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[Because of space constraints in this issue, we will take this psalm out of order, as it is a short psalm.—Ed.]
Psalm 67 -
“May the People Praise You, O God”
For the director of music.
With stringed instruments. A psalm. A song.
1May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make His face shine upon us, Selah
2That Your ways may be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
3May the peoples praise You, O God;
may all the peoples praise You.
4May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for You rule the peoples justly
and guide the nations of the earth. Selah
5May the peoples praise You, O God;
may all the peoples praise You.
6Then the land will yield its harvest,
and God, our God, will bless us.
7God will bless us,
and all the ends of the earth will fear Him.
This psalm is a beautiful prayer for the universal praise of God. “It is prayer on the highest level. It asks for personal blessing, but its deepest passion is that all peoples may be blessed, and led to praise” [Morgan, 117]. “The Psalmist, or the church, of which he is the spokesman, takes occasion to anticipate the extension of God’s covenanted gifts, both temporal and spiritual, to all the nations of the earth” [Alexander, 290].
The psalmist begins: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine upon us” (vs. 1). This verse is a paraphrase of the blessing that priests of Israel were commanded to bestow upon the children of Israel (see Num. 6:23ff). It is a good thing to take the prayers of the Bible and apply them in our prayers.
It is also good to pray for others, not just ourselves. “Our Savior, in teaching us to say, ‘Our Father’, has intimated that we ought to pray with and for others; so the psalmist here prays not, ‘God be merciful to me, and bless me,’ but to us, and bless us; for we must make supplication for all saints, and be willing and glad to take our lot with them” [Henry].
The prayer that God be “gracious”, is a prayer that God’s grace and mercy come upon us. We all need God’s grace and mercy. “The best saints and the worst sinners may unite in this petition” [Spurgeon]. Note the order: first, “May God be gracious to us”, then, “and bless us.” “God forgives, then He gives; till He be merciful to pardon our sins through Christ, He cannot bless or look kindly on us sinners” [Spurgeon].
The blessing for which the psalmist is praying, is that God may be known throughout the earth: “…that Your ways may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations” (vs. 2). For God to be well known throughout the earth would be a blessing to us all.
Knowledge of two things is prayed for: God’s ways, and His salvation. God’s ways are widely misunderstood. If they weren’t, many more would praise Him. Those who truly understand God’s ways—His goodness; His grace; His righteousness; His holiness—cannot help but worship Him. Likewise, the greatness of God’s salvation is widely undervalued. God’s salvation brings eternal rewards. Who cannot help but praise God for that?
The psalmist next prays that all would join in God’s praise: “May the peoples praise You, O God; may all the peoples praise You” (vs. 3). “Mark the sweet order of the blessed Spirit: first, mercy; then, knowledge; last of all, praising of God. We cannot see His countenance except He be merciful to us; and we cannot praise Him except His way be known upon earth. His mercy breeds knowledge; His knowledge, praise” [Boys, in Spurgeon]. “Those that delight in praising God themselves cannot but desire that others also may be brought to praise Him, that He may have the honor of it and they may have the benefit of it” [Henry]. We should desire that all people praise God, even our enemies. An effective prayer for bringing peace to our own hearts is to pray for our enemies, to pray for their salvation, to pray that they would praise God. And also, we of course should praise God at all times. “We have comforts increased, the more we praise God for what we have already received. The more vapours go up, the more showers come down; as the rivers receive, so they pour out, and all run into the sea again. There is a constant circular course and recourse from the sea, unto the sea; so there is between God and us; the more we praise Him, the more our blessings come down; and the more His blessings come down, the more we praise Him again; so that we do not so much bless God as bless ourselves. When the springs lie low, we pour a little water into the pump, not to enrich the fountain, but to bring up more for ourselves” [Manton, in Spurgeon].
The psalmist continues his prayer for all people: “May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth” (vs. 4). We often are concerned with personal happiness and joy, but national joy is important also. The psalmist prays that the “nations be glad and sing for joy.” For a “nation” to do so implies that it lives in peace, with good leadership, and domestic tranquility. The psalmist gives a reason for nations to sing with joy: “…for You rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth” (vs. 4). “Nations never will be glad till they follow the leadership of the great Shepherd; they may shift their modes of government from monarchies to republics, and from republics to communes, but they will retain their wretchedness till they bow before the Lord of all” [Spurgeon].
The psalmist repeats his refrain: “May the peoples praise You, O God; may all the peoples praise You” (vs. 5). “These words are no vain repetition, but are a chorus worthy to be sung again and again” [Spurgeon].
The results of universal praise to God will be beneficial: “Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us” (vs. 6). God blesses His people. If we have the spiritual confidence to truly say God is “our God”, we will experience God’s blessings. For a nation, the foundation of prosperity is for the land to “yield its harvest”, thus, this is a blessing God bestows on nations that follow Him.
The psalmist ends with a prophetical longing for the time when God will governmentally rule all nations: “God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear Him” (vs. 7). Indeed, we should all long for that time when evil will be driven from the land, when God will rule in justice, and when “all the ends of the earth will fear Him.”