“And he gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil, that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws” (Ps. 105:44-45).
Today, I was reading Michael Horton’s The Gospel Commission (which is, by the way, the most important, refreshing, helpful, practical, book on the church today). I was reminded of Horton’s discussion of the way God blesses the world through his people as I read this psalm.
He explains that God’s “[g]ifts come down to us and then flow through us to our neighbors” (243). As Martin Luther taught during the Reformation, “God gives us salvation, along with our daily bread, and then calls us to be means through whom he serves our neighbors in our callings and in our witness. We do not present our good works to God, as though he might repay us, but to our neighbors as those who are free to love without threats and rewards” (243).
God works through his people, through Christians, to bless the world. In the gospel, Christ has freed us to love, and so we love freely.
We see this same pattern in Psalm 105. God gave Israel the blessings of land and his covenant “that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws” (105:45). God blessed Israel with freedom from slavery (105:26-42), and then blessed them with his good land so that they could keep his ways and, in turn, bless the nations.
Of course, Israel failed. Miserably. And when it comes to God’s ways—to love him with our all, and love our neighbor as ourselves—you and I fail. Miserably.
But Christ didn’t. He perfectly loved, even at the cost of his life. He took the blessings of his Father and poured them out on his neighbors at the cross, so that we could become children of God (1 John 3:1).
And so we love our neighbors, not to earn favor, but because we’ve already received it.