ďBlessed To Be A BlessingĒ†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† July 13, 2014
SI:† Weíre spending the summer in the Psalms.
If you were here last week, you remember we studied Psalm 88
†† which is an intensely personal Psalm
†† about a believerís life-long struggle with depression.
Psalm 67 could not be more different in subject matter and tone.
†† Itís optimistic and outward focused.†
†† It focuses not on the individual, but on the whole human race.
Thatís what makes studying the Psalms fascinating.
†† There is so much variety in the expressions of Godís grace.
INTRO:† ďLord, please bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies.†
In Jesus name.† Amen.Ē
†† Have you ever said words like that in a mealtime prayer?
Thatís a good prayer request.† Itís biblical.†
It acknowledges that all good things come from God,
†† not just food itself, but even the nourishment food provides.
How does it work that you put dead things in your mouth,
†† pieces of dead plants or pieces of dead animals and somehow
†† by ingesting those dead things your life is sustained and you are nourished?†
Only by Godís blessing.†
†† So asking him to add his blessing to your food honors him.
But let me ask you a follow up question.
Suppose God answers your prayer.
†† Suppose he blesses food to the nourishment of your bodyówhich he does a lot.
†† Think how nourishing our food is compared to people in some parts of the world.
Hereís the question:† So what?† What are you to do with that blessing?
Or what about your prayers for the people you love?
†† If you have children, have you ever prayed something like this:
†† ďLord, bless my children.† Bless them in their studies at school.
†† Bless them with good friendships.† Bless their future plans.Ē† Of course you have.
And suppose the Lord hears your prayers and he blesses them, which he often does.
† †What are your children to do with that blessing?
Weíre just coming off the 4th of July.†
Iím sure that most of you prayed before you ate your hamburgers or hotdogs:
†† Lord, we thank you for our country, for the freedoms we enjoy.
†† And we pray that you would bless our nation and our leaders.
†† God bless America.† In Jesusí name.† Amen.
Itís right and good to ask for Godís blessing on America.
†† And he has blessed us, in spite of our many national sins.
†† So what are we to do with the blessings that come from living here?
At the end of the worship service, weíre going to do something Godís people
†† have been doing for over 3,000 years.†
Weíre going to receive the Lordís blessing through the words of his minister.
†† The Lord bless you and keep you,
†† The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you,
†† The Lord turn his face toward you, and give you peace.
That comes from Numbers 6.† Called the Aaronic blessing.†
†† The Lord gave it to the first high priest Aaron, and told himó
†† this is how you are to bless the Israelites, with these words.
We end every worship service with Godís blessing,
†† and we leave this place and go out into the world and a new week blessed.
Why do we ask for Godís blessing at the end of the service?
†† What does the Lord want us to do with his blessing when he gives it?
What does he want us to do with the blessings of life in America?
†† What does he want us to do with all the blessings of family and
†† education and work and health and church and friends and home?
What does he want us to do with the blessing of nourishment
†† we get from breakfast, lunch, and supper?
Well, thatís what this Psalmís about.†
†† Itís about why we should ask for Godís blessing and why he blesses us.†
Letís look at this beautiful Psalm under three headings:
1.† The purpose of Godís blessing
2.† The effect of Godís blessing
3.† The blessing of Godís blessing
MP#1† The purpose of Godís blessing
Itís in verses 1 and 2.† Letís read them again.
†† May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, ††Why???
†† that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.
The Psalmist says:† God bless us . . .
†† not so we can sit around that great big pot of blessing and dip into it
†† and enjoy it just for ourselves and our Christian family and friends.
But so that your blessing spills over into all the earth and all nations.
The Psalmist first says:†
ďBless us . . . that your ways may be known on earth.Ē
What are Godís ways?† What is his way of doing things?† Grace.
†† God ways are gracious.† He gives us everything we need in Christ.
Most people donít know that.†
†† They donít understand grace.
†† Thatís because the default mode of the human heart is works righteousness.
Works righteousness is this:† I keep the rules and then Godís owes me.
†† If I break the rules, I canít know God.†
†† Or I have to somehow punish myself and atone for my sins.
It inevitably makes people either pridefulówhen they keep the rules.
†† Or despondent and apathetic when the break them.†
Sometimes we call it legalismótrusting in law-keeping to save you.
†† Itís the fundamental theology of every world religion.
Hereís the system, hereís the program, here are the rulesó
†† follow them and you will live.†
There are even Christian versions.†
†† People take the Bible and Christianity and they turn it into rule-keeping
†† and works righteousness.†
This weekend we were with friends and one of them was talking about a family
†† member who was a professing Christian and then he had a moral collapse.†
She explained his version of Christianity was so legalistic, that after his moral fall,
†† he didnít know how to get back to God because he didnít understand grace.†
She said: I just want him to understand and experience Godís grace.
†† Thatís the spirit of Psalm 67óbut the scope is even bigger.
†† God, I want not just my family members, but the whole earth to know your grace.
Then, the second line of verse two is more specific.
God, bless us and make your face shine upon us
†† that your salvation may be known among all nations.†
The Hebrew word for salvation is yeshua.
†† We say Jesus.† Thatís an English version of his name.
†† But when Mary called him to come home for supper, she didnít sayóďJesus.Ē
She said something likeóYeshua.† Salvation.†
God, be gracious to us and bless us and make your face shine upon us
†† so that among all nations your Yeshua, your salvation, your Jesus, may be known.
So according to this Psalm, whatís the purpose of Godís blessing?†
†† Whatís the reason we should ask God to bless us, bless our children and church?†
†† The answer in one word is ďmissions.Ē
Let me give you a more wordy answer written by a wordy Scotsman,
†† Alexander Maclaren:
ďThis Psalm is a truly missionary psalm, in its clear anticipation of the universal spread of the knowledge of God, in its firm grasp of the thought that the Church is blessed for the evangelization of the world, and in its intensity of longing that from all the ends of the earth a shout of praise may go up to the God who has committed to his people the task of carrying the light to every land.Ē
The Psalms serve several practical purposes for believers.
One purpose is to bring us comfort.†
†† I was surprised how many of you last week commented after the service
†† how comforting Psalm 88 was to youóeither because you yourself suffered
†† from depression, or because you had a friend who did
Thatís certainly why itís in there, to comfort us.
But another purpose of the Psalms is to shape us.
†† To shape the way we are to think and feel about Godís grace
†† by showing us how we are to think and feel.
Now I donít know about you, but the passion of this Psalm
†† does not resonate in my heart nearly enough.
I rarely ask God to bless me and bless my children
†† so that the world will know the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
I donít pray nearly enough:†
†† Lord, bless Christ Covenant so that some of the sons and daughters
†† of our church become foreign missionaries.†
How do we develop the missionary mindset of this Psalm?
†† By giving attention to the Psalm itself.†
†† Itís the word of God.† So it has power to change us if we let it in.
So letís allow Psalm 67 to capture our imaginations.† Brings us to the second point:
MP#2† The effect of Godís blessings
Did you notice an odd word used throughout the middle of the Psalm, vs 3-5,
†† the word ďpeoples.Ē† Not people, but peoples.
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.
May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.
Who are the peoples?† This is a very important concept in Scripture.
When God chose Abraham, he entered into a covenant with him.
†† Abraham, Iím going to be your God and the God of your children.
†† Iím going to bless you and make you into a great nation,
†† and all peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.
The chosen people of God were the Hebrews, the descendants of Abraham.
And Godís plan from the beginning was that his chosen people would
†† be a conduit through which all the peoples of the earth would be blessed.
Peoples means all the nations, all the tribe tribes, all the ethnic groups and language
† groups throughout the whole world.
Unfortunately, the people of Israel were not very outward focused.
†† They tended to just sit around enjoying Godís blessings for themselves.
†† The church has the same tendency, to be inward focused.† We have that problem.
But the Psalmist is saying:† Iím dreaming of something wonderful.
†† Iím dreaming of a day when all the peoples praise God.
Iím imagining a day when men and women and boys and girls from
†† every tribe, language, people and nation are glad and singing for joy
†† because the Lord is their king and they are ruled by his grace.
That so captures his imagination that he says:
†† Lord, bless us so that we can be a part of that, so that we can have a hand
†† in this great plan of yours to bring all peoples under the rule of your grace.
But is this dream of the Psalmist grounded in reality, or is it just a dream?
†† Are all the peoples coming under the rule of Godís grace?† Yes.
Let me give you some facts from a reliable source:†
†† The US Center for World Missions in Pasadena.†
From the Day of Pentecost to the year 1900, the number of practicing
†† Christians grew from 0% of the worldís population to 2.5%.
Practicing Christians means Christians of any denomination who are actively,
†† participating in the life of the church.† Not nominal Christians.
So, from the time all the believers could fit together in one room in Jerusalem to the
†† year 1900, percentage of practicing Christians grew to 2.5% of world population.
What has happened in the last 110 years?†
†† From 1900 to 1970, practicing Christians grew to 5% of the world population.
†† It took 18 centuries to get to 2.5%, it took just 70 years to get to 5%.
And over the past 40 years, from 1970 to 2010, practicing Christians
†† have grown to 12% of the world population.†
Today there is one practicing Christian for every seven people worldwide
†† who are either nominal or non-Christian.
Over the past 40 years, the number of Christians in China has grown from
†† 1 million Christians to 80 million.† And this is not Christianity lite.†
Christians in China have been baptized by persecution, they pray, they preach
†† repentance and faith in Christ.† They are poised to have an impact on the world.
During the same time, number of Christians in Africa from 100 to 400 million.
†† Fastest growing church in the world.†
†† Yes, church is declining in some places, but overall, growing.†
†† Yes, there are places where missions is hard, but advances are being made.
And there is another way to look at this.†
The task of missions is not merely to win individuals,
†† but to reach all the different people groups in the world.
That means that the task can be finished.† Because even though the population
†† of the world keeps growing, the number of people groups does not.†
This has prompted a great effort among missionary organizations to identify them,
†† and find out which ones are unreached.
There are about 7,000 people groups without a viable Gospel witness.†
†† In other words, with no churches.† Some of these are small groups, some large.
†† But every year, unreached peoples are being reached with the Gospel.
What the Psalmist dreamed about in Psalm 67, we are seeing in our lifetime.
†† Thatís reason to be excited.
Charles Hodge made Princeton Seminary a driving force in the American Christian
missionary movement. †He even passed on his zeal for world missions to his children. In
1833, when Archie was but ten years old and Mary was eight, they composed a letter to one
of their father's former students, James Read Eckard, who was serving as a missionary in
Ceylon (known today as Sri Lanka). They wished Mr. Eckard to read their letter to the
people to whom he ministered:
The Lord Jesus Christ hath promised the earth shall be His Kingdom. †And God is not a man that he should lie nor the son of man that He should repent. †And if this was promised by a Being who cannot lie, why do you not help it to come sooner by reading the Bible, and attending to the words of our teachers, and loving God, and renouncing your idols, take Christianity into your temples? †And soon there will not be a nation, no, not a space of ground as large as a footstep, that will want a missionary. †My sister and myself have, by small self-denials, procured two dollars which are enclosed in this letter to buy tracts and Bibles to teach you.
Archibald Alexander Hodge
Mary Eliz. Hodge
Friends of the Heathen
And thatís why he wants Godís blessing for himself and all Godís people,
†† so that they can be part of Godís great plan to bring all the peoples
†† under the rule of his grace.††
magining that day gets him so excited that he says:
†† And thatO Lord, bless us, bless our children.† Make your face shine on us.
†† So that we are able to be part of your great plan to bring all peoples
†† under the rule of your grace so that they sing your praises.
Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. †Worship is . . . . 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 of missions. †Itís the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white hot enjoyment of Godís glory . . .
Worship is also the fuel of missions. †Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. †You canít commend what you donít cherish. †Missionaries will never call out, ďLet the nations be glad!Ē who cannot say from the heart, ďI rejoice in the LordÖĒ