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Posts Tagged ‘reaching out’

Today we are in Psalm 67 and our topic is how God is made known through his people, even through our community here at Cedar Street.

You have a handout for Psalm 67 (see below). It’s super easy to see how this Psalm is put together. It’s an inverted outline where the first half of the psalm mirror images the second half. There is a request for blessing and a reason for this at the beginning and the end, there are parallel calls for praise and in the middle there is a focus on God’s work among the nations. Let’s take a look at what this Psalm means.

Psalm 67

1May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us . . .” The request here is for God to bless Israel, his people. Notice the pronouns, “us” “us” “us.”

The request is made with words that echo the great benediction of  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.”

To have God’s “face shine” means that God is radiant with delight and is full of grace towards us. Like a parent who beams, and you can see it in their face, when they are joyful over their children.

This request can be taken very broadly, but later in v. 6 the focus is on the blessing of good crops. So this is all likely a prayer for a good harvest, which, of course, is also a prayer for food, provision, peace and wholeness for their community.

But this request is not an end in itself. There is a reason for it that is bigger than the well-being of God’s people. 2. . . so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.” The point is not just that God’s people are cared for, but that in caring for us God will be made known to other people.

In context, Israel is the only people that worships the true God. All the other nations have their own gods. The prayer here is that in seeing the true God’s care for Israel, the other nations will come to know God.

  • Specifically, that they will know “your ways.” This has to do with how God steadfast love to take care of his people, but also the way he calls them to live, in this case living out God’s will according to the Law of Moses.
  • And also specifically that they will know “your salvation.” This has to do with God’s provision and keeping them from harm, but also God’s great act of salvation in bringing them up out of Egypt in the first place.

There is a real focus on outreach in this Psalm – on getting others to come to know God and to act appropriately. Seven times various words for nations or peoples are used in this Psalm.

If we ask, what is an appropriate response for the nations who come to know who God is, v. 3 tells us. 3May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.” Once they learn of the true God through how he takes care of his own people, once they learn of God’s ways and salvation – this should lead them to praise him. For to know God is to praise God. Because God is awesome and worthy of praise. The writer calls on the nations to do this, indeed for “all” the peoples to do this, not just some.

4May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth.” Here we see that God is already at work among the nations, whether this is known by them or acknowledged. But the Psalmist is calling on them to know and acknowledge this with rejoicing.

God “rules” or judges with equity. And God “guides”; he leads or shepherds them. These are both the activities of a king. Although he is uniquely Lord of his own people, God is rightfully the king of all people. 

The psalm is clear that God is providentially involved with all peoples. As Paul says in Acts 17:26 – “From one man God made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.”

Once again, a call for praise is issued, with the same words as in v. 3, 5May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.”

And then we end with a recognition of the blessing of a harvest, but also a request for continued blessings.“6The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us. 7May God bless us still . . .” God has given sunshine and rain and there is a good harvest. So there is food, there is wholeness, there is peace among God’s people.But God, continue to do this.

And like in the first section, this request is not an end in itself. There is a reason for it that is bigger than the well-being of God’s people. “. . . so that all the ends of the earth will revere him.” So that all people will know and revere God, that is rightly honor, respect, and be in awe of God.

Now, a lot of Scriptures talk about this idea that –

God is to be made known through his people

The two are connected, because his people bear his name and represent him on earth.

Sometimes this works against God. That’s because when God’s people sin and judgment comes, this profanes God’s reputation because it looks like God can’t take care of his people. For instance, when Israel was sent into exile in Babylon for its sin, this profaned God’s reputation among the nations. Ezekiel 36:22 teaches just this. It made the true God look weak and not worthy of praise, even though it was his people’s fault.

But when things are good and God is blessing his people, God’s reputation is spread. For instance, when God decided to bring his people back from exile, he said in Ezekiel 36:23-24 – “I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes. For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.” Notice the highlighted phrase. God is proved holy in that he is shown to be better and higher; in a class  by himself as the only true God. He does this “through you” – his people, not apart from them; by how he acts to take care of his people bringing them back from exile. And he does this “before their eyes”; that is the eyes of the nations that will see this, so that they “will know that I am the Lord.”

When things are right between God and his people and God is blessing them, it is a witness to all that God is the true God, and all others are mere pretenders.

The first petition of the Lord’s prayer comes from this same set of ideas about how God is made known. When we pray “hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9) we too, like the Psalmist, are praying that God will act and thus make himself known – even through us his people. And that all will see and come to know and praise and revere God or  hallow God.

The message of this Psalm

 – is straightforward. God is already at work among the nations, though unknown and unacknowledged. But the prayer is, “God act for your people so that the nations will come to know you; your ways and your salvation and thus praise you.”

God’s acting for his own, the few – the “us” of this Psalm (see the handout) is not just for the few, but for all people. Notice  the repetition of “all” in this psalm on your handout. God is acting for those who are not yet his own.

Finally, let’s make some connections between –

Psalm 67 and us

 1. We are a part of the fulfillment of this prayer. We here today – you and me – are from the nations or Gentiles. Through God’ great work in Jesus, we have come to know, revere and praise God. We have become a part of the people of God.

But the prayer goes on because so many still don’t know God. And so 2. God is to be made known through us; through our community.

The fact is, we are always making something known about God whether for the bad, driving people away from God because of our bad witness or for the good, inviting them to come to know God as they see God at work among us.

What is our witness as a community?

  • Do people who come see God;s powerful presence at work among us answering our prayers, caring for our needs, filling us with joy and peace and love for one another?
  • Do they come to the realization that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the one true God, who can truly take care of all their needs, that he is awesome in power and love?
  • Do they realize through our witness that the false gods of our day – money, power, social status, technology, celebrities, entertainment are just that, false, empty and useless; that they don’t give true peace and joy; that they don’t produce the love that we all crave to experience in life?
  • Do they come to know God’s ways and his salvation through us?

Let us invite God to be present and active among us so this very thing will happen. Will you pray this for our congregation? Do you pray for our services? Do you pray for me as I lead and deliver the Word? Do you pray for the Worship team? Let’s ask God to be present and active among us so that through God’s blessing of us, all who come will be blessed.

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Psalm 67 handout

A. Request for blessing: 1May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us

A. Why? So that God is known: 2so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.

B. Call for praise: 3May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.

C. God’s work among the nations: 4May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth.

B1. Call for praise: 5May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.

A1. Blessings given and requested: 6The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us. 7May God bless us still

A1. Why? So that God is known/revered: so that all the ends of the earth will *revere him.

The NIV, except for * in v. 7.

 

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