Psalm 67:1-4 “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth.”
The psalmist is seeking a very specific application of God’s grace when he asks God to be gracious to us. Here we are, able to cope with life now, and on the last day we will rise to live forever, because we have this gracious God who loves and saves us. Can we keep this secret to ourselves? We aren’t in a competition with the rest of humanity. Letting them in on the secret takes nothing away from us. How can we let them be lost?
So we pray like a missionary. We pray for God’s grace and blessing so that his ways–his loving, saving way of dealing with us– can be known everywhere, among all nations. We pray for God’s grace because this task is bigger than us. There are billions of people to reach. We seem so few. We get distracted by all the other things we think are important. But is anything more important than the eternal fate of souls Jesus purchased with his own blood? We pray like a missionary when we pray for God’s grace to reach all the nations.
Once that word is out, we don’t want it to fall to the ground with no effect. We pray some more. We pray for God’s praises to come from the nations. “May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.”
Do you see the implication that is sitting between God’s salvation becoming known among all the nations, and all the peoples praising this same God? You don’t praise God for something you don’t believe in. You don’t praise a God whom you don’t believe in. Praying for the peoples to praise God assumes that the message of grace has given them a living faith.
Faith and praise are the responses that fit God’s saving grace. I suppose that it is possible to force words of praise from people without faith, but is that really praise at all? Maybe you remember the character Max from the movie The Sound of Music. He is the family friend who helped the Von Trapp family escape the Nazis. After Austria falls to Germany, the whole nation is expected to take up the greeting “Heil Hitler!” The true converts do it with gusto, but not Max. He weakly raises his hand to say it, and the words barely stumble out of his mouth. He has no real praise for his new dictator.
Jesus does not conquer the nations with a military machine. He does not force the peoples into subjection. He wins them with his grace. He overwhelms them with his love. Every word of praise, then, oozes with sincerity and joy.
And why shouldn’t it? Why shouldn’t the praises be sincere and come straight from a heart of faith? “…for you rule the people’s justly and guide the nations of the earth.” Jesus’ brand of justice has no hint of graft or corruption. We sometimes call our elected officials “public servants,” but Jesus truly is. He rules and leads as the one who made himself our servant. Everything he does is about us–our forgiveness, our salvation, our life, our eternity. We pray like a missionary, then, when we pray that the peoples will see it, and believe it, and then God’s praises will come from the nations.