingdom come so that ALL the peoples will praise Him.


Fortifying Truth - Psalms - Fall 2020 / Winter 2021

01. Majestic and Mindful - Psalm 8
02. All Our Days - Psalm 90
03. "The LORD on High Is Mighty!" - Psalm 93
04. "The LORD Is My Shepherd" - Psalm 23
05. "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!" - Psalm 103
06. "The Blessing of Aaron's Oily Beard" - Psalm 133
07. "A Dying Thirst for the Living God" - Psalm 42
08. "Our Fortress" - Psalm 46
09. Unrestless - Psalm 131
10. "Sun and Shield" - Psalm 84
11. "With Songs of Joy" - Psalm 126
12. "His Love Endures Forever" - Psalm 136
13. "How Many Are Your Works, O LORD!" - Psalm 104
14. "My Soul Waits for the Lord" - Psalm 130
15. "Remember David" - Psalm 132
16. "My Son" - Psalm 2
17. "Search Me" - Psalm 139
18. "Cleanse Me" - Psalm 51
19. "A New Song" - Psalm 96