What "marks" do you bear in your life? Some will answer, "I have a tattoo on my shoulder - of Mickey Mouse!" Others might say, "I have this birthmark on my back, the shape of Texas!" Still others might be inclined to answer, "I have this scar - from a recent surgery!" There are all kinds of "marks" we bear, aren't there? Some are of our choosing, while others are clearly there because of nothing we did ourselves. There are two "marks" in our lives which are both a result of our "choosing" and someone else's "doing". These are the marks of God's grace and blessing!
God, mark us with grace and blessing! Smile! The whole country will see how you work, all the godless nations see how you save. God! Let people thank and enjoy you. Let all people thank and enjoy you. Let all far-flung people become happy and shout their happiness because you judge them fair and square, you tend the far-flung peoples. God! Let people thank and enjoy you. Let all people thank and enjoy you. Earth, display your exuberance! You mark us with blessing, O God, our God. You mark us with blessing, O God. Earth’s four corners—honor him! (Psalm 67 MSG)
As I read this Psalm today, I was caught by the many times David repeated the words "thank and enjoy you" as he related how the hearts of the people should be toward their faithful God. What does it mean to be "marked with God's blessing"? I think it may consist of a variety of things, but there are some which come to mind as I contemplate some of the reasons I am thankful to God and enjoying his activity in my life - yours may be different, but they are indeed similar. Some are grateful for the tremendous deliverance from life-dominating addictions which held them in their grip for long periods. Others may be extremely grateful for the child of blessing God allowed to come after long years of trying, waiting, and living with hopeful expectation. Regardless of the "reasons" for our gratefulness, there is something consistently evident "behind" our gratefulness - God's blessings!
Our psalmist points out a couple of things we will do well to consider this morning:
1. God's work in our lives is to save us - sometimes from the acts of our own doing and other times from the actions of others. His intervention in our lives is what has kept us safe. He has chosen to "mark us" with his salvation - but also with his protection. Scripture declares over and over - God is our shelter, our strong tower, our protector, and our fortress. If you have ever tried to shelter yourself from the attacks of another, you might just have experienced a little bit of frustration by just how inadequate your own "protective devices" have been. God's "business" is to save - first from our own destructive self-willed sinful state, then from those things and people who will keep us from enjoying this position of grace.
2. God's actions involve judgment - fair, truthful, and deliberate. Yet, his judgment is never without mercy. If we look at Old Testament stories of God's judgment, we will see such evidence of his mercy. For example, when Lot and his family were caught up in living in an ungodly place - the regions of Sodom and Gommorah - God sent a messenger to offer the opportunity for grace, long before he sent his judgment upon the city. When Nineveh was on the verge of judgment, God prepared a messenger - Jonah. It took Jonah a while to get with God's plan, but in the end, an entire city was changed! God is "fair" - not in the sense we might evaluate fairness - but in consistency with his character. You see, God cannot allow sin to go "unnoticed" just because he also has the character trait of grace. His holiness cannot commune with sin - therefore, sin must be judged. Yet, in judgment the gift of grace is preeminent.
3. God "tends" his people. I think of this "tending" much like the actions of my Dad when he'd garden. As he "tended" the garden, some weeds were plucked out, branches trimmed, dead leaves turned into the soil to give it back nourishment to continue to feed the growth around it, and water added so life could be preserved. He could turn the most alkaline and hard soil into the richest of gardens in a matter of weeks, just by his tending it. God is much like my Dad (or Dad was probably much like my God!) - he might pluck a little here and there, turn a little "deadness" into life again, and give us plenty of "life-giving water" to keep us alive and prospering. In his "tending", he is constantly vigilant to bring forth growth - newness and freshness - never letting us grow stale, withering away without care.
No wonder our psalmist encourages all the four-corners of the world to celebrate with exuberance! To thank God and enjoy him fully! Isn't it about time we did the same? Just sayin!