Psalm 67: 1-2 “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us—so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.”
What does the psalmist mean by “your ways?” Sometimes when we think of God’s ways, we think of the ten commandments. In my counseling I find myself cutting to the chase more and more. I ask people up front, “Do you want to do things God’s way?” What I am asking is this: “Are you willing to be guided by God’s word? Are you willing to submit your desires and ideas to his? Or are we going to be sitting here just talking around in circles?” God’s ways, his commandments, are no big secret. We just don’t want to believe that they apply to us.
Even though God has promised to bless us if we follow his ways, though they lead us into a better and more blessed life, they often don’t inspire lofty praise and thanksgiving. The better we know them, the more clearly we see the vast gulf between God’s demands and our behavior. It is hard to praise God while we are smothering in our sin.
But the ways the author of Psalm 67 has in mind aren’t the ways God wants us to behave. These are the ways an unbelievably gracious God behaves himself. He created us and our world for the joy of having someone to pour out his affection on. Picture the craftsmen practicing his art not so much for profit, but for the pure joy of working with each piece, and making it as beautiful as it can possibly be. Though our sins have made us unbelievably difficult material to work with, the Craftsman hasn’t lost interest. He continues to pour out good things on believer and unbeliever alike.
This is because God’s way is to love deeply and completely in spite of our unworthiness. When I was growing up my younger brother had a security blanket. Over the years it became more ragged and tattered until it was literally one big hole with a cloth border around it. Despite its condition he continued to love it. He refused to throw it away. It was hard for me to see what he saw in such a rag anymore. You remember that in Isaiah God tells us that even our righteous acts are like filthy rags. Yet God doesn’t throw us away. His way is to continue to love us, even to cherish us, in spite of our ragged and tattered condition.
Think of the ways the Lord describes his love for us. He compares it to the devotion a good shepherd gives to protecting his sheep, the tender care a responsible and affectionate Father provides for his children, the intense love and desire a husband feels for his new bride. All the while his love for us continues to blaze hot and bright though we are sheep who love to wander, ungrateful children who constantly disobey, and a cheating spouse who gives her love to someone else.
Yet God’s way is to love us even more. He gives us more than things. He gives us more than affection. He gives us himself. The Psalmist calls it salvation. We know it as our Savior Jesus Christ. The Craftsman unites himself with the wood, or clay, or stone with which he works. He becomes a part of his own art. The Shepherd sacrifices his own life to save the sheep who were running away from him. In Jesus Christ God has joined our dysfunctional family and taken the whipping all the other children deserved. “May the peoples praise you, O God, may all the peoples praise you”–for your ways.