If you have been following these daily devotionals through the Psalms, you might have noticed a curious feature in recent Psalms. From Psalms 60–67, with a single exception (64:10), the name Yahweh has been absent. The psalmists time and again refer to Elohim (“God”) but rarely to Yahweh (“LORD”). Psalm 67 highlights one of the reasons for this: These Psalms are written to encourage the nations (Gentiles) that the God of Israel (Yahweh) was willing to be their God. Yahweh is not a localised God like the gods of the nations. His rule extends to the ends of the earth over all creation and all peoples.
For the nations, this thought might be frightening. Consider, for example, the story of Jonah. When Jonah fled from Yahweh, he found a ship destined for Tarshish. He requested passage, informing the crew that he was fleeing from his Elohim. For an ancient pagan, this meant very little. The average Elohim was a localised god and, to flee from one’s god, one had merely to leave the borders of his reign. But when Jonah told them that his Elohim was Yahweh, “the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, ‘What is this that you have done!” (Jonah 1:7–10). It was one thing to flee from a lesser Elohim, but fleeing from Yahweh was pure folly. He was not bound by the borders of Israel. His rule extended to the end of the earth.
The psalmist picks up on this theme of universal rulership in the text before us: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth” (v. 4). But notice that the writer highlights that universal rulership as cause for gladness and joy. Unlike the sailors in the story of Jonah, the idea of God’s rulership should not be a source of terror but a source of joy.
If you are thinking carefully, however, you may wonder how this can be the case. Does the thought of a God who judges the peoples with equity naturally produce joy? If God were to judge you with absolute equity, would it more naturally be a source of joy or terror? You know your own sins. You know the depths of your heart. If you imagine God giving you what your sins deserve, is your first emotion gladness or dread? Most of us, I feel quite certain, are filled with dread rather than joy at the thought of perfect justice. Justice for others might fill us with joy; justice for ourselves less so.
But the psalmist helps us by reminding us that God not only judges with equity but also guides the nations upon the earth. The God of the Bible is not an aloof judge, sitting in a divine courtroom, waiting to bring down the hammer on those who break his law. He is also a God who is willing to lovingly guide those who will submit to him in such a way that they are able to walk in his statutes.
God’s guidance led Abraham’s servant to praise: “Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to take the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son” (Genesis 24:48). The Lord’s guidance through the wilderness ensured that his people remained safe (Exodus 13:21). God’s guidance is a special kindness to his people, which should lead them to immense gratitude.
How does God guide us? He does so, on the one hand, through significant Christian influences in our lives: parents, friends, spouses, pastors, etc. We should be thankful for these relationships as a sign of divine guidance. He guides us, secondly, through his word. The Scriptures are the only authoritative guide for Christian living. As we read, meditate on, and sit under the preaching of God’s word, God speaks to and guides us. But God also guides us, thirdly and more generally, through providence. While providence is not an authoritative guide, it is a means by which God sometimes stoops to meet and lead his people.
As you head into a fresh day, be thankful that the great ruler of all the earth, who will one day exercise perfect justice, promises today to guide you in his way as one of his children. Be sensitive to his leading and follow it to your good and your great joy.