I was recently asked what my favorite hymn was. Without hesitating my response was, “Praise to the Lord the Almighty.” As a musician, I have a deep appreciation for its melody and chord structure and flair of coronation tones. But if I may confess, it is the beauty of the lyrics that I find myself drawn to. The lyrics present a beautiful display of the attributes of God as well as God’s sovereignty, providence, and care for us. As the hymn develops and crescendos into the final stanza we see the invitation for the whole of creation - “all that hath life and breath” - to worship and praise God. This invitation is extended to us to join in the song of praise that God is most worthy of. And just as this tune echoes the language of future psalms (103 and 150), Psalm 67 can be received not only as a prayer of blessing, but also as a call to worship and action.
As we read this passage through the afterglow of Easter, the psalm reveals the gratitude of the Israelites to God for the provision/bounty of the earth, as well as the life-giving power of God through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. And because of God’s revelation through Jesus, we now are charged with the responsibility of not only worshipping God but sharing the Gospel. It is worth noting that verses three and five end with “Let ALL the people thank you!” (Emphasis added) This specific word addition from the beginning of these verses shows the reader that in a way the psalm is anticipating the work of the gospel; that the work of God was also for those outside of the bounds of the covenant community. Therefore, as people who have been shaped by the transformational power, grace, and love of Jesus, are now called to be that same kind of love and extension of grace to those around us.
That same calling echoes the way Abraham sojourned in Canaan in the Genesis narrative. Those who offered hospitality to him would indeed receive God’s blessing. The blessing that we and that the people of Israel were praying for was not just for personal pleasure; ultimately these blessings are for the world’s salvation. We have been saved and called to help the world find God. And when we look around at the current state of humanity, the fierce urgency for the church to move in hospitality (we welcome you), solidarity (we stand with you), and mutuality (we need you) is now. With praise on our lips, we go in the wonder of “what the Almighty can do” in and through us.
Common English Version Bible, copyright
Neander, Joachim. Praise to the Lord, The Almighty. Public Domain.
Mays, James L. Psalms (interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994.
Van Opstal, Sandra M. The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World.
Downers Grove. Inter-Varisty Press. 2016