Let Your Face Shine Upon Us
For many centuries, among Western Christians, Psalm 66 (Hebrew 67) was recited at the break of dawn each morning, invariably as the first psalm of Matins. Thus, just as the sunlight began to break through the darkness on the eastern horizon and to extend, bit by bit, its ever-ranging rays still further to lands in the distant west, holy Church employed this psalm to summon all these myriad peoples to proclaim the praises of God: “O God, have compassion on us and bless us, and let Your face shine upon us, to make known Your way upon the earth, and Your salvation to all the nations.” Twice during this psalm will come the double refrain: “May the peoples bless You, O Lord, may all the peoples bless You.” Just as God begins, at the opening of the day, to cause His sun to shine alike on both the just and the unjust, all the earth is invited to laud His universal mercy.
The God of the Bible, in the definitive covenant that He has given us in Christ, has brought to perfection and fulfillment the promises contained in all of the earlier, preparatory covenants of sacred history. One of the earliest of these was the covenant with Noah, that primeval compact of God with “every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” This ancient arrangement of grace, described in Genesis 9:16 as berith ’olam, “a covenant forever,” has never been abrogated, nor can it be, for it rests solely on the infallible promise of a gracious God. Using the specific technical expressions “give” (natan) and “establish” (haqim), Genesis describes this covenant as both gratuitous and permanent (cf. 9:9, 11, 12, 17).
Symbolized in that heavenly “sign” (’oth) of the rainbow, it is God’s covenant with creation itself: “While the earth remains, / Seedtime and harvest, / Cold and heat, / Winter and summer, / And day and night / Shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22). As such, it is a universal covenant, for Noah is the father of us all. God’s covenant with Noah, moreover, is universal in two ways—in space and in time.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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