I say this to my students on a fairly regular basis. Because as any parent knows, it’s often not WHAT you say but HOW you say it.
That one word can convey a variety of different meanings based on tone.
What? [she asks, brows raised into the wrinkles of her forehead]
What. [he rolled his eyes and turned away]
What! [the hard edge to her tone carried all the impatience of a 36 hour shift]
In Psalm 67-68 I see how tone matters
May God be gracious to us and bless us-and make his face shine upon us
THAT your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among the nations.
These verses begin in third person as a plea, but end in second person as a breath of thankfulness.
Bless us God, not for our sake, but for the glory of your kingdom.
And there is a difference.
Blessings for the self are often pleas for materialism. But that is not what the psalmist is after. He is offering his blessings back to the Lord even BEFORE he gets them.
To the Western mind, or even human mind, this is baffling. Why would you praise someone for something they haven’t even given to you? Isn’t that a little presumptuous? You are just assuming that your answer will be yes, right?
Well, kind of. And I don’t think that is as presumptuous as it is faithful. You send invites to people because you EXPECT them to show up, right? I mean, it’s possible that they won’t, but if the expectation is for them to attend your party, then you invite them in. God is the same way. It’s hard to see God move if you continually treat him like your imaginary friend, praying to him JUST IN CASE he is real. Instead, when we pray as though we EXPECT him to move, He feels more INVITED to do so and suddenly we can really feel him move in our lives.
Expectation is invitation, as my pastor is fond of saying.
May he peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. THEN the land will yield it’s harvest (67:7-8)
Praise equals harvest; not harvest equals praise.
But often we wait for the blessings before we invite God to the party. How rude! That’s like sending a wedding invitation to someone you don’t like just so you can get more presents. No. Just no. We invite God to the party and then He showers us with his love and blessing in his own way. Seeing is not believing, believing is SEEING.
God is a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows [and perpetually single women] … he sets the lonely in families. (68:5a; 6a).
He gives hope, love and blessings to the lonely, but only if we invite him in.