In 1940, Great Britain was involved in a desperate struggle for survival in the war against Nazi Germany, and they appealed to the United States for help. Many Americans, remembering World War I, did not want to get involved. But U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the American people that we had a responsibility to help the democracies of the world against the fascist aggressors. We had a blessed nation, the most prosperous nation in the world, and with that, comes a great responsibility. Roosevelt told the country: “We must be the great arsenal of democracy.” We had not been blessed for nothing; we had been blessed for the purpose of helping to save the world from evil.
And that is virtually the same message which Psalm 67 gives us as God’s people. Fitting for this weekend, many Bible scholars believe that Psalm 67 was written for a thanksgiving celebration of harvest. Look at :6 where it says: “the earth has yielded its produce.” So the setting of Psalm 67 is harvest time — what we might call “Thanksgiving.” So Psalm 67 is a perfect Thanksgiving Psalm — not only because it celebrates what God has given us, but also because it gets us to think about WHY God has given us the things He has. Yes, God has blessed us very much — we talked about that last week — so we should think about WHY. What is the purpose for God’s blessings that we celebrate this Thanksgiving week?
I. The Source of Our Blessings
The Psalm begins, “God be gracious to us, and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us.” If this sounds familiar, that is because it is a quote from Numbers 6:25, where God commanded Moses that when Aaron and the priests blessed the people, that they should say to them: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you. The LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.”
So for several hundred years, since the time of the Exodus, these words had been familiar to Israel. Everyone knew this blessing — it was kind of like the 23rd Psalm, or the Lord’s Prayer is to us today — it was a very familiar scripture to them, and of course it is to many of us today too. And it’s important because it gives several basic reminders to us:
A. GOD is the source of our blessings.
The first word in the verse is “GOD.” (Elohim) God is the subject of all of the verbs in the verses: “GOD be gracious to us … GOD bless us … GOD cause His face to shine upon us. This verse makes it clear that God is the source of all the good things that we have. As we saw last week, James 1 says “every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father …”. Anything good you can think of in your life, you can thank God for it, for it was HE who was the ultimate source of that for you. It should cause us all to respond to God with gratitude and service.
Walt Disney had a brother named Roy, whom Walt had recruited to manage his finances. Roy was very devoted to his brother. Late in his life, someone asked Roy about that, and he said, “My brother has made me a millionaire, do you wonder why I want to do everything I can to help him?” Roy Disney was very grateful to his brother for all he had done for him, and rightly so. But how much more should you & I be grateful to God, who has literally blessed us with everything we have? HE is the source of our blessings.
B. God is the source of ALL of our blessings.
The Hebrew word for “bless” here is translated from the Hebrew word “baraka”, “blessing.” The word “baraka” is used in scripture to indicate many different types of blessings:
— Genesis 1 says that God “blessed” Adam & Eve and told them to be fruitful and multiply, and subsequently they were “blessed” with children.
— In Genesis 24:35 Abraham’s servant told Laban that God has “blessed” his master so that he became rich, with flock & herds, and silver and gold.
— In Genesis 26:3 God blessed Isaac and told him that He would give him the land
— In Genesis 27 Isaac blessed Jacob, and gave him the inheritance
— In Genesis 39:5 the Egyptian’s crops were blessed because Joseph was with him.
— In Numbers 23 Israel was blessed with military victory and their enemies could not curse them
— In Deuteronomy 15:10 God said He would bless their work, and whatever they put forth their hands to do.
So the word “baraka”, or “bless,” here can refer to many different kinds of blessings from God. We need to realize that ALL of the different kinds of blessings we have: life, health, strength, children, material blessings, salvation, spiritual blessings — whatever they are — every blessing we can count, ALL comes from God.
C. We don’t DESERVE the blessings He gives us.
This verse says: “God BE GRACIOUS to us and bless us …”. It ’s important that it doesn’t say, “God, give us what we deserve.” That would be a HUGE mistake! The Bible tells us that we have all sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God. And Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death.” So you want what you deserve? The fact is, you deserve to punished in hell for your sins! So the Psalmist doesn’t ask God to give us what we deserve; he asks Him to be “gracious” to us.
To be “gracious” means to be good to someone who doesn’t deserve it; to treat someone better than they deserve. That is just what God has done for us in salvation. As we saw last week, salvation is of God’s GRACE. (Ephesians 2:8-9) — that means we didn’t earn it or deserve it; God was just incredibly merciful to us, and sent Jesus to die for us when we didn’t deserve it, so that if we would repent of our sins and trust Him as our Savior & Lord, we could be forgiven, and be given a home with Him in heaven forever. So salvation is not anything we earn or deserve, but a gracious gift of God.
Now, a lot of us, who are lifelong Christians, and Baptists, are very familiar with that idea: we are saved by grace. But what we also need to realize is that it is the same way with EVERYTHING we receive from the Lord. I think some of us perhaps have the subconscious attitude that salvation is of grace — and then everything else we earn and deserve! No, every blessing God gives us is of His grace. God doesn’t “owe” us anything.
This is one of the most crucial attitudes we can have. If you realize that whatever you receive is a gift, then you are grateful for everything. But If you have the attitude that you deserve everything, then you aren’t grateful for ANYTHING — you think you deserve it all anyway! And unfortunately, that attitude that we “deserve” everything is so common today.
I remember when Cheryl & I lived in Louisiana there was a man who came to our church for some help with some bills and groceries. Our Missions Pastor helped him pay his electric bill, and gave him a whole box of food from the church. Somehow this guy got the phone number to the parsonage, and he called Cheryl to complain. Cheryl knew something about the situation, and she said, “I thought Bro. Jack just gave you a whole box of food?” And the man responded: “Yeah, but would it have killed the guy to give me a few pounds of hamburger?” He wasn’t grateful for what he had been given; he thought somehow that he “deserved” even more.
This is why I just cringe when I hear commercials on tv talking about “the kind of car you deserve.” Or the news story I heard about a woman who was trying to get a meal together for people in a certain neighborhood, so that, in her words, “They can have the kind of Thanksgiving they DESERVE.”
We have to be so careful with that word, “deserve.” It is NOT what we “deserve.” We don’t “deserve” a meal; we don’t “deserve” a certain kind of car. We don’t “deserve” anything, except immediate condemnation! And if we have the attitude that we “deserve” everything, then we will never be satisfied and grateful for anything; because we think we already “deserve” it all anyway! But when you realize that you deserve NOTHING, then whatever you receive, you are thankful for. Then you can go around with a continual attitude of thanksgiving. When people ask Dave Ramsey how he is, he always says: “better than I deserve!” That’s a great attitude!
If we would really have that attitude of being grateful for everything, that we’ve gotten better than we deserve, it would revolutionize every aspect of our lives: it would change our attitude towards our circumstances; it would change our attitude towards our spouse and other people — and it would help our walk with God too — if we would realize that it is not a matter of what we “deserve”; that whatever God gives us is of His GRACE. “God be GRACIOUS to us” the verse says. And He is! We should be thankful that God has been gracious to us, and that He always gives us better than we deserve.
This Thanksgiving season, many of us can testify that what Psalm 67 says is true for us: God HAS indeed been gracious to us; He HAS blessed us; He HAS “caused His face to shine upon us.” God is the source of all of our many, and undeserved blessings.
II. The Purpose of Our Blessings
:2 “THAT Your way may be known on the earth, Your salvation among all nations.”
This Psalm reads as if the writer has meditating on that famous Priestly Blessing from Numbers, as he walks away from the festival. Perhaps he’s reviewing it as he walks: “God be gracious to us, and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us …” — and he’s just pondering on that scripture, and he begins to wonder, “WHY would God do that?” Why would God bless US the way that He has? And the Holy Spirit gives him the answer to that question in verse 2: it is “THAT Thy way may be known on the earth, Thy salvation among all peoples.” The word “that” here indicates this is a purpose clause: it tells us the PURPOSE for which God did what He did. God blesses us with all these blessings “SO THAT,” FOR THE PURPOSE THAT, His way and His salvation may be known on the earth.
In fact, this purpose statement is so important to this Psalm, that you see that the whole content of this Psalm is SANDWICHED between two expressions of God’s purpose for His blessings:
— Here in :2 near the beginning of the Psalm it says, “THAT Thy way may be known on the earth, Thy salvation among all peoples”
— And then at the very end of the Psalm in :7 it says basically the same thing again: “God our God blesses us; God blesses us THAT all the ends of the earth may fear Him.” So twice here, both at the beginning and at the end, we see God’s purpose for our blessings: SO THAT people all around the earth may know and worship Him.
God does not just sit up in heaven and cast random blessings on us. He blesses us for the specific purpose that His glory and His salvation may be made known to all the peoples of the earth.
This is what God always does with His people. He doesn’t just indiscriminately bless us; He blesses us for a purpose, that we may BE a blessing to others and make His name known:
— For example, one of the keynote passages in the Old Testament is God’s call to Abram in Genesis 12. God told him in :2 “I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you.” But He didn’t stop there. God added: “and so you shall BE a blessing … (:3) “and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” So God didn’t just call Abram to bless him and making a great nation out of him. God called him and blessed him SO THAT the nation of Israel He was raising up from him would BE a blessing to the world — by producing the scriptures, and eventually the Messiah who would save the world.
— We see this purpose again later in Genesis, when Joseph was sold into slavery. God blessed everything that Joseph put his hand to: whether it was as a servant in the Potiphar’s home, or in the prison, or as Pharaoh’s right hand man. Everything Joseph touched was blessed. But WHY? It wasn’t just for him; God blessed Joseph SO THAT he could save his family from destruction in the famine — and ultimately, again, to bless the world through the Messiah that their family would produce.
— The same thing was true of Esther, some years later. Why had God raised her up to this prominent place as queen of Persia — just to bless her? Not at all; God blessed her SO THAT He might use her to save His people, as Mordecai observed: “… you have obtained royalty for such a time as this.” God had blessed Esther with the position she had, so that she could be a blessing to others.
We see this repeatedly throughout scripture. God does not just bless His people, to bless US. He blesses us for a PURPOSE: “SO THAT” through us His ways may be known on the earth. We see that purpose all through this Psalm. Notice how many times the words, “people,” “nations,” and “earth” are used in Psalm 67. (You might want to underline them)
— :2 “that Thy way may be known on the EARTH; Your salvation 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 will judge the PEOPLES in uprightness, and guide the NATIONS on the EARTH …”
— :5 again “Let the PEOPLES praise You, O God; Let all the PEOPLES praise You.”
— :6 “the EARTH has yielded its produce”
— :7 “God blesses us, that all the ends of the EARTH may fear Him.”
TWELVE TIMES total in the very short space of the 7 verses of Psalm 67, God very emphatically emphasizes here that His purpose for blessing His people is “SO THAT” the nations, people, and earth might be blessed through them. So Psalm 67 makes it clear that God is not just blessing us to bless us; He blesses us for a PURPOSE — and that purpose is to make God known in the world.
In the 2005 movie version of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, when the Bennett’s second daughter Jane is proposed to by a rich man, her mother, realizing that their whole family will now be lifted out of poverty, cries out: “I knew she could not be so beautiful for nothing.” Mrs. Bennett felt like God had given her daughter that beauty for a purpose: to bless their whole family with financial provision.
In a very real sense, that is true of each of us as Christians too. God has not blessed us “for nothing” — He has a purpose in it: SO THAT we will use His blessings to make Him known through missions & evangelism.
This is one of the places where a real, Biblical view of Christianity is different than what many of us have “traditionally” practiced. Traditionally, many Christians have had the attitude: “God has really blessed me, so I’ll tithe 10% of whatever He gives me — and then I can do whatever I want to with the rest.” But the Biblical disciple of Jesus has a different attitude. They also realize that God has blessed them; and like the first person, they too will automatically give their first 10% to the Lord, as we all should. But they also realize that everything that they have has been entrusted to them by God for a reason, and they will ask themselves: “What is God’s Kingdom purpose for giving me what He has?” How does God want me to use what He has given me to impact the world for Him?
See, as American Christians, we aren’t necessarily used to thinking that way. We’ve been SO influenced by the consumer mentality in America, that all we think about is “what can we buy next?” — and it never ends! But as Christians, we need to think according to the word of God, like Psalm 67 here: What is GOD’S purpose for all He has given us?
Did God bless you just so that you could have a bigger house or buy that new thing? Psalm 67 shows us that God has a bigger purpose in mind for our blessing than giving us the car that the tv salesman says we “deserve”! He’s blessed us so that He can reach the world with His message through us!
Sadly, not too many of God’s people are doing that. The last statistics I saw show that the average Southern Baptist gives only 3% of their total income to the Lord — far short of the 10% that should be our minimum. And God’s blessed many of us beyond average — which means we should be giving beyond average. We need to ask ourselves: what is the purpose for God blessing me like this: He’s blessed me so that I can help tell the world about Him: through our church, and through missions. Are we doing that?
Charity Navigator is an organization that reports on the percentage of money that is given to a charity that is used on overhead and expenses, and how much actually goes to the charitable work itself. For example, they report:
— The American Red Cross spent 92% of its money on actual charitable work, so only 8% goes to overhead. That’s not bad. Similarly, Samaritans Purse uses 87% of the money given to them on the field, after advertising and office expenses. The American Cancer Society, and The Wounded Warrior Project both spend over 40% of their donations on overhead and advertising, so only 59% of their contributions actually go to their programs.
This kind of information is good to have as we evaluate where we want to give our money. But think of it in this light: if God has blessed us for the Biblically stated purpose of making Him known in the world, how do you think God would evaluate His investment in YOU, monetarily? What percentage of what God has entrusted to you, is He getting back, to His church, and to His kingdom causes through missions? Is He even getting back the minimum 10%? What kind of investment return is God getting from His blessings to you? Are you giving Him good reasons for continuing to bless you? Or are you showing Him that His blessings might be more effective for reaching the world, if He gave them to someone else?
Many of us need to evaluate what we are doing with our blessings this Thanksgiving season:
— some of us need to commit/recommit ourselves to give at least that basic 10% God asks from all of us.
— others of us need to think about how we are supporting this building that we are all so excited about. If you’re a church family member, you need to have a part in making our “family house payment”! God wants to use this church to make His name known in our community — that is what Psalm 67 says we are here for — THAT the people around us may know the Lord. And God has blessed us as His people with the ability to pay for this building, SO THAT His ways may be made known here. But the question is, are YOU being a part of that?
— and we need especially to think about how we give to missions — which is making His name known around the earth. I really believe that one of the primary reasons God has blessed America financially is so that just like we were the “arsenal of democracy” in World War II, we could be the “arsenal of evangelism & missions” to reach the world! American Christians have given millions of dollars over the years to support missions and missionaries — but again: how are YOU being a part of that? December is the time we give to the Lottie Moon offering that supports our 3800 Southern Baptist missionaries. Many of us have given all year long, though our Acts 1:8 offering — others of us will give in a special way this month. But however you do it, you need to realize that one of the primary purposes God has blessed you financially is, as this Psalm says, “SO THAT His way may be known on the earth.”
And it’s not just all about money, either. Our financial blessings are just ONE type of blessing that God gives us. As we have seen, the Hebrew word “baraka” refers to all of God’s blessings. He gave us all the different blessings we have, SO THAT we could USE them to be a blessing to the world and expand His kingdom on earth.
And that makes sense. If your wife gives you a set of tools for Christmas, what do you think she wants you do do with those? She wants you to use them to DO something, right? Well that’s the same way with the gifts God gives us. He gives them to us so that we can USE them to further His kingdom here on earth.
So we each need to ask ourselves: WHY has God given us what He has? What does He want me to DO with it to help spread His kingdom here on earth:
— Why did God give you the blessing of a voice to sing — just so that you could entertain yourself in the car? NO! It’s so you could make His glory known to others by singing in the choir!
— Why did God give you the blessing of a good mind, and an ability to communicate? Just so that you could make a lot of money — or so that you could make Him known in the world through preaching or teaching?
— Why did God give you health in your senior years — just so that you can “enjoy the American Dream” — or so that you could serve Him in ministries, and go on mission trips and share the gospel?
— Why did God bless you with children — so that you could keep them all at home — or so like Hannah in I Samuel you can dedicate those children back to Him as pastors and ministers and missionaries?
And on and on. God gives you every blessing you have for a specific purpose, Psalm 67 says: to help make Him known on the earth. So whenever you have a blessing from God you need to ask yourself, “How does God intend for me to use this to further His purposes on earth?”
Again, we need to think this way regarding our new facility. We talked last week about how this new place of worship is a gift from God! HE is the source of our blessings. But again, we have to ask ourselves: WHY? WHY has God been gracious to us and WHY has He blessed us with this building? As we have said before, it is NOT just so that we can have a comfortable place to sit and worship. Again, Psalm 67 has the answer: God has placed us here “SO THAT” His way may be known in the world. It is “SO THAT” His purposes of “worship, reaching, teaching, and caring for people” might be fulfilled through this house. We must not become comfortable and inwardly focused here. We have to remember God’s purpose for us, and use the opportunities He gives us to reach out to the peoples around us.
I was thrilled this week, when someone told me that the Heritage Oaks HOA was looking for a place to rent for their annual meeting — and I said, “Hey we have a place, right here — and we won’t “rent” it to them, but we will just let them meet here for free — because I want the people in that housing addition right next to us to get used to driving into our parking lot, and I want them to get used to walking in our front door, and I want them to get used to sitting in our building!” Because THAT is exactly what we are here for: we are not here just to make a comfortable place for ourselves. We are here “SO THAT” we can reach out to those around us. Praise God that He is already giving us opportunities to do that!
And we need to continue that in the days ahead. Let’s never forget where our blessings have come from. And let’s never forget WHY He has given them to us: to reach out to people around us.
This is no abstract theological sermon to me. God has been very gracious to me and to our family. Some of you know that in the winter of 2012 I lost the blessing of my health, and subsequently many other blessings as well: I could not stand for more than a few seconds without becoming violently sick. I could not work or preach. I had to resign from my pastorate, and we had to sell our home, and 2/3 of our possessions. After many attempts at treatment, there was no human hope of getting better, and my doctor signed off on an application for permanent and total disability as we left Louisiana to convalesce in Oklahoma.
But God was gracious to me; He blessed me; He caused His face to shine upon me, and over time He raised me up again. Six years ago, I was called back into full-time pastoral ministry, an opportunity I thought I might never have had again. God has blessed me. So my question has to be: “WHY?” WHY has He been so gracious to me; WHY has He blessed me; WHY has He caused His face to shine upon me? God didn’t make me well jut so that I could retire, and sit around the pool, or dedicate myself to some meaningless hobby. I see the answer right here in Psalm 67: God blessed me “SO THAT “ I could make His way known on the earth; “SO THAT” I could preach His word and make disciples.
But Psalm 67 is not just for me; it is for YOU too; it for our whole church too. WHY has God been gracious to us; WHY has He blessed us; WHY has He caused His face to shine upon us? Why do we all have the health, and the abilities, and the time, and the money, and all the other blessings that we give thanks for this week? It’s not just so that we can enjoy them for ourselves. Our answer is right here in Psalm 67: God has blessed us “SO THAT” — so that we can make His way known on the earth. THAT is “The Purpose For Our Blessings.”