God Will Bless
What is God doing? Is he doing anything at all?
The skeptic would say that God is doing nothing detectable by the investigations of science, so there is reason to believe he does not exist at all. The deist would say that God has already done what he intends to do, and now God is resting in his distant heaven as the universe spins onward. According to Christian theology, neither of these answers is acceptable.
Instead, the Psalms depict a God at work in the world beyond our imagination. For example, consider Psalm 67.
First, we see that God works in all people to bring about their good. His “saving power” is active “among all nations” (Psalm 67:1-3). We sometimes forget that the Holy Bible is the account of God working in the history of one people— Israel. It has very little to say about other nations, but that does not mean God has not been at work in those places.
The prophet Amos mentions this fact. “Are you not like the Cushites to me, O people of Israel? declares the Lord. Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?” (Amos 9:7) Apparently, out there lost in history, there are epic stories that could have been written about God’s rescue of the Cushites. Perhaps there is an unknown Exodus story for the Syrians or even the hated Philistines. The Bible is not the record of everything God has done or is doing. It is a record of enough acts of God that we may believe (John 20:30-31).
Since God has done more in the past than I have known, I must conclude that God is doing more among the nations now than I know. He saves us from threats we do not even recognize. What is God doing in Ukraine today? For that matter, what is God doing in Russia? What crisis in America has been averted by the providence of God before I ever knew enough to be worried about it?
Second, God is not only rescuing the nations but also guiding them. “You judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth” (Psalm 67:4–5). Americans have grown used to the idea that we get to choose our leaders in elections, but we overlook and discount the notion that even then, God is directing history with his patient hand.
For example, consider the words of Isaiah. Judah faced calamity when Jerusalem fell in 586 BC and suffered exile under the heavy hand of the Babylonians. But unknown to them, God was guiding history. Before Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonians ever set foot in Jerusalem, God was already working to bring about their release decades later under the reign of Cyrus, King of the Persians. “Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed” (Isaiah 45:1).
God is not restricted to using only righteous leaders or faithful people in his purposes. Cyrus had no idea God was guiding him. “For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me” (Isaiah 45:4-5). God is guiding our leaders and our nation in ways we do not even know, including shaping the future of people who do not know God.
Third, while all the political, social, and cultural stories unfold beneath God’s rule, nature also continues to provide for all people by God’s grace. “The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him” (Psalm 67:6–7). As Jesus taught us, God provides for every bird that adorns his creation. They make no plans and suffer no anxiety, and yet they are blessed by God. “Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26) God is providing for us naturally in ways we do not even know nor could even imagine. The slow turning of seasons and unresting fruitfulness of nature is God’s work for our good.
There has never been a time when God’s blessings were not abundantly all about us. In Psalm 67:7, the text says, “God shall bless us.” However, the verb tense used in this passage is a little open-ended for more meaning. It is in the imperfect tense in Hebrew, as opposed to the perfect (or completed) tense. One grammar source states, “The imperfect tense is translated in Hebrew most often as a future tense, but in reality what is actually being expressed is an incomplete condition … continuous, unfinished action which may be expressed in past, present and future time.” Consequently, a few translations have rendered verse 7 as a plea for ongoing blessing rather than a request for something new. “May God continue to bless us.” May the God who has never failed to bless us continue in his work!
What is the intended response to God’s blessing? Again, Psalm 67 tells us a lot.
First, God’s blessings are how we come to know him. “That your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations” (Psalm 67:1–3). God is a giver, a being who intends good for his creation. God’s actions remind us that he cares, and his care reminds us of who he truly is. Accordingly, we give thanks to God so that you may know him. Our expressions of gratitude deepen our relationship with God. Worship helps the worshipper know him who is worshipped.
Second, God’s blessings allow us to worship him (Psalm 67:6-7). Because of God’s greatness, I sometimes feel inadequate to praise him. How could my breath honor him who gave me breath? When I run out of things to say, I remember that sometimes our children know best how to praise God. When children pray, they simply look around the room for things and list things they sees. “Thank you for my Mom. Thank you for my Dad. Thank you for my toys. Thank you for our house. Thank you for the sky. Thank you for the sun. …” And on they go.
Those childlike prayers have it right. When we run out of words to express our praise, we turn to the blessings of God. Just by naming them as coming from God, we bring him honor and glory. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).
Finally, our recognition of the blessings of God allows us to revere and obey him. “God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him” (Psalm 67:7). What sort of being is this that has so much to give and never runs low on either compassion or gifts? What sort of god pours blessings on even those who ignore him, who “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45)?
We sometimes think that one more sermon on hell will really scare the sinner into changing his life, but what if we have it backward? What if the most awe-inspiring quality of God is his providence and care rather than his judgment? “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4) This is no petty tyrant doling out favors and penalties. This is the infinitely good and infinitely gracious God. Knowing his blessings should draw us out of sin and into praise with trembling hearts and awestruck spirits.
Dr. Benjamin Williams is the Senior Minister at the Central Church of Christ in Ada, Oklahoma and a regular writer at So We Speak. Check out his books The Faith of John’s Gospel and Why We Stayed or follow him on Twitter, @Benpreachin.