Psalm 67 – A Missionary Psalm
The title tells us the audience of the psalm: To the Chief Musician. On Stringed Instruments. A Psalm. A Song. Some believe that the Chief Musician is the Lord GOD Himself, and others suppose him to be a leader of choirs or musicians in David’s time, such as Heman the singer or Asaph (1 Chronicles 6:33, 16:5-7, and 25:6).
This wonderful psalm is sometimes forgotten or neglected when God’s people think of their favorite psalms. Though Martin Luther wrote five large volumes of exposition on Psalms, he skipped Psalm 67 entirely. Nevertheless, this psalm has a heart to see God’s way, God’s salvation, and God’s praise extended through all the earth.
A. A request and reason for blessing.
1. (1) A request for blessing.
God be merciful to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us. Selah
a. God be merciful to us and bless us: These words come from the Aaronic Blessing of Numbers 6:24-26, where the High Priest of Israel would pronounce this beautiful blessing upon the people.
i. Paul wrote in Romans 15:16: That I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. This was priestly language, and we might say that Paul saw himself as a priest. He did his priestly service through evangelism, not animal sacrifice. 1 Peter 2:9-10 tells us that all believers are also a priesthood. We offer a priestly service to the world, and we primarily do it through evangelism.
b. God be merciful to us: The psalmist first knew his need for mercy. This sets our heart in the right frame of mind: sinners who need the mercy of God. One may need more mercy than another, but we all need mercy.
i. “The best saints and the worst sinners may unite in this petition.” (Spurgeon)
c. And bless us: Beyond the mercy of God – which He could show simply by leaving us alone, by not destroying us – we want God to bless us also. It would be quite a sight to see a guilty criminal before a judge, pleading for mercy, and receiving it – and then asking for a blessing! But God’s love toward us is that great.
d. And cause His face to shine upon us: To have the glorious, happy face of God shining upon us is the greatest gift we could have. To know that as God looks upon you, He is well pleased – not because of who you are, or what you have done, but because you are in Jesus Christ – there is no greater source of peace and power in life.
i. “An [Middle Eastern] monarch revealed in his facial expression either his pleasure or displeasure with the party that sought an audience with him.” (VanGemeren)
ii. “A shining face is the opposite of an angry or scowling face, and a face turned toward someone is the opposite of a face turned away in indifference or disgust. A shining face implies favor…and it implies the friendliness of warm personal relationships too.” (Boice)
iii. “Why should he fret when God smiles? What matters though all the world should censure, if Jehovah countenances his servant. A look of approval from God creates a deep, delightful calm within the soul.” (Spurgeon)
e. Selah: The idea in the Hebrew for this word (occurring 74 times in the Old Testament) is for a pause. Most people think it speaks of a reflective pause, a pause to meditate on the words just spoken. It may also be a musical instruction, for a musical interlude of some kind.
i. Think about the greatness of:
· God’s mercy.
· God’s blessing.
· The approval of God’s shining face.
ii. “These three petitions include all that we need here or hereafter.” (Spurgeon)
2. (2) The reason for blessing.
That Your way may be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
a. That Your way may be known on earth: The reason the psalmist asked for this high and great blessing wasn’t a selfish reason. He asked for this blessing for the sake of God’s glory and for the sake of the perishing multitudes.
i. When people see the work of God in the lives of His people – His blessing active upon them – it is one way God makes His way known on earth. When it seems that God is silent or dead in the lives of His people, it is a great hindrance to making His way known on earth.
ii. “It may be said without fear of contradiction that the greatest hindrance to evangelism in the world today is the failure of the church to supply evidence in her own life and work of the saving power of God.” (Stott, cited in Boice)
b. Your way: Not simply the truth of God or the word of God to be published abroad – but for Your way; the way of the Lord, to be known on earth.
i. This reminds us of the idea behind the great missionary passage of Matthew 28:19-20: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Jesus didn’t tell them only to evangelize and save souls, but to make disciples of all the nations, and to teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you.
ii. Of course, we need to know God’s word to walk in His way; but walking in His way is more than knowing His Word.
c. May be known on earth: The psalmist had a beautiful scope in mind: not just Jerusalem, not just Judea, not just all of Israel, not just all the Middle East, not just all the Mediterranean world, not just his continent or hemisphere, but all the earth.
i. God wants us to have the same heart and the same vision – for all the earth.
d. Your salvation among all nations: Of all of the ways of God, this is the most precious and needful. We should see a perishing world and long for God’s salvation among all nations.
i. Again, this is the reason for blessing. Are you a member of the “bless me” club, always crying out to God, “Bless me, bless me, bless me”? But your cry is essentially a selfish one, the kind of cry a self-interested child makes. Yes, we unashamedly ask God to bless us – but not only for ourselves, but so His way will be made known in all the earth, and His salvation among all nations.
ii. “Since Pentecost Israel’s ancient prayer is being fulfilled more magnificently than they could ever have imagined.” (VanGemeren)
B. A call to praise God.
1. (3) A prayer to God for all peoples.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
a. Let the peoples praise You, O God: We notice that this is first and foremost a prayer to God. It is fine to call upon the peoples to praise God; but it is also fine to ask God to bring the nations to Himself.
i. When we pray like this, we pray according to the heart of God, Who desires that none perish but all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), and Who has ordained a great multitude from all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues to praise Him before His throne (Revelation 7:9).
b. Let all the peoples praise You: It wasn’t big enough to pray Let the peoples praise You; the psalmist took it a step deeper: Let all the peoples praise You!
i. “It is in fact a prayer of great vision and daring.” (Kidner)
ii. We don’t only want the earth to know God’s way; we don’t even want it to stop with the nations knowing His salvation. We want all the peoples to praise Him. There is something wonderful about a lot of people praising God. Our walk with God is incomplete until we are praising Him.
iii. Do we have the same heart? Or will we write off some peoples, instead of having God’s heart for all the peoples?
2. (4-5) A joyful anticipation of the Kingdom of God.
Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy!
For You shall judge the people righteously,
And govern the nations on earth. Selah
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
a. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy: Why? Why should the nations be so happy? Because God is coming to judge the people righteously, and govern the nations on earth. Jesus is coming back, and it should make us even more excited about bringing the nations God’s way, God’s salvation, and God’s praise.
i. God forbid that knowing that Jesus is coming soon should make us less passionate about evangelism and missions. It should make us much more passionate.
b. Govern the nations on earth: It’s a fact. It’s going to happen. Jesus Christ is going to reign on planet earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We want to get the nations ready for it.
i. “Because he would ‘judge the people righteously’; breaking the yoke of the oppressor, and the iron rod of the prince of this world; becoming himself an advocate in the cause of his church; introducing her into the glorious liberty of the children of God, whose service is perfect freedom.” (Horne)
c. Selah: This is worthy of reflection – the connection between being passionate about the return of Jesus and a passion to spread the gospel.
d. Let the peoples praise You: The idea of Psalm 67:3 is so important that the psalmist repeated it. “These words are no vain repetition, but are a chorus worthy to be sung again and again.” (Spurgeon)
i. “Let them praise thee (that pronoun ‘thee’ is emphatical and exclusive), and not their gods of gold and silver.” (Trapp)
ii. This will have an ultimate fulfillment in heaven, where people from every tribe and tongue will praise God. “In that day our joy will be even greater because great multitudes from all the nations of the earth will be praising God with us.” (Boice)
C. The answer to this prayer.
1. (6a) Blessing for the earth.
Then the earth shall yield her increase;
a. Then the earth shall yield her increase: This idea may be present in the psalm because the song was written in the harvest season. The abundance of harvest lifted the thoughts of the psalmist to the greatest harvest yet to come.
i. “If it was a harvest festival song, as the first part of verse 6 would indicate, then the local occasion is graciously submerged in a far wider outlook.” (Morgan)
b. Then the earth shall yield her increase: When the earth knows God’s way, God’s salvation, and God’s praise, then she will yield her increase. The fruit will come forth; the appointed purpose for the earth will be fulfilled. Praise God!
i. God created us to know His way, His salvation, and His praise. When we do this the earth itself is happy, because the people of the earth are doing what God created them to do. God’s natural order for creation and mankind is then honored, and blessing is the result. It is just like using something for the exact use and in the exact way that the manufacturer designed.
c. Shall yield her increase: This also tells us that the earth will never yield her increase, find its fruitfulness and fulfillment, until she knows God’s way, God’s salvation, and God’s praise.
i. “‘Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee!’ What then? ‘Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us.’ Our unthankfulness is the cause of the earth’s unfruitfulness. While man is blessing God for his mercies, He is blessing man with his mercies.” (William Seeker, in 1660, cited in Spurgeon)
2. (6b-7a) Blessing for the one who prayed.
God, our own God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us,
a. God, our own God, shall bless us: When we share God’s heart and vision for the world, we shall be blessed. We must be blessed.
i. So we see a glorious circle. We are blessed; we use that blessing to pray for and reach a hurting world, and as that aligns us with the heart of God, we are blessed even more, so we use that blessing for all the earth…and it just goes on and on.
ii. It’s worth looking at our lives and seeing if we have broken the circle anywhere. Have we stopped believing that God blesses? Have we stopped seeking to extend that blessing? Have we stopped seeing God’s heart in it all? If we don’t break the circle, we really move from glory to glory.
iii. “Let God (the psalm encourages us to pray), who brings much out of little and distributes it in love, bring such blessing on us as to make us, in our turn, the blessing of the world!” (Kidner)
iv. God, our own God: “We never love God aright till we know him to be ours, and the more we love him the more do we long to be fully assured that he is ours.” (Spurgeon)
b. God shall bless us: It is repeated twice in a row to emphasize the confident expectation. God promised to bless the nations of the earth through the seed of Abraham, and we know this is and will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
i. “There is a constant circular course and recourse from the sea, unto the sea; so there is between God and us; the more we praise him, the more our blessings come down; and the more his blessings come down, the more we praise him again; so that we do not so much bless God as bless ourselves. When the springs lie low, we pour a little water into the pump, not to enrich the fountain, but to bring up more for ourselves.” (Thomas Manton, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. “If a psalm was ever written round the promises to Abraham that he would be both blessed and made a blessing, it could well have been such as this.” (Kidner)
3. (7b) Conclusion: The answer to the prayer.
And all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.
a. All the ends of the earth: If the psalmist had not yet been strong enough, here he makes the point even clearer. God’s heart and plan is for all the ends of the earth.
b. All the ends of the earth shall fear Him: God gets the respect, the honor, the praise, the glory, He is worthy of. We may never get respect; we may never face anything but hardship; we may end up poor and broken and persecuted and even laying down our lives – and be more blessed than ever, because God has used us in a great way.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org