Ask an athlete trying out for the Olympics if she looks forward to making the team, and you’ll hear a resounding, “Yeah!”
Ask a bride and groom the week before their wedding, “Are you looking forward to your big day?” What do you think they’ll tell you?
Ask a child the last week of school if he’s looking forward to summer vacation, and you’ll see the sparkle in his eyes.
And ask any committed believer in Jesus Christ, if he or she wants to enjoy God’s blessing. You’ll hear the same answer: “Of course!” Why? Because God’s blessing is the ultimate good that we as disciples should long for. We want God to bless our homes. We want good health, job security, and fellowship and relevant instruction at church. But most of all, we want the blessing of God Himself—His presence, His forgiveness, His power over sin, and His guidance. Of course we want God’s blessing!
But why? Why do we want these things? Most of us want God to bless us because we want what’s best for us, and God knows what’s best. And that’s a good reason. It’s good to want to enjoy all that God has in store for us. But if that’s as far as our thinking goes—for God to bless us so we can have fulfilling lives—we short-circuit His plan. Because He wants His blessing to extend much further than simply our enjoying it. He wants us to take that blessing to another level, for our lives to spin outward to affect the entire world.
In Psalm 67, God lays out a vision for His blessing and its intended scope. As we explore the passage, notice two themes: first, God blesses His people; second, God blesses His people so that “the peoples” will bless Him.
God Blesses His People
The psalmist begins by establishing that God blesses His people (vv. 1–2; 6–7). The passage opens with a prayer to this end: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations” (vv. 1–2). The psalmist ends the psalm by saying, “Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him” (vv. 6–7).
The “yielding” the psalmist describes in verse 6 appears in the “completed” or “past” tense—the only past tense in the entire psalm. It’s as if the psalmist is saying, “Look around! He’s already done it! See His blessing everywhere.”
In the middle of the psalm we find examples of God’s blessing: His guidance and His just and righteous rule (v. 4). Israel could rest in the assurance that God controls the nations and brings justice in international affairs. We read, “May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth.” That word “glad” is used for the joy of a wedding.
Clearly, God blesses His people—and abundantly! Yet what’s the purpose of His blessing?
The Reason God Blesses His People
God blesses His people so that the peoples might bless Him. The chorus of Psalm 67, repeated twice, makes this clear: “May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you” (vv. 3, 5). The Lord has in mind the people who will praise Him. What people? All the nations. Why? “That your ways may be known on earth” (v.2). God wants the nations to say, “Wow! Did you see what Israel’s God did?” And He specifically wants them to see His salvation— “Look at what He did for them! Look at the Red Sea and Jericho. Did you see the way God saved them?”
God also wants the nations to go beyond knowing about Him, to know Him personally: “that your ways may be known on earth.” That word “know” means both in head and in heart.
Imagine a friend telling a single guy, “I’ve met the perfect girl for you.”
“Tell me about her.”
“She’s fun. A good listener. Loves the same things you do.”
What’s that guy’s next thought? Is it, “Tell me more about her sometime”? Of course not! He’ll say, “When can I meet her? I want to get to know her, not just about her.”
The psalmist says that’s what God wants from the nations. He wants them to go beyond hearing about His saving ways and get to know Him personally. Because of the blessing of God’s just rule and guidance, the psalmist says all the nations can “be glad” (v. 4). This same phrase “be glad” is used for the joy of a wedding. Such happiness! Verse 4 also says the nations will “sing for joy.” That means to sing and shout out loud. God blesses His people so we can sing His praise.
We find this “outreach” effect of God’s blessing again in verse 7: “God will bless us and all the ends of the earth will fear him” (v. 7). See the result? The nations will have fear—reverence and awe—toward God. God wants them to say, “Wow! There’s a God worth trusting.”
In the past God blessed His people, Israel, so that all the peoples would see His blessing and in turn bless God. And though we live thousands of years later, God’s heart remains the same: He blesses His people today so that the peoples of the world might bless Him.
The Ramifications of God's Blessing His People
How do we extend God’s blessing? The psalm itself gives some clues for using God’s blessings to extend His reach. We can tell others about the ways God rescues us in desperate times (vv. 1–2). We can seek opportunities to display God’s just rule and guidance (vv. 3–4). And we can view our blessings—our relationships, our vacation time, even our trials—as ways to extend God’s reach. For the psalmist living in an agrarian society, “harvest” was the obvious indication of God’s blessing. And while most people in North America buy their corn from the store rather than plucking it from the field, God has given us a “harvest” too. We can spread His renown as we seek to use every blessing we’ve received to bless others so that God’s name is praised (vv. 6–7).
God still blesses us, His people, today. And He does so in order that every last one of us might bless Him with all that He has given us. Our food and our resources, our family and friends—God has given them to us to enjoy. But He gave them to us for a bigger reason: that “all the peoples” both far and near would bless Him.
Our employment might provide meaningful work and give us a secure paycheck, but the primary reason God blesses us with employment is so we might be a “light” on the job. If unemployed, we encourage others in the same situation. The same is true of our education, our homes, our churches, our health—good or bad—and our talents. Our education and skills, our geographical locations, the languages we speak, the homes in which we dwell, the neighbor whose dog gets in the garden and messes it up, the person who runs the cash register—all of these God gives us so that the world might know Him and His salvation.
God blesses us so we can use our blessings as a means for the peoples of the world to bless Him. If we believe this, the truth will radically change the way we respond to all we have received from Him. We will reorder our priorities to turn our blessings outward, using every good and perfect gift as a catalyst to lead the nations to join us as we bow in worship before our God.