Psalm 67: #Blessed

May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth,
    your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you rule the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.

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Psalm 67

Over the last few years more and more celebrities seem to use the vocabulary of blessing and where they lead others follow. ‘#Blessed’ has been widely used on social media to express gratitude for privileged circumstances, though probably in a way quite opposed to how Jesus used the word (minus the hashtag). Jesus application of the vocabulary of blessing was directed towards the poor, the righteous, the peacemakers, rather than those posting pictures of themselves at exclusive parties, wearing expensive outfits, or relaxing on luxury yachts. #Blessed might as well be #bragging.

Psalm 67:1 echoes the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:22–27 that is still often used as a blessing in services of worship. But verse 2 makes it very clear that the God who blesses us does not bless us for our sake alone. Our faces light up as we feel the warmth of God’s face shining upon us, worship is basking in his unexpected unconditioned love embodied in Jesus and poured out into our hearts through his Spirit but that blessing is to be shared. That blessing includes knowledge of his ways and in poetic parallelism, his salvation. God’s ways are saving ways – a constant thread throughout not only the Psalms but through the whole of Scripture – which climax in God’s revelation in Christ who came to save us from the multi-fragmented brokenness of our lives.  

The reason for sharing the ways in which God has blessed us is so that the nations may be saved (v. 2) and that the peoples might praise God (v. 3).

Surprisingly, given Israel’s oppression and suffering at the hands of other nations in its long and tortuous history, the Psalmist prays that the nations might know God in order that those very same nations might be glad and rejoice (v. 4). Here we have the Old Testament equivalent of ‘loving your enemy.’ The Psalm echoes Abram’s calling (Genesis 12) – God would bless him to bless others – and also the Exodus, where God declares to those that he has saved that they will be a kingdom of priests bringing blessing to those around them (Exodus 19:6).

Equally surprisingly is the Psalmist’s conviction that the nations will rejoice because God comes to judge the world with equity. Often when we think of God coming to judge we think of mourning, wailing and gnashing of teeth (e.g. Isaiah 2:10f) but here there is a different emphasis. Throughout history the oppressed people of the world have yearned for justice. Still today there are many whose lives are not ‘#blessed’ but, because of the action or inaction of others, are at best a constant struggle or at worse a living hell. There are many amongst the nations of earth who have no access to clean water, who have little food, who are trafficked and enslaved, victims of domestic and sexual violence, oppressive governments, racism and crime and a whole lot of other things that dehumanise them and rob them of experiencing life as the blessing God intended. And sometimes those things happen a lot closer to home. To those who are bent low beneath life’s crushing load, the promise of justice is no threat but a hope. There will be a time of justice but, unlike Marx, that hope is not a hallucinogenic or a depressant but a stimulant to work for justice in the here and now. 

The background to the Psalm comes into the foreground in its closing lines. Verses 6 and 7 reflect the very material blessing of harvest. The God who is the saviour is also the creator, and salvation itself is not an escape from the creation – which he declared good – but its renewal and transformation.