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A Heart for God Among the Nations

May 22, 2022

Teacher: Daniel Baker
Series: A Heart for God
Scripture: Psalm 67

A Heart for God Among the Nations

Psalm 67 – A Heart for God: Sermons from the Psalms – May 22, 2022

Introduction

A reading of Psalm 67.

One of the things hard to do is pray well. Hard to get outside of yourself in your prayers. Easy to let our prayers circle around a few very immediate and very personal things. A relationship. Money. A major purchase. Our job. An illness.

We should pray for these things!

But throughout the Bible God speaks to us about our prayers. He nudges us. He reminds us of some things to pray about we sometimes forget about.

Psalm 67 is one of those not-so-subtle nudges. God steps in and says, “Remember the nations!”

This series, A Heart for God. Psalm 67 shows us a heart for God means a heart for the nations to have a heart for God as well. Not just us to have a heart for God. But that among the nations there would be those with a heart for God. Hearts that know God, praise God, and fear God.

The prayer of this Psalm is that we would enter into the global reach of the missio dei, the mission of God. God’s mission is the salvation of a people from “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev 7:9).

The Psalm is timely. Two weeks ago our eldership traveled to Frisco, TX, for a meeting of our denomination, Trinity Fellowship Churches. These gatherings tend to focus on one our three values as a denomination: Confessional, Connectional, Missional. This spring was Missional.

Heard from several of the pastors on what they’re doing to serve their communities. Heard from several on their work internationally.

Craig Cabaniss on Missio Dei, the Mission of God. The mission begins with God himself. God revealed himself to us. The Father sent the Son. The Father and Son sent the Spirit. The Son commissions the church to “make disciples of all nations.” As disciples we embrace God’s calling in all aspects of our lives. That in a nutshell is the missio dei, the mission of God.

This Psalm fits right into that idea. It’s a prayer that this mission would be complete and that all nations would share in it.

Prayer of Charles Spurgeon, that 19th century Reformed Baptist (Continuationist!) Preacher from London:

Save us, we pray…from the common religion. Give us the peculiar grace of a peculiar people. May we abide in Christ. May we live near to God. Let not the frivolities of the world have any power over us whatever. May we be too full grown in grace to be bewitched with the toys which are only becoming in children. Oh! give us to serve You and especially, and this prayer we have already prayed but we pray it again, make us useful in the salvation of our fellow man…. Have we been going up and down in business and are those round about us as yet unaware of our Christian character? Have we never spoken to them the Word of Life? Lord, arouse us to a deep concern for all with whom we come in contact from day to day. Make us all missionaries at home or in the street, or in our workshop, wherever Providence has cast our lot, may we there shine as lights in the world.
Charles Spurgeon, “Prayers”[1]

That last line: “Make us all missionaries at home or in the street, or in our workshop, wherever Providence has cast our lot, may we there shine as lights in the world.”

Yes!

Sermon: But the Psalm is a guide for praying for the nations. A prayer the nations would know God, praise God, and fear God.

Prayer

I. Know God (67:1–2)

Psalm 67:1–2.  

The LOGIC of this prayer is striking. Prayer for blessing but for a purpose: “Bless us…SO THAT…

Normally prayers for blessing are simply so we receive a blessing: “Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress” (Ps 31:9). But here it’s different.

There’s an evangelistic impulse here—a missionary heart. We want your blessings—but we want those blessings so that “all nations” might know you.

So that “your way” and “your saving power” would be known—not factually known or informationally known. But experientially known. The Hebrew for “know” here is more than a mental activity. It’s an experiential reality.

Bless us—so that the nations of the earth would know the true and living God in a saving way. That’s the missionary heart of this Psalm.

The language of blessing in this Psalm goes back to the priestly blessing Aaron was to speak over the Israelites in Numbers 6:24–26:

24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (Num 6:24–26)

You hear the language of Psalm 67 there: “bless,” “be gracious,” “make his face to shine.” Exact same words.

His face shining: “The expression of a shining face is a human description (an anthropomorphism) of God’s pleasure and delight: the face represents his presence, and the shining his grace—the beaming expression of a pleased father giving favors to his children” (Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms, II:452).

But in Psalm 67 the blessing on us is for this missional purpose, that the nations might know the Lord, might share in this blessing we’ve experienced.

This ties Psalm 67 to another passage, Genesis 12 and God’s call to Abraham:

1   Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And 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. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:1–3)

The blessing given to Abraham would not stop with him. God would bless Abraham, and then through Abraham “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3). In Genesis 22:18 after the testing of Abraham, God would use slightly different language: “In your offspring shall all the nations [ta ethnē] of the earth be blessed.”

How is it this Abrahamic blessing will reach “the nations” [ta ethnē]? The answer is that we fast-forward to the Lord Jesus Christ. Centuries AFTER Psalm 67.

Listen to the apostle Paul:

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’ cross took our CURSE so we could receive the BLESSING! In Christ “the blessing” promised to Abraham goes to “the nations”/“the Gentiles”/ta ethnē.

You can see the principle of these verses in 2 Kings 7:

And when these lepers came to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent and ate and drank, and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and went and hid them. Then they came back and entered another tent and carried off things from it and went and hid them. 9 Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.” (2 Kgs 7:8–9)

“This day is a day of good news…. Let us go and tell!” (v. 9). We’re just lepers who have been blessed. Let us go and share this “good news.”

II. Praise God (67:3–5)

Now the missionary prayer is for the nations to know and rejoice in God.

Read Psalm 67:3–5.  

The Psalmist is praying for a loud and joyful worship service: “Praise you….praise you….be glad…sing for joy!”

The Psalmist is praying for a global and fully international worship service, a worship service involving every people group on earth. In these 3 verses the Psalmist uses 7 words to convey this idea of all peoples worshiping the true and living God—read 67:3–5 and accent “peoples,” etc.

What is inspiring such praise among the nations? It’s the fact these nations KNOW GOD. Look at v. 4. Why “be glad and sing for joy”? “For you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon the earth.”

What is it the nations are to know that inspires their praise?

  • His judgment is “with equity.” Allen Ross:

The word conveys the idea of absolute equality. Under God’s rule all people are treated equally. None are shown favoritism; none have privileges over others. His administration is perfectly just…. To judge with equity is to judge rightly, fairly, and justly.
Allen Ross, Commentary on the Psalms.[2]

  • Our culture speaks often of equality and equity. Important to see that God is the standard of what that is.
  • His Providence. His guidance of all things. “All things” means “all things.” Romans 11:36, “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” The big and small details of our lives are all under God’s control and guidance. Ephesians 1:11, He “works all things after the counsel of his will.” “All things” might not seem comforting, especially when “all things” includes really hard things. But for the Christian there’s a special confidence we have because of God’s love for us. He promises in Romans 8:28 that for the Christian, “all things work together for good.”

So this prayer is for the missionary purpose of God to be successful. It’s a prayer for the Great Commission to be accomplished. Let it be that all the nations are brought in to the people of God.

If you’re familiar with John Piper you might know that his book on missions is called Let the Nations Be Glad. The title comes straight out of these verses.

He opens the book with these words:

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.

Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal in missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God. “The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!” (Psalm 97:1). “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” (Psalm 67:3–4).
John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad[3]

III. Fear God (67:6–7)

Read Psalm 67:6–7.  

The Psalm ends where it begins, by connecting the way God blesses us with the way we want him to bless the nations.

First here is a simple statement of fact: “The earth has yielded its increase” (v. 6). Seems that the Psalmist is speaking of the harvest (Allen Ross, Commentary, 448). The fact of the harvest inspires his thoughts.

It's good to remember that the harvest is no simple act of farming. There are so many variables with farming that the harvest is always a miracle. The soil, the rain, the sun, the temperatures, all these have to be just right. There can’t be a storm at the wrong time. Or locusts. Or enemies who come along and steal the harvest. Or sickness that keeps you from harvesting your fields when they need to be harvested. It’s a miracle every time.

There’s no harvest unless the Lord provides it! That’s why Jesus tells us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11). There is no bread unless he provides it!

The harvest is a sign of God’s blessing in the past. Because he has blessed us in the past, we know he’ll bless us in the future: “God, our God, shall bless us” (67:6b).

But he goes further. Knowing that God will bless us, he prays for “the ends of the earth” (Ps 67:7). Let “the earth of the earth fear him!”

In other words, thinking about the harvest in our fields, let there be a harvest in the nations!

You can hear the connection to Pentecost. Acts 2:1, “When the day of Pentecost arrived…” The spring harvest became the occasion for the spiritual harvest to begin. In this ancient prayer, there’s the cry for a spiritual harvest among the nations even as the worshipers are experiencing one of the annual harvests from their fields.

Jesus speaks of this harvest…OF SOULS!:

35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” (John 4:35)

Conclusion

Psalm 67 invites us to pray for the nations—to KNOW God, PRAISE God, and FEAR God.

Praying for it we feel the impulse to be involved in the answer to that prayer. To get involved with the missio dei in our workplaces, neighborhoods, families, communities.

More and more the key is not to figure out how you can GO to the nations, but how you can minister to the nations who have come to us.

Tom Steller:

Every follower of Christ is called to be a world Christian. A world Christian is someone who is so gripped by the glory of God and the glory of His global purpose that he chooses to align himself with God’s mission to fill the earth with the knowledge of His glory as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).… The burning of the world Christian is “Let the peoples praise you, O God. Let all the peoples praise you” (Psalm 67:3). So whether we are those who send or those who go, let us glory in the supremacy of God in missions and let us link arms together as we join the refrain of old, “Let the nations be glad!”
Tom Steller, “The Supremacy of God in Going and Sending”[4]

Once again the prayer of Charles Spurgeon,

Make us all missionaries at home or in the street, or in our workshop, wherever Providence has cast our lot, may we there shine as lights in the world.
Charles Spurgeon, “Prayers”[5]

End by praying for those who work with internationals.

  • Very broad. Maybe you travel internationally. But maybe on your crew or team are people from different countries. Maybe on your floor at the hospital or in the school are people from other countries. The prayer is that God would equip and anoint you as a missionary, an ambassador of Christ. Someone who can be used so that those from “the nations” would “be glad and sing for joy,” “fear him” (67:4, 7).

When you go into your workplace or coop, you go as someone Christ has set apart for his purposes. You go as a witness of the gospel. Someone with a story to tell of what God has done.

God has been gracious to you, blessed you, made his face to shine upon you. And now may that blessing extend to others through you.

Prayer and closing song

[1] Charles Spurgeon, Charles Spurgeon’s Prayers (NY: Fleming H. Revell, 1906), 24.

[2] Allen P. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms, Vol 2 (Kregel, 2013), 456, 457.

[3] John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad (Baker, 1995), 11.

[4] Tom Steller, “The Supremacy of God in Going and Sending,” Let the Nations Be Glad (Baker, 1995), 228.

[5] Charles Spurgeon, Charles Spurgeon’s Prayers (NY: Fleming H. Revell, 1906), 24.

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