Psalms for Troubled Times – Psalm 96

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A Universal Call to Worship

Having gone into the sanctuary to worship in Psalm 95, we now go out ‘among the heathen (the nations)’ (v3, 10), to ‘declare’, to ‘say’, to call all ‘the people’ to worship the LORD, who alone is worthy.

There are two aspects of worship mentioned: vocal – ‘Sing unto the LORD (v1,2) – and practical – ‘Give unto the LORD’ (v7,8), and we find both in the New Testament too. Consider Hebrews 13:5 (oral worship) and Romans 12:1 (practical worship).

Interestingly each is here mentioned thrice, which could be an Old Testament allusion to the tri-unity of the LORD, but as the context of this psalm is more about bearing testimony to the LORD ‘among the nations’, I suggest that each is given as a three-fold witness, so that ‘every word may be established’ (Matt 18:16).

Universal Declaration

Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people. For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised.’ (v3,4)

It is our responsibility to go out and speak of ‘his glory’ and ‘his wonder’. We have been given a commission by the Lord Jesus Himself: ‘go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel’ (Mark 16:15).

Sometimes we think we don’t know what to say. Well, just do what the psalmist tells us to do: ‘declare his glory’, and we’ll never run out of subject matter. This should not be a chore, for to speak of the glories of Christ is a great privilege.

Universal Delusion

‘he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations/peoples are idols: but the LORD made the heavens. Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.’ (v4-6)

These verses tell of the necessity of the light of Gospel testimony, for we discover that people universally are in darkness: for ‘all the gods of the peoples are idols’.

Nowadays, many do not have icons or statuettes sitting around their house. Our idolatry has become much more subtle: fame, ego, wealth, family … but if these things are more important to us than an eternal Saviour, then we too are blind to the eternal realities before us, and living in a delusion.

O that many would look to the beauty and order found in creation; take heed of this universal testimony, and say ‘the LORD made the heavens’.

But we pray more specifically that they will hear and take heed of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, that they may turn ‘to God from idols to serve the living and true God; to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come’ (1 Thess 1:9,10).

Universal Dedication

‘Give unto the LORD, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.’ (v7-9)

In turning to the Lord, we will want to dedicate our lives in practical worship; to come with something to offer, to ‘worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness’.

This quotation used to adorn the wall at Newtownbreda Gospel Hall when I was a lad. It was a constant reminder of the need for us to live holy, sanctified lives.

In these verses, the psalmist looks forward to a day yet future, when Christ shall return in glory, and is calling families universally to be ready in heart, and holy in life.

Universal Decision

‘Say among the heathen that the LORD reigneth: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved: he shall judge the people righteously.’ (v10)

For in that day when Christ comes to reign, there will first of all be the judgment of the living nations (Matt 25:31-46).

Like all of God’s judgments, this is a righteous judgment – men and women receiving the due reward of their deeds. This ultimately ought to mean eternal death, but in grace the Saviour, rejected by the world, stands as our refuge.

Therefore, if we are willing to come and stand with Christ, in that place of rejection, we will be saved. If not, we will be damned. This is true for us, and for the nations referred to in Matthew 25.

Universal Dominion

‘… rejoice before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge/rule the earth: he shall judge/rule the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.’ (v13)

Finally, those of the nations, saved by virtue of their faith in Christ, will enter that Millenial Kingdom of Christ, and will rejoice that the King has come to reign in righteousness and truth.

The psalmist, living in a day of injustice and trouble, looked forward with hope to that day, and would call upon the faithful to rejoice, for the King cometh!

For those of us in the body of a Christ, the church, we look up with imminent expectation to the clouds – for we look not for the King coming, but for our Lord Himself, coming to take us to be with Him forever.

‘I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.’ (John 14:2,3)

‘Even so come, Lord Jesus’. (Rev 22:30)

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