Lectionary II (Yr C)
Luke 14:1, 7-14 (I)
Luke 14:1, 7-14 (II)
Heb. 13:1-8, 15-16
Lk. 13:10-17 (I)
Lk. 13:10-17 (II)
Isaiah 5:1-7 (I)
Isaiah 5:1-7 (II)
Luke 12:49-56 (I)
Luke 12:49-56 (II)
Heb. 12:1-7 (I)
Heb. 12:1-7 (II)
Gen. 15:1-6 (I)
Gen. 15:1-6 (II)
Psalm 50 (I)
Psalm 50 (II)
Lk 12:32-40 (I)
Lk 12:32-40 (II)
Heb. 11:1ff. (I)
Heb. 11:1ff. (II)
Lk. 12:13-21 (I)
Lk. 12:13-21 (II)
Lk. 11:1-13 (I)
Lk. 11:1-13 (II)
Lk. 11:1-13 (III)
Lk. 10:38-42 (I)
Lk. 10:38-42 (II)
Lk. 10:25-37 (I)
Lk. 10:25-37 (II)
II Kings 5:1-14 (I)
II Kings 5:1-14 (II)
Lk 10:1-12, 17-20
Galatians 6 (I)
Galatians 6 (II)
II Kings 2:1-14
Ps. 16 (I)
Ps. 16 (II)
Gal. 5:1, 13-25
I Ki. 19:1-15a (I)
I Ki. 19:1-15a (II)
Ps. 42-43 (I)
Ps. 42-43 (II)
Gal. 3:23-29 (I)
Gal. 3:23-29 (II)
I Kings 21 (I)
I Kings 21 (II)
Luke 7:36-50 (I)
Luke 7:36-50 (II)
Gal 2:11-21 (I)
Gal 2:11-21 (II)
I Kings 17:8-24
Trinity (June 3)
Prov. 8:22-31 (I)
Prov. 8:22-31 (II)
Romans 5:1-5 (I)
Romans 5:1-5 (II)
John 16: 5-15
Pentecost (May 27)
Gen. 11:1-9 (I)
Gen. 11:1-9 (II)
Acts 2:1-21 (I)
Acts 2:1-21 (II)
John 14:8-17 (II)
Easter VII (May 20)
Acts 16:16-34 (I)
Acts 16:16-34 (II)
John 17:20-26 (I)
John 17:20-26 (II)
Easter VI (May 13)
Rev. 21:10, 22-22:5
Easter V (May 6)
Acts 11; 13; 14
My Own Acrostic Ps. (based on Ps. 145)
Easter VI--May 13, 2007
Bill Long 5/3/07
Psalm 67; In Ever-Growing Circles
Here is the Psalm, from the NRSV. This exposition will follow my chapter on Ps. 67 in Longing for God: Prayer and the Rhythms of Life (InterVarsity, 1993).
"To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.
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 upon 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, has blessed us.
7 May God continue to bless us;
let all the ends of the earth revere him."
Psalm 67 was the favorite Psalm of my missions professor in Seminary, Dr. J. Christy Wilson, Jr. He had taken up teaching in the mid-1970s after a career ministering in Afghanistan, and he loved this Psalm because of its optimistic spirit that the Word of God would spread to the ends of the earth. I am sure it buoyed him and his family in some of the dark days in that troubled country's history.
Psalm 67 is a hymn of praise. It is soothing medicine for sick souls and a hurting world. We find the fulfillment of our life in praise to God; for praise, in the final analysis, is our way of saying "yes" to life. We know that it is so easy to live in the pain of the past or in the lack of trust and cynicism that has become almost second nature to us or in the selfishness of the human heart curved in on itself. It is so easy to yield to the negative weight of others' comments or painful circumstances that dog us. Praise, though, draws us out of ourselves and forces us to look heavenward. Like the soaring nave of a Gothic cathedral, praise lifts our vision upward, to confess that God alone is the source of all our blessings. Praise helps us probe beneath the veneer or the externalism of modern life and recognize the glory of God in speckled and brindled and striped things, as did the nineteenth century British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Psalm 67 helps us praise God for the expansive, and often hidden, works of God. It is driven by an intense longing for the earth to be filled someday with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. As Dr. Wilson preached on this text, after a career of mission work among Muslim people, his face lit up with gratitude, longing and humility--at the realization that, for some inexpectiable reason, the God of the universe had chosen him and us to be the bearers of the good news.
The major focus of Psalm 67 is the desire for all nations to praise God. Yet the psalm begins with a longing for God's blessing on the community of faith. These two themes, starting with the latter, will be the focus of this meditation. My hope is that through this psalm we may more fully understand the worldwide nature of God's rule and of Christian discipleship.
II. God Be Gracious
The psalm begins with a longing for God's blessing:
"May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us."
I am glad for two things in this psalm; first, that the psalmist starts with a desire for blessing, and second, that the desire for personal belssing only takes up the first and last verses, while the blessing on the nations occupies the heart of the psalm. The biblical pattern is that God blesses us so that we may be instruments of this blessing to others, and that they will then return their gratitude to God.
The consistent message of the Scriptures is that God takes pleasure in blessing the community of faith. God's way is to make the people strong, even though our strength might need to be develped in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death. The particular yearning for God's graciousness in v. 1 is based on the great benediction of Aaron before the people of Israel, a benediction that is still part of our worship today:
"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 peace" (Num. 6:24-26).
The phrase "make his face shine upon you" is particularly vivid. It means that it is our strongest hope that God would illumine our lives with the wonderful, radiant power of the Word of God. As Paul says,
"For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (II Cor. 4:6).
We bask in and bear the light of God's blessing to all the world.
III. All the People
Only if we give our blessings away to others can we be fully blessed. Blessings clutched to our chest neither warm or comfort us nor strengthen or uplift others. But shared blessings bring even more. Have you ever noticed that after a truly successful venture people who have put their heart and soul into that venture usually claim that they got more out of it than they gave? Isn't this an illustration of the point that an unselfish desire to share the blessings of God brings blessings to all--giver and recipient alike?
One word dominates the psalm--the little word all. The phrases "all nations" (v. 2), or "all the peoples" (vv. 3,5), or "all the ends of the earth (v. 7) appear four times. The psalm is directed out to the ends of the earth. It has a heart for all the people of the world. In placing so much emphasis on "all the world," this psalm shows that it is an arrow shot from the quiver of God. The Scriptures teach us, time and again, that God will not be pleased until people from east and west and south and north sit down and have a meal together in the kingdom of God.
So this intense and large-hearted psalm invites all peole to the great festival of praising God. Somehow, in God's plan, the party cannot go on until all have arrived. It is like the Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas banquet that is most joyfully celebrated when all are present. When everyone is in the room, from ages two to ninety-two, even though there may only be one quick moment before the reign of chaos threatens to return, the picture of all together becomes frozen in the mind's eye. To the Christian, it is a harbinger and a yearning for that great day when all the people of God will be gathered together in an eternal banquet.
Psalm 67 teaches us that it is neither right nor scriptural for the blessings of God to stop with us. The vision of inclusive praise means that the song to God and to the Lamb will be sung by:
"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" (Rev. 7:9).
The need today is for Christians who long to extend the blessings of God to all the earth. The time is ripe for Christians who understand that what they are doing in extending this blessing is working in partnership with people all over the world so that their lives may be full and their songs of praise might be natural to them.
The mission of the church in our day is to promote teams of caring people who are not so concerned with keeping track of which missions have brought more people to Chrsitian faith as with helping each nation or group finds it own voice in praising the God who made and sustains them. Now is the time, more than ever, for our global consciousness to develop. As the invitation is sent out to nations and peoples to join the great festival of eternal praise, the invitation is sent to see ourselves as world Chrsitians--Christians whose hearts should yearn to see the blessings of God reach every corner of the earth. Then we will be able to add our voice to the multilingual chorus of praise that will be fully satisfying to God.