This short but completely symmetrical psalm may have ended Sabbath worship in the Temple in Jerusalem and followed the priestly blessing recorded in Numbers 6:24-26. Worshippers would have then departed feeling the warmth of the promised goodness of God. This benediction oriented worshippers towards acknowledging God’s generosity in harvest, in vintage, in calving and lambing and in child-bearing.
But the structure of this psalm, like much Hebrew poetry, is chiastic – like the Greek letter Chi, or large X. It is balanced carefully around a central line in the centre of verse 4. The main point is not at the beginning or the end but in the centre.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth.
It is not wrong for the worshipping community to be praying for and expecting blessings from God on their efforts, but the central focus of this psalm is that God’s purpose in blessing his people is to alert nearby and distant peoples – in fact, all the nations on the earth – that there is a God who blesses, who saves and who is to be revered. In other words, believers are blessed to be a blessing.
There are personal as well as missional challenges in this little gem of a psalm. On the personal level, do we really remember to thank our Lord for all his gifts and provisions. I’m not just thinking about saying grace at mealtimes, but living a life of thankful appreciation – life, health, daily food, work, and relaxation, freedoms, love, fellowship and caring concern. And so many more.
At the missional level, this psalm invites us to raise our sights to all people groups, and especially those who have yet to hear of God’s great love and concern. He is the One and Only God.
Worshippers, including you and me, are on this earth, not to be receivers only, but to be channels, to be signposts and witnesses to the world around, that there is an active and living God, who cannot be ignored. Indeed, God as Creator, Sustainer and Provider must become the central focus of our lives. Period.
One aspect of the mission of God’s people on earth is to bear testimony to the goodness and greatness of God. Can you and I do that? We sure can! We must!