So far in this series we’ve seen 4 themes about the nations in the Psalms:
- God rules the nations
- Defeat of the nations
- Calls for the nations to praise God
- Israel among the nations
Just because the defeat of the nations is the most common reference doesn’t make it God’s primary attitude to the nations though. Actually, there’s no single psalm which has the nations’ defeat on view without also calling for them to praise God. So how does that work?
The psalms that give fullest treatment to the nations will help us: Psalms 47, 67, 87 and 96. They all speak about the nations praising God. Psalm 96 and 67 explain the link between the nations’ praise and God’s preference for Israel. Psalms 47 and 87 explain the link between the nations’ praise and their defeat.
Psalm 96 is a call for the Israel to praise and proclaim among the nations who God is (96:3). It is as they sing of what God has done for them and the impotence of the pagan gods that all the earth will see that God is king (96:1-6). Their proclamation is meant to draw the nations to praise God.
Psalm 67 fills out how this will happen. It takes the language of Num 6:24-26 about God blessing and making his face to shine and uses more generic language: the general name for God (instead of the covenant name Yahweh), talking about salvation among all nations. There’s a ‘spreading circle’ here, a widening of those who benefit from God’s saving action in the world.
God’s partiality towards Israel isn’t a rejection of the nations then. Instead, his blessing of them should result in their praise which should draw the nations to praise. God’s preference for Israel has the nations’ praise of him as its ultimate goal. They are always in his sights for his glory.
What about the passages about their defeat? We’ll look at Psalms 47 and 87 in the next post.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.