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God and the nations in the Psalms: definitions

“God’s attitude”

Depending on whether you think the book of Psalms is words to God or words from God will affect how you read it. For example, if you think the sole purpose of the Psalms is to praise God, you probably won’t expect to find much about what God thinks. In the case of the nations, there are only 2 passages in which God explicitly speaks about the nations (Psalm 2 and 46). That would make for a very short essay!

However, if we understand the Psalms as scripture – God breathed, inspired and given – then there’s room to see them as more than just a ‘hymn book’. They can also have a teaching function – as an ‘instruction book’ as well. So when we look for  ‘God’s attitude’, we can expect to find that not only in direct quotes from God but also in his shaping of Israel’s actions and attitude.

“The nations”

Some people think that ‘the nations’ in the Psalms are just another category of things that are on the earth. They are called to praise God in the same way that the trees and rivers are called to praise him – just because he created them. Of course, God did make them, so they should praise him! But ‘the nations’ is also a theological term. In Psalm 79:6, the nations are those who do not know God, in contrast to Israel who does know God. That means the question of God’s attitude to the nations is a missiological question: it’s about God’s attitude to those who do not know him.

Categories: Uncategorized Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

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