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All Ye Lands!

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In his powerful little book Mission in the Old Testament, renowned Old Testament scholar Walter C. Kaiser Jr. begins his chapter on Psalms with this quote from George Peters: “The Psalter is one of the greatest missionary books in the world.”

You may not have considered that before. After all, the Great Commission comes to us in the New Testament after Jesus’ resurrection. But once you start looking, you can’t un-see God’s consistent, bold message of mission in Psalms (e.g. Psalms 2, 33, 66, 67, 72, 96, 98, 100, 117, and 145).

Worship as witness

From its earliest passages, the Bible reveals that our Creator God is on mission to redeem creation. In the protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15 and God’s promises to Abraham in Genesis 12:
1-3, the stage is set. And as with Eve and Abraham, we are called to be co-workers in God’s global mission.

The good news planted in Genesis begins to blossom in Psalms. In Israel’s worship and song, God’s gospel is declared loudly and often. In its myriad of music, Psalms bears witness to both the scale and substance of our mission and its message. Four central themes in Israel’s worshipping witness emerge:

God reigns over all. “God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne. . . . Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns’. . . The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice” (47:8; 96:10; 97:1).

God warns the nations. “Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. . . . Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him” (2:10, 11; 33:8).

God’s salvation is declared. “Sing to the Lord, bless His name; proclaim the good news of His salvation . . . The Lord has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations. . . . All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” (96:2; 98:2, 3).

All are invited to worship God. “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! . . . Come and see the works of God; . . . Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth” (66:1, 5; 96:1).

Psalms repeatedly presents the worship of God’s people as a witness. The scale is universal; all are under God’s sovereignty. The message of the mission is clear as well. God’s salvation is declared, and all are invited to worship Him.

Psalms 67 and 100 are two short but splendid examples worth examining closely.

Psalm 67 and blessing

God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us, Selah. That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations (vv. 1, 2).

This beloved psalm has often been called the “Our Father” of the Old Testament. It is beautiful in delivery and powerful in message. If you read closely, you see that it is a mediation on two key verses from the law: Genesis 12:1-3 (God’s covenant to bless the nations through Abraham) and Numbers 6:23-26 (the Aaronic blessing).

The use of the word bless in Psalm 67 mirrors Genesis 12:
1-3. As God promised to bless Abraham and all the families of the earth through him, here the psalmist is asking that God “bless us” (His people) so “that Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations” (v. 2). The mission of God is accomplished in and through His people as He blesses them and they share that blessing with others.

We also find the Aaronic blessing blending into this psalm of worship: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you” (Numbers 6:24, 25; cf. Psalm 4:6; 31:16; 80:3, 7, 19). By linking both the Abrahamic and Aaronic blessings, we learn and celebrate that the Lord’s blessing is not just for us, but for the whole world through our witness.

As we sing Psalm 67, we are caught up in this dynamic between the blessed people of God and the nations that God would bless through us: “Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You. Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” (vv. 3, 4).

This pattern forms the structure of the psalm. We see the same dynamic in verses 1, 2 and 5, 6, climaxing in verse 7: “God shall bless us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.” Amen.

Psalm 100 and worship

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing (vv. 1, 2).

This beloved psalm is a celebration of who God is and a universal call to worship Him. It is beautiful and familiar, but not always recognized as a psalm with a mission. But we see it in its opening verse, the invitation for all lands to worship Yahweh. Our witness is in the context of our worship.

Psalm 100 reveals not only the scope of our witness but its substance as well. All are called to worship the Lord, but in the process all learn who God is and who we are in relation to Him. “Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves” (v. 3). God is Creator, not us! We are His. So our orientation to Him is always with thanksgiving and praise (v. 4).

Psalm 100 concludes with a triple revelation: “For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations” (v. 5).

This is the Lord God we witness and worship before all. And this Lord God, the object of our worship and witness, is most fully revealed in Jesus Christ. All the psalms witness to Him. Indeed, Psalms was made for mission and for the making of missionaries like us.

Jason Overman
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Jason Overman is Editor of Publications of the Bible Advocate Press. After 24 years in the publishing industry (in sales and management) with the Harrison Daily Times, Jason left his general manager’s position to join the BAP family in 2015. He has served in ministry for 30 years and currently pastors the Church of God (Seventh Day) in Jasper, Arkansas, with his wife, Stephanie, and two children, Tabitha and Isaac. Jason enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, reading theology, playing his guitar, and taking in the beautiful Ozark Mountains he calls home.