God Blesses Us for the Purpose of the Nations to Praise Him
Scripture: Psalm 67:1–7
Every summer, Crosstown goes through our basics series to remind us of the three core elements that make up the DNA of our body. As you know, strands of DNA are woven together through bridges that connect essential elements known as nucleotide bases, which make the genetic code for the whole body. They work together in unity and unison, making sure the same genetic code is maintained throughout every cell of the body. Our basics here are similar to these elements: Gospel, Community and Mission are woven together and deeply connected, making the genetic code for the entire church body. When we love, respect, live and manifest all of them, and we do so as fellow members of one body, we could tangibly sense the knowledge of God growing in us, among us, and through us.
The gospel is the basis of our salvation. We stand in it every day. It gives us joy, renews our hope, reminds us of the grace of God, and assures us of where our eternity lies. The gospel is the story of God becoming man in Christ so that we sinners can be reconciled to him. The gospel is also the basis and center of our community. The bonds of our fellowship are as strong as the truth of the gospel is in us. In our community we experience and practice love, joy, fellowship, service, forgiveness and hope. There are distinctives in our gospel community: we share the same salvation, same faith, same hope, same baptism, same Spirit, same Lord (Ephesians 4:4-6). Gospel community should be the manifestation of the conviction we have in the gospel of our faith. We live in community to disciple one another and to encourage one another to love and good deeds; such love and good deeds should propel us toward calling outsiders to faith in Christ so that they too can share in the goodness of our God.
You see, the call of the gospel is twofold: come, taste and see (Psalm 34:8), then go and tell (Mark 5:19; Luke 8:39). For those who have tasted of the goodness of God, savored his grace, and rejoiced in his work, to limit themselves to such attitudes of receiving would be selfish. But the Christian world is full of such people, maybe even in our circles. We have received the goodness of our God, and have become #grateful and feel #blessed, yet have failed to live this conviction in a way that calls others to come and taste as well. For some, the only thing they remember from the books of Chronicles is the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chr 4:9-10. In the middle of a genealogy, we have this brief mention of Jabez, one of the descendants of Judah, who called upon the God of Israel, saying: “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain.” The prayer in itself has nothing wrong in it for a man who was born in pain, but the mistake would be to make this prayer a mantra for God to bless us, or bless me, and only bless me, oftentimes at the exclusion of others.
In light of this we come to Psalm 67 which is the subject of our meditations today. It is a Psalm of thanksgiving written by king David, likely at the time of harvest at the end of the summer. But there is something unique that distinguishes this song from other thanksgiving psalms in that it calls for God’s blessing with the purpose that his name would be known by the peoples of the earth, for his praise and for his glory. In our meditations today we will look at the following points from this Psalm:
- God blesses us so that we may bless others
- God’s worship is a primary goal of missions
- God guides nations so that he may be found
God blesses us so that we may bless others – or God’s blessing as the basis of missions
Verse 1 is an adaptation of the many blessings we read in the Old Testament, the most known of which is Aaron’s blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” This is a marvelous blessing for the whole community, which contains words of grace that stir in the heart joy and trust in God; words we hear as benediction at the end of worship services; words that we speak with anticipation over missionaries and ministers.
And what great words they are for us who live in the new covenant, having tasted and seen of the goodness of the Lord. We believers today, the church of Jesus Christ, are the recipients of this marvelous blessing. God has truly been gracious to us in calling us from death to life. He has truly blessed us in his beloved Son. And yes! He has shone his face on us! For God, who said, “let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6). His countenance is on us and goes before us. The blessing is a corporate one. Just like the blessing in Numbers was for the whole people, David here is praying for a blessing on the whole gathered congregation. It is not “be gracious to me and bless me and shine your face on me.” It is for us. It is for the community. It is in the manner of many Biblical prayers, including the one Jesus taught, to be one for the community. Pray like this: Our Father – not just my Father. We are not lone rangers; we are members of one body. We are one community of faith, a community of grace.
Where do missions fall into this? The God we serve is the same God yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is the same God who told Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28); He is the same God who told Abraham: “[…]I will bless you and make your name great, SO THAT you will be a blessing […] and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3); he is the same God who blessed Isaac so that in his offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 26:4); he is the same God who blessed Jacob so that in him and in his offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed (Genesis 28:14); he is the same God who made ordinances for gentiles to be able to become members of the old covenant and worship with the people of God. He is the same God whose Spirit breathed through David the words of this psalm: that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations (v.2).
God’s worship is a primary goal of missions
Here we will spend more time on this second point, that God’s worship is a primary goal of missions. Do you see the pattern? God blesses people so that they bless others. Let me rephrase that: God graciously calls people to become his children, demonstrating his lavish love, with one of the goals being so that they would bless others by making his way known on earth, and his saving power among all nations. Our God has been on mission since the beginning of time, and this mission is to make his name known, reconciling people to himself, for the praise of his glory and his worship among the nations. God’s workings in and for his people are a conduit for his truth to be known by the whole world. The privilege of the believer is to be used as an instrument in God’s plan for salvation. We read in Isaiah 43:21 that God has a chosen people, “the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.” In Romans 1:5, Paul says that through [Jesus Christ] we have received grace [and apostleship] to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations. God blesses us and is gracious to us so that he may be worshiped by the nations.
Look with me at 1 Peter 2:9. Peter in this passage is calling believers to live godly lives as opposed to the unbelievers who reject God. And here’s where the “but” comes from at the beginning of the verse. Now let’s look at the rest of the verse: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” In Christ, we have been chosen before the foundation of the world to be believers in him. We have become children of God, of the King of kings, and co-heirs with Christ of great promises. Christ is our brother. We have been grafted into a royal line and have been given the new covenant in which we minister to one another. Once we were alienated but now we are all members of the new kingdom, of the church universal, seen and unseen, past, present and future. We are secure in the hand of our Savior. What an amazing grace!
Yet it does not end here. Let us look at the second part of the verse: that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. That your way may be known on earth, and your saving power among all nations. When his excellencies are proclaimed, his way is revealed to those who are astray as the Holy Spirit removes the veil and quickens the heart. God is proclaimed; light shines; saving power is at work; people who were dead now come to life. And they respond by celebration, praise and worship.
You see, God could have saved us and immediately called us to heaven. Do you ever wonder why that’s not the case? This world is a great place but it’s also a horrible place full of death, terror, sickness, pandemic, disease, pain, tears, conflicts, and so on and so forth… We should all look forward to the sweetness and glory of eternity as we pray: come Lord Jesus! For the time being, God kept us here so that we may proclaim his excellencies! Could he not do it without us? You bet he could! But he grants us this great privilege of being workers and ministers in his field where he sovereignly ordains the removal of the veil from people’s eyes through the preaching of the word. Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).
And when faith comes, the proper response of the heart that encounters the one true God and is transformed by him is to bow down and worship, to praise, to exalt his name on high. Missions exist to increase the worship of God through the knowledge and praise of his glory in the hearts of peoples and nations. John Piper said: missions exist because worship doesn’t! We worship God by proclaiming his name, and the peoples worship God as they come to know his name. God desires worshipers in spirit and truth on all the face of the earth. He is neither a narcissist nor selfish. You and I would be if we demanded to be worshiped. We would be deluded. God deserves all praise and all glory and power and all worship and all adoration from all eternity and through all eternity because he is worthy and his kingdom is everlasting! One day every knee will bow, willingly or unwillingly, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11). And I’d like to think that he prefers that people would do so willingly, and that you and I better pray and work so that people would do so willingly.
You see believers: God in his magnificent plan made us his children and commissioned us as his ministers to go into all the world and preach the good news to all nations, for the glory of God and for his worship among the peoples. This of course does not mean the states and governments of today or of old, but comes from the Greek word ethne which usually indicates groups of people that are often distinguished by common language, culture and customs. Where do we find such nations?
God establishes nations so that he may be found – or God’s sovereignty in dwellings for missions
Let us focus next on God’s sovereignty over the realms of nations as declared in v.4 which directs our eyes to God’s sovereignty in ruling and over geography. The verse assures us of two things. The first pertains to rule and justice, and the second to guidance. The word judge here means more governance than judgment, but at least in part it pertains to the end of times, when God will judge every individual and all nations according to whether they believe in God or not. This will be the most equitable justice that will be rendered upon all the face of the earth, throughout all history, and forever. As Abraham asked (Gen 18:25): shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just? In Acts 17, we are told that God is commanding all people everywhere to repent for he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by the risen Christ. Listen to these gospel assurances: Christ is risen and he will judge the peoples with equity and righteousness. This thought however mostly pertains to the current governance of people, and how God the King establishes rules and leaders. We know that those who believe in God will reform their lives and laws to live according to the precepts of God. We should pray for all those in authority to do what is just and right, and what enables the people of God to worship him and to proclaim him. The role of a judge or a leader or a ruler is not to only punish guilt, but to preserve life and defend the innocent, to do what is right for human flourishing.
The second aspect of this verse pertains to all periods of history until the end of times. He guides the nations upon earth. What this means is that God is sovereign not only in the creation of people, but also in the moving of peoples around in history and geography so that they may come to know him. Looking again at Acts 17, beginning in v.26: He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.
As you can see, God is sovereign in the moving of peoples on all the face of the earth and all of human history. It is true that this world has wars and conflicts and economic distresses and people seek after a better life and a better economy and a better political system. It is true that for these reasons and others many people will move around, migrate, immigrate and create new cultures so that they may live better, find safety, seek success, pursue education etc... It is true that people are being displaced or become refugees because of conflicts and famines. Yet in all of this, God is sovereign to turn what people intend for their purposes and sometimes for evil, for his own good for the salvation of many and for people to come to the knowledge of the one true God and to worship him. This does not absolve perpetrators of guilt, but reminds us to magnify God who sovereignly ordains his purposes through and sometimes despite or against what people intend. He guides the nations on earth so that he may be found.
This is true of the story of my family. When I was still a child we were displaced during the war in Lebanon. But after we endured loss and displacement and famine and persecution, we came to a point in time where at the end of our hopes, we found the one true God by the witness of a neighbor who was a believer, then joined the church meeting in his house. Yes, we lost everything material, but we gained eternal life. Eternal life! And with it, the daily assurance of the gospel of our salvation, a new community of faith, and also the eagerness to tell how he transformed our lives. We were saved by the gospel, into a community, and for missions. So many people came to faith during the war, and still do, through the guidance of our God. There is great assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Neither death nor life nor famine nor persecution nor danger nor sword. Nothing. He is sovereign to bring people to his knowledge through the witness of his children, of his ministers.
This is also true today all over the world. Wars, persecutions and tragedies displace people to the ends of the earth where many hear the gospel and believe in it. For example, Syria had been and continues to be closed for missionaries; believers could not go to them; God brought them to us. This is true of others in closed Middle Eastern countries where they are coming here to our own city for education and work. This is true of people from east Asia fleeing persecution or seeking better jobs. This is true in what is happening today in Afghanistan. We do not condone evil and tragic events. We pray for peace and we seek to proclaim life, light and his excellencies to those who are suffering while working to alleviate such suffering. The truth is if we seek to live on mission in a credible gospel community as we claim in this church, we are without excuse regarding reaching the nations that God has brought to our doorstep. Did you know that most international students leave the USA without ever stepping a foot into an American home? Do you see foreigners or refugees or people from other religions as foes, as projects, or as image bearers who need to be reconciled to God? Them not knowing God is not a reason for us to fear them, but should propel us to care for them enough to share with them the hope of Christ.
Brother and sister: we have the power of the gospel. We have a large capital – the truth of the word of God found in the gospel of our salvation. Are we using this power and capital for his glory? The world today often speaks of how power is being misused. But did you know that withholding using the power we have to benefit others is harmful? Are you doing that? Do you know what a privilege it is for us to be ministers of the word which we are called to proclaim? It is a great joy to be workers of his kingdom. If we live with conviction the faith that we have received through the gospel in which we stand and partake in the community that he calls us to be part of, we are to be not only ready, but eager to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us from darkness into his marvelous light. That is an act of worship.
Conclusion and application: Obedience of God for the sake of worship
There are many words that recur over and over again in this Psalm. The word “us” found in the communal petition to God in v.1, then in the assurance that God shall bless us at the end of the Psalm. Yes believers: we as a community are assured of the answer to this prayer that God, our God, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places through his beloved Son shall bless us. He does that because he loves us and for his own glory. That is why we also see the Psalmist addressing God directly (you, your) because he – God – is at the center of this Psalm. He is the source of grace, the King, the guide, the one whose way must be known and whose saving power must be proclaimed, all so that he may be praised. 4 times it is said let the peoples and nations praise you.
This is a Psalm that is primarily about God. The worship and praise of God is one of the great goals of missions. Loving God should be one of the heartbeats of our mission. The gospel itself is glorious and worthy to be proclaimed. God has the full and only right to be the focus of all praise and adoration, throughout history and eternity, by all peoples and all nations. His kingdom is forever. This God is calling all people everywhere to repent and be saved. We are assured that the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14). The harvest is plentiful. The earth has yielded its increase. There are sheep from outside this fold that the Great Shepherd is awaiting to bring in. And you and I have the privilege and the blessing of having known the truth, been transformed into life, having tasted of the goodness of the Lord, and having received the call to make disciples and proclaim the good news.
So where are we in our obedience? Some of us have gone to the nations, or are considering that prayerfully, or have chosen education or career paths that could be used for gospel ministry. Praise the Lord for that! Some are living a credible gospel life every day at the workplace, in the neighborhood, at the local gatherings, and among our friends. Praise the Lord for that! Some of us use our money, gifts, skills, time and belongings to bless others, to be hospitable, to welcome people into our gospel community, to share the good news. Praise the Lord for that! And even when times are hard and response is limited, I encourage you brothers and sisters to endure, to run the race well, to not give up, to trust the Lord to accomplish that which he purposed because his word will not return to him empty (Isaiah 55:11). Your labor is not in vain!
And here’s where some of us are: we are still trying to figure things out. We are growing. We are learning. We are taking Perspectives. We are asking the Lord to change our disposition toward unbelievers. We are starting to pray for the nations. And we should obey the words of Jesus from Matthew 9:38 to pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. I encourage you to persevere.
But here’s where some of us are: we want God to bless us. That’s it. Just us. We have tasted some of the goodness of our God, but we keep nibbling at appetizers, not going in for the main meal. We stay at the periphery. We pray that God would just remove those 17 people who are irritating our life from our work, neighborhood, school etc… We talk more about people to one another and to God than we talk to them about God. Or we do pray that God sends out laborers into his harvest, but we earnestly pray it would be others and not us. Or we are afraid to talk about missions or to take Perspectives or read a book about missions for fear that God would rock the stable castle – or barn – we have built for ourselves and give us a vision that goes beyond ourselves, a reach that goes where his hands can reach, a desire that burdens our hearts for the gospel to be proclaimed and for the nations to be glad. For some of us that is a fear to go overseas. For others that is a fear to talk to our neighbors. And for some, it is not realizing that wherever God currently has us is the place where he ordained us to be so that we may be gospel ministers. Do we see ourselves as a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession that we may proclaim his excellencies? A people he made for himself that we may declare his praise? Are we doing our work with excellence to the glory of God? Which is better? To do our work poorly but be excellent evangelists? Or do our work excellently but not proclaim the gospel? God has called us to do all for the glory of God – that is both work with excellence AND proclaim his excellencies.
Brothers and sisters: God has blessed us, is blessing us and shall bless us so that we may tell of him, so that his name is declared, his way is known, his salvation shown so that he may be praised, feared, enjoyed and revered by all peoples! It is a double blessing: he blessed us so that we bless others! He is doing a work in our days among the nations that we would not believe even if we were told (Habakkuk 1:5). His glory fills all the earth. Are you worshiping him and giving him glory? Are you living as if there is salvation in no one else? Are you seeking to save those who are lost? Do you trust that he is faithful and that he cannot fail?
Do you know that DNA can mutate and strands can be broken? Even if it starts in one cell, the result can be sickness that affects the whole body. But DNA can be repaired and strands reconnected. And I desire for us in this coming year and beyond not to mutate our DNA, not to lose sight of this triple-threaded strand of gospel, community and mission. We are saved by the gospel into union with Christ; we are saved into a community of faith and grace; we are saved for worship; we are saved into mission and proclamation. May God be worshiped among us and proclaimed by us so that the nations be glad and sing for joy, and enter his kingdom from the east and from the west. I am asking you to listen to his voice, to obey his words, and to trust him to fulfill the desire that he has put in you. He is zealous for his name to be praised by you and by all nations. We may not all go overseas, but we should be willing, or at the least, ready and eagerly sharing the gospel of our salvation with those who do not yet know God here among us. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart.