Friday, July 10, 2009

Missions is About God!

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.
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.
The earth has yielded its produce;
God, our God, blesses us.
God blesses us.
That all the ends of the earth may fear Him.

~Psalm 67

Many Christians have the wrong attitude towards evangelism and missions. Though many mean well, their approach becomes very man-centered. Some view new converts as notches in their belt instead of celebrating the work of redemption that God has done in the sinner's life in giving him eyes to see and the desire to embrace the truth of the gospel. In fact, evangelism and missions is not about people but about God. The impetus for missions should be to make God's name great throughout the earth. Mission activity should spawn out of a intense desire to share God's great name with others and the wonderful and marvelous work He has done, part of that work being His sending of His Son in the place of sinners to appease God's great wrath and the providing of eternal life through faith in Him. Psalm 67 does well in communicating such a desire which all Christians should have in approaching mission work.

The psalmist opens up the poem with an appeal to God to be gracious and to bestow His blessing. The wording is almost identical to the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:24-26: The LORD bless you, and keep you; / The LORD make His face shine on you, / And be gracious to you; / The LORD lift up His countenance on you, / And give you peace. This was a blessing which God instructed Aaron and his sons to say to pronounce blessing upon the people of Israel. So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them (Numbers 6:27). In using some of the familiar language of this blessing, the psalmist is requesting God to show His favor upon His people. But note the reason the psalmist desires God to show His favor. It is not so that they can live a live of health, wealth, and prosperity. It is not so that they can be comfortable. He is not making the request on their behalf at all but God's! His desire is that God would get the glory and make His name known to the other nations. The hope is that other people will view God's work and realize that God is good and is the One who brings ultimate satisfaction. He states the reason as That Your way may be known on the earth, / Your salvation among all nations. In fact, this is God's very reason for the things which He does, to glorify Himself and to make His name known. One of the reasons that God chose to reveal His power through the ten plagues upon the nation of Egypt and Pharaoh instead of striking them dead right away was to glorify Himself through proclaiming His great name. For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth (Exodus 9:15-16). In missions we play a part of God's desire of glorifying His great name in proclaiming the gospel which He uses to bring people to saving faith in Him (Romans 1:16-17; 10:17; 1 Peter 23). In spreading the gospel, we proclaim God's way and salvation among the nations just as the psalmist invites God to use His blessings and favor upon His people to do so.

The psalmist next moves to call all to praise God. He not only calls peoples, but specifically all the peoples. God is so good and due to our own delight in Him, we should desire that all would have that same fulfillment of delight. Because He is worthy of all of our praise, we should desire that others would give Him the glory He rightfully deserves. The peace that we experience with God through Jesus Christ should prompt us to share Christ so that God may work in others to encounter the same peace. Our goal in missions should be to call people to rejoice in everything Christ is and all that He has done as part of God's perfect, divine plan. The psalmist calls the nations to be glad and sing for joy. The reason the nations should be ecstatic is due to God's reign. Judgment and guidance are aspects of the role of a ruler. The psalmist may well have in mind the millennial kingdom where the Messiah will rule over Israel and the nations. This is the culmination of the kingdom He has promised.

The poem closes in much the same way it starts. The psalmist shares a specific material blessing of the produce of crops and then once again reiterates that the reason for the blessing is so that the ends of the earth may be in awe of God for who He is and what He has done for His people.

May God send us out to proclaim His great name among the nations and bring Him glory. If we are serious about God's glory, we will be serious about missions!

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!

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