Saving Power Among All Nations - Psalm 67

Psalm 67
1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah 2 that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. 3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah 5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. 7 God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!

Psalm 67 is a testament of God's people focusing on missions. Israel, in this psalm, is singing that not only will they be blessed, but that God will also focus his blessings on the Gentiles. The Israelites sing that God will bring himself greater glory by expanding his global influence. The focus of this psalm is God's people asking that his salvation and praise may spread throughout the earth. The universal perspective of Psalm 67 is remarkable. The global focus is quite visionary even when compared to the rest of Scripture.

The psalm reiterates the need of God's great mercy and calls for God to expand his glory throughout the globe. God's promise to Abraham (Gn 12:1-3), that "all families of the earth shall be blessed," is called upon in Psalm 67.

The Text
Psalm 67, at first read, could be viewed as a song of thanksgiving for a fruitful harvest. At a closer inspection, it is a prayer that God would bless Israel so the rest of the world can be inspired to come to know God. Each Israelite is a bit player in a grand story designed to go beyond his own influence and into the world. In this psalm each Jew wants God to be glorified beyond the borders of Israel and in the world of the Gentiles.

The author of Psalm 67 is unknown, but it is assumed to have been written in the vicinity of 1500 - 1400 B.C. Thus the original audience of the psalm were likely the pre-exilic Jews. Helen Jefferson stated, "the cultic coloring of Ps 67, its vocabulary and style, all point to Canaanite influence. This supports the theory that Ps 67 is pre-exilic in origin."

Eckhard Schnadel, in Early Christian Missions, concludes that OT Israelites did not engage in missions as NT Christians did later. Schnadel does not see any formal concept of disciple-driven missions or global evangelism in the Psalms. He does, however, see evident in the Psalms a divinely initiated desire that the world would soon worship Yahweh.

Call To Missions
The emphasis of Psalm 67 is a call for missions. It calls for disciples of God to be blessed, not only for our own pleasure, but so our joy in God will reflect his glory to the nations. Lawrence Nemer stated, "The nations are sometimes chosen, according to the Psalmist, to be instruments of God's punishment; but ultimately, as recorded so marvelously in Psalm 67, they are to be witnesses of God's work among His people and are to come to worship Him in Jerusalem."

Missions, in and of itself, is a concept that is focused not on man's actions but instead on God's. While man is involved in reaching the nations, he is only a tool in the hands of a master carpenter. Graeme Goldsworthy echoed this thought when he wrote, "Even the missionary focus of Psalm 67 emphasizes that God himself must act for the nations to be blessed." It is God working to bring the nations to himself. God may work through man, but the results, and thus the glory, are God's alone.

Worshipers of God should not view blessings as rewards. Blessings are not always to bless us. They come to us not for what we have done, but what God has done.  The purpose of God blessing us is to bring glory to himself. It is so others in the world will see God more clearly. Carl Bosma writes, "The function of this signally important harvest is to catch the attention of the nations and move them to recognize and praise God. The particular history of God and Israel is meant to become a blessing for all."

Only a small number of hymns have been inspired by Psalm 67. Martin Luther's hymn, "May God Bestow on Us His Grace" is one of them. The second stanza of Luther's hymn begins with these words, "Thine over all shall be the praise, and thanks of every nation, and all the world with joy shall raise, the voice of exultation." Oliver Rupprecht stated of this hymn, "What missionary can be timid after hearing or singing Luther's great missionary hymn, 'May God Bestow on Us His Grace,' based on Psalm 67?" The words inspired by God in Psalm 67 have and will continue to have a great impact on disciples of Christ as they respond by going out amongst the nations.

Psalm 67 shows the people of God are to be concerned with not only their own lives nor the circumstances within their own borders. God's disciples are to be concerned about the eternal condition of all races, tongues and tribes. God does not bless his chosen people because they are good or worthy. God's elect receive blessings so they can share those blessings with others and draw attention to the greatness and mercy of God.

In this psalm it is evident we have a God who is concerned about all nations and he wishes to draw them to himself. God's followers, in order to bring him glory, are also called to have a burden for other nations.

Mike Pettengill is a full-time missionary serving in La Ceiba, Honduras, with Mission to the World. Mike is a team leader of a 12-person mission team. To learn more about the Pettengill's work in Honduras visit Pettengill Missionaries