Blessed Is the Nation (Psalm 33)
- Liturgical Date: Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost - August 11, 2013
- Order of Service: Divine Service 4
- Hymns: LSB #728, 673, 636, 965, 918
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage (Psalm 33:12).
A bit over a month ago, we celebrated Independence Day. Many churches changed their signs to say "God Bless America." Others changed their signs to say "America Bless God." In our Psalm today, we have the promise of God's blessing upon His people. "The nation whose God is the LORD" (v12). The nation governed by God. But there is no such nation.
No nation has arisen like this since Judah went into captivity in Babylon. Because the nation blessed by God is not governed by a President. Not ruled by a king. Not subject to a council of its citizens. The blessed nation is the nation ruled, governed and subject to God's holy Word. Whose only ruler is the LORD. The God who sent His Son into the world not to rule but to serve (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). The nation of servants is the blessed nation. A nation of people who want to imitate their Savior. A nation "He has chosen as His heritage" (v12).
His choice. His heritage. His promise. "Fear not, I am with you, oh, be not dismayed, for I am your God and will still give you aid; I'll strengthen you, help you and cause you to stand, upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand" (LSB #728.2). "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage" (v12). Blessed are all who are strengthened by Him as their help and their shield (v20).
The LORD is "a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). "The LORD looks down from heaven; He sees all the children of man; from where He sits enthroned He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds" (vv13-15). God looks down upon all people and takes care of them.
Enter Abram. Eighty or so years old, childless and waiting for God's promise: "I will make of you a great nation" (Genesis 12:2). God comes to him again, "Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great" (Genesis 15:1). God had shielded Abram through wars with the neighboring nations (Genesis 14). He had promised that all the land he had been through would be given to his descendants (Genesis 13:17). But Abram was getting a bit impatient for the fulfillment. God needed to remind him that He was his shield and the one who granted his reward.
But God as shield means more than just accepting lip service. It requires more than just singing, as we will later, "God Bless Our Native Land" (LSB #965). It requires more than printing "In God We Trust" on our money. The Fundamentalist's immediate response to the imprinting is, "Which god?" Muslim radicals have supposedly begun stamping dollar bills with "No God But Allah" underneath "In God We Trust". They define which God they trust where the Treasury Department doesn't. But they trust in a god that cannot bless them. A god who did not choose them for a heritage. A god who has done nothing to prove himself trustworthy.
Not like the LORD, the God of Israel. He sent His Son into the flesh. He forgives sin. He chooses a people to be His heritage (v12). Even when the heritage is long in coming. Abram complains, "What will You give me, for I continue childless ... You have given me no offspring" (Genesis 15:2-3). The promise of the great nation (Genesis 12:2) was slow in coming. Abram was getting impatient. God rebukes him, "Your own son shall be your heir. ... Look toward Heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them. ... So shall your offspring be" (Genesis 12:4-5). God's blessing upon Abram was the great nation that would come through Jesus Christ. Not Isaac. Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem (Matthew 1). To die on the cross. To be the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5). The first of Abram's great nation. "The nation whose God is the LORD" (v12).
"Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love, that He may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine" (vv18-19). The Psalm promises the LORD's protection over His people. His fatherly compassion to those who fear Him. This focus led the author of Hebrews to include chapters 11 and 12 in his epistle. The "Hall of Fame" chapters. The author of Hebrews wants us to take a few moments and really look at these chapters. People for whom "the eye of the LORD" was on and directed their lives. "Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain ... through his faith, though he died, he still speaks" (Hebrews 11:4). "Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death" (Hebrews 11:5). "Noah, being warned by God, ... constructed an ark for the saving of his household" (Hebrews 11:7). Abraham "went to live in the land of promise ... looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:9-10). Sarah "received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful who had promised" (Hebrews 11:11). Abraham "considered God was able even to raise [Isaac] from the dead" (Hebrews 11:19). "Moses ... refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin" (Hebrews 11:24-25). "And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:39-40). The Old Testament saints are the same as the New Testament saints. And the same as the saints of the centuries since. For all these saints, "God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city" (Hebrews 11:16).
This promised city drives us through life. "Those who fear Him lack nothing" (Gradual; Psalm 34:9). Jesus says, "Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. ... [I]f God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you" (Luke 12:22-28)? "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). The firm foundation of Jesus Christ supplies us through the fiery trials. "The flames will not hurt you," God says, "I only design Your dross to consume and your gold to refine" (LSB #728.3). So we can sing, "Jerusalem, my happy home, when shall I come to thee?" (LSB #673.1)
Although we agree that Heaven is our home, we cannot forsake the world around us. We live in the world even though we are not of the world. Our hope is in Christ whose steadfast love is upon us (v22). We reflect this steadfast love to everyone around us. We "wait for the LORD" (v20) by showing His love. "Our heart is glad in Him, because we trust in His holy name" (v21). We trust that God has opened the crystal fountain, the baptismal font, "whence the healing stream doth flow" (LSB #918.2). We journey through this world leading people to this fountain that they may be healed. That God's steadfast love will be poured out upon them. That God's blessing will rest on them. That God will choose them to be part of His heritage (v12).
"Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage" (v12). It's all about God. God's blessing. God's choice. God's heritage. You are part of the blessed nation because your God is the LORD. You are part of His heritage. Blessed from your new birth in the waters of Baptism. Blessed to depart in peace at the end of your days. In His mercy. Amen.
PSALM PRAYER: We thank You, Lord, for all the good that You have shown us from the days of our childhood. Continue to multiply Your mercies upon us, keep us in Your fear and favor, cause us to walk in Your praise, protect us from all enemies, both visible and invisible, and grant us, like Simeon of old, to depart in peace, through Christ, our Savior. Amen.