Psalm 67 has often been overlooked; Martin Luther wrote 5 volumes of exposition for the Psalms and skipped this one entirely. Though it is seemingly simple and short, the purpose of this Psalm is to see things God’s way while singing God’s praise. The first verse is not only a plea for and acknowledgement of His mercy but goes boldly past that rightful beginning and asks for blessing. Such a blessing or blessings would have the purpose not only of benefiting the blessed, but to demonstrate the saving power of God to His faithful people and the perishing multitudes around them.
The heart of this Psalm is a strong desire and proclamation: “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! … Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” It has almost the feel of a chorus to be repeated in between other lines. It ends with a simple reminder that it is God and God alone who blesses, rescues, multiplies, increases, and protects.
I am late posting this Psalm, and for the simple reason that I had such a hard time figuring out which angle to take with it. A lot of Psalms are more pointed and direct in what the author wishes to communicate: the need for protection, the venting of anger or frustration, praise in hardship, and so on. Not so here. It is a song of praise. Writing a blog post about it made me feel like I was back in school, analyzing some verse or another from something on the radio.
It dawned on me that, as is often forgotten, there would have been melody, harmonies, and choruses that accompany many of these songs. We read them as words on a page, but this Psalm is a reminder that a great portion of this book calls for strings and the choirmaster to help out! There must have been times when, in the heat of day or cool of night, musicians of ancient Israel would sit about and figure out a suitable chord progression here or meter there, all with the aim of memorizing the praises of God. A Psalm such as this and many others were committed to memory with the help of chorus and verse and melody; it is far, far easier to memorize song than written word; melody acts as a set of tracks upon which to place and store things of importance.
These Psalms (lyrics?) served both to them then and to us now a crucial reminder that God is good; He is faithful; He is kind; He is Father. To commit them to memory with song is to recognize the tendency of humankind to forget God, to forget to preach His word to our own hearts and install something else as master over our lives.
I’m willing to bet that most of us have been to some sort of Christian camp or VBS or day out as kids where we had to memorize a verse or two of the Bible. We’ve made it a part of our Sunday School programming to do just that. How many of us go out of our way to memorize Bible verses as adults? I certainly haven’t made much of an effort. After all, it seemed to me like something I did as a kid – as I grew up, people stopped asking me to memorize Bible verses, so I did just that.
To my great surprise, I actually need to memorize way more of the Bible now that I’m a grown-up and dealing with real life things than I ever did as a kid! You are in the exact same boat, too. To memorize scripture is to arm ourselves with God’s word; that is how we put on the armor of God! The more we familiarize ourselves with Scripture, the more we store up God’s word in our heart, the more able we are to be directed by the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. When we make the effort to meditate on His precepts and dwell on His commandments (Psalm 119), the more we can keep our hearts, minds, and lives in line with His will. If our goal in life is to know God and make Him known, what better way to both hear His voice and be ready at all times to act in a way that pleases Him than committing to heart the things He has said? By doing so, we begin to rewire our hearts after God’s word; we are more susceptible to being moved by the Holy Spirit’s prompts; we are more capable to withstanding temptation and respond with holiness and integrity when we’re caught in a difficult situation.
To memorize the words of God is to prioritize Him in a unique way and is essential for each Christian and their walk in obedience. James 1:22-25 says it best: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
This is also a very useful and tangible form of study and meditation. If you’re like me and your memory is garbage, this is exactly the kind of (challenging) exercise we need! It is easy and simple to set goals here – even one or two verses a week is an amazing start! I write this all from the perspective of Psalm 67, who took inspired words and added to them melody and chorus, so that they may treasure the word of God in new and creative and wonderful ways. “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!”
Lord God, help us not only read your word but ponder it. Help us to commit your written word to heart and so make ourselves more sensitive to your Living Word, Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Create in us a new heart, O God, and renew an upright spirit within us. May we be eager to meditate on your commands and store up treasure in Heaven, so that we may always be ready to answer those who ask for the reason for our hope within. Amen!
Here's a great example of a Psalm turned into song once more -
Psalm 23 (Shane & Shane)
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.