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Let All the Peoples Praise You! (Psalm 67)

In Revelation 5 the apostle John beholds a spectacular vision of worship before the throne of God. He hears the voices of heaven (vv. 11-12) and earth (v. 13) unite in one grand symphony of cosmic praise to him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb. It is to this glorious end that the entire created order is moving despite the way things may appear today. History is not random or aimless, nor are we captains of its destiny; rather, it moves under the sovereign guidance of our God who will certainly bring it to his appointed end: the universal worship of his name among the nations.

But how does it get there? And what role do we play as the people of God in its realization? Luke answers by speaking of three great events that fundamentally shape history.

Thus it is written, that [1] the Christ should suffer and [2] on the third day rise from the dead, and that [3] repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations (Luke 24:46-47).

The first two—Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection—have been accomplished once and for all. It’s the third event—the church’s proclamation of the gospel to the ends of the earth—that is fundamentally driving and shaping history today. You’re not going to read that in any newspaper (which instead deifies the election process as if its outcome is all-determining for the course of history), but it is the reality we live in according to God’s infallible Word.

The Missionary Heart of Psalm 67

With that wide-lens view of history now before us, we can consider Psalm 67. It teaches us that God brings the created order to participate in the worship of Revelation 5 by blessing his people (v. 1) so that through them his blessing might extend to the ends of the earth (v. 2). This psalm is the natural overflow of a heart jealous and passionate for God’s name to be praised by everyone everywhere.

The opening words are probably very familiar to us as our worship services often close with them as the Benediction: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us” (v. 1). This is the Aaronic blessing that the priests would declare over God’s people in the Old Testament (Num. 6:24-26). But that blessing itself was actually grounded in God’s earlier covenant promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. God graciously comes to Abraham and says, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. … [I]n you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” The psalmist is then appropriating God’s promise, his certain and trustworthy Word, which gives rise to his confidence at the end of the psalm that God will bless them.

It is too often the case that many of us live as if Psalm 67 is just one verse. We receive God’s blessing each Lord’s Day, but leave worship without considering why we have been blessed. But the psalmist reminds us in verse two that we have been blessed so that God’s way may be known on earth, his saving power among all nations. We’re blessed to be a blessing. God’s blessing is never meant to terminate upon us, but to extend through us to the world.

This means that the fuel that is to drive us and the goal that we are to aim at in our witness to the world is worship. We are to long for God to be worshipped as he ought. A passion for missions, then, arises when we can say with Isaiah to the Lord, “Your name and your renown are the desires of our hearts” (26:8). God’s people are to be jealous for God’s fame among the nations, so that wherever his fame has not yet reached (including your neighbor’s house), there we will go bearing joyful witness to it (Isa. 52:7; Rom. 10:15).

In Romans 1 Paul says that there are those who worship the creature instead of the Creator. But God exists to be worshipped alone. This disparity is what gives rise to missions. As John Piper has said, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” Missions aren’t ultimate; worship is. Remember, the cosmic praise of the Lamb is the end toward which all of history is moving.

The Inauguration of Psalm 67

Psalm 67 is looking to the future when God will bless his people and the nations will come to know his saving ways.[1] With that in mind, the ending of Luke’s gospel is astonishing as it transitions us into his second-volume, Acts. Jesus, having now been raised from the dead, must ascend into heaven. But notice what he does in his ascension: “Then [Jesus] led [his disciples] out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them” (24:50). In his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ secured for the nations the Abrahamic blessing the psalmist anticipated:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith (Gal. 3:13-14).

Jesus can now say to his church empowered by his Spirit poured out on Pentecost, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). As a result, the nations have come and will continue to come to know his ways and his salvation. Through the church the nations are being blessed and praising the one true God as the Lord had promised Abraham. The apostle Paul sees the day longed for by the psalmist with the Gentiles now praising God as he states in Romans 15:8-11 and Ephesians 1:3-14 (note the triple mention of praise in vv. 6, 12, and 14).

By blessing his church Jesus has inaugurated the day envisioned in Psalm 67. The light of that day has dawned and is growing ever-brighter as Christ continues his mission to the world through us. What a privilege to live in this day of fulfillment! Let us then press on in God’s mission with a zeal for his name to be worshipped by everyone everywhere!

[1] Calvin notes that ancient Jewish commentators apply this psalm to future times, to the world to come, and times of the Messiah. He comments himself, “Here we have a clear prophecy of that extension of the grace of God by which the Gentiles were united into one body with the posterity of Abraham.”


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