Us and Them
(H) For the director of the choir, on stringed instruments, a psalm, a song. (1) May God be gracious to us and bless us and cause his face to shine upon us (Selah) (2) that your way may be known upon the earth, your salvation to all the nations. (3) May the peoples praise you, O God! May all the peoples praise you! (4) May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you govern the peoples with justice and guide the peoples on the earth! (Selah) (5) May the peoples praise you, O God! May all the peoples praise you! (6) The earth has yielded its produce, and God, our own God, will bless us. (7) God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him.
This brief psalm is filled with repetitions and rhythmic cadences which clearly fit it for use as a congregational hymn of responsive praise. Note first that God’s name is used six times in these seven verses. Note also that the jussive verb form occurs nine times in the first five verses. The jussive, a type of imperative often translated by the helping verb “may” in English, is typically employed when the psalmist calls out for God to answer prayer (vss. 1 & 2) and calls on others to worship God (vss. 3-5).
Along with the word-for-word repetition of verse 3 in verse 5, other repetitions include “bless” (vss. 1, 6, & 7), “earth” (vss. 2, 4, 6, & 7), “peoples” (vss. 3, 4, & twice in vs. 5), and “nations” (vss. 2 & 4). We should also note the difference between the “us,” God’s covenant nation of Israel (vss. 1, 6, & 7), and “the nations” or “the peoples,” all other earth dwellers (vss. 2-5). This us/them distinction helps us discern the psalmist’s message.
I. Calling on God to bless Israel so that all nations may know him (1 & 2)
II. Calling on all nations to praise God for ruling justly (3-5)
III. Confidence that God’s blessing Israel will motivate all peoples to fear him (6 & 7)
The blessings which God has graciously poured out on Israel ought to lead all nations to worship him for his justice and grace.
An us/them mentality often evidences a prejudicial, exclusivistic attitude. However, in the case of Psalm 67, it signifies something far more positive. God’s intent in the Old Testament was to use Israel as a magnet to draw all peoples of the earth to himself in worship and as a channel by which he would pour out his blessings on all nations. He chose the offspring of Abraham and blessed them, not as a way to exclude the Gentiles, but with the idea that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3).
That is precisely what the psalmist asks God to do in the opening lines of Psalm 67: “May God be gracious to US and bless US, and cause his face to shine upon US (the nation of Israel) that your way may be known upon THE EARTH, your salvation to ALL THE NATIONS (the Gentiles).” Sadly, because of persistent disobedience, Israel never fulfilled the mediatorial role God intended his chosen people to have as a nation of priests for the nations of the world. Only when our great High Priest, the Messiah, comes will the nations of the earth experience the blessing God has long intended for them through the offspring of Abraham.