Sabbath Meditation, Ps 67, Israel, and the Nations

As Shabbat approaches, I hope you have holy plans for the weekend. If you are a non-Jew, then may your worship be a blessing. If you are Jewish, then I charge you not to lay aside the mitzvah of lighting candles. And if you are going to light candles, you should lay a beautiful table cloth to make it more special. And if you are laying a table cloth, you should not be too cheap to put out some challah and wine. Sanctify the Sabbath. Set it apart. It is a form of worship and connection to God. It is not a mere ritual.

My subject for this Sabbath meditation is Psalm 67. Let me preface the meditation by observing two errors common in reading the Bible. The first is to assume that all scriptures are promises and commands for all people. This assumption is called supersessionism (the church supersedes Israel). The second error is to assume that God’s revelation is only for Israel. It is not as though the idea of God saving the nations was invented in the New Testament. It is in the Torah (Deut 32) and all over the Tanakh.

Psalm 67 calls for a careful reading. Here is the text in the English Standard Version:

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.
1      May God be gracious to us and bless us
      and make his face to shine upon us,
2      that your way may be known on earth,
      your saving power among all nations.
3      Let the peoples praise you, O God;
      let all the peoples praise you!
4      Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
      for you judge the peoples with equity
      and guide the nations upon earth.
5      Let the peoples praise you, O God;
      let all the peoples praise you!
6      The earth has yielded its increase;
      God, our God, shall bless us.
7      God shall bless us;
      let all the ends of the earth fear him!

Note: In Jewish translations, verse 1 is verse 2. I will use the verse numbers from English translations for simplicity.

This Psalm is about Jews and Gentiles, Israel and the nations, and it is profound. A careless Christian reading of Psalm 67 might identify the “us” in verse 1 as referring to every reader. May God bless us means may God bless me. This is bad interpretation and an example of supersessionism. Psalm 67:1 is about God blessing Israel. Yes, this is a reference to the Aaronic Blessing from the last verses of Numbers 6. The people of Israel are to bear the name of God on them and to be blessed by him.

But there is a relationship between v. 1 and vv. 2-7. God’s blessing on Israel has a purpose. God does not bless Israel alone. He blesses Israel in order, through Israel, to bless the nations. That is: Gentiles. That means: everyone.

It’s the same thing God was saying in Exodus 19:6, that Israel is to be a priestly nation. God’s plan is to bring the knowledge of himself to the world through Israel. It’s the same thing God was saying in Genesis 12:2-3. Through Abraham’s family, the nations will be blessed with the knowledge of God.

If you are a non-Jew, let me suggest an application. Appreciate Israel’s role in bringing Jesus and the Bible to your doorstep. Consider God’s continuing relationship with Israel and seek to bless Israel in return. This is God’s will (check Romans 11 for details).

If you are a Jew, let me suggest an application. Be part of God spreading his truth and love to all nations. Do not merely be about Israel. Understand God never intended Gentiles to be excluded. In our Messianic Congregations, we can express that relationship in a unique way. In the relation between Messianic Congregations and various churches, we can express a solidarity in God and in Yeshua that is powerful.

Consider a few of the powerful expressions in Psalm 67 and catch the vision:
1. That your WAY may be known — God has a WAY of living.
2. Your SAVING POWER — God is a deliverer from affliction, poverty, and pain; so should we be.
3. Let all the peoples PRAISE you — God is blessed by our worshipping together.
4. Let all the Gentiles be glad and SING for JOY — God loves JOY and we should not be ashamed to express it.
5. You judge the PEOPLES — God is Lord of all nations, not just Israel.
6. Let all the ends of the earth FEAR him — God’s truth is as important in New Guinea as in Israel.

This Shabbat, take in the majestic splendor of God’s global plan. Have joy. Praise. Be part of God’s saving power.


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
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