May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him! (Psalm 67:1–7)
Two preliminary comments on this passage:
This is the way we pray when we are besotted with God’s zeal for his praise among all the peoples of the world. One of the barometers of the fruitfulness of this conference is whether you are more inclined to pray like this now than you were three days ago.
One of the ways God alters the course of our lives is that when we hear a portion of God’s word, it takes root, and starts to grow, and doesn’t wither. It hangs on. It revives again and again. It survives from season to season. It does something to us. We can’t shake it. It holds us. It changes things. We can’t fully explain it. But it becomes a call of God on our lives. May the Lord make this such a text for you.
The way verses 1 and 2 relate to each other roots this psalm firmly to the way God is at work in history to save the world. Notice the connection between God’s blessing Israel (that’s the “us” of verse 1) and Israel’s being a blessing to the nations (verse 2):
May God be gracious to us and bless us [note those words!] and make his face to shine upon us, that [this is the aim of God in blessing Israel] your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.
Rooted in God’s Covenant
This connection between being blessed and being a blessing to the nations means that the psalmist is rooting his prayer in Genesis 12:2–3. God promises to Abram,
“We are supposed to take promises, bring them up to date, and pray them into reality.”
I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
So this prayer in Psalm 67 is not hanging in the air with no connections with God’s historical way of saving the world. It is rooted in God’s covenant with Abraham. It brings that covenant up to date and prays it into reality. That is what we are supposed to do with God’s covenants — his promises. Bring them up to date and pray them into reality.
Decisively Fulfilled in Jesus
So let’s do that into the twenty-first century. I think the psalmist and Abraham would be upset with us if we didn’t. The decisive fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham — not final fulfillment, but the decisive one — was the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the “seed of Abraham.” And because Jesus in all his saving work is the seed of Abraham, everyone — including people from the most pagan nations — who is united to him by faith becomes a son of Abraham and an heir of all his blessings.
Look to Galatians 3:13–14:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us . . . so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles [the nations!].
And now look to Galatians 3:6, 9, 29:
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. . . . So those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. . . . If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
Psalm 67 in the Twenty-First Century
So God’s plan was that all the peoples of the world be blessed. To that end, he chose the people of Israel to bear his revelation and his blessing. And he made a covenant with them that they would be blessed and in that way bring that blessing to all the peoples of the world. And God fulfilled this covenant decisively when Jesus Christ, the seed of Abraham, fulfilled all righteousness and died for sin and rose again, so that anyone who believes on him from any people on earth will become a child of Abraham and inherit the blessing of Abraham — and so be blessed by the blessing of Israel. So the Abrahamic covenant is being fulfilled every time someone trusts in Christ.
So we are going to read this prayer in Psalm 67 as part of the ongoing historical realization of this great covenant and its decisive fulfillment in Jesus and its ongoing fulfillment through the church. The prayer is really meant to be read as a realization of the covenant with Abraham, and as an expression of how that covenant would be fulfilled in us today through Jesus Christ.
God’s Great Purpose for the World
The first thing we’ll look at in the prayer is God’s great purpose for the world and all its thousands of people groups. God inspired this prayer (which Jesus says about the Psalms in Matthew 22:43). And so we can see in it not just the psalmist’s purpose, but God’s great purpose for the world he made.
“Missions exist because worship doesn‘t.”
According to Psalm 67 God's purpose is to be known and praised and enjoyed and feared among all the peoples of the earth. This is why he created the world, why he chose Israel, why Christ died, and why missions exists. Missions exists because the knowledge of God, the praise of God, the enjoyment of God, and the fear of God don’t exist among the nations.
To Be Known, Praised, Enjoyed, and Feared
Let me point out each of these so you can see them for yourself. First, God’s purpose is to be known among all the nations. Verse 2: “that your way may be known upon the earth, your saving power among all nations.”
Second, his purpose is to be praised among all the nations. Verse 3: “Let all the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” Verse 5: “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!”
Third, God's purpose is to be enjoyed among all the peoples. Verse 4: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy.”
Fourth, his purpose is to be feared, or reverenced, among all the nations. Verse 7: “Let all the ends of the earth fear him!”
This psalmist is praying in accord with the will of God. That’s what it means to speak “in the Spirit,” as Jesus says the psalmists do. Therefore, we don’t just see the purpose of a man in this prayer, but the purpose of God. His aim in this creation is that he be known and praised and enjoyed and reverenced among all the peoples of the earth. That’s why the world exists. And that’s why missions exists.
Why This Great Purpose?
But the psalm tells us more about God’s purpose for the world. It tells us what he aims to be known for, what he aims to be praised for, what it is about him that he means for all nations to enjoy, and why it is we should reverence him and fear to turn away from him to another god.
The psalm shows us four things that God wants the peoples of the world to know and praise and enjoy and fear about him.
God Is the One and Only True and Living God
First, God aims to be known as the one and only true and living God. He is not the God of any other religion.
I gather this from the fact that an inspired Israelite poet is praying that his God will be known and praised among all the peoples who worship other gods. Verse 3: “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” The God of Israel said in Isaiah 45:5–6:
I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other.
If this is not true, missions would be the most audacious and presumptions enterprise in the world. Calling the nations to know and praise and enjoy and fear one God alone, the God of Israel, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, would be arrogant and presumptuous, if it’s not true that he’s the one and only true God. But if it is true, then missions is a humble, daring, obedient response of a people who love those who are perishing.
The psalmist does not pray: May all the nations become sincere worshippers of their gods since all gods are one.
We Do Not Worship the Same God as Islam
“Let’s be crystal clear: Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God.”
And let’s be crystal clear here: in a world supercharged with the presence of Islam, it does not help the cause of truth or love to say that we worship the same God — and I am putting the emphasis there on “worship.” We do not worship the same God.
Muslims do not believe in a Jesus who died, who gave his life as a ransom, who rose from the dead, and who claimed to be the divine Son of God. All those things are rejected by Islam. The historical Jesus of the gospels is denied by Muslims in at least those four critical ways.
What Jesus Says
And Jesus speaks clearly about people (of whatever religion — Christian or Muslim) who deny him in this way. He says:
They do not “know” the true God. “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (John 8:19; see also 7:28; 14:7)
They do not “honor” the true God. “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:23)
They do not “love” the true God. “I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me.” (John 5:42–43)
They do not “have” the true God. “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” (1 John 2:23)
They have not “heard” or “learned” from the true God. “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” (John 6:45)
They “reject” the true God. “The one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)
Jesus’s answer to the question is No. Neither Muslims, nor anyone else (in any religion, including Christianity), truly worships God if they reject Jesus as he really is in the gospels.
“No one truly worships God if they reject Jesus as he really is in the gospels.”
Psalm 67 is praying that all the religions of the world, including Islam (which came into being perhaps 1600 years after this Psalm) would turn, know, praise, enjoy, and fear the one and only true God — the God and Father of the Messiah, Jesus. And Jesus endorsed this prayer with his own blood. He came into the world to awaken and save those who rejected him — like we all once did.
Mark 2:17: “I came not to call the righteous but sinners.” So send I you (John 20:21)! He is sending out ambassadors today to all the Muslim peoples (and all the other religions), saying: I love you, come to me and believe in my son and I will give you life. My purpose is to be known and praised and enjoyed and feared as the one true God — Jesus Christ.
So the first thing God wants the nations to know about him is that he is the one and only true God.
God Is Just
Second, he wants the nations to know that he is a God of justice.
Psalm 67:4: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity.” When the judgment of the nations comes, God will not be partial. No one will be condemned for the color of his skin, or the size of his brain, or the place of his birth, or the quality of his ancestry.
No bribes will be considered, no sophisticated plea-bargaining. All will proceed on the basis of God's unimpeachable righteousness. Let this be known to all the peoples of the earth. They will stand on an equal footing with Israel when it comes to judgment. The standard of justice will be the same for both.
Universal Imperfection with Only One Remedy
And the standard of acceptance — his standard of vindication in the court of heaven — will be perfection. And the only remedy for our universal failure and rebellion is the perfection of Jesus which he performed for all who believe in him, and the punishment of Jesus which he endured for all who believe in him. Jesus’s perfect obedience to God is not one remedy among others just for people in the Christian tribe. It is the only remedy for all the descendants of Adam.
“As by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans. 5:19). If a person has embraced Christ as his only hope before God, he will be saved. If he has not, he will be lost.
And God will not be unjust toward those who have never heard the preaching of the gospel. They will not be judged for not believing in a Jesus they never heard of. They will judged for how they have responded to the revelation they have. And Romans 1 tells us there will be no excuse. None is righteous. None submits to God’s truth outside Christ.
“God will judge the peoples with equity — either in hell or in Jesus.”
The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. (Romans 1:18–21)
God aims to be known as a God of justice. The God of all the earth will do right. He will judge the peoples with equity — either in hell or in Jesus.
God is Powerful
Third, God aims to be known for his sovereign power.
We see this in the last part of Psalm 67:4: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.” Many nations boast of their power and their independence as sovereign states. And when they do, the Lord laughs, because he made the nations, he determined their allotted periods of time and the boundaries of their habitation (Acts 17:26).
“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord, he turns it wherever he wills” (Proverbs 21:1). “He removes kings and he sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21). “He does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say to him, ‘What are you doing?’” (Daniel 4:35).
They Will Hear
God aims to make himself known as supremely sovereign among all the nations — specifically that he runs the world. He is the guide of the nations. They are not sovereign. Only one is sovereign. And he sets the destiny of every nation. And part of that destiny is that they hear the gospel. And to that end Jesus said,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . And behold, I [I, the sovereign one with all authority] am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18–20)
My will is that the nations be discipled. All of them. And not only is this duty my will of command, but this destiny is my will of decree. “I will build my church!”
God is Gracious
Fourth and finally, God aims to be known as a gracious God.
The only true God, who is just in all his judgment and sovereign in all his rule, is a God of grace. He wants to be known this way. We see this in Psalm 67:1:
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known upon the earth and your saving power [literally, salvation] among all nations.
He aims to be known as a God who is gracious and who saves. And this doesn’t mean: who is gracious only to Israel. Because verse 4 says, “Let the nations be glad.” If the grace of God were only for Israel, there would be no gladness for the nations.
Gospel: News of God’s Grace
This is why the news that resounds through the world from the cross of Jesus on is called gospel. It is good news. It is news of the God of grace. Paul said that with the coming of Christ into the world “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Titus 2:11). And when he summed up his life and ministry, he said it was all about the gospel of grace (Acts 20:24):
“We go with a message of grace, not a message of condemnation.”
I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
The heart of the missionary message to the nations is: God will save you from your sin and guilt and condemnation by grace through faith in his Son Jesus Christ. We go with a message of grace, not a message of condemnation.
So to sum up what we’ve seen: God’s great purpose in the world is to be known and praised and enjoyed and feared. And the truth about himself that he wants to be known and praised and enjoyed and feared is:
- He is the one and only true and living God, the Father of Jesus Christ.
- He is infinitely just and holy in all his ways, settling all accounts justly either on the cross for believers or in hell for those who reject his truth.
- He is sovereign over all the affairs of men and nations, and over the saving mission of his church through the all-authoritative, risen Christ.
- And he is a God of boundless grace to all who come to him through Jesus.
The Mission Will Be Finished
Because he is gracious, he aims to be known among all the peoples. And because he is sovereign, he will be known among all the peoples. “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16). This gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Matthew 24:14).
This is the great hope and confidence that created the missionary movement of the Christian church. And this is the hope and confidence that will sustain us until we finish the mission. And it will be finished.
A Material Blessing
There is one final point that needs to be made from Psalm 67 — from the beginning and ending of this psalm. The psalm begins and ends with the connection between the people of God being blessed by God so that the nations will be blessed by us. We saw this in verses 1–2: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, so that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.”
What we have not noticed is that when the connection is repeated at the end of the psalm is that it is harvest time and the blessing on the people of God is mainly a material blessing. Psalm 76:6–7:
The earth has yielded its increase [there has been a great harvest — this is a harvest psalm]; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!
So the immediate blessing in view is the way God has provided all the material needs of his people. “The earth has yielded its increase” (verse 6).
God Is What Matters
And the amazing thing is that between the beginning blessing and the closing blessing in this psalm the entire focus is not on material blessings for the world but spiritual ones — that is, God himself. Derek Kidner in his commentary says,
If the setting of the psalm seems to be a festival of harvest home, it is remarkable . . . how nature is overshadowed by history, and the psalmist [is] stirred by hopes that have no material or self-regarding element. . . . Here, nothing matters but man’s need of God Himself.
- O, Lord, let your way be known.
- Let our salvation be known.
- Let praise arise to you from all the peoples.
- Let joy overflow from the hearts of the nations.
- Show yourself a righteous judge, and a powerful guide.
The pervasive concern for the nations is that they would know and praise and enjoy and fear the true God — God himself.
This means that, at least, God gives his people material wealth for the sake of the world’s spiritual worship. That is, he blesses his church with riches for the sake of reaching the nations. He gives a bountiful wheat harvest for the sake of a bountiful world harvest. He gives us more money than we need so that we can meet the world’s greatest need — the need to know God through Jesus Christ.
Blessed to Be a Blessing
This is the sharpest point of this psalm. We are blessed to be a blessing. And, of course, that means we are spiritually blessed. But in this psalm, the Lord has something more specifically to say — especially to the American church and the church of the west.
“We are blessed to be a blessing.”
I have blessed you — beyond the wildest dreams of any people in history. I have blessed you with unprecedented and overflowing wealth. This is not a curse. It is a blessing. But it will become a curse, if you do not use it for what I have designed.
Blessings Doubled in Going and Giving
And what I have designed is not that you lose and they gain. What I have designed is that you go and you give, and both gain. I love you, and I love the nations. I have blessed you and I mean to double your blessing by making you a blessing. It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). That’s the way I created you. Therefore, my design (“blessed to be a blessing”) is for your joy and their joy. When I bless you that you may be a blessing, I bless you that your joy may be full.
When I say, “Let the nations be glad!” I mean, “Let your gladness be doubled in their gladness.” This is why I have blessed. This is why I have blessed you. Don’t turn my blessing into a curse. Don’t put it in a bag with holes. I have blessed you. This is why you are rich: “that my way may be known on earth, my saving power among all nations.”
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy.
For this we have been blessed. This is our mission. This is our joy. No matter what it costs.