Sunday Morning Greek Blog

May 23, 2022

A Nation of Praise: Psalm 67

Filed under: Biblical Studies,Hebrew,Psalms — Scott Stocking @ 11:25 pm
Listen to “A Nation of Praise: Psalm 67”

Preface and Introduction

I want to give this preface to my message this morning: The Book of Psalms was the hymnal for the Jews. It’s not completely clear when the collection as we have it today was complete, but we do know that long before the great Psalm writer David ever was born, God’s chosen nation was already starting to write and sing some of these hymns. So fair warning this morning, since the psalms were sung, you might catch me breaking out into song during my sermon. I may not be able to help myself!

The Songs of Moses and the Israelites

The Old Testament gives us many stories of the deeds of great men and women of faith, along with the praise that accompanied those deeds and in many cases told their stories. The first such example of this, at least in a big way, is the song of Moses and Miriam in Exodus 15 after the Israelites passed through the Red Sea and God drowned the Egyptian army. Here are the first few lines of that song:

“I will sing to the Lord,

for he is highly exalted.

Both horse and driver

he has hurled into the sea. (sing it with the “Yeehaw” at the end)

“The Lord is my strength and my defense;

he has become my salvation.

He is my God, and I will praise him,

my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

The Lord is a warrior;

the Lord is his name.

There’s a short song of praise in Numbers 21, where the Lord provides water for the Israelites: “Spring up, O well!”

Deuteronomy has another long song of Moses just before his death.

I will proclaim the name of the Lord.

Oh, praise the greatness of our God!

He is the Rock, his works are perfect,

and all his ways are just.

A faithful God who does no wrong,

upright and just is he.

David, toward the end of his life and after had won victory over all his enemies, including Saul, sang a 50-verse song of praise in 2 Samuel 22, which was included with the Psalms in Psalm 18:

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;

3     my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield and the horn of my salvation.

He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—

from violent people you save me.

“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,

and have been saved from my enemies.

The Praise of Jehoshaphat

Now all these songs of praise were sung after the fact, after the events for which they tell the story. But in 2 Chronicles 20, we have the story of Jehoshaphat, who decided his army should be led by a choir! We pick up the story of the impending battle in vs. 20:

“Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,

for his love endures forever.”

22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.

Did you hear that? Judah put prayer and praise first in their battle plan, and they won the war without ever having to engage a single enemy with weapons of war. Now we probably don’t have the whole song here, because the writer speaks of “prais[ing] him for the splendor of his holiness.” What we probably have here is the most likely the first line of the song, in which case, we could make an educated guess that the rest of the song may be found in Psalm 136:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords:

His love endures forever.

We see what can happen when a nation comes together in their faith in God: Mighty battles can be won, and the nation’s enemies turn and fight amongst themselves or are attacked by third parties to their own destruction. And not only that, it took Judah three whole days to plunder the resources of the dead armies in the desert. And although we have no record of the words of their praise after they finished plundering the Ammonites and Moabites, we still know that they did gather in “The Valley of Berakah”, or “The Valley of Praise,” then returned to the temple joyfully with the music of harps, lyres, and trumpets. Not sure how they managed the harps on the battlefield!

Psalm 67

So, when Psalm 67 came up on the Lectionary calendar for today, I knew I had to preach on it. It was the first psalm, in its entirety, that I’d ever written music for. I don’t remember whether it was in college or after I got to seminary, but I do remember after really reading it for the first time, and not just speed reading through it, that I actually felt inspired to put it to music. Let’s listen to it again, and I’ll offer up my own rendition of the chorus verses (3 & 5):

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm. A song.

May God be gracious to us and bless us

and make his face shine on us—

so that your ways may be known on earth,

your salvation among all nations.

May the peoples praise you, God;

may all the peoples praise you.

May the nations be glad and sing for joy,

for you rule the peoples with equity

and guide the nations of the earth.

May the peoples praise you, God;

may all the peoples praise you.

The land yields its harvest;

God, our God, blesses us.

May God bless us still,

so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

Now I always liked to add a little pep to the song if it was appropriate, and since this was about everyone praising God, I thought the chorus should sound something like this (New American Standard Version):

Let the peoples praise thee, O God, Let all the peoples praise thee!

Let the peoples praise thee, O God, Let all the peoples praise thee!

Psalm 67 is a carefully structured psalm that really does lend itself to being put to music, especially in the modern era, as music theory has developed to this point. Verses 1 & 2 are the first stanza or musical “verse” of the song. Verse 3 is the chorus; verse 4 is the bridge and the only verse in the psalm that has three lines as formatted; followed by the chorus repeated in verse 5. Verses 6 & 7 are the second stanza or musical verse of the song.

The other interesting thing to note about the structure of the psalm is that it’s a chiasm. What’s that, you ask? A chiasm is fancy term describing a particular structure of a section or written text, large or small, in which the elements or themes as presented in the first part of the text section are repeated in reverse order in the last section of the text. So here we have a stanza, chorus, bridge, chorus, stanza. The reason this is important to know is that in a chiasm, usually the middle element (in this case, the bridge) is the main idea of the passage, if it’s long enough to warrant that. We’ll get to that part in a moment.

Let’s break down this passage. The first verse sounds very much like what we know as the Priestly Blessing from Numbers 6:24–26:

24 “ ‘ “The Lord bless you

and keep you;

25 the Lord make his face shine on you

and be gracious to you;

26 the Lord turn his face toward you

and give you peace.” ’

Now this passage really brings back some memories of Mt. View when I was a kid. If you attended this church when I was a kid 45+ years ago, you know why. The choir used to exit down the aisle and line up in the walkway at the back of the sanctuary and sing this to end the service and dismiss us. (Sing it)

The Lord bless you and keep you,

The Lord lift his countenance upon you

And give you peace.

Now as when I was a kid, even though by that point in the service I was probably wanting to get home, I do remember having a bit of fascination with that musical benediction. Our choir back then did it quite well. Beautiful four-part harmony, a little bit of antiphony and overlapping melodies to mimic the voices congregation as they greeted each other on the way out of the sanctuary, and the descant over the “amen” chorus at the end as if an angel of God were signaling God’s pleasure with the saints gathered.

Verse 2 is the reason why he makes his face shine upon us: so we can share the good news with the world! If I’m not mistaken, I’d say that sounds very much like being the light of the world and letting the whole world see and glorify God. We are God’s representatives here on earth, and we’re called as a holy, set apart, people to live such lives that the world cannot refute or call us into question for what we believe. When the world sees us living united in our faith, that sends a positive to message to the world that the peoples and nations have no option but to praise God. And what is praise? Praise is nothing more than an expression of worthiness toward the one who is the object of praise.

As I indicated above, vs. 4 is the “bridge” verse, or perhaps better, the hinge pin that the Psalm is centered on. From vv. 2–4, we have three different words used for the “nations” or “people.” In vs. 2, the psalmist uses the word (גּ֝וֹיִ֗ם) goyim for “nations.” Typically this might be translated specifically as “gentiles,” referring perhaps to more of a religious feature: those who don’t worship God regardless of their nationality. “Peoples” (עַם ʿǎm) in vv. 3, 4, and 5 probably has to do more with local family units or tribes within a nation than a whole nation.

“Nations” in verse 4 (לְאֹם leʾōm) refers more to the general population as a whole without referring to ethnicity, race, or religious affiliation. This would simply indicate that God’s word is for everyone; no one is excluded!

If we recall Jehoshaphat’s strategy, he praised God with a choir at the head of the army. In our world today, which is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christianity and Christian values, we can use praise as a weapon to keep all things aligned for God. Our hope as Christians is that speaking and living out God’s word will bring all nations to repentance and to follow their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We hope that all things will work together for good for those who love God. And we hope that we can convince the world to live in true peace and love.

In the last two verses, we see a promise of God, that we will not have need because we will have a good harvest to maintain our health and strength. As the light of God’s face brightens our lives, so the blessing of God in our lives will convince even more to acknowledge the healthy sense of fear we should have when coming before the God of the universe.


Every time we share the good news of Jesus and God’s greatness, we have the promise of Isaiah 55:10–11:

10 As the rain and the snow

come down from heaven,

and do not return to it

without watering the earth

and making it bud and flourish,

so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Sometimes we may look at the world and see the moral fabric deteriorating around us. The words of the psalmist seem truer every day (14:1):

The fool says in his heart,

“There is no God.”

They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;

there is no one who does good.

We are the light of the world. We are the city on a hill. We are the salt of the earth. We are God’s hands and feet to take his message of hope and love to the world. Let’s go forth, singing his praises and proclaiming his blessings to those around us.

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