Monday, June 21, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Let the Nations be Glad

The Pastor’s Perspective
“Let the Nations be Glad”
First Published: Feb 5, 2002

“Let the Nations Be Glad” is our Missions Conference theme this year, and last Sunday we paused to consider that theme in Psalm 67. That the nations would be blessed has been a central hope of the church ever since the covenant of grace was confirmed with Abraham. All the way back in Genesis the purpose of the believer is to glorify God by being a blessing to the nations (Genesis 12:2-3). The Prophets constantly long for the day when the Gentiles, the peoples, the nations of the earth, would come to Mt. Zion and worship the true and living God (e.g., Isaiah 11:9-10, 49:6, 60:1-3).

The Psalmists constantly sing of this hope and teach us to do so as well (e.g., Psalm 67:3-4). Jesus’ commission to his church, that we make disciples of the nations (Matthew 28:19) is, thus, rooted in this Old Testament hope. And so, having been saved by his love and grace, our heart’s desire becomes to see a day when the nations, all the nations, will revel in that same love and grace. In short, we want the nations to be glad, in and through a saving knowledge of him!

As we noted Sunday morning, Psalm 67 contains a thanksgiving, two petitions and an acknowledgment that would change your life if you would embrace them. Verses 1-3 show us that the Believer longs for God’s glory to be served through the salvation of people from every tribe, tongue and nation. “God be gracious to us and bless us, And cause His face to shine upon us – That Your way may be known on the earth, Your salvation among all nations. Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You.” This is both a prayer of thanksgiving and petition that God’s blessing to his people would be for the sake of the peoples. Derek Kidner says: “If a psalm was ever written round the promises to Abraham that he would be both blessed and made a blessing, it could well have been such as this. The song begins at home, and returns to pause there a moment before the end; but its thought always flies to the distant peoples and to what awaits them when the blessing that has reached ‘us’ reaches all.” The initial prayer of the psalmist is one of adoration and thanksgiving, an expression of gratitude and dependence, but it overflows to petition, a prayer that God’s favor to his people would lead to his knowledge and salvation being experienced among and by the nations. This becomes a missionary petition and psalm. This is a great and daring prayer and petition that all the peoples would come to a saving knowledge of God and praise him! But all along the ultimate goal is God’s glory! God bless us, so that they will be blessed, so that you will be praised! My friends, until we are devoted to the cause of God’s glory, we’ll never have a zeal for missions.

Verses 4-5 remind us that the Believer longs for God’s glory to be served through the rejoicing of the nations over Him. “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; For You will judge the peoples with uprightness And guide the nations on the earth. Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You.” This is a prayer that the nations would rejoice at God’s just judgment and sovereign providence. It asks the Lord to grant that the nations would rejoice at two doctrines that pagans usually hate: judgment and providence! Now the only way the nations will ever rejoice at those things is if they have bowed the knee to God and trusted Christ! But again, all of this is ultimately for God’s glory. We want his judgment and providence acknowledged. The ultimate reason for desiring the salvation of the nations is that God’s will, salvation, judgment and providence may get glory from the nations. The believer has a burning desire that God would be known and honored as he is!

Finally, in verses 6-7 we saw that the Believer longs for God’s glory to be served through the temporal blessings given to us. “The earth has yielded its produce; God, our God, blesses us. God blesses us, That all the ends of the earth may fear Him.” This is an acknowledgment that God’s temporal blessing of his people is unto the goal of his spiritual blessing of the peoples. We find ourselves here at the harvest. The farmer looks at his yield and thanks God and acknowledges that God gave it to him. But he does not stop there. He goes on to acknowledge that God gave it to him in order that all the peoples might know and fear and love God! Not simply does all you have come from him, but all you have is meant to serve his glory and spread it to earth’s end. This means viewing your resources as God’s for missions, because your chief goal and joy in life is to glorify him and see him glorified.

Join me in praying that these realities would become characteristic of us, here at First Presbyterian.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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