Bible blog 2167

After a holiday in the Lake District I am continuing my translation of Psalms 42-72 with a brief commentary


To the choir leader.  On stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.

God, show favour to us and bless us;

Make your face shine upon us;

that your way may be known on the earth,

your rescuing power among all nations.

Let the peoples salute you, God,

Let all the peoples salute you!

The nations will be glad and dance for joy

because you will judge the peoples with fairness

and lead the nations upon earth.

Let the peoples salute you, God,

Let all the peoples salute you!

The land has given its increase;

God, our God has blessed us.

May God maintain his blessing upon us,

And earth’s remotest regions fear him!

This is a simply expressed psalm for use perhaps at harvest festival. The surprising aspect of its thanksgiving is the repeated conviction that if other nations see the blessings that God gives to his people, they will be drawn to worship him also. God’s blessing is characterised by the phrase “make your face shine” which comes from the language of the royal court, where the monarch’s gracious attention to a petitioner is so described. In the language of faith it becomes a beautiful cliché for the light of God’s goodness.

It may be that the theme of this psalm is a shrewd way of encouraging God’s favour to his people. “If you treat us well, others will see it and honour you!” Although the harvest is the occasion of the psalm it does not forget that God’s supreme goodness is his rescuing power, seen in the exodus from Egypt and from Babylon.

The peoples who may turn to God are assured that they too will enjoy the benefit of God’s fairness, as expressed in the Teaching, the Torah. This great benefit is for all nations as well as for Israel. The refrain, which I have put in italics, twice calls on all peoples to recognise God by their praise.

A good harvest is a repeated sign of God’s blessing. The earth gives its y’ vulah, a lovely word that refers to its produce, but is translated in the KJV by “increase”  which is hard to better. I think it is where William Blake found his Beulah, the place of fruitfulness.

God’s blessing is considered so lavish that it arouses not merely respect, but fear, in the hearts of those who see it. Many modern translations do not see fear of God as appropriate, preferring terms like awe and reverence, but it seems good to me, remembering that Mark uses it at the very end of his gospel, “for they were afraid” which expresses the fear of the women at God’s resurrection of Jesus.


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