Ep.153: Psalm 67: God Smiles.

Hello. I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

Almost 250 years ago, hymn writer William Cowper became severely depressed and attempted suicide. During that dark year of his life, he wrote a poem called Light Shining out of Darkness, which includes these lines,
    Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
        But trust him for his grace;
    Behind a frowning providence,
        He hides a smiling face. 

Maybe you know this poem as the hymn, God Moves in a Mysterious Way. What a wonderful picture of God. Our feelings and life circumstances may be frowning, dark, difficult, sorrowful. But behind our difficulties, God cares for us and smiles on us.  

Like Cowper, the poet in Psalm 67 trusts God to smile. He says,
    May God be gracious to us and bless us
        and make his face shine on us (v. 1). 

In the psalm, God smiles not just on his own people. He is creator and sustainer of the world. He smiles at all he has made. The favor he shows his chosen people is his invitation that flows through them to the whole world, inviting all the nations to praise God and to enjoy the favor of his smile.  As the poet says,
    May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
      for you rule the peoples with equity
      and guide the nations of the earth (v. 4). 

Brueggemann says of Psalm 67, “The sum of the entire poem is gladness for the life-giving, world-ordering power of God that makes a viable, shared life in the world possible.” (Brueggemann, Walter, and Bellinger, William H., Jr. 2014.  Psalms. In New Cambridge Bible Commentary. New York:: Cambridge University Press. p. 290).

Let’s pray.

     O God, be gracious to us and bless us
        and make your face smile upon us–
    so that your ways may be known on earth,
        your salvation among all nations (vv. 1-2).

For us, as for ancient Israel, your plan is not to create a cowering, fearful chosen people. You don’t want us just to hide out of sight in a dangerous world until the coming Messiah rescues us. Rather, in all generations you order the world for the benefit of all people. Summer and winter, springtime and harvest, oceans and mountains and plains give us a place to call home, to experience your beauty, and to grow food that sustains and satisfies us. You send your rain on the just and the unjust. You care for your creation, both the earth and the people. As the poet says,
    The earth has yielded its increase;
        God, our God, has blessed us. . .
        let all the ends of the earth praise him (vv. 6, 7b). 

We also hear the poet say,
  May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
        for you rule the peoples with equity,
        and lead the nations of the earth (v. 4).

God, we do not see that happening yet. We see a world caught in the COVID-19 pandemic. Nations bicker internally, castigate other nations for perceived faults, and move toward political and economic isolation and self-reliance. O God, as the pandemic exposes the fractures and foolishness of our world systems, as nations move toward self-protection and isolation, it is time for you to act as the poet suggests: to rule the peoples with equity and to lead the nations of the earth. Just do it, God! Bring justice to the earth. Bring leadership that will guide the nations wisely. Show the world your smiling face. Let the whole world be glad and sing for joy.


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.