Saturday, July 4, 2009

Psalm 67 – Pentecostal “Praise” Psalm for Everyone

It is a distant promise of the Bible--the consummation of all things in the holy name of God. This day when God brings all things truly under him in every sense, the realisation of the actuality of heaven, is what all genuine Christians seek. And this is part of the promise I find in Psalm 67--the all-inclusive missionary’s psalm.

This psalm is striking for its inclusive nature. Even though it contains the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6:24-26, the psalmist substitutes the name Yahweh (the very personal name of God, meaningful for the Jews) for Elohim (“the name used when one must express the Lord’s relationship to all people, nations, and creation.”)[1]

It is a petition psalm, but not in the way we’d expect. When we read the five verses starting with the word “may,” we are to read them “as a humble request,”[2] and not as some extraverted demand. Culturally, it is therefore to be read quite differently in comparison to how we Westerners would read it.

So, if it’s a petition psalm how can it be a praise psalm? It is also possibly a psalm of communal thanksgiving, and one commentator even classifies it oddly as a communal lament. Oh, to theorise the origins of biblical prose. The alternation of indirect and direct address of God seems the most poignant description of genre.[3]

The psalm combines two enduring theological messages in the Old Testament; both the redemption of all nations, and that of Israel.[4] It is no surprise then that the psalm was sung at the Feast of Pentecost, remembering that at Pentecost (Acts 2) the Spirit was poured out on all flesh (the microcosm there) as prophesied in Joel 2:28-31.[5]

The Holy Spirit broke through (into our own non-Israelite spirits), soon after Christ ascended, as the Counsellor (NIV) and Advocate (TNIV, NRSV) to the world; the Spirit of a fundamentally inclusive God. And he dwells with us now unto eternity.[6]

This psalm is a prayer for all people, and a song of hope, a hope that all will heed the call to God. It beckons us to the dramatic, miraculous vision of the end--that all might know and acknowledge God (‘the land yielding its harvest,’ viz Psalm 67:6), and call him their very own, personal Saviour.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.
[1] Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Mission in the Old Testament: Israel as a Light to the Nations (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2000), p. 30.
[2] Craig C. Broyles, Psalms – New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1999), p. 277.
[3] James L. Mays, Psalms – Interpretation (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1994), p. 224.
[4] Mays, Ibid, p. 224. Mays agrees with Kaiser regarding the relevance of Abraham’s call in Genesis 12 to this passage. See also Isaiah 40-55 (the ‘book of comfort’) for rationale on the redemption of Israel.
[5] Kaiser, Op cit, p. 31.
[6] The Amplified version calls the Holy Spirit the “Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby).”

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