THE FOLLOWING ARE NOTES FOR LECTURES GIVEN AT NEW COLLEGE, BIRMINGHAM. I AM NOT AN EXPERT AND BOOKS WILL BE CREDITED TO SHOW WHERE MY INFORMATION IS COMING FROM. IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, COMMENT ON THIS POST AND I WILL TRY MY BEST TO ANSWER.
Corporate Praise; Anonymous.
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—[b]
2 so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
3 May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth.
5 May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
6 The land yields its harvest;
God, our God, blesses us.
7 May God bless us still,
so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.
The word Selah appears after verse 1 and verse 4. This could be a musical or liturgical instruction, but we don’t know.
This is a prayer of benediction or blessing together with a call to all peoples to praise the Lord, who blesses Israel. It is in the language of the Aaronite blessing (Numbers 6.24-26). The reason for it is that Israel’s experience of God’s favour may be a witness to all nations.
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.”’
which is the Priestly Blessing, also known as “the raising of the hands”.
Fun fact: the ways they would hold up their hands “spock sign” is what inspired Star Treks usage of the same sign.
Part A:1-2 Prayer
Gracious can also be translated merciful.
- First the congregation asks for mercy.
- Then for blessing.
- Then for God’s personal favour, His smile.
- Charity, beginning at home but spreading to the world.
We might take this into our own prayer and praise life. First we come to God knowing that we do not deserve what He has given for us, asking for His mercy. Spurgeon puts it like this: it implies the death of all legal hopes and claims of merit. It is not something we have a right to, God’s grace and mercy is something He gives out of love, not out of deserving.
Once we know how good God is and how much He has done, we obviously will ask for more of Him in our lives.
It’s not just about what He has done or can do though. It is about who He is, and the more we learn the more we want to have a personal relationship with Him. IT is when we have this personal relationship that we will feel passionate about spreading the blessings we receive to those around us.
This was written into the Hebrew religion. They did not just worship the one true God, they had been given a responsibility by God. They were to be the ones through which the blessing for the rest of the world would come. This blessing was going to ultimately be Jesus Christ, the messiah.
Part B: 3-5 Praise & Call
This is corporate, or congregational, praise. All must give themselves over to God if they hope to be glad. Kings and rulers change, but an eternal joy can be had in God. IT is both a hope and a call. A hope because currently the whole world does not worship God, and a call to tell the people of God to join in this praise.
The hope is not just for God’s people, for their one nation, but this incredible vision is of ALL peoples, ALL nations, and the repetition emphasises this; emphasises the prophecy and promise of God – that the world will turn to Him.
Part C: 6-7 Testimony & Prayer
Verse 6 is also seen as “then the earth will yield it’s harvest” as well as “the lands yields”. The idea is that when the world turns to God, when His grace is shown to us, the earth will have the curse of the fall taken away. It will not just be us that is saved, the earth itself will return to its original plentiful nature. And this increase, harvest, plenty is what so many people then and now pray for – food to feed their families. This is part of God’s blessing, part of His grace. He provides for us.
His blessing is there again and again as He continues to bless us, showing us His grace again and again. Still it returns to the last line which again encourages these blessings not just for the Hebrews then, or for us now, but by receiving blessing we might shine God’s light further amongst those who do not believe, who do not worship God. Then maybe they will turn and accept Him.
It is both a testimony and prayer because God is doing and they pray God will continue to do.
This psalm is one that we could use over and over and it has inspired liturgy and worship. I do think one of the most clear points is that God’s blessing are meant t be shared not stored. By sharing testimony of God’s blessing we can bring blessing to many more.
- Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Book I and II of the Psalms (Inter-Varsity Press, England, 1973).
- Spurgeon, C. H. The Treasury of David, Volume 1, Psalm I to LVII (Hendrickson Publishers, Massachusetts).
- Society of Biblical Literature. The Harper Collins Study Bible (New Revised Standard Version).
- Walton, John H. Chronolgical and Background Charts of the Old Testament (Zondervan, Michigan, 1978).