Sermon / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Wednesday Prayer Service August 2nd 2017 - / Psalm 67 / Blessed by God
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Wednesday August 2nd 2017: Pentecost / Psalm 67 "Blessed by God"
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make His face to shine upon us,
that Your way may be known on earth,
Your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
let all the peoples praise You!
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for You judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
let all the peoples praise You!
The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear Him!
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. As we look at this Psalm of King David let’s start by looking at a word of wisdom from David’s son King Solomon, who wrote, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” And now listen to this next part, Solomon says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” How does our Psalm end? “God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear Him!” … “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” … “let all the ends of the earth fear Him,” What does this mean in this context? When God blesses us then the peoples of the nations will see this blessing and they will respect God, have reverence for God, and even in the most conventional way “fear” God. In this way God is actively at work converting the nations.
The next thought however is this, “What does it mean to be blessed by God?” Does the word “blessed” mean the same thing for King David as it means for us in North America today? Mostly when we hear the word “bless” or “I’m blessed” or “I’ve been blessed” society equates this not with things that are both physically and spiritually good but with mainly material things, with physical blessings, monetary or financial blessings: With material prosperity of some kind, health and wealth only. This is not what David means here. There is a lot wrapped up in the Hebrew word for blessing, “barak.” For starters there is an aspect of the word connected to the act of keeling. The knee was looked at as the weakest part of the body and bending the knee, kneeling in submission was a sign of acknowledgment that the one you were subject too was greater than you. Think “I am weak but He is strong.” It also shows a relationship. Sometimes we kneel in prayer to God; in many congregations people kneel for confession and absolution, at Mount Olive we kneel – as we are able - to receive Holy Communion. So the idea behind being blessed for King David was wrapped up in us having a righteous and right relationship with God, and that God would create this righteous right relationship with Him in us. Think, “Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me, cast me not away from Thy presence and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me, restore unto me the joy of Thy Salvation and uphold me with Thy free Sprite, Amen.”
Hopefully this helps: When the world, when the nations, when the peoples of all the earth see this in us, see this righteous right relationship between us and God and God and us, then they will - with new found, God given wisdom - fear the Lord. However, if they see people who confess to be Christians who have no fear of the Lord, if they see people who confess to be Christian without a right relationship with the God, who have no reverence, or respect for God, who do not live like forgiven and justified heirs of the Kingdome of heaven, then the peoples of the nations will regard the Church and her people as shallow hypocrites who do not believe what they confess to be true. If this is what they see they will have no desire to receive any blessing from God, they will not want the relationship God gives as a gift, they will see the one who professes to be Christian devaluing the gift and then they will see no value in the gift of blessing that God provides. They will see no righteousness in it.
To make this clear, this is not about you having the strength to bend your knee and kneel before God – No; this is about God bringing you into this relationship of reverence and righteousness with Him. Martin Luther put it like this in the Small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”
The purpose of God giving us this blessed relationship, this blessing, yes the purpose of God making His face to shine upon us, is so that His Way may be known on earth, His saving power among all nations. And what is God’s Way? Jesus the only begotten son of God says of Himself, “I am the Way, and The truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." What David in Psalm 67 prophetically says, is this,
“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, that [His Christ, the Holy One, who is Jesus the Lord] may be known on earth, [that] Your saving power [O God would be known] among all nations.”
Let’s put a finer point on it: May God be gracious to us and create in us that clean heart and right spirit towards Him, built on the righteousness of Christ Jesus, so that those who do not yet believe would witness it and believe.
This prayer of thanksgiving and praise which King David writes in Psalm 67 is one in which God is not just the God of the Children of Israel, He is God of all nations, for all time: Which means that the blessings God gives to the Children of Israel are by extension intended - in Christ and His promises - to be for all peoples. This is detailed first in Deuteronomy 7, and David would have known and trusted this: Here Moses writes about this relationship between God and His chosen people saying,
“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations,” Later we see the purpose of this relationship made explicitly clear in Isaiah when God says, “I will make you as a light for the nations, that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” But here in Psalm 67 this light to the Nations purpose of God is clearly stated too.
The steadfast love, this faithfulness and graciousness mentioned in Deuteronomy is the root of the blessed and right relationship that God provided to David and the Children of Israel and now provides to you and me and all Christians, and it is likewise summed up in the Aaronic benediction, the Aaronic blessing, “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;” The very words King David affirms when David begins Psalm 67 saying, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us.” How does God make His Face to shine on us? Why is God worthy of our praise, of the praise of the peoples of the nations?
In the Psalms, in Hebrew poetry, the main and most important point of the Psalm is almost always found right in the centre of the Psalm, and in the centre of Psalm 67 we find David saying, “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for You judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.” The equity of God’s judgment, the reason we as His children can praise Him as gracious and merciful is wrapped up in His son Jesus. What did we hear from Romans 8 on Sunday? “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” God the Father who did not spare His own Son, Jesus Christ, but gave Jesus up for us all at the cross, in Jesus’ suffering and death, how will He, how will God, not also with Jesus, whom He raised from the dead on account of His innocent sufferings and personally undeserved death, not graciously give us all things as we are now counted as having this same sinless righteousness of Jesus accredited to us by means of Jesus Christ’s love for us not on account of our own works - in full or in part.
God the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit gives this to us and in us the peoples of earth, of the world, of the nations – if they have eyes to see it and hears to hear it – will be blessed as we are blessed. How does Saint Paul put it in Ephesians, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Psalm 67 then is a prayer that we would live our lives as forgiven children of God, and that in the living out of this forgiven life in Christ we would ever be pointing to Jesus at the cross of Good Friday, to His shed blood, the very source of our forgiveness, and that when the peoples of the world, the peoples of the nations, witness this that they would likewise look to Christ Jesus, who is the only Way to the Father, for their own forgiveness and Life.
If in living your Christian life you have obscured this by bad behaviour, by sin, by acting as if the blessings of God only count if they are material in nature, if you have - by poor conduct - given a distorted reflection of Jesus, the Holy One, to the peoples of the nations, take heart; repent, look to Jesus, ask for His forgiveness, it is yours. And when you do so, it is the Holy Spirit at work in you, and His work in you is worthy of praise. He hands the gift from Christ to you, from the Father to you. Remember what we say to the one being baptized as we hand them the lit candle, we quote to them Jesus’ words from the Gospel of Matthew saying, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” To God be the glory, forever and ever, and what are these works? They are the works of God provided to you for you to walk in … and remember likewise what Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” This Jesus is the Way, in Him you are blessed, in Him you have a right relationship with God and of Him Scripture says, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Praise be to Him forever, be glad and sing for joy. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Proverbs 9:8-10
 Psalm 51
 Luther’s Small Catechism, Apostles’ Creed Third Article explanation. Concordia Publishing House 1986, pg. 17.
 John 14:6
 Deuteronomy 7:6-9
 Isaiah 49:6
 Numbers 6:24-25
 Romans 8:32
 Ephesians 4:32-5:1-2
 Matthew 5:16
 Ephesians 2:10
 John 16:33
 Philippians 2:10-11
(Photo at top of this blog post: “Man Kneeling in Prayer” by Roger Anis)