A Pilgrim’s Progress through the Psalms – Psalm 97:6-7

The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
      and all the peoples see his glory.
All worshipers of images are put to shame,
      who make their boast in worthless idols;
      worship him, all you gods!

The LORD has fixed in the heavens two great truths about himself that the heavens proclaim and that all mankind can see: his righteousness and his glory! How foolish mankind is to create their own gods and serve their empty idols. Creation and his people command such people to bow down to the true God in homage to His sole, sovereign Being. To do otherwise is to perish forever.

“There is a Book that all may read, which heav’nly truth imparts, and all the lore its scholars need, pure eyes and Christian hearts. The works of God above, below, within us and around, are pages in that Book, to show how God Himself is found. The glorious sky, embracing all, is like the Maker’s love, wherewith encompassed, great and small in peace and order move. Thou, who hast giv’n me eyes to see, and love this sight so fair, give me a heart to find out Thee, and read Thee everywhere.” (John Keble).

LORD, though you are “hidden” in person, you are not hidden in rightness and glory. The order of your heavens is so precise, so glorious, and so constant. Only those who are willfully blind refuse to see and honor you in all you have made. How foolish they are to make and serve their imaginary “gods.” Thank you for opening my eyes and heart to you. May I join your creation in calling others to confess and worship you alone. Amen.

A Pilgrim’s Progress through the Psalms – Psalm 97:3-5

Fire goes before him
      and burns up his adversaries all around.
His lightnings light up the world;
      the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
      before the Lord of all the earth.

When the LORD, who is “hidden” in darkness, manifests himself, his overwhelming power is seen and intensely felt by all creation. The earth shakes, and the mountains melt like wax. Though his adversaries dismiss him when he is “hidden,” they will be consumed when he comes in his fullness, not as some imagined, provincial deity, but as he is – the Master and Owner of all the earth.

“When in dark and dreadful gloom, clouds on clouds portentous spread, black as if the day of doom hung o’er nature’s shrinking head: when the lightning breaks from high, God is coming—God is nigh! Then we hear His chariot wheels, as the mighty thunder rolls; nature, startled nature reels, from the center to the poles; then the ocean, earth and sky, tremble as He passes by. Darkness, wild with horror, forms His mysterious hiding place; should He from His ark of storms, rend the veil and show His face, at the judgment of His eye, all the universe would die! When the last dread day appears bursting wide from pole to pole, when amid the shivering spheres, twice ten thousand thunders roll; when the dream of time shall end, may I find the Judge my friend!” (James Montgomery).

LORD, keep me from thinking of you as your adversaries think of you and boast. Apart from being in Christ, I would not want to see or experience you in all your power. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, 14:6). May I live in that fitting reverence of you – more than any fear of anything in this present world (Matthew 10:28). Thank you for the grace and mercy you have extended to me in Christ. In him I have enduring peace and hope (John 14:27, Romans 5:1-5). Amen.

A Pilgrim’s Progress through the Psalms – Psalm 97:1-2

The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice;
      let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
      righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

The psalmist continues the thought from the end of Psalm 96 regarding the LORD and creation. Whenever the LORD decisively reigns in this world, creation jumps for joy and brightens up (Proverbs 29:2). Even though the LORD is encompassed by thick clouds, i.e. hidden, the foundation of his kingdom is built on rightness and just decrees. which is why creation enjoys his reign. How much more will this be true when the Eternal, Covenant-keeping Redeemer exerts his final, full control over the new earth forever!

“This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; His hand the wonders wrought. This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad? The Lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad. This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done: Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and Heav’n be one.” (Maltbie D. Babcock).

LORD, history testifies to the joys when you reign on the earth and to the mourning when sin reigns. Sin does not change the reality of your reign in time, and certainly you will make an end of its usurpation in the consummation. Even now in this fallen world, those who seek you and your righteousness will be filled with joy, and how much more will the joy abound forever in the Second Advent! Reign in my heart, reign in your church; come LORD Jesus and reign forever and ever! Amen.  

A Pilgrim’s Progress through the Psalms – Review of Psalm 96

Out of the application of the Sovereign’s assurance and rest of Psalm 94, now comes the intensive call to sing the LORD’s praise. His people are to declare his majesty and splendor – his extraordinary works (in creation and redemption) to the masses. Their eternal, covenant- keeping Redeemer is great in every sense – worthy of being praised exceedingly and of being held in awe above all the “so-called” gods of mankind. Though the world does not recognize and adore him, his people must focus on him and exalt him. If they do not, all the world will surely continue in their wretched idolatry and perish. They are to be told that He alone reigns supreme, has absolute control over all the earth, and regulates all humanity with evenness. Regardless of any temporal events to the contrary or the length and degree thereof, Yahweh reigns and will prevail. Therefore, mankind ought to subject themselves to him as their Almighty King. The psalmist concludes with a grand crescendo of joy from creation. A new day is coming when all creation will be set right according to the LORD’s promise (Romans 8:18-21). What a glorious, unending day that will be! Justice and righteousness will fill the earth to the exhilaration of all creation and the eternal pleasure of the LORD’s people (2 Peter 3:13, Isaiah 66:22-23, Revelation 21:1-7).
 
“Jesus shall reign where’er the sun does its successive journeys run, His kingdom stretch from shore to shore till sun shall rise and set no more. Blessings abound where’er He reigns: the pris’ner leaps to lose his chains, the weary find eternal rest, and all the sons of want are blessed. People and realms of every tongue dwell on His love with sweetest song, and infant voices shall proclaim their early blessings on His name. Let every creature rise and bring blessing and honor to our King. Angels descend with songs again, and earth repeat the loud amen! To our King be highest praise, rising through eternal days. Just and faithful He shall reign: Jesus shall reign!” (Isaac Watts/Keith Getty).
 
LORD, knowing who you are, what you have done, and what you will do summons your people to praise you and to call others to know and confess you as the Redeemer and the Sovereign King. No other reality exists, despite the efforts of mankind to seek another. You reign, and you will prevail over all; the resurrection and exaltation of Christ verify this. Likewise, all creation bears witness to you. One day your justice and righteousness will fill the earth to the exhilaration of all creation and the eternal pleasure of the LORD’s people. Thank you. Enable me to bear faithful witness. Maranatha! Amen.

A Pilgrim’s Progress through the Psalms – Psalm 96:11-13

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
      let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
      let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
      before the Lord, for he comes,
      for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
      and the peoples in his faithfulness.

The psalmist concludes with a grand crescendo of joy from creation. Even in a fallen world, creation proclaims the glory of its Creator (Psalm 8, Psalm 19:1-6), though it also groans in pain (Romans 8:22). However, a new day is coming when all creation will be set right according to the LORD’s promise (Romans 8:18-21). What a glorious, unending day that will be! Justice and righteousness will fill the earth to the exhilaration of all creation and the eternal pleasure of the LORD’s people (2 Peter 3:13, Isaiah 66:22-23, Revelation 21:1-7).

“Wake the song of jubilee, let it echo o’er the sea! Now is come the promised hour, Jesus reigns with sov’reign power. All ye nations, join and sing, Christ of lords and kings is King. Let it sound from shore to shore Jesus reigns forevermore. Now the desert lands rejoice, and the islands join their voice, yea, the whole creation sings, Jesus is the King of kings. See the ransomed millions stand, palms of conquest in their hands, this before the throne their strain, hell is vanquished, death is slain. Blessing, honor, glory, might are the conqueror’s native right; thrones and powers before Him fall, Lamb of God and Lord of all. Time has nearly reached its sum; all things with the bride say, Come. Jesus, whom all worlds adore, come, and reign forevermore.” (Leonard Bacon).

LORD, thank you for your promise of a world filled with all that is right and good and without anything that is unjust and destructive. Though your people and creation groan now, may the confident expectation of your redeemed world generate joyful praise to you in this present world. Yet, how can I imagine the ultimate exhilaration of what you will prepare and provide in the new heaven and earth to come! What a glorious day that will be! Maranatha! Amen.

 

A Pilgrim’s Progress through the Psalms – Psalm 96:9-10

Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
      tremble before him, all the earth!
Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
      Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
      he will judge the peoples with equity.”

The summons to the peoples that inhabit the earth continues. They are called to bow down and tremble before him as the eternal, majestic Sovereign. They are to be told that He alone reigns supreme, has absolute control over all the earth, and regulates all humanity with evenness. Regardless of any temporal events to the contrary or the length and degree thereof, Yahweh reigns and will prevail. Therefore mankind ought to subject themselves to him as their Almighty King.

“God is King forever; let the nations tremble; throned above the cherubim, by all the earth adored; He is great in Zion, high above all peoples; praise Him with fear, for holy is the Lord. Merciful as mighty, He delights in justice, for He reigns in righteousness and rules in equity; worship and exalt Him, bowing down before Him, perfect in power and holiness is He.” (the Psalter).

LORD, your sovereign rule is the foundation of your people’s hope in this present world. Likewise, this is the foundation for their calling others in the gospel to acknowledge and confess you. To you every knee shall bow and confess your sovereign rule either in humble faith or by enforced judgment. Certainly, by humble faith will good be obtained forever. Thank you for bringing me to this humble faith in you. May your sovereign rule undergird my calling others to you through the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 17:6-7, Acts 17:30-31). Amen.

A Pilgrim’s Progress through the Psalms – Psalm 96:7-8

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
      ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
      bring an offering, and come into his courts!

Based on the sovereign majesty of the LORD, the psalmist calls His people to proclaim Him to the many families of mankind. They are directed repeatedly to call people to give honor to Him for his glory, prevailing strength, and name. They are to summon them to bring voluntary tribute to Him and enter into his courts. This commission has now reached its ultimate summons in Christ (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8), and it will come to its final fulfillment in eternity (Revelation 5:9-10, 21:22-26).

“All hail the pow’r of Jesus’ Name! Let angels prostrate fall; bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all! Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race, ye ransomed from the fall, hail Him Who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all! Let every kindred, every tribe, on this terrestrial ball, to Him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all! Oh, that with yonder sacred throng we at His feet may fall! We’ll join the everlasting song, and crown Him Lord of all!” (Edward Perronet).

LORD, knowing who you are should draw me to the privilege and duty of calling others to know you, confess you, and serve you. Enable me to continue to do so to my last breath in this world. LORD of the harvest, continue to send workers into your harvest until people from every tribe, people, tongue and nation are brought before you to honor you with their praise. Amen.