The direction of blessing

May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face shine on us –
so that your ways may be known on earth,
    your salvation among all nations.

(Psalm 67:1-2)

I was struck when reading this Psalm today by the link between God’s blessing and God’s glory.

We often pray this prayer of blessing (well, the Numbers 6 version which is so similar: ‘‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.’”) over our children at bedtime. 

It seems like a good thing to do – Aaron and his sons were to bless the Israelites in this way – and we want our children to know God’s blessing too.

And it is very easy to stop there. To focus on the blessing of the person as the primary aim of this prayer.

So I was really struck by the ‘direction’ of this short version of the blessing in Ps 67:1-2.  May God bless us and show us his grace so that His ways may be known on earth and his salvation among the nations. God’s blessing is not only for the sake of the person being blessed – but is for the greater purpose of making His ways and salvation known among the nations.

I read this particular Psalm as part of the Bible reading plan that I am using this year, and this aspect of the truth was further brought out by one of the passages I read alongside, 1 Pet 2.  See how verses 9-12 reflect a similar theme:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

The peculiar blessings of God’s people (chosen, royal, holy, God’s special possession) are for the purposes of declaring His praises.  The holy living of God’s people (abstaining from sinful desire, living well) are not an end in themselves but so that the pagans may glorify God.

So there is a tight link between receiving God’s blessing, living holy lives, and the glory of God being made known.  Or in other words between us receiving God’s blessing and being a vehicle of God’s blessing.  And in all this God’s own glory is the chief aim, not our blessing. That’s the direction of blessing.

May the Lord be gracious to you – and make His face shine upon you – that His ways may be made known on earth, His salvation celebrated worldwide, and that He may be glorified.

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