salvation from a smile
Psalm 67:1-7 CSB
Psalm 67:1 [For the choir director: with stringed instruments. A psalm. A song.] May God be gracious to us and bless us; may he make his face shine upon us Selah
Psalm 67:2 so that your way may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.
Psalm 67:3 Let the peoples praise you, God; let all the peoples praise you.
Psalm 67:4 Let the nations rejoice and shout for joy, for you judge the peoples with fairness and lead the nations on earth. Selah
Psalm 67:5 Let the peoples praise you, God, let all the peoples praise you.
Psalm 67:6 The earth has produced its harvest; God, our God, blesses us.
Psalm 67:7 God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him.
This psalm begins with an adaptation of the famous Aaronic Blessing from Numbers 6:24-26:
“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.”
It is a prayer for God to smile upon a people.
I want to reflect upon the psalm today, and I want to do so by asking three questions:
The first question is “What does it mean to pray for God to smile on us?”
It means God’s grace. If something comes from grace, then we cannot get it any other way. We cannot work our way into God’s smile. Lot’s of people think that they can, but it does not happen that way. The psalmist didn’t say, “Hold on, Lord, wait till we obey your commandments, and then we can expect your smile.” No, the smile comes first, then the obedience. That is why a lot of people will never come to faith. They want to work their way there.
So, a prayer for God’s smile is a prayer of repentance. It sees God’s frown on our sin, and it asks for forgiveness, so that we can experience his smile instead.
Praying for God’s smile means praying for God’s blessing: his empowerment. This is the opposite of a curse. A curse is the loss of protection, resulting in something terrible happening. A blessing is empowerment, resulting in something wonderful happening.
The Israelites knew all about blessings and curses because they included both in their visual aid on Mount Gerazim and Mout Ebal. They were holding themselves accountable to keep their covenant with God by pronouncing blessings on those who obeyed, and curses on those who disobeyed.
Or to put it another way, God would smile on those who followed his way, and he would frown on those who rejected and abandoned his way.
Praying for God’s smile means praying for the ability to please God. It is not a pompous prayer that says “God, look at how good we are.” No, it is the desparate prayer of a people who know they are not good enough. They are not fortunate enough to always walk in God’s way, so they do not always please him. But they want to.
Brothers and sisters, we should want to please God. If we have not because we ask not, then we cannot afford to avoid asking for the ability to please God. But what does it mean to please God?
We please God when we walk in his way. When Penny and I hiked the big hike in 2018, we were constantly reminded to stay on the trail, not to wander off. Wandering off could be dangerous for us, and it might cause confusion for others, because they might be tempted to follow our path instead of the actual trail.
We please God when we trust in his Son. 1 John 5:11 says that “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” There is no way to please God if you do not trust in Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.
The second question is “Why should we pray for God to smile on us?”
We should pray this because we need his deliverance. Deliverance and salvation are the same thing. It is odd that so many people are willing to ask God to save them, but then are reluctant to let God change them. That is like asking someone to rescue you from drowning, but insisting on staying in the water. God wants to be more than our fire insurance for eternity. He wants to deliver us from the mess we are in, and we need him to do that.
We should pray for God to smile on us because we need his power. Like the apostle Paul in Romans 7, we often find ourselves wanting to do the right thing, but doing the wrong thing. We should pray for God to smile on us because with his smile, comes his power. With his smile, comes his miracles. With his smile, comes his godliness
We should pray for God to smile on us because the nations need our witness.
I chose this psalm for today’s message because it reflects the mission of the people of God. The people of Israel were not just saved so that God could love them and bless them alone. They were intended to draw the other nations to him. Note verse 2: “so that your way may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.”
We believers in Jesus Christ have the very same mission. Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations. He told the apostles that the Holy Spirit would come upon them, and they would be his witnesses “both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The third question is “Why should we expect God to smile on us?”
We should expect God to smile on us because he promises to answer our prayers.
Jesus said “what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).
Our prayers are not answered on the basis of our worthiness, but on God’s willingness. If we pray for God to smile on us in order for us to reach the nations with the gospel, God will move heaven and earth to answer that prayer.
We should expect God to smile on us because God wants the praise of all nations. Note verse 3: “Let the peoples praise you, God; let all the peoples praise you.” Human beings were created to reflect God’s goodness back to him, and one of the ways we can do this is by praise.
You and I can come together and praise God because of his goodness to us. But we can also spread that praise like a contagious virus. We can infect others because in each heart there is a God-shaped void, an empty place that can only be filled by a relationship with our creator.
But unfortunately we have been treating praise like the COVID-19 virus. We isolate ourselves from others when we do it, and we muffle our praise. It’s hard to sing in these masks!
We should expect God to smile on us because God wants to make his way known. God’s plan of salvation is his way, and he wants that plan known all over the earth (note verse 2). His smile empowers us to be different, and that difference is supposed to draw others to us, so that we can explain why we are different.
We should expect God to smile on us because God wants to produce a harvest. The result that God is looking for is mentioned in verse 7: “all the ends of the earth will fear him.” That ties back into Acts 1:8. The Holy Spirit is given to us as a blessing — a smile from God, so that God can produce a harvest of new believers through us.
Lord, smile on us, and bring the nations to you.