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A Short Prayer Based on a Big Promise

Sermon by Kevin Phipps on Apr 23, 2014

Psalm 67:1-7

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Glad to be here with you tonight to open God’s Word.  If you would, take your copies of God’s Word and turn to Psalm 67, or you can look on the back of the prayer guide; it will be printed on there.  Psalm 67.  And before we read God’s Word let’s go to Him in prayer and ask for His help.

Our Lord and our God, we thank You that You are here in our midst, so what that means is that Lord, the effectiveness of this message is not based on my lofty speech but on proclaiming the testimony of God to these Your beloved.  Lord, I am here in weakness, Lord, tonight.  We ask that by Your Spirit You would be with us, that our faith would not rest in the wisdom of men but on the power of God.  Lord, let Your Word be powerful to us this evening.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Hear God’s Word from Psalm 67:

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.  Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.  Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.  God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!”

Amen, and that ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant Word.  May He write its eternal truth on all our hearts.

A Perfect Psalm for a Self-Centered Age

Recently this past month in March a study came out and showed that nearly 1 million selfies are posted on the internet every day.  And I need to explain what that is.  A selfie is a picture where someone takes a picture of themselves, and typically it’s done with their smartphone or their phone.  So they flip their phone around and they take a picture of themselves.  Now think about that.  Over 1 million of these are posted to the internet through different websites on a daily basis.  That’s what the latest study has shown this past March.  And it’s kind of a good indicator of where our society is, where our culture is.  It’s a good pointer to the age we live in.  It’s a self-centered age.  Every age with sinners is a self-centered age.  Remember in 2 Timothy chapter 3 the apostle Paul tells Timothy the young pastor, “Look, in the last days difficult times are coming,” and then he goes to describe the type of opposition that we would face as believers.  And what is the first thing that he describes?  He says people will be lovers of themselves.  People will be lovers of themselves.  That’s kind of the heart of sin; it’s being self-centered.

Well this psalm is a good cure for living in a self-centered age because this is a God-centered psalm.  It’s a psalm that, as we bring our petitions to God, it lifts our eyes to Him and beyond ourselves.  A brief description of the psalm - you could say that it’s a short prayer based on a big promise; that big promise is the promise God gave to Abraham.  In Genesis chapter 12:1-3 God told Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing; and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”  Don’t you think that, for the Jewish people, as they would have sung this psalm, as they would have sung the refrain, “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you,” they would have had that promise that God gave to Abraham in the background of their mind?  That God told Abraham that through Him all the earth would be blessed.  So it’s a psalm with in the background of the promise God made to Abraham but it’s also a psalm that points us forward to the picture that we see in the book of Revelation, Revelation chapter 5 verses 9 and 10.  And there we see Jesus on the throne and He’s described as the Lamb who has been slain, seated on the throne, and He’s surrounded by the saints in glory and they’re singing.  And what are they singing?  They’re singing, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  And you have made them a kingdom of priests to our God; they shall reign on earth.”  The petition of Psalm 67 asking God that His praises would extend to all peoples, well we see that that’s answered in the book of Revelation.  The prayer of Psalm 67 is answered in the book of Revelation.

The Promise to Abraham: A People from all Nations

So if you were to pick up your Bible and read from Genesis to Revelation you have the promise given to Abraham that through him all the nations will be blessed, in the beginning in Genesis 12, and then towards the end you see a day when there will be representatives from every tribe, tongue, and nation before the throne saying, “Worthy is the Lamb!”  And here we have this psalm both looking backwards and forwards reminding us that our God is so worthy of praise that we should pray that all peoples everywhere would praise Him.  This psalm is often called a missionary psalm and we need missionary psalms for our souls when we live in such a self-centered age.  And we ourselves are recovering sinners and growing more in Christ-likeness and holiness we need psalms like this one that take our eyes off ourselves and focus on the greatness of God.  And when we see His greatness, our desire becomes that we desire that all nations will behold His greatness, that all peoples will praise His name.  There is approximately 7 billion plus people living on the planet today.  Some estimate that upwards of 6 billion of the people living on the planet today are not professing Christians.  6 billion people that tonight, if they were to die, they would not see the Savior.  Some missionary agencies and organizations estimate of that 6 billion, 3 billion of them have had no exposure to the Gospel.  Psalm 67 grabs our attention and says, “God, those people, we desire that those who’ve never heard Your name, who there’s not even enough Christians for them to gather for a Bible study, there’s no church, there’s 6 billion people on Sunday that will not gather to sing God’s praises, those people we pray that they would sing Your praises.”

I hope you can see why I would choose Psalm 67 for a prayer meeting - to remind us of the great truth that as we bring God our requests and as we behold His greatness, our prayer is for those who do not yet know Him with the confidence that our God is a God of all nations.  So where do we begin?  Where do we begin?  I think in this psalm they give us, we can see, and I want to show you from Psalm 67 that it gives us a good blueprint to begin praying God-honoring, big missionary prayers for the peoples of the world.  So we’ll start with that; we’ll start with the blueprint for our petitions.  And I particularly have in mind the first two verses of Psalm 67.  So look back there at verses 1 and 2.

I. The Blueprint for our Petitions

Did you notice in verse 1, I’ll read it to you again, it says, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us.”  Does that sound familiar?  Did it ring a bell to anyone?  It sounds like the benediction that Moses told Aaron to pronounce over the people in Numbers chapter 6.  So in Numbers chapter 6 Aaron is instructed to give this benediction to the people - “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.  The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”  So here Psalm 67 begins with reciting a theme from Scripture, making an illusion back to what was in Numbers chapter 6 and that’s where we begin in praying missionary prayers.  We begin with Scripture.  And this is a principle that applies to all prayer; all prayer we look to Scripture to be our guide.  We look to Scripture to be what shapes the words that we bring before the throne of God.  Why is that?  Because it’s in Scripture that we see God’s will revealed.  And so we can be certain that when we pray Scripture we are praying the will of God.  So that’s where the psalmist here, as he wants to pray for the nations, he begins with Scripture.

Approaching through Grace

But then as we draw back the connection between numbers chapter 6, he’s kind of rearranged Aaron’s benediction.  Aaron’s benediction began with, “The Lord bless you and keep you,” but here this psalm begins with, “May God be gracious to us.”  You see, Aaron would have stood over the people and pronounced a benediction; now this is the people crying out to God, “Be gracious to us.”  And a blueprint prayer begins with Scripture but it’s helpful that it’s been reworked, that grace is highlighted first.  Because when we approach God in prayer we begin and come through grace.  It’s by grace that we approach His throne with our requests, with our petitions.  Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us with confidence draw near to the throne of grace.” 

Prayer in Community

Our Savior sits on a throne of grace so our petition begins with Scripture, we start with grace, but then I want you to notice here in verse 1 both of these phrases at the end, the entire verse 1 ends with, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us.”  And we are reminded that prayer is done in the community of believers and it’s done for the community of believers.  So are you getting the picture?  Are you getting the blueprint?  Praying Scripture, coming to God by grace, and then it’s not individualistic; it’s we as the people of God saying, “God be gracious to us.  Make Your face to shine upon us.  Bless us.”  It’s the body of Christ.  There’s power when the body of Christ comes together to do what you’ve come to do tonight, to pray together.  And sometimes that’s the best kick-start to your prayer life, that if you’re struggling with your personal quiet time to get in a meeting like this or to gather family around and pray in a group, have others pray for you, pray together.  So there it is - praying in community, corporate prayer; what we’re doing tonight.  There’s power in it.  And that’s the example we see from Psalm 67.

A Missionary Psalm

Now so far everything I’ve mentioned has been about us, and we’ve already said that this psalm is a missionary psalm.  Well that’s where we pick up in verse 2 where there’s the transition.  We’re asking God’s blessing, we’re asking God’s grace on us - “that your way may be known on the earth; that your saving power among all the nations.”  See, he’s saying, “The purpose of seeking God’s grace and blessing on us is not just for us; it’s also for the sake of the lost.”  Isn’t that an amazing thing?  Seeking God; God, be gracious to us.  Be gracious to First Pres.  Be gracious to Your people here for the purpose of that people who aren’t here, that are far from You and far from this land and far from a knowledge of You, that they may know You.  You see, that’s part of the blueprint; that our eyes are lifted beyond ourselves.  And what is the prayer?  It’s that, “God, you would show us grace so that others would know your way, that your way may be known on the earth.”  What is God’s way?  Our God is a covenant God.  He is a God who is faithful.  He is a God who has made a covenant of grace with His people and here His people are saying, “We want others; we want those who are outside.”  It’s the insiders praying for those who are on the outside that they may too know God’s gracious covenant, that they may too know His saving power and that it would be known among all the nations. 

Blessing for the Good of the Nations

And the truth is that if we are going to pray for the nations we can’t export what we don’t first have ourselves.  So if we pray for the lost it begins with reminding ourselves that if but for the grace of God we would still be lost.  And we seek the Lord.  So it’s important that we gather in community to pray for our local church, to pray for our local church, that God would pour His Spirit out on First Pres. Let me encourage you to make it a family practice to pray for the preaching of the Word.  Pray for the gathered worship of God’s people that when we gather He would be gracious to us, that He would shine His face on us, that He would bless us; make it a practice.  And you know what?  Sometimes it’s not too late to do it on the drive to church!  You may kind of feel guilty and maybe think, “I’ve gone the whole weekend and I’ve spent it in the yard, I’ve spent it at Target or at Wal-Mart, I’ve spent it here, I’ve spent it there,” and you know what, if you’ve got five minutes on the way ask God that He would be gracious to us, that He would bless us, that He would make His face to shine upon us so that the nations, so that what we receive, the grace that we receive, would be exported to the nations.  We can’t export what we first don’t have ourselves.

II. The One Who accomplishes our Petitions

The next thing that I want you to look at is that when we bring our petitions to God there is one who accomplishes our petitions.  And I have in mind verse 4 particularly.  It says, “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy.”  Why are they going to be glad?  Why are they going to sing for joy?  “For you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon the earth.”  “Let the nations be glad, let them sing for joy, for you judge, for God will judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon the earth.”  There is one who will accomplish the petition.  There is one who will hear our prayers and it is our God, but He’s not just our God; He’s the God of all nations.  And as we pray for those who do not know Him and as they experience the saving power and are drawn into the family of God, they are glad and they sing for joy.  Their God is their judge.  That should be a terrifying thing unless they’ve met Him also as their Savior.  And our God is on the throne and He is guiding the affairs of this world for His purposes and His ends.  He is a sovereign God and He is a Shepherd-King.  That’s kind of the imagery that comes with this.  “He guides the nations upon the earth.”  It’s the image of a Shepherd-King guiding the affairs of all peoples at all times.

God’s Saving Power among All Nations

The apostle Paul, in Athens, described God’s sovereign ways among the nations, among the peoples like this.  He says, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands as though He needed anything since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  He made, from one man, every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place that they should seek God and perhaps feel their way towards Him and find Him that He is actually not far from each one of us.”  There the apostle Paul says that God has determined the allotted periods and the boundaries of all peoples in all times.  He is guiding it for His purposes. 

Let me remind you on Sunday we heard from Psalm 22 in Psalm 22:27 and 28 it says, “All the ends of the earth shall serve the Lord and all the families of the nations shall worship before you, for kingship belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.”  God is ruling over all the nations for the sake of His kingdom and so when we ask Him to say, “God, let all peoples praise you,” He is the one who accomplishes that petition.  And we are to be encouraged in praying when we pray for the darkest parts of the globe that we know now, the hardest countries where it is completely closed off to the Gospel, we can pray and we can petition God and we can say, “God, that country, that they would know Your saving power there.”  And also that means the darkest parts of Jackson, the - what would seem to be the stronghold of the enemy in our community, we can trust that God is King, that the Lord Jesus is reigning over all peoples everywhere, determining where they live, the time that they live, and He’s guiding all things as a good Shepherd-King for His purposes and ultimately for the praise of His name.

III. A Blessing for God’s Own People

So we see a blueprint for our petitions, we see the one who accomplishes our petitions, and then the last thing, verse 6 and 7, we get pulled back home.  The psalm, we began at home, praying for the church, praying for the people of God - “God be gracious to us so that the nations would know you.”  And here in verse 6 we’re pulled back home and we see that there is a link between if you could put it, the practical and the spiritual.  He says, “The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.  God shall bless us that all the ends of the earth fear him.”  We’re pulled back home and we’re given this image of a harvest.  The earth has yielded its increase.  The psalmist is reminding the people of God that God has blessed them; He’s blessed their harvest.  He’s blessed the work of their hands. 

Outward Focus: A Blessing to All Peoples

See we began talking about how self-centered our culture is and how self-centered the flesh is.  But God cares about providing for His people and in this psalm you get this mixture of both the people of God seeking God for their needs but it doesn’t just end on them - “God bless us so that we can be a blessing.  So God thank you for blessing the harvest” - the people are praying.  “The earth has yielded its increase.  God, you’ve blessed us; you will bless us.”  But then it’s turned to, “Let all the ends of the earth fear Him.”  So there’s the daily work but in light of God’s big plan of redemption.  So it’s marvelous that this psalm points us to the big picture of redemption but it’s not neglecting our daily needs.  There’s both the grand and then the mundane, the normal, the everyday.  And we’re reminded that God has blessed us and will bless His people and we are blessed as the children of Abraham to be a blessing to all peoples.  So in an age that’s dominated by people taking their cell phones out of their pockets and taking pictures of themselves, Psalm 67 is good for our soul.  It takes us away from navel gazing and it points us to the fields that are white for harvest.  Let us pray.

Our Lord and our God, we thank You Lord that You have found us - Lord, that we were once among the lost peoples of this world.  Lord, we thank You that You have been faithful to us, You have been good to us, You have been gracious to us.  We are so thankful for the way that You have richly blessed us in so many ways.  Lord, help us to see the good gifts that You have given us and resources as means to spreading Your fame, as means to seeing the ends of the earth fear Your name.  Lord, we ask this in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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