Why Should God Bless You?
A sermon on Psalm 67 by Coty Pinckney, Community Bible Church, Williamstown, MA 7/28/02
How many of you would like God to bless your life? Should you ask God to bless your life? Or is that selfish?
Bruce Wilkinson’s bestselling book, The Prayer of Jabez, elaborates on an obscure figure mentioned in 1 Chronicles, arguing that we should seek God’s blessing always. In 1 Chronicles 4:10 we read,
Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!" And God granted what he asked.
Why did God grant what Jabez asked? What is the reason for God's blessing?
There are many ways we can answer that question with Scriptural support: He loves his people. He delights to do them good. He is good.
But there’s one fundamental reason that God blesses His people, and this reason is closely related to the missionary calling of the church. Today’s text, Psalm 67, gives us that reason.
During this morning’s message, we’ll consider three questions about the Psalm. Here is the first:
This Psalm begins in a way that sounds similar to prayer of Jabez (actually, it more closely echoes the blessing that Aaron and his descendants said over the people of Israel, as recorded in Numbers 6) - but Psalm 67 goes deeper than the prayer of Jabez, telling us why God blesses his people. Let’s look at the first two verses of the Psalm:
God be gracious to us and bless us, And cause His face to shine upon us -- Selah. 2 That Your way may be known on the earth, Your salvation among all nations.
The Psalmist asks for blessing so that God’s ways may be known on the earth. The Psalmist is saying, in effect, "Bless me, so that I might glorify you; bless me so that I might show your power, your love, your majesty, your goodness to all nations.”
Note that the Psalmist is not saying:
· He is not saying, “Bless me so that I can be comfortable.”
· He is not saying, “Bless me so that I don’t have to work hard to make a living.”
· He is not saying, “Bless me so that others will be envious of me.”
· He is not saying, “Bless me so that I can be successful in the eyes of the world.”
· Now listen carefully: He is not even primarily saying, “Bless me so that I can bless others.”
This last is a biblical reason for God’s blessing, as He makes explicit in His call to Abraham (Genesis 12). By all means, God blesses us and gifts us so that we might serve and bless others. But still, this is not the underlying, fundamental reason for God’s blessing. God blesses us first and foremost so that we can bring glory to His name.
Let’s look into this further first of all in this Psalm itself, then in other parts of Scripture.
Much Hebrew literature is structured with a central point in the middle, and ideas that parallel each other the further away you get from the center. This structure is sometimes subtle, but in Psalm 67 it is particularly obvious: note that verses 3 and 5 are not only parallel but identical. Verse 4 is thus the literary center of the Psalm, and as such is emphasized (for an important reason we will come back to). Moving further away from the center, we would then expect to find that verses 1 and 2 are in parallel with verses 6 and 7. Let’s read these last two verses:
6 Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. 7 God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him.
The Psalm begins by asking that God will bless us, and ends by underlining that He will indeed bless - in part through an abundant harvest of food – then concludes by once again giving the reason for the blessing: That all the ends of the earth will fear Him, revere Him, hold Him in awe.
So this Psalm Begins and ends with the statement that God’s blessings lead to His glory. That is the reason God blesses us.
But this idea is not limited only to Psalm 67 - you can find it throughout the Scriptures. There are many passages we could cite, but this morning let us look briefly at only two.
The first is 1 Kings 8:60. The Israelites have just completed the building of the temple. King Solomon offers a lengthy prayer, in part asking that God would meet His people’s needs. He then gives the reason why God should bless His people in this way: “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other.”
Solomon asks for blessings, so that all people everywhere might know that there is one God, that all other so-called gods are falses, and that Yahweh, the God of Israel is that God. He asks for blessing so that the true God might be glorified.
The second passage concerns Jesus Himself. On the night before the crucifixion, Jesus is faced with a dilemma. All of His humanity rebels at the thought of the spiritual and physical suffering of the cross. How should He pray to God? What should He ask for? Does He say, “Father God, bless me! Save me from this horrible death!”?
John 12:27-28 records for us Jesus’ thoughts and prayer at this time:
27 "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!" Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again."
Jesus does not ask for physical safety or comfort; He does not ask for worldly success or status in the eyes of others. He instead asks for what? For God’s glory. And God responds: “I have glorified my name in your life, and will glorify it even more in your death”
Jesus rejected the blessing of a longer life on earth and being kept safe from oppression, for He knew that those blessings would not lead to God’s greatest glory. We need to say with Jesus, “Lord God, if this blessing is not going to lead to your glory, don’t give it to me!”
So Psalm 67 and indeed all the Bible emphasizes that God blesses His people for the glory of His own name, so that His goodness, mercy, and love would be recognized and praised by men and angels.
This is a fundamental biblical truth, but unfortunately we don’t hear this very often in our churches. It becomes so easy for us to think of God as a heavenly social worker, the One who’s up there to serve us, to provide for us, to comfort us, to care for us. We turn our focus on man’s needs, so that we perceive God as a tool to meet our needs.
But God is at center of everything. It is His glory that drives his purposes.
This shows the deep biblical understanding of those ministers of the gospel who met at Westminster in England 350 years ago to develop a common confession and catechism. (As many of you know, a catechism is a teaching tool, where the student learns questions and the answers to each of those questions.) The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is, “What is the chief end of man?” And the answer is: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
This is a wonderful summary of biblical teaching. God does not exist to meet our needs; rather, we exist to glorify Him.
So why should God bless you? God blesses you so that you might fulfill your chief end: to glorify Him.
Let’s move to our second question: God blesses us so that we might glorify His name among whom? Among those who are already believers? Among those who call themselves Christians? Among other Americans? Among those who are similar to yourself?
The second part of verse 2 and verse 3 show that God’s goal is much broader:
that your salvation may be known among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, let all the peoples praise you.
God aims to glorify Himself not only among those already identified as His people, not only among those who are similar to His people, but among all nations, among all the peoples.
Does that last word sound strange to you? I remember as a young boy thinking a newscaster had made a grammatical error when he said “peoples” and “persons”. I thought the word “person” was singular and “people” was always the plural of “person.” But there is no grammatical error in Psalm 67! What, then, does the psalmist mean by “peoples”?
Revelation 7:9-10 help us to understand this word. John here has a vision of the eternal state, where God’s people are around His throne praising Him. Note the types of people found here:
9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
In this vision of the vast multitude around the throne of God, John sees those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation praising God. No group of people is left out; every cultural group, every language group is represented before the throne of God.
Why is it important for God to bring to Himself those from every people group? Think: if any group was left out, then someone might say, “The cultural barriers between Christianity and my people group were too strong; it was too difficult for me to believe in Jesus. Indeed, God doesn’t care about my people, about my race, about my nation. My father, my grandfathers - all my ancestors were Moslem (or animist, or Buddhist). We cannot become Christians - so God has no right to judge me for not believing in Jesus.”
God will glorify Himself by not letting anyone make that fallacious argument. As Revelation 7 shows, He will bring to Himself a vast number of believers, coming from every cultural and linguistic group. Thus, for us the task of missions is not complete until there is a true church among every people group on this planet. We must, therefore, reach out not only to those in our own culture, but also to those who are different from us; we must spread the gospel in our own neighborhoods, and also cross-culturally. With thousands of people groups yet unreached with the gospel - with millions of people having no Christian witness from anyone in their own culture - we must focus mission efforts on reaching these unreached groups.
Thus God gives us the mandate, and He promises to bring to empower us to fulfill that mandate, so that believers will come to Him from all the nations: the Uzbekhs and the Kazakhs, the Baluch and the Bantu, the Kanuri and the Fulani.
So Psalm 67 tells us that God blesses us so that all the peoples will praise His name.
So we’ve asked two main questions and seen two answers:
· What is the purpose of God blessing His people? To bring glory to His own name.
· Second, God desires to be glorified among whom? Among ALL peoples.
Let’s turn now to our final question:
Some of you might be thinking, “I thought missions was about helping people, meeting their physical and spiritual needs. By saying that all this is for the glory of God, aren’t you diminishing the importance of these people themselves? Aren’t you downplaying the importance of meeting real human needs?”
Verse 3 and 4 answer this question - and remember, verse 4 is the literary center of the Psalm, and thus is emphasized heavily in the original language:
Let the peoples praise Him, let all the peoples praise Him. Let the nations be gland and sing for joy.
When the peoples praise God, when God is glorified in their lives, what happens to them? What happens to the peoples? Praising Him leads to gladness and joy! Those who don’t praise Him, those who are walking in darkness, those who are bound by fears of false God and idols - those people are without joy.
The rest of verse 4 explains, in part, why this is the case:
for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth.
No other ruler, no other God, will be just, straight, upright in his dealings; no other ruler, no other God will guide them in the paths of righteousness (indeed, we find the same Hebrew word translated “guide” here in Psalm 23:3: “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake).
Animists, Moslems, Buddhists, nominal Christians - all those who are without a vital relationship with the only living and true God – do not have what the Apostle Peter calls “joy inexpressible,” the deep gladness and joy of knowing God Himself.
For if God is at center of all things, if He is the most beautiful, most loving, most powerful of all beings, recognizing who He is, being in relationship to Him, being led and guided and governed by Him, is the source of the greatest joy imaginable.
So there is no conflict between glorifying God and the gladness of the peoples. The peoples have joy as they glorify God. Indeed, the more joy they have in Him, the more they glorify Him. As John Piper suggests, we can underline this truth by changing one word in the answer to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Q: What is the chief end of man?” “A: The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.”
In conclusion, let me ask you three more questions:
1) Do you know Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as Savior and Lord? For without him, all other blessings - health, wealth, life itself - are brief, temporary, of no lasting value. He is the only way to true blessings. If we reject Him, as the author of the book of Hebrews writes, our prospects are only a terrifying expectation of judgment. So recognize Him! Savor His goodness and beauty! Ask God to break through your thick head and tough skin! Ask Him to remove your heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh! Fall before Him, saying, “Could you save even me?” And He will do so; a broken heart He will never despise.
2) Those of you who do know Him, who recognize Him as your Lord and Savoir: Do you crave God’s blessings? I hope you do! Be like Jabez, knowing that unless God blesses you, you have nothing of value at all.
3) But why do you seek God’s blessings? Do you acknowledge that your chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever? Ask God to bless you in such a way that you can bring great glory to Him.
Ask God not to give you any temporal blessing that won’t give Him glory.
Ask God to bless you in such a way that peoples who have never praised the only living and true God might do so.
Ask God to enable you to witness boldly and lovingly to the thousands you encounter every month who are by nature children of wrath, who are walking in darkness, who are without hope, without God in the world.
Ask God, “Is it I, Lord? I will go, Lord, wherever You lead me.”
Ask God to help you send and support others.
Ask Him for all this, so that God might be recognized and proclaimed as supreme in every language on this planet, to the great joy of all the peoples.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!
This sermon was preached at Community Bible Church in Williamstown, MA on 7/28/02. An earlier, briefer version was preached at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Mauldin, SC on 6/30/02. The John Piper quote is from Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Multnomah, 1985 & 1995).
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