Psalms for Troubled Times – Psalm 97a

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The Glorious Coming of Christ

If there ever was a subject to give us hope and assurance in troubled times, it is this: Christ is coming! Coming in glory, to bring peace, righteousness and prosperity to earth. Again, this psalm continues from the closing thought of the previous.

‘The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.’ (v1)

Clouds Around Him

‘Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.’ (v2)

We cannot but think of Exodus, when the LORD came and dwelt with His people, clothed in a cloud of shekinah glory. (Exo 16:10, 40:34)  ‘Shekinah glory’ just means the glory of His dwelling, which is what this verse brings out with reference to ‘the habitation of His throne’.

What a sight it must have been for Aaron, and all Israel, as ‘they looked toward the wilderness’ (Exo 16:10), in an easterly direction I would take it from Mount Sinai, and saw ‘the glory of the LORD‘ appear in the cloud. We cannot know what it looked like, but we know how they must have felt, for Matthew records how the disciples saw the very same.  On the Mount of Transfiguration, ‘a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold a voice out of the cloud … and when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid’ (Matt 17:5,6).  Yet, what a blessing they had.

I’m reminded of another who looked and saw a cloud … you’ll remember Elijah on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:44,45).  Again, blessing was coming to God’s people, but we also read that this cloud of hope ‘was black’, heavy with rain and lowering, and this is the thought of the ‘darkness‘ in our psalm.  For while Christ’s glorious coming will bring salvation and blessing to the faithful of Israel and the nations; for the wicked, the threatening darkness of the cloud will signal coming judgement.

Fire Before Him

‘A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.’ (v3)

This judgement falls in verse 3, and the might of the nations of this world, with all their technological sophistication, will come to naught. ‘He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision’ (Psa 2:4). Their impotence shall be total.

‘For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.’ (Mal 4:1)

And all this with just a word. Truly, ‘our God is a consuming fire’ (Hebs 12:29).

Light From Him

‘His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory.’ (v4-6)

While the faithful will not have to worry about facing the wrath of holy God, yet it will stir in them a ‘reverence and godly fear’  (Hebs 12:28), as it ought to do in us as well, for ‘God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5).

The very essence of God is light, and to be in ‘the presence of the LORD’, (a phrase used twice hear, and meaning ‘before the very face of the LORD’) is to be in the light. In other words nothing can be hidden, for the very ‘counsels of the heart’ shall be revealed at His coming, when Christ shall ‘bring to light the hidden things of darkness’ (1 Cor 4:5).

Of course, this is why Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves after they had committed just one sin (Gen 3:8).  They could no longer face the light of the LORD’s presence. And for all of us, the same is true: for ‘men (love) darkness, rather than light, because their deeds (are) evil’ (John 3:19).

In our psalm, I think for the same reason, even the earth trembles, and the hills melt. These inanimate objects do not themselves sin, but they are touched by the curse of sin.  As Paul writes: ‘the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now … waiting for … the redemption’ (Roms 8:22,23).

Worship of Him

‘Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods.’ (v7) 

The first half of the psalm ends with the shame of the sinner, brought to finally recognise the worth and glory of Christ, and to see the filth of his sin in the light of the Lord’s presence.  The One whom he despised through all his life, is now vindicated and triumphant. And on his face in the dust, the rebel will be forced to worship, for ‘at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow … and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil 2:10,11).

One Comment Add yours

  1. Betty Holt says:

    Thank you or this oasis in th meet if a day on my own.

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