Today’s reading is in some ways unusual in that two of these psalms are addressed to the nations around Israel. The third psalm is another cry for help, but carries special interest when you consider that it may have been written by David during his outlaw years as he ran from Saul, found himself a person under suspicion by his own nation and a military enemy by foreign leaders.
God is too great for just one nation to praise Him (Psalm 67) — The psalmist is so filled with the joy of harvest, with praise to the God who had abundantly blessed, and with the justice and righteousness of God that it seems to him only right that an invitation to all the earth to celebrate God should be issued. That’s what this psalm is, an invitation to all nations to join Israel in praise for the God of all the earth. God is too great for just one nation to praise and rejoice in Him. Would that all God’s people, yesterday and today and forever, felt the same way and issued the same invitation! But inexplicably we are often too cautious — afraid that others won’t see God as great as we believe Him to be, afraid that others will reject our invitation and reject us in the same breath, afraid of not being able to explain our faith well, afraid of… too many things. But listen, we must “never take the counsel of our fears” (Andrew Jackson), because God really is much too great to be recognized and praised by anything less than the whole earth and all the host of Heaven!
Bigger isn’t always better (Psalm 68:15-18) — The essential thrust of this psalm has to do with God’s greatness, again: how He blesses His people, how He defeats the unrighteous, how He bears our burdens and takes the side of the helpless, etc. And part of this paean of praise is that God is great despite the relatively humble throne He has chosen, Zion. The most majestic mountains that the region of Israel is familiar with are the Bashan mountain range; the most prominent mountain in the range being Mt. Hermon. It was a mountain that the pagan gods claimed for their throne — composed of dark volcanic rock, rising high toward the sky, and snow capped! It formed quite a contrast to the hill of Zion, the chosen throne of the true God. But Zion was superior and the psalmist proves it by noting the gifts of the nations coming to Zion, so that the Lord be served there (quoted later by Paul in Ephesians 4:8). And the contrast between Bashan and Zion forms a metaphor for the difference between the Gentile nations (and empires) and the nation of Israel — the lesson being that bigger isn’t always better. Israel was small in comparison to the other nations, but the crucial difference was that they were chosen by the only true and living God — a high privilege indeed. So also with the church, by the way. Sometimes the Lord’s church looks small in comparison to the bigger and flashier denominational world around us. Sometimes some of our own people think that there must be something wrong with us, if we aren’t that big and that flashy. But bigger doesn’t necessarily translate into better — or even good, for that matter. Not that big is bad by definition, but because as a practical the world will always be in rebellion toward the Lord. That’s why Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13, 14, NAS95.
Zeal for God’s house (Psalm 69:9) — Although there are several worthy verses to dig down into in this psalm (the Messianic anticipation of vv. 17-21, and the comfort of vv. 32,33), the verse about zeal, quoted about Jesus (John 2:17, as He cleansed the Temple), is the one that really caught my attention and begged for comment. Zeal is an under-appreciated, perhaps worse, a contemptible virtue to possess these days — specifically and especially if it has anything to do with religion. Fanatic, “religious nut”, Bible-banger, and weirdo a just a few of the names that are decent enough to post here that get occasionally aimed at anyone who displays any zeal. But we need to get over it!
I’d like to propose something that may shock you for a moment, but as loathe as I may be to say it, there may some important things that we could and should learn from the gay and lesbian community — be zealous for the Lord and get past the ridicule. If folks practicing something as shameful and sinful as homosexuality can have gay-pride weeks, gay-pride parades, and aggressively lobby government officials; what’s wrong with us Christians?! We have every right and reason to boast in the LORD, to call and invite others to become Christians, to stand up for righteousness, to criticize wrong, and speak authoritatively (though not self-righteously) on behalf of the Lord Jesus and His singular salvation. Let’s stop being quite so sensitive to the critique of those doing wrong; let’s rightfully dismiss allegations of being judgmental or self-righteous, when we know that our intentions are pure; let’s unapologetically invite friends and neighbors to church and to personal Bible studies! Let’s speak the truth in love and let the pieces fall where they may. Let the zeal for the Lord and His house (the church) consume us! Let the reproaches of those who reproach the Lord fall on us! That’s OK.
““Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12, NAS95.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.