God, be gracious to us and bless us
Make your face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations,
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
(adapted from Psalm 67:1-3)
Now that the older generation had died off, the Lord told them they had been in the wilderness long enough. Head north. As you go through the territories of Esau, Moab, and Lot, don't get in a battle with them; I gave them that land. Breuggemann, in the Abington Old Testament Commentary, points out that YHWH had given land to more than one people.
The passage through the land ruled by Sihon and Og was not peaceful, but the Lord allowed Israel to defeat the inhabitants and take their possessions. The conquered land was parceled out equitably among the tribes.
Moses entreated the Lord to let him cross over the Jordan. As now, the older generation may find it hard to turn over leadership. When Moses had realized that he was not to be in charge anymore. he then encouraged the people to support their new leader, Joshua. In our time, we also see leaders turning over their responsibilities to new people and being gracious about it.
Jesus gives a sermon before a great multitude of people who have come to hear him and to be healed. (This section from Luke is similar to what we call the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7).
Jesus counterposes blessings with woes. Read them and consider the typical value system. Jesus says that the poor will receive the kingdom of God, those who are hungry now will be filled, those who weep now will laugh, and those who are reviled because of their service to the Son of Man will receive a great reward in heaven. On the other hand, those who are rich now or well-fed or laughing or well-regarded have already received all the good they are going to get, only woes are left for them. Other scriptures include similar reversals; e.g., Deuteronomy 11:26-29; Luke 1:46-55.
Sharon Ringe in her commentary on Luke reminds us:
In each case, the blessing makes a statement of fact: one is blessed because of a future that is a sure part of God's reign. There is no note on threat or challenge in these blessings: Nowhere do they say, "Do this in order to guarantee a specific result." They announce a truth about the divine agenda rather than a mandate for human morality. In a similar way the list of woes is not one of behaviors to be avoided or changed in order to avert disaster. Instead it states facts....They are not being punished for their actions; rather, they have enjoyed the blessings, and now the turn passes to others.
When reading or hearing other people's prayers, I sometimes find myself wondering: How honestly can I pray this prayer? Do I really want God to grant this particular petition?
My reservations may be based on whether I think God would want to do what we are asking or they may be based on whether I myself really want it.
This psalm, for example. I'm OK with the prayer asking for God's grace and presence. I'm OK with everybody knowing and praising God.
But, what if the way that God shines on them over there is through my actions? Just how is God's way made known anyway? Am I supposed to be demonstrating it? Whereas I can be sincerely grateful that the earth has yielded its increase, that I am fully aware that God has blessed us, can I also be as sincere and aware of my part in ensuring that these blessings are extended to all the ends of the earth?
Prayer for Today: Choose a prayer from Joan Stott's website The Timeless Psalms.