Back in 1984 I was given a free trip to Israel, and one of my lasting memories of that trip is driving on our tour bus out to Jericho.

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1 Blessed to Be a Blessing Psalm 67 July 14, 2013 Back in 1984 I was given a free trip to Israel, and one of my lasting memories of that trip is driving on our tour bus out to Jericho. I think we drove out there from Jerusalem, but what I remember is that it was a long way and the road took us through some very dry land not desert exactly, but pretty barren. And then, all of sudden, in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, we could see a huge circle of lush green and palm trees we had gotten to Jericho. It was a refreshing green oasis in this otherwise dry wilderness. In some ways, that s the way I felt when I read through Psalm 67 a week or so ago. It is such a refreshing, delightful Psalm. Not that some of the others have been like deserts! But we ve talked about depression and suffering and some other pretty heavyduty issues. And then, all of a sudden, here is this short, simple Psalm celebrating and praying for God s blessing! It s just a JOY to read through, isn t it? When I read through it, I immediately thought of what we call the Aaronic Blessing in Numbers 6:24: God tells Aaron that the priests are to bless Israel with these words: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. If that sounds familiar to you, it s of course, because I often quote those words at the end of our service (and I ll talk about that in a few minutes). What caught my attention is that here in Psalm 67, the author seems to be turning that blessing into a prayer request God, we ve heard our priests bless us with these words for centuries. Now it s time for you to come through and bless us! Before I get into the actual Psalm, it s probably time for me to say something about that little word, Selah, that we ve run into from time to time. It occurs in this Psalm twice after vs. 1 and after vs. 4. 1

2 The truth is, we have no idea what it means. It s probably some kind of musical or liturgical term (possibly related to rise fortissimo??), but its meaning has been lost to us, and it s best to ignore it rather than try to make more of it than God intended. I hear a lot of talk about blessings in the world today, but all too often it goes something like this: If you will send in a seed donation to my ministry, it will blossom into financial blessings for you. But that s the polar opposite of what s going on in Psalm 67! Look again at vss. 1 2: May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us. Isn t that a wonderful expression: God s face shining on us. John Goldingay paraphrases it, God s life-giving smile. Do you realize that, in Jesus, God is already smiling on you? The cross removed God s frown! But, look at what happens when God smiles on us, in vs. 2 Do we get rich? Do we suddenly have the most rewarding job in all the world? Do we discover success? May God bless us that your ways [that is, God s ways] may be known [literally, acknowledged ] on earth, your salvation among all nations. What a prayer! Does that idea sound at all familiar? God bless us so that through us all the nations might be blessed with salvation. Way back in Genesis 12, God had said to Abraham, I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you and you will be a blessing. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you. So here is this pattern that goes all the way back to the grandfather of the nation of Israel and continues with Moses and Aaron and now finds its way into Psalm 67 1) That we are blessed by God to BE a blessing to others. 2) That tiny Israel would be a blessing to all the nations. That s why vs. 3 of the Psalm uses the word, Peoples, which sounds a little strange to our ears: May all the PEOPLES praise you. 2

3 He means may all the NATIONS praise you. And, of course, that found its ultimate fulfillment with the coming of Jesus and continues to be fulfilled as we carry out His Great Commission to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of this promise that God made to Abraham 2,000 years before Jesus came. I hope you appreciate what a prayer of FAITH the Psalmist is praying here! And they ARE! On a world map, Israel is MICROSCOPIC! In their BEST days, they were just a tiny little localized power. And yet here he is, praying that God s salvation would be known among ALL NATIONS! That all the peoples of the earth would praise Him! The Psalmist would be STUNNED to learn that in essentially every country of the world (and, of course, he couldn t have realized in his day how immense the world really is!) people are praising the God of Israel through Christ. The irony is that here we are maybe 2,500 years after this Psalm was written and we re reading the latest headlines and we re feeling sorry for ourselves because so often it seems as though evil is winning! First of all, we need to step back and see the power of the Gospel around the world! The Holy Spirit has taken eleven dispirited Apostles, and through their ministries and influence, He is building a truly worldwide Kingdom. Christians are all over the place! I know we re weak and sinful, and as often as not we gum up the works, but the Holy Spirit truly is building Christ s Kingdom through us. So we need to see that the Gospel is at work and I think we 21 st Century AMERICAN Christians need to learn to TRUST the Gospel. We need to see that it s the GOSPEL and the SPIRIT of God who bring about genuine and lasting change, and not all the band-aids political and otherwise that we try to patch on to things. To go back to vs. 1 2, May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on the earth, your salvation among all nations. 3

4 What attracted the people of the Roman Empire in those first few centuries was that they saw that these Christians truly were blessed by God Husbands respected their wives instead of cheating on them. Parents loved their children instead of discarding them, and families actually got along! And sociologists have demonstrated that because of their cleaner lifestyles, Christians literally outlived their neighbors. Not until Constantine did Christians use the civil law to promote their faith and their lifestyles and, in some ways, it was downhill from there. It seems to me that the two BIG IDEAS of Psalm 67 are Christianity was no longer seen as people blessed by God. It became a legal obligation. I know these are complicated issues, and I won t pretend to tell us how to solve all of our national and moral issues in 20 easy minutes! But early Christianity persuaded people by demonstrating the blessings of God in the Gospel rather than compelling them by civil law to live as we think they should. And the mores of that day would make our own look almost like the Garden of Eden! First, we are blessed by God particularly with salvation that we might be a blessing to others. He is, as vs. 6 says, OUR God, but we have no right to monopolize Him! To be SELFISH with Him. And second, that God s blessings upon us become like spiritual magnets that draw others into faith in Christ. At least they SHOULD. And if they are not, we may need to ask ourselves if we ve been HORDING those blessings and not sharing them! Now, let me bring Psalm 67 right down to Bible Presbyterian Church, Merrill, Wisconsin, United States of America, on Sunday, July 14, The truth is that we have been blessed by God as no people in the history of the world. Certainly and preeminently blessed with what the Book of Hebrews calls, so rich a salvation. I could go on and describe that salvation in a thousand different ways, but I think you understand. 4

5 But we have so many other blessings as well homes (sometimes multiple homes), cars (again sometimes several), good food and plenty of it, good health for the most part (certainly in general far better health than 2/3s of the world) and on and on. On one of our trips to Khartoum, Sudan, I thought the seminar participants would get a kick out of seeing our snow, so I took a picture of the church building after a big snow (with a photo of Kesh s and my families on the other side). Most people in Sudan didn t notice the snow. Do you know what they said? THAT s your CHURCH BUILDING? (I was so grateful I hadn t taken pictures of our HOMES! People in so many other places don t dream of winning the lottery they dream of living in the United States! They can t imagine anything more luxurious! My point is simply that by the standards of the Two-Thirds World, we are blessed and blessed beyond their imaginations. And that blessing bestows upon us a royal obligation to bless others with the Gospel and with our Goods. I will end this morning s service as I always do with a benediction, a blessing from God to you. It s not a closing prayer I am not talking to God on your behalf it s a blessing I am talking to you on HIS behalf. [So you re free to look at me, because I am surely looking at you!] It is my favorite part of the service, and as a protestant pastor it s one of the few truly PRIESTLY things I get to do. But this morning (and on subsequent Sundays), as I bless you on God s behalf, I hope that you will also receive it as a CHALLENGE to go and bless OTHERS in Jesus Name. Rev. Robert Smallman Bible Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church in America) 1605 Highway G Merrill, WI

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